Sunday, October 30, 2005

National Shield Law?

Journalist are wringing their hands over the Lewis "Scooter" Libby indictment, worried that journalists such as Tim Russert, Matt Cooper, Robert Novak and Judith Miller will be paraded before a jury and forced to testify against their own witness. They worry that this leads us further down the path of the media becoming an arm of government, a frightening fact that the shield law (either written or law through court cases) is meant to avoid.

But a fact is lost in this: without the leak itself there is no crime. This is not a case of a journalist being called before a court because he uncovered some corruption within the government that a prosecutor couldn't prove. In this case, the leak of a CIA agent's name is, in itself, illegal.

Dan Kennedy puts it best when he says:

This has always been a lousy case for anyone who thinks there ought to be at least a limited reporter's privilege. Washington reporters, compromised by the ways of Washington, claimed a reporter's privilege not to protect a whistleblower or to expose government corruption (as Taricani did), but, rather, to maintain their promise of anonymity to a source or sources who may have outed an undercover CIA agent and thus undermined national security. I understand why they had to do that, but there's nevertheless something unclean about it.
Now it's important to note that the indictment is about obstruction of justice, not about the leak. It's about the lies that prevent the government from finding out who, in fact, made the leak. But the leak is central and that is what makes this case special and why it will not lead us down the dark path of journalists as an arm of government.

Careful readers already know my stance on the shield law. I still believe that in the new media landscape it's next to impossible to write an appropriate shield law and, I believe, it's unnecessary. A source has many reason for coming forward, they are not always altruistic. Those forces will continue to be at work.

Kennedy believes that instead of trying to define who is a journalist but "I think it makes much more sense to define "journalism." Lisa Williams is not a journalist, but she's producing journalism. (But then what do we do with all those journalists who are *not* producing journalism?)" he said in an email.

I'm not entirely sure I agree, as it becomes a semantic argument. Should the court consider the relative value of each article in question based on a set of given criteria? Why is it up to the court to decide that?

And what about he simple issue that the first amendment is granted to the full population, not to a protected class?

One other thing keeps coming to my mind. While journalists talk and talk about the shield law, they're not sending investigators in to examine the evidence that brought this country into Iraq. More than anything, this should be the central issue, not the protection of a few reporters.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Who is the Little Guy Now?

Back in 1994 I remember reading in the Boston Globe, an interview with Mitt Romney's wife. This was during his Senate run against incumbent Ted Kennedy. It was also a time when I, and many like me, couldn't find work. The term "under employment" was thrown around a lot, and while we know now that the tech sector was the verge of a major upswing, at that point in time a lot seemed bleak.

So Ann Romney starts talking about her early life with Mitt and how they "struggled" because he had to sell off some of his stock, and that the carpeting in their apartment didn't match. A later debate between the two secured in my head the following thought: how can this candidate be so out of touch that he makes a Kennedy look like the "everyman"?

I had that same feeling today when I read that Microsoft plans to start an online library project similar to Google's, but it's going to do so by working with the Open Content Alliance. This is the same day that Google CEO Eric Schmidt dismissed the lawsuits from authors and publishers over Google Print as "routine."

So Microsoft, the company feared for its predatory practices that seemingly put Netscape out of business, is suddenly on the side of the "little guy"? Talk about a PR nightmare!

The issue here comes down to trust. As I've said before, Google's basic idea is "trust us, we promise to do no evil." But evil depends on perspective, and it seems that Google's forgotten that.

In July, Patricia Seybold, CEO of the analyst firm bearing her name, wrote a report called "In Google We Trust?" in which she cautioned companies about jumping into bed with the search giant. "Never before, in the seven years that we've been holding our semi-annual visionaries' meetings, has a single technology suppler been the focal point for so much of the group's discussion," she wrote. That struck me as pretty amazing, considering the role that Microsoft plays in so many organizations.

In the report she encourages companies to have some kind of Google strategy, whether that is working with the company directly or just recognizing the role that Google searches play in driving business.

One group that does work directly with Google is Penn State Press, the publishing arm of Penn State University. In fact, Tony Sanfilippo, director of sales and marketing, is a key case study for the Google Print program, singing its praises as helping drive a print-on-demand program the publisher uses to reduce inventory and boost sales.

