by TONY SCHMITT
DULUTH, Minn.- On August 1, 2006 a controversial arrest of a journalist was made for withholding evidence in the form of a videotape, yet the controversy lies not in the tape but was this man a journalist?
The federal court decided no when they arrested Josh Wolf for not complying with the demand of the videotape. Wolf served 8 months in jail, which is now the longest time a journalist has been imprisoned for withholding unpublished material. One very controversial topic was whether or not Wolf could be represented as a journalist.
"I describe myself a lot of ways. I'm a journalist. . . . I'm an activist. I wear a lot of hats. . . . I'm also a videoblogger," said Wolf when he was asked to describe himself. Yet under California law, where Wolf resides, he is not considered a journalist, so he did not receive any privileges entitled to journalists when it came to court. In technical terms even though Wolf claims to be a journalist; he is not.
Although in the mainstream media it seems to be a matter of opinion. In 2006 Wolf received support by the Society of Professional Journalists when they awarded him the Journalist of the Year award for "upholding the principles of a free and independent press." Wolf also received support from the Rise Up Network Legal Fund when they held a benefit to free Wolf and free the media. Yet in 2008 columnist Debra Saunders criticized the legitimacy of Wolf.
The real question comes down to: can blogs be a source of news? In the eyes of Wolf they can be. He said, " a video blogger would be someone who maintains a blog and puts video on it that they create. In much the same way [that] a newspaper is a medium for someone who writes for The New York Times or something, a blog is a different medium source." But in the end technicalities in the law say no.