Who are you? meets What am I?

Speaking of lawsuits, this one is aimed at an unpaid journalist. Or is she?

Oregon blogger Crystal Cox was ordered to pay $2.5 million after being sued for defamation. The judge said Cox did not qualify for Oregon shield laws.

“Defendant fails to bring forth any evidence suggestive of her status as a journalist. For example, there is no evidence of (1) any education in journalism; (2) any credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity; (3) proof of adherence to journalistic standards…”

How can the legal system, potential sources or anyone reading on the Internet parse what qualifies as a media authority?

If everyone is a publisher, who is a journalist? And what is journalism? Is a solitary act of journalism — filming a tsunami, photographing a riot — equal to being a journalist, if only temporarily?

CJ Cornell comments on citizen journalists and does not consider himself one. He’s been blogging for 15 years, has published many articles and taught a stint at the Cronkite School. I’d consider him a journalist, if only dormant. Others might not agree.

Defining a journalist is subjective, complex and made more difficult by the lack of credentials. Some of us have degrees and others don’t, but none of us have any kind of license or certificate or nationally recognized accreditation.

People point to this absence to label journalism a “trade” or a “craft.” We journalists have no “magic hats.”

Journalists need a credentialing system, especially for online endeavors. Having a Facebook + Journalists profile isn’t close to adequate.

Any system such as this needs to take into account published writings (freelance or full-time), a degree and a sticky persuasion with the Code of Ethics.

As the issue stands, the surest and safest identifier for any journalist is an affiliation with a recognized media outlet. Press passes have existed since our early history. Let’s take them digital.

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