Journalist vs. Blogger: The Crystal Cox Case

Although the title of this article may sound like a bad Lifetime movie, the Crystal Cox case has set a new precedent that anyone who writes online content should pay attention to.

In December 2011, Crystal Cox lost her court battle against Obsidian Finance Group. Why was she fighting? After posting multiple investigative blogs about Obsidian Finance Group and Co-founder Kevin Padrick, the firm filed a 10 million dollar lawsuit against her for defamation.

During the course of the case, a federal district court judge, Marco Hernandez, tried to decide if a blogger, even an investigative one, was afforded the same protection as a journalist. The verdict was no. Cox refused to reveal her sources from the single post she wrote on Christmas day 2010 (read it here) and Judge Hernandez interpreted the law to say that she was not afforded the same shields as journalists because she did not have “an education in journalism” or “credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity.” Here is Hernandez’s official statement:

“[While Crystal Cox] is a self-proclaimed “investigative blogger” and defines herself as “media,” the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law.”

Since, as a journalist would, Cox refused to reveal her sources, the judge found her guilty of defamation since she could not back up the information in her blog and he ruled in favor of Obsidian Finance Group, not on all counts, but for the single post listed above. She was fined $2.5 million for that one post.

With this new precedent in place, that bloggers are not journalists, anyone who writes online will have to either reveal their sources or risk being dragged into court, only to lose.

Do you blog? How do you feel this ruling will affect your future in blogging? Comment below and let’s have a conversation about it!


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