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Bloggers Acting As Journalist Had Better Be Prepared for Jail

blart…Your source expects it

As blogging becomes more and more mainstream, bloggers seem offended to be treated with such equalization. Recently, the TSA subpoenaed several bloggers over a leaked directive to increase security after the failed attack on a U.S. bound Airliner.  It’s been reported that after several hours with travel blogger Steve Frischling, he gave up his laptop thus revealing his source.

The problem with this isn’t a demand for a source, this activity happens every day to even the most high profile journalist, and some end up in jail on contempt charges until they either give up their source or some agreement can be reached, but it further proves that bloggers are amateurs in the realm of journalism, and passion over news stories they break run shallow.

Everyday blogging isn’t going to run you into this sort of trouble unless you intend on being controversial and or news reporting and breaking. Protecting your source is paramount and you should be prepared to protect them at all cost in order to protect the flow of information and potential whistle blowers, otherwise you demean any credibility the blogging community has obtained, in fact, the blogging community would unite and stand behind them.

Which leads me to the information leaked, and where do we as bloggers draw the line.  Personally, I’m not interested in anything that could potentially harm or interfere with national security, nor do I believe it has a place in the latest 15 minute news cycle until it’s cleared by the proper authorities, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support this bloggers right to run the story- hell, the New York Times ran stories around the secret CIA camps around the world, but at least they were in communication with the Whitehouse and State Department in advance of the story, even though they had no intention of sitting on the story.

From our perspective, if you don’t have the balls to shield your source and lose everything in the process, then don’t play journalist- sit in your barcalounger and armchair quarterback something else, something easy, like knitting.

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The era of the ‘weblog’ is dead to most, most blogs just simply aren’t daily journals anymore, they’ve evolved from what we’re doing today, to what’s going on all over the world in most cases, what saddens me is that it’s mostly bloggers who don’t see the evolution nor respect it.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. Jay Thompson

    December 31, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    It’s one thing to “break” a story on something like a… let’s say a Congressional vote on a bill — that’s televised on CNBC.

    It’s a whole ‘nuther thing to post a document you get via email that could readily be considered not for general release.

    For ages journalists have sat in prison cells for contempt of court for not revealing certain sources. I agree completely that if Joe Blogger Wannabe Journalist isn’t willing to do exactly that, then they should step away from the keyboard.

  2. Bob Wilson

    December 31, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    The ability to self publish does not make someone a journalist.

  3. Jim Duncan

    January 1, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Bob – Agreed. What is the definition of journalist today? I wrote about this last year and still have no idea what the new definition is. Some tread the line, some go back and forth and some are merely bloggers … the definition is undefined.

    Benn – I agree with you to a point. If someone is going to publish, they should be aware of, expect and prepare for the consequences. In this case, that one of the authors voluntarily let the agents image his machine is troubling. Don’t make your bed if you’re not going to lie in it (which is easy for me to say).

    In this case, I do think that the TSA’s asking the questions in the first place is a big part of the problem. Their asking is an indication that their expectations were that they would get the answers.

    Further, the “security directives” are ridiculous outright, but that’s another discussion. We’re slowly conceding our freedoms … what happens when government is funding the press??

    And is anyone surprised that Al-Qaeda is trying to beat body scanners? What’s next? Full body cavity searches?

    More at Techmeme.

  4. Els

    January 1, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Google and Yahoo both gave up the identities of bloggers in China. For ANYTHING involving the internet which includes email, there should be no expectation of privacy in anything you do. None. Your close friends are loyal only to the point they ‘confess’ to your crime and theirs hoping to simply stop the abuse. Abuse of power is constantly waged against citizens by those we empower to govern over us.

    Other examples of abuse gone wild in addition to Yahoo and Google, is subversion through abuse of power exercised by the Church of Scientology over the emloyies of the IRS, national, state, local governments AND to those who dissent or leave their evil empire. Let’s not even talk about the extortion exercised by the ‘too big to fail’ companies.

    Seems the ONLY one who must adhere to any image of integrity is the poor little citizen. In the case you cite, the distruction of this mans life, society and abiity to make a living are the routine threats our government brings when discussing events with a subject whom they intend to brow beat into submission. Any defensive measure (i.e. give them a decoy computer) will result in interference or obstruction pile ons. So, how does a citizen exercise their democratic responsibility to be a watchfull and alert overseer of the government here in the land of the free? Nothing discourages dissent more thoroughly then know you will be completely distroyed as a consequence. We need to support this citizen otherwise the alerted voices amoung us will hang one at a time while we sit by scratching ourselves and watch, believing the ‘news’ we are feed is real.

    It’s a shame. The ones who go to jail are the ones too small to wage a good fight. That is the only difference between this citizen and the news agency journalist to which you refer in paragraph four.

    • Benn Rosales

      January 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm

      Brilliant dissertation, but I’m positing that this citizen never gave citizens an opportunity to be outraged or stand behind him, for it is citizens in plurality that protect freedoms, not governments, and not big media companies.

      Handling the confidence of the source is and will always be paramount or we’ll continue to see tactics used against this blogger become common place. I’ve read the reports and heard innuendo of threats to this bloggers personal life and my advice is be arrested, become front page, and allow the light to shine in.

      There are many many instances where bloggers and even mainstream media have come out in arms against oppression of a fellow blogger.

      But again I assert that what this blogger ran as a story may have had a negative backlash of its own as national security is a very divisive subject as is how Americans view civil liberties when it comes to saving lives.

      The point of all of this is that it comes down to the individuals conscience and weighing all of the factors when you chose to break a headline (play journalist).

  5. Augusta GA Homes

    January 3, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Writer beware!!

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