Is He a Journalist? - NBC Bay Area

Is He a Journalist?



    Is He a Journalist?
    NBC Bay Area
    Gizmodo blogger Jason Chen

    The water cooler conversation in newsrooms across the country focused on blogger Jason Chen.

    The debate?  Is he a journalist.

    Chen is the Gizmodo writer who tore about an iPhone prototype that was left in a Redwood City bar a couple weeks ago.

    Last Friday investigators came to his Fremont home armed with a search warrant.  They took computers, hard drives, digital cameras and cell phones. They also took Chen's American Express bill and copies of his checks.

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    He was not arrested.

    Gawker Media, who owns Gizmodo, claims California's Shield Law protects Chen from having to turn over anonymous sources or unpublished material.  They say the law should apply in this case.

    "Are bloggers journalists? I guess we'll find out," Nick Denton, who runs Gawker Media, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press late Monday.
    A lot of people have been asking the same question, according to David Greene, executive director of the First Amendment Project said

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    "The answer to that is -- it's irrelevant," Greene said. "If it is a journalist blogging, or someone who's employed or connected with  a news organization blogging, yes it will cover them. The fact it's blogging doesn't matter. The question is whether it's news gathering or not."

    San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, who issued the warrant, said his office is examining the issue.

    Other legal experts say the Shield Law wouldn't apply in this case if Chen committed a crime when he paid money for the phone.

    Legal blogger Eugene Volokh wrote, "The matter turns on what you knew about the provenance of the goods. If you knew [your source] had stolen the goods, or had found them and didn’t 'first mak[e] reasonable and just efforts to find the owner and to restore the property to him,' then you’re guilty of receiving stolen property."

    The warrant was issued by a Superior Court judge in San Mateo County.  It said the seized items may have been used to commit a felony. Steve Wagstaffe, spokesman for the San Mateo County District Attorney's office, confirmed the warrant's authenticity to the Associated Press.

    Last week, Gizmodo posted photos of an Apple device that appeared to be a next-generation iPhone. It had been found in a bar in Redwood City, which is in San Mateo County, and sold for $5,000 by an unknown person to Gizmodo.

    After Chen posted photos and details about the phone, Apple acknowledged the device belonged to the company.

    Gizmodo has since returned the device.

    Lori Preuitt has to admit that her newsroom does not actually have a water cooler. We do have a coffee pot though.