Do you need a license to be a journalist?

One judge thinks this way. John Dvorak (ht Instapundit) describes the case.

The case of Crystal Cox, a self-professed “investigative blogger” from Oregon, should outrage the public. The woman was investigating targeted companies that she believed to be acting unethically and found herself at the wrong end of a lawsuit. … The judge, recent Obama appointee Marco Hernandez, asserted that as a blogger with no other credentials, she was not a journalist and was entitled to no protection.

Apparently, there are now new qualifications for journalists. So who decides these qualifications? Hernandez? Where did he get this from? I’ve never seen a laundry list in the U.S. that precludes bloggers. There is nothing in the Bill of Rights, to wit: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In this instance, the concept of the “press” means any dissemination of information through a communications medium. In the past, this would be a flyer, pamphlet, or newspaper. Now, it includes TV, radio, magazines, PDF files, and blogs. Just because the media have modernized, it does not suddenly mean that the rules have changed.

What does one need to prove one is a journalist? A state license, perhaps? That leads to thinking about the purpose of such licenses, which often tend more towards restricting competition in the field than towards public safety or similar concerns. If it came to being necessary to have a license to be a journalist in order to express one’s opinion or uncover fraud and corruption, then the risks of citizen reporting would be greatly increased. That is why Dvorak is so incensed – and thinks you should be as well – about this particular exercise in judicial excess.

UPDATE: see also Government Licensing Gone Wild: Institute for Justice Fights for Tour Guides in New Orleans by Mark Perry

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