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Law and Ethics

April 23, 2010

While Harrower filled the pages of chapter seven with various legal issues, laws and ethics with respect to journalism, he did not provide an answer to modern journalism’s most pressing question. He raises questions about the defining line between professional journalists and citizen journalists and bloggers, but leaves the reader without any solution. He asks if bloggers are entitled to the same rights and protections are mainstream media reporters. Even though he does not return to the question, the exercises at the end of the chapter suggest that all citizens are worthy of the same protection.

He describes a hypothetical situation where a student posts gossip about a cheerleader on his Facebook page and the school newspaper reprints that information, identifying the source. Provided that the statement was not true, the cheerleader gets angry and sues for libel. Harrower asks the reader, who is most liable? The answers in the back of the book say that the Facebook student and the reporter for the student newspaper are equally responsible for the flaw. Therefore, in my opinion, if independent journalists can suffer from the same mistakes as journalists, then they should deserve the same protections from the law as well.

One may argue that all citizens, regardless of profession, should be honorable and only post accurate information on the Internet. Nevertheless, the law should not punish those whom they do not protect.

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