In response to some recent events, the Digital Media Law Project took a look today at some landmark legal cases in the history of media protection. They argue that rather than laws that protect journalists, which can be hard to define on an individual level, we need laws that protect anyone engaging in the act of journalism.
[P]rofessional journalists now share the information ecology with a much wider array of members of the public who care about particular communities and issues. These individuals can often speak from deep personal knowledge and identify important information that others might miss. And from the Rodney King incident forward, there has been recognition that sometimes informing the public is not about education and professional commitment, but about being in the right place at the right time. Institutional media organizations still play an important role in conveying information gathered by individuals to the public at large, but the Internet provides many other paths to an audience. The citizens involved in bringing this information to the public don’t need to be called “journalists” for the information they possess to have value (although these people are entitled to respect and are free to argue their right to that title). Regardless of names, the manner in which this information of public importance is gathered and conveyed is entitled to no less protection than traditional newsgathering.