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Jul 24, 2013

"Dirty" Journalism

In the past, while writing about a lawsuit brought by former teacher and Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones -- which resulted in a $338,000 jury verdict for Jones earlier this month -- I stated that "thedirty.com is a tasteless website." And it is.

But the site's publication of additional online sex chats by former Congressman and current New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner -- which apparently occurred after his resignation because of revelation of previous, similar chats -- shows that the revelation of information of interest and importance to the public -- in a word, "journalism" -- can occur in some of the most unlikely places.

Which is why efforts to legally define who is a "journalist" -- which gummed up efforts for a federal shield law, and recently led to the expiration of the existing shield law in Hawaii -- are problematic.

Instead, as several others have argued (for example, here, here, here and here), the standard should be whether the individual involved is committing "an act of journalism." And it should not matter whether that individual is a television news correspondent, an advocacy group, a local community activist, an eyewitness, or even thedirty.com.

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