Blogging, Journalism, & the Law

No matter how burned out I feel by my frenetic-paced, all-in-one Wise Latina Club writer/editor/shooter/assignment desk manager/IT whiz/marketing expert, attending the annual National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ)  convention re-charges me, in large part because of the young, hungry reporters I meet.

This year in Orlando at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort was no different.

I met Rossana Sandigo, a recent graduate of the University of Arizona who is interning for La Voz de Arizona in Phoenix as part of the NAHJ/NHPF Ford Blue Oval Journalism program along with Melissa Caskey who I blog about in "The Taming the Social Space".

Sandigo enterprised a story for Latino Reporter Digital, NAHJ's student website devoted to covering the convention, on the relationship between blogging, journalism, and the law.  She asks a basic question at the heart of an industry debate with consequences on our society: should bloggers be afforded the same legal protections as journalists?  More specifically, should bloggers be protected by so-called shield laws that allow a reporter to refuse to testify about sources and/or information obtained reporting, and publishing or airing a story?

Question: Do you believe journalists and bloggers deserve legal protections like those afforded by shield laws?


Here is a link to her report "Journalists Turned Bloggers Impact Legal Issues"

And the article as it appears in Latino Reporter Digital:

"Journalists Turned Bloggers Impact Legal Issues"

By: Rossana Sandigo, Latino Reporter Digital

As traditional journalism jobs dry up and layoffs plague the media industry, more veteran reporters are turning to social media and blogging as [a] way to continue working in the profession they love.

But this emerging outlet also presents a new problem: whether bloggers should be under the protection of shield laws which allow reporters to protect their sources without fear of legal penalty.

Veronica Villafañe, editor and publisher of, ventured into the world of blogging after recognizing that there were few platforms that featured the accomplishments and problems of Latinos in the media. Her site is dedicated to covering news about Latinos in newspapers, television, and new media.

“No one was doing it and I felt it was a void that needed to be filled,” Villafañe said.

However, even as the number of bloggers increases, legal challenges about their role as journalists have arisen.

Recently, New Jersey’s Supreme Court announced that bloggers are exempt from the same “shield law” protections to which mainstream journalists are entitled. In the ongoing court case, “Too Much Media vs. Hale,” the court stated, “we do not find that online message boards are similar to the types of news entities listed in the New Jersey Shield Law, and do not believe that the Legislature intended to provide an absolute privilege in defamation cases to people who post comments on message boards.”

“It is dangerous to have the courts establish who is a “legitimate” blogger,” said Jennifer Mansfield, a partner at Holland & Knight.

Viviana Hurtado, self-proclaimed “Blogger in Chief” of The Wise Latina Club, believes journalists who act ethically should be protected — no matter what their platform.

“Bloggers who are following journalistic principles and ethics” should have the same protections as traditional reporters, said Hurtado, who started The Wise Latina Club with the intention of giving an adequate and realistic representation of Latinas in the United States.

However, not everyone agrees that all bloggers should be considered journalists.

“I don’t think all bloggers should have shield protections,” said Villafañe, who noted that reporters must be responsible and conscientious of what they write. “No matter who you are,” she said.

Different frustrations and motivations have triggered reporters to start blogs of their own.

“It’s really important for me that everybody who is Latina feels that this community is theirs and that they can add to it,” said Hurtado. is an interactive site that allows its followers the ability to post.

“I want these women to feel that they can find a voice here,” said Hurtado. “And that’s important because what matters is who we want to be, where we want to go.”

In the end, say Hurtado and other journalists who have turned to blogging, it’s important for journalists in all platforms to preserve the fundamentals and report news accurately.

“News needs to get out there,” said Joe Ruiz, the engagement editor of