Does the Constitution protect bloggers?

David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times provides the usual arguments that the blogosphere and journalism are different animals in an(other) essay about how bloggers aren’t entitled to the same Constitutional protection as journalists. A part of his argument notes the area of mistakes and corrections:

And it’s the institutional safeguards of the traditional media that differentiate them from bloggers and the blogosphere, even if those safeguards sometimes fail. When they do, as they clearly did in the case of several recent media scandals, heads roll.

Many bloggers — not all, perhaps not even most — don’t seem to worry much about being accurate. Or fair. They just want to get their opinions — and their “scoops” — out there as fast as they pop into their brains.

I won’t go into a rant about Shaw trying to protect his own turf or any of that. He’s wrong, of course, but mostly because he ignores history. By his logic, the penny press of the mid 19th century and the yellow journalism crowd of the late 19th century wouldn’t qualify for shield laws and the First Amendment. The MSM simply cannot claim that the First Amendment — although written in the late 18th century — only applies to journalism as created by the slick elitist, Walter Lippmann, in the mid 20th century. All other arguments aside — and there are many — history itself proves Mr. Shaw and his ilk to be in an impossible position in arguing against the blogosphere.

If some bloggers don’t employ smart practices, the laws of libel and slander will (and should) come down on them hard. Meanwhile, let’s PLEASE dispose of this notion that somehow a degree — or standing in some institutional society — is what grants people the Constitutional protections written for them.

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