Wednesday, June 8, 2011

UPDATE: Too Much Media, Not Enough Journalist, NJ High Court Concludes

Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, seat of the...Image via WikipediaIn a 42-page decision this week, the N.J. Supreme Court in Too Much Media LLC et al. v. Shellee Hale (Case No. A-7-10, 066074) unanimously upheld earlier rulings by two N.J courts (see "TUOL" posts 4/23/10 & 7/8/09) that a Washington-based online message board poster was not protected from plaintiffs' defamation claim by the Garden State's shield law covering journalists [N.J. Stat. sec. 2A:84A-21].

Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said Hale would have to be more akin to a traditional journalist to be able to invoke the state's broad shield law that protects reporters from having to disclose their confidential sources. In April 2010, the N.J. Superior Court Appellate Division found Hale was not a journalist, as she contends, because she was not connected to any media organization or engaged in journalistic functions, such as fact-checking, or subject to editorial review. New Jersey's recognition of a reporter's privilege dates back to 1933.

The plaintiffs, who have characterized the defendant's message board postings as online conversations, rather than a journalistic endeavor, are expected to proceed with discovery in their defamation lawsuit.
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