But that doesn't mean Sanfilippo is completely happy with Google. He's criticized them openly, including an open letter to the company printed in the September 26 issue of Publisher's Weekly, in which he called for many of the same things I called for in my previous post (I hadn't read his letter until after I wrote the post). Here's a brief excerpt:

If Google is already planning to scan our books and add them to their search results, why couldn't they offer our press a high-resolution copy, in addition to the file they are already offering the university library from which they obtained it? With books that are out of print, that would allow publishers to offer the title through print-on-demand, and Google to rank it among its search results, with those glorious "buy the book" links.
In an email to me the other day, Sanfilippo acknowledged that he has not heard an official response from Google, this even as he's a customer reference for the company. Being a tech PR guy, I know how hard it is to get customer references, and they all must be treated very well. At the very least Google owes him a response.

Sanfilippo points out that from his perspective, in the non-profit university press sector, Google can very easily hurt the business. "The libraries included in the project are among our best customers. University libraries buy most, if not all of what university presses publish. These libraries have all bought or subscribed to our digital content in the past. Now they won't need to anymore. We're talking about tens of thousands in lost revenues," he told me.

Then there is the fact that digital files don't exist for much of the backlist, including out of print books that are still under copyright.

But here's where things get interesting, and I'm not sure of Google's intentions. Once Google has the digital file, can it eventually get copyright? Or does it just plan to be in business long past the point at which the book moves into the public domain?

All that said, Sanfilippo points out that he still loves Google Print for publishers, as that is an opt-in program with strict limitations, not an opt-out program over which they have no control over their copyrighted material.

There are many publishing houses that make a lot of money printing books in the public domain, which means they are more in the "packaging" business. So what happens when people don't need to buy the packaged book but can still get the content? Or maybe Google can print it for them, as I've suggested before?

"I think Google may be shooting itself in the foot," Sanfilippo continued in his email. "By ignoring the concerns of publishers, Google may in the long term betray the trust they need, if they really are considering content distribution. Either way, they most definitely seem to be publishing, the only question is will they be doing it legally or illegally."

Yes, there is that "trust" word again. How much will it matter in the future? If people can get the information from Google (as I do daily) will it matter if anyone actually "trusts" the company?

Kevin Werbach actually has an interesting perspective, in which he points out that the lawsuit, if successful, may bring the Internet to a halt. It's worth a read.

By the way, in a related piece of news, Google gave a glimpse of Google Base, which moves into classified ads. Yes, those same ads that were once ruled by newspapers, now by Craigslist and eBay, but may end up in Google's hands. But when Google has the books and the content and the classifieds and the news... how does any other content provider make money?

I also wonder if the guys in Redmond look south and see a younger version of themselves, and if they look toward IBM and find themselves looking in the mirror.

Monday, October 24, 2005

How to Save the Traditional Newsroom

In the last post I said I had no ideas about how to fix newspapers. Well, now I do, thanks in large part to a brainstorming IM session with my co-worker John Moran.

I think John Cass is on the right track when he points to hyperlocal journalism as a key element in fixing newspapers, but I think it's only a start. There are a number of hyperlocal sites out there (I've talked a bit about but can these help make money?

The real problem, as I see it, is that newspapers had that role as community source but lost it.
Frankly, I'm not sure they ever knew they had it, but it's what gave them power.

Often you hear journalists talk about their role as storyteller at the proverbial campfire. The image is of ancient humans sitting around at night, not long after feasting on their latest kill, telling tales of the hunt. One person leads telling everyone what happened that day, all other tribe members rapt with attention.

Great image, but wrong. The campfire is a circle not a stage. It's not just one story being told but many. People are talking to each other, some are calling out their own stories. It's an organized cacophony.

But all this times newspapers looked at themselves as the source for information. The one place local residents turned for news. And with older technologies, like newsprint, TV or radio, they were right.

So, what do they have now? Let's just take the example of the New York Times. As far as I'm concerned the paper's biggest asset is trust. People trust the information in it. Yes, you hear a lot of grumbling about inaccuracies in the Times, but for the most part this is where America turns when it truly wants information about the world.

