A self-described “investigative blogger” has been ordered to hand over $2.5 million to an investment firm after a federal judge in Oregon ruled she was not a journalist and therefore not entitled to the legal protections afforded to them.
Crystal L. Cox of Montana was sued in January by the Obsidian Finance Group for defamation after she claimed the firm’s co-founder, Kevin Padrick, acted illegally during bankruptcy proceedings, according to the Associated Press. She posted that he was a “thug” and a “thief,” which she claims was based on an inside source.
But U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez ruled that Cox was not protected by Oregon’s shield law, which allows journalists to protect their sources.
“Although the defendant 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,” he wrote in his decision. “Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law.”
Hernandez also argued there was no proof that Cox adhered to journalistic standards and noted that she had no professional qualifications as a journalist. He also noted that the shield law does not apply to defamation cases and that the bankruptcy case was not in the public interest.
The post was defamation, Hernandez said, because a reasonable person would be led to believe the blog post was factual. But Cox refused to reveal her source and could not back up her facts.
“If only I had a journalist degree.. maybe i would now HOW to pRoperlY spell this Shit and bring it to the table where them there professionals may just take me serious,” Cox wrote on her website, Obsidianfinancesucks.com, following the ruling.
“Gee maybe one day.. i can bE as sMart as all you real JournaLists.. And maybe if I had them there ‘standards of journalism’ I could learn how to call Both sides and get some statement they claim to be true and then well put my twist on it and put it into the Traditional Media machine and wala it comes out as Accredited, Protected, Real Legitimate News..”
“No matter what you believe. 1 Plus 1 is still two,” she continued. “I did not create the bad things, I simply turned on the light in the room they was happening in and gave voice to the victims in those rooms suffering at the hands of an unjust and corruption ‘Justice System’.”
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Associated Press that shield laws should be updated to included online media.
“But do not expect the shield law to provide you a defense in a libel case where you want to rely on an anonymous source for that information,” she added.