Friday, January 23, 2009
Every day the Student Press Law Center is having a debate about who is a journalist, director Frank LoMonte told students Thursday.
The answer to this debate is important for the SPLC, which provides legal resources for student journalists, because it determines which cases they will accept and who they will provide counsel to, LoMonte said. SPLC receives 5,000 calls and e-mails a year from high school and college faculty and students dealing with free press and censorship issues.
The answer is always changing, LoMonte said. Today, the SPLC has sought to define a journalist as someone who works in traditional media forms – broadcasting, newspaper or a web site that relates to one of the two and is journalistic in nature, LoMonte said. Text messaging and social networks are currently not considered part of the SPLC’s jurisdiction, but that may change as the technology lines blur, he said.
There is a misconception that Internet is a “scary magic box” that should have different First Amendment principles, LoMonte said. Part of the job of the SPLC and of journalists is to educate others about the Internet and what the law allows.
“The federal courts have been very consistent that there’s only one First Amendment and that all the same First Amendment freedoms apply to printing something in a magazine or a newspaper also apply to printing someone online,” LoMonte said.
-Derek Casanovas and Jasmine Linabary
Want to hear more from LoMonte? Check out the video below: