Panel discusses the impact of blogs on journalism

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The CSUN Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Department hosted the 14th Annual Kenneth S. Devol First Amendment Freedom Forum May 10 in the Oviatt Library.

This year’s Freedom Forum featured a panel discussion called “Battle in the Blogosphere: Bloggers, Reporters and the Future of Journalism.” The forum featured three guest speakers, who discussed the impact of bloggers in the digital world, as well as the impact bloggers can have on the public’s perception of journalism.

“Now, we have bloggers calling themselves journalists,” said John Kostrey, lawyer for the Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP law firm. “At some point, mainstream journalists will have to define who is a journalist, and what laws they will have to abide by.”

The panel also consisted of Kurt Opsahl, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Peter Scheer, lawyer and journalist, who was also the executive director for the California First Amendment Coalition.

“Basically, what we mean when we use the word (bloggers), is people who are entirely on their own,” Scheer said. “(They) write their own things on their space on the Internet. They do it in a way that looks just like a journalist.”

It is not clearly defined who is a journalist, primarily because journalists do not want to welcome into the profession anyone who simply writes their way into the job, Kostrey said.

Journalists are often subject to subpoenas requesting that they reveal sources and divulge information, while bloggers do not have to respond to subpoenas because they are not held to the same standards as professional journalists, the speakers said.

Scheer addressed the controversial issue of journalists who also write their own personal blogs.

“It is still unusual for a journalist working at a paper (to maintain) a blog,” Scheer said. “It has happened at the Sacramento Bee, and it has been controversial.”