Crystal Cox is not a member of the media

If you are a blogger you should care about this case.  But, maybe not as much as mainstream media would have you think.

In Obsedian Finance Group v. Cox, a federal judge ruled that Crystal Cox, a woman who refers to herself as an “investigative blogger,” was not eligible for the legal protections afforded to journalists in Oregon, and the Court allowed a $2.5 million defamation verdict against Cox to stand.  By way of background, Oregon law protects journalists from defamation suits unless the individual claiming to be defamed first requests a retraction.   Cox had argued that she was eligible for protection under the Oregon law because she is a blogger, and asked the judge to set aside the verdict.

The coverage of the court’s ruling has, for the most part, been flawed and wrong.  Many have characterized this as the “bloggers are not journalists” ruling.  If this were the ruling, it would make sense that bloggers everywhere should be freaking out about it.   But that is not the court’s ruling.  And those characterizing it as such miss a critical piece in the court’s analysis.  Nothing Cox did related to media and/or blogging.

What Cox did, according to the ruling, is publish defamatory posts on websites about plaintiffs, and then when plaintiffs complained about the posts, Cox would offer to fix and repair the information for a small fee.  That is more like extortion; it’s not blogging.

In its most recent order, the Court says as much (via Legal Satyricon).  Judge Hernandez explains:

In my discussion, I did not state that a person who “blogs” could never be considered “media.” I also did not state that to be considered “media,” one had to possess all or most of the characteristics I recited. Rather, I confined my conclusion to the record defendant created in this case and noted that defendant had presented no evidence as to any single one of the characteristics which would tend to establish oneself as a member of the “media.” In addition, the uncontroverted evidence at trial was that after receiving a demand to stop posting what plaintiffs believed to be false and defamatory material on several websites, including allegations that Padrick had committed tax fraud, defendant offered “PR,” “search engine management,” and online reputation repair services to Obsidian Finance, for a price of $2,500 per month. Ex. 33. The suggestion was that defendant offered to repair the very damage she caused for a small but tasteful monthly fee. This feature, along with the absence of other media features, led me to conclude that defendant was not media. (Op. at 13-14)

The Court’s decision is entirely consistent with the view that bloggers are covered by shield laws, but extortion (or whatever you want to call what Cox does ) is not.

To read a personal and detailed account of just how Ms. Cox operates her scheme, click here.

Kash Hill at Forbes has a great piece on this:  “Yes, there are bloggers who are journalists. But just because you have a blog doesn’t mean that what you do is journalism.


~ by siouxsielaw on March 31, 2012.

4 Responses to “Crystal Cox is not a member of the media”

  1. Wow…. just…. the people things do for $$$$

  2. […] Crystal Cox – Investigative Blogger? No, More Like A Scammer and Extortionist A Blogger Not Like Us Judge rules, again, that blogger Crystal Cox is not a journalist. You know why? Because she ISN’T a journalist. How Crystal Cox Is Helping To Prove The Strength of the First Amendment Investigative Journalist Crystal Cox Attacks Kevin D. Padrick Crystal Cox Crystal Cox Is Not a Member of the Media […]

  3. Very informative post.

    I think to be considered a “journalist” and afforded the protections thereof, you have a certain obligation to remain objective and report verifiable facts (that have been cross checked) and a journalist would not offer other services from another business venture they have as it would be a conflict of interest.

    A line was crossed by offering these services, especially if her post had been negative (or defamatory) and then offer to “fix” them for a monthly fee fee – it does appear to be extortion even if this was not the original intent – it just doesn’t pass the smell test of what a reasonable person would do.

    I tried to get through some of what she posted, but it was giving me a headache with all of the capitalization that doesn’t belong and incoherent choppy sentences. If I was checking a company out on the internet and ran across this type of writing, I wouldn’t find it to be a credible source.

  4. […] Crystal Cox Is Not a Member of the Media […]

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