This is also why the cases of Jayson Blair and Judith Miller hit so hard, they struck at the very trust that we, the readers, hold dear.

So, how would I fix it? First, I'd put all online content behind the pay firewall except for breaking news. Yes, you heard me right. I'd make people pay for content. In a move similar to what they've already done with select content, I'd make it so regular print subscribers easily get passwords so they can log in as well.

The argument that people won't pay for content is bunk. They will. How many people pay for HBO? I have DirecTV just so I can get Jets games on Sundays here in New England. Then there is cable penetration, which is very high in this country.

What would Times readers get for their money? It has to be more than just news, they have to become part of a community.

Readers should be allowed to post hyper-local content. Since registration will probably contain a certain amount of geographical information on each subscriber, a reader in Hackensack, New Jersey should automatically receive content that comes from other readers in their area.

However, a community is more than just about geography, it's also about likes and dislikes.

This is where things get very interesting. People who buy their way in must be allowed to comment on stories, not just in letters to the editor or in forums (though, these should still exist) but in comments attached directly to the story. What's more, they should be able to create their own spaces within the New York Times site, being able to focus the news as they see fit, a place where people can "clip" stories or even have searches on terms that are important to them. But here's the kicker: that should be public, this way other others can follow the various editions of the paper. Leaders would arise, just as they have in the blogosphere.

Along the way the Times would be collecting information on its readers, and then feeding content to the readers based on their interest. This isn't Earth-shattering technology, Google does it daily by feeding ads based on what's written in a blog or even in our emails.

And yes, I know that this kind of idea is called a blog or wiki, but I don't want to be bound by those titles. Newspaper sites must find ways to harness the power laid out before them, while levering the trust they earned by delivering us the news for the last century.

Once they have this community, they may earn back the classified ads or other revenue-producing concepts that could save them from financial ruin.

There's obviously more to explore here, like how to take lessons learned by gamers to make massive amounts of information easier to absorb.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Keeping Readers, Losing Community

The media industry is buzzing about cuts at the Boston Globe and the New York Times. These are nothing new, as the whole industry seems to be in a financial tailspin, even as ownership posts regular revenue gains.

Dan Kennedy has a great post today making the case that the Boston Globe has held onto its readership, it's just that the readership shifted from reading the printed form to the online version.

In the grand scheme of things, this is what was predicted years ago and what publishing companies thought they wanted: readers without having to spend money on newsprint or production. So why all the sour faces?

Because they can't make money this way. It boggles the mind, but with the same readership spread over two medium, traditional newspapers just can't figure out how to make a go of it. This is especially troublesome when you consider that most newspapers admit that the daily 50 cents or $1 you pay at the newsstand covers only print-production costs while advertising makes up the bulk of revenue.

What pundits fail to note is the steep decline in classified advertising. It used to be that newspapers were our only consistent community source for information, so it made sense to advertise that old couch, used car, house or yourself in the pay-per-letter space in the back pages.

But walk through any office in any major city and ask 20 somethings where they found their apartment and I guarantee they'll tell you "Craigslist."Ask them where they looked for a job and the answer will be "Monster." Ask them about the massive REM poster on the wall and they'll tell you "eBay." These are things that used to be pretty good profit centers for newspapers. Think about it, a whole page, paid for by the letter. Compare that to a massive display ad, which brought in just a few thousand dollars, or a page of news, which cost the paper more.

The problem is not that the newspapers lost readers, it's that they lost their role of being central to the community. But then again, the Internet changed how we think of a community, as some are geographic while others are based on interest. So how can newspapers regain this ground?

Honestly, I have no idea.

My Issue with Sources

There is a story that's getting some good play today in the Boston news regarding a European vacation that several state representatives left on last night, even as the legislature was trying to dig through key pieces of legislation.

The story on the front page of the Boston Globe "City and Region" section (below the fold) and written by Frank Phillips and Michael Levsenson points out that the trip includes six legislators, including key members of the leadership, as well as a state lobbyist, House clerk and others.

