Crystal Cox, a self-proclaimed investigative blogger who runs various law-centric blogs like industrywhistleblower.com, judicialhellhole.com, and obsidianfinancesucks.com, has been ordered to pay $2.5 million for defamation.
Cox was sued by investment firm Obsidian Finance Group in January for defamation. The $10 million lawsuit was founded on several blog posts which were highly critical of the firm and its co-founder Kevin Padrick, reports Seattle Weekly. Cox accused the firm of tax and governmental fraud. The distinction between journalist and blogger made a difference in this case.
Despite the fact that Cox - a Portland-based blogger who represented herself - tried to state that her posts were a mixture of fact, opinion and commentary, the judge ruled that one single blog post was defamatory because it was presented as more factual in tone than the others. Thus, this blog post could lead readers to believe it was factual even though unsubstantiated.
Judge Marco Hernandez ordered that Cox pay the investment firm $2.5 million. Judge Hernandez wrote that Cox's lack of journalistic education, lack of professional credentials of affiliation with any recognized news establishment as well as her failure to contact both sides of the story prove her guilty of defamation.
The court ordered her to provide her sources but Cox claimed that she is a journalist and should not have to give that information. Since she does not work for any news organization, however, Cox is not shielded by journalist protections, reports Zap 2 It. Her role as a blogger does not legally make her a journalist.
Cox claims that she will appeal the ruling. A blogger is a journalist, or a reporting [sic] in my opinion, when they take interviews, get tips emailed, get and research documents, study cases and depositions, talk to those personally involved, and post their story just as a traditional reporter, she said.
Cox said bloggers are oftentimes without the limitations of having to please your advertisers, or your local politician or corporate machine.
The Oregon media shield law reads: No person connected with, employed by or engaged in any medium of communication to the public shall be required by ... a judicial officer ... to disclose, by subpoena or otherwise ... [t]he source of any published or unpublished information obtained by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public[.]
Padrick said that this case proves the harm bloggers are capable of inflicting in the new media era.
I don't think there should be any lesser or any greater standard on the medium of the message, Padrick said. But just because it's on the Internet you shouldn't be able to hide behind that.
He states that the main issue is whether bloggers deserve the same legal rights as real journalists.
It is has nothing to do with this post or me being press, having actual malice or the true merits of this case, Cox wrote to Seattle Weekly. This will distort the issue and if that's what you want that is fine. If i don't win my appeal, we all lose.