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Copyright (c) 1999 Dickinson School of Law
Dickinson Law Review

ARTICLE: And You Call Yourself a Journalist?: Wrestling
With a Definition of "Journalist" in the Law

Winter, 1999

103 Dick. L. Rev. 411


Clay Calvert


Unlike law or medicine, no course of study, examination, or license is required to practice journalism in the United States. 1 One need not major in journalism or even attend college. 2 Defining who is a journalist 3 - separating the posers from the professionals - thus is as difficult today as defining news. 4

For instance, is Matt Drudge, publisher of the on-line electronic publication Drudge Report, 5 a journalist or merely a gossip monger? 6 Is Larry King, host of Larry King Live, a journalist or just an entertaining talk show host? 7

Determining who is a journalist is more than just an esoteric question debated by ivory tower academics and journalism professors. The determination has major legal implications. 8

Although reporters generally are subject to the same legal standards that apply to the public at large, 9 individuals dubbed "journalists" by courts may have special standing 10 to assert a qualified privilege 11 in legal proceedings to refuse to divulge the identity of sources and to reveal unpublished information. 12 Who falls within this elite, protected class?

The jurisprudence protecting journalists from compelled disclosure is exceedingly complex, premised upon a combination of the First Amendment, 13 state statutory and constitutional law, and the common law. 14 A First Amendment-based qualified privilege for journalists to resist compelled disclosure, grounded in the concurring and various dissenting opinions in the Supreme Court's fractured decision in Branzburg v. Hayes, 15 has been recognized by the vast majority of ...
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