Interesting story, but as I read further I started to realize why this became such a big deal. The headline is "Legislators' trip could delay work in House," suggesting that these six members are so key as to shut things down. While that fact is mentioned in the lead paragraph, the key support for this statement is on the jump page:

Still, the trip stirred grumbling within the House ranks, where some members, who did not want to be quoted by name, felt the trip had come at the worst time....
With this trip, "they've shut the House down," said one frustrated member. "It's stunning. Short of the budget, this is the busiest time of the year."
What are the political beefs this person (or persons) speaking has with the legislators in question? Is this a political friend or foe? What sorts of state-funded projects may have been cut from this person's home region because of moves by the House leadership?

Without the information of who this source is, I the reader, am not able to make this determination.

Is this a real story, or is this just political back biting? Frankly, without more information, I just can't be sure. I'm left to trust the Boston Globe that it's something worthy of its prominent placement.

In the new media world, I'd like more information by which to make this determination.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Google Suit and the Long Tail

It's in the news again, the author's guild is suing Google for scanning books as part of the Google Print project.

There are several anecdotes floating around, like the fact that Google needs to scan a full book to make search itself more accurate, and that it's goal is to have nearly all of the Earth's information digitized and searchable at some point in the future. I've heard stories about authors and editors of hundreds of books being told they have to fill out a form for each book they don't want scanned, which is certainly a cumbersome and difficult job.

But why aren't authors embracing the idea of having their books digitized, and simply ask that Google make the search information available to other companies? Or what about requiring Google to present the digitized version to the copyright holder to do with as they see fit?

I still believe that the author's will eventually benefit from this project thanks to a possible print-on-demand system. This is the long tail in progress, and as John Cass pointed out, it may be something that Amazon should get involved with.

But I also understand that Google's basic mantra in all this is basically "trust is, we promise to do no evil," and I'd like to believe that. But I also can't help noticing that when you type "Chuck Tanowitz" into the search engine my blog and other older items come up ahead of my Typepad blog, and the other blog as much more information. I'm sure Google has a reason for this, but it makes me wonder.

So my point is, you may not trust Google, but rather than stopping them authors should find a way for the company to share its work. Isn't that what the Web is all about anyway?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Judith Miller and the Times

You may notice that I've stayed pretty mum on this whole issue. There are two reasons for this. First, enough pundits are weighing in on the topic and I don't need to add my voice to the chorus and second, this isn't an issue that crosses over into new media that easily.

As time moves on I may stop and take a look at the credibility issues it creates with the traditional media and how that compares with the "friend of a friend" idea. But that's a topic for another time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Who is a Journalist part 2

It looks like the issue of legally defining the rights of blogger/journalists may be closer to coming to a head.

At a speech on Monday covered by Editor and Publisher Senator Richard Lugar, who is sponsoring a federal shield law, said that bloggers would not as of now fall under the definition of a "journalist."

As quoted in the story:

"As to who is a reporter, this will be a subject of debate as this bill goes farther along," he said in response to a question from Washington Post Deputy Managing Editor Milton Coleman. "Are bloggers journalists or some of the commercial businesses that you here would probably not consider real journalists? Probably not, but how do you determine who will be included in this bill?"
And how is a journalist defined in the bill? entity that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means and that--

(i) publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical;

(ii) operates a radio or television broadcast station (or network of such stations), cable system, or satellite carrier, or a channel or programming service for any such station, network, system, or carrier; or

(iii) operates a news agency or wire service;

(B) a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such an entity; or

(C) an employee, contractor, or other person who gathers, edits, photographs, records, prepares, or disseminates news or information for such an entity.
This definition certainly takes away some of the vague language that exists in the New York law, but is that fair? If this bill should succeed, should the definition be even tighter than the state laws?

How do you determine who will be included? I had an email exchange about this with Anthony Lewis, the former New York Times columnist and author of several books on the law, including the iconic Gideon's Trumpet.

He's not a fan of the shield law, even as he notes that the Times supports it. "Do we really want to immunize potentially millions of Americans from legal process?" he asks. It's a question that gave me pause.

Apparently Lugar agrees, deciding instead to maintain to a more traditional view of a journalist. But this creates other problems, as the Editor and Publisher story points out. If the government is defining a journalist, then that is basically like giving out licenses, something no journalist would support.

Lewis weighs in on this, as any good professor would, by sending me back to the books:
In Branzburg, Justice White's opinion of the court warned about the difficulty of defining journalist. We strongly, and rightly, resist the idea of any official license--which in many places is a form of governmental control.

But how else is the beneficiary of a shield law to be chosen? By the courts? That is, will judges draw your nice distinction between different kinds of bloggers? I think myself that the development of the internet has made Justice White's objection far more daunting.
So I went back to the original opinion to see what White had to say back in 1972:
The administration of a constitutional newsman's privilege would present practical and conceptual difficulties of a high order. Sooner or later, it would be necessary to define those categories of newsmen who qualified for the privilege, a questionable procedure in light of the traditional doctrine that liberty of the press is the right of the lonely pamphleteer who uses carbon paper or a mimeograph just as much as of the large metropolitan publisher who utilizes the latest photocomposition methods.
The opinion goes on to point out that freedom of the press is a "'personal right' which is 'not confined to newspaper and periodicals.'"

Do we really want to be messing with something so personal?

I think we should bury the shield. Yes, a journalist's most key asset is the ability to gain information, especially information that may otherwise be hidden. But, remember that any source generally has a reason for talking, and that reason is often far from altruistic.

The most famous of the secret sources, Deep Throat, never came to light since the testimony he would have provided never became necessary. To their credit, Woodward and Bernstein had a series of other sources to back up what they were being told secretly, Watergate was not a single-source story.

Still, in the absence of information Mark Felt was ascribed certain altruistic characteristics. Were his motivations so noble? The recent news about his background certainly makes the issue far more murky.

So let's not be too quick to grant a shield for some people to hide behind, and instead look at who is telling what stories and why.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Blending the Media: Battlestar Galactica

I generally reserve my commentary here for nonfiction-related media, but in the case of Battlestar Galactica, the use of multiple media is so compelling as to be worth noting.

If you haven't watched Battlestar Galactica on the SciFi channel, you should. It's one of the most well written shows on TV that blends good storytelling with some great social commentary. Of course it has a few good special effects, but what interests me most is how it gets the most out of the various media: TV, podcasts, blogs and forums.

At its heart this is an aggressive TV show that relies on a relatively small band of rabid fans. I'm sure the producers would love the kind of ratings that a show like 24 or Survivor get, but that's not the goal here. The unit of measure are the other shows on the SciFi channel and, more importantly, on basic cable.

While the show deals with sensitive subject matter, I wouldn't say it pushes the boundaries of the medium, and that's a good thing. Yes, the writers often run up against network censors and there have been some recent complaints about a rape scene in one episode, but this is a show that lives comfortably in TV. In fact, Executive Producer Ron Moore told an E! Online Forum that he has no intention of doing a feature film since that format wouldn't allow him the same storytelling arc he currently enjoys.

You see, the show doesn't insult its viewers intelligence by forgetting the past and problems aren't neatly wrapped up at the end of each hour. Instead, story threads that begin with a look or a comment in one episode extend over weeks and months. A story arc in the first season started toward the middle, ended with a cliff hanger in the season finale, then took another 7 episodes in season 2 to truly wrap up.

I started watching this show with the miniseries, but it was the podcast that brought it to a new level for me. Each week, Moore records a podcast designed to act in the same capacity as a DVD commentary--only you can play it even as you're watching an episode for the first time. This is really aimed at DVR users to give them a reason to watch the show a second or even a third time, adding a layer of storytelling not available before, but also helping make listeners more invested in the show and, in turn, the brand.

As a viewer/listener I get to feel as if I know the man behind the series a little better. I can hear his dogs barking and the phone ringing, even the leaf blower outside. It's the lack of production quality that makes it even more compelling. I'm not just listening to Ron Moore, but I'm sitting with him, in his house, as he gives me a personal journey through his creation.

Then there are the forums on the SciFi network Web site in which viewers can discuss and comment on the show, as well as a blog that Moore doesn't keep up that regularly. But that's OK! He obviously prefers the podcast to the blog. Also, Moore does, in fact, read the forums. How do we know that? Because he said so on his podcast!

The DVD is next, with season one now out and season two due out soon.

How does print media fit in with all this? Frankly, not in any major capacity other than with a few reviews in print publications and feature stories such as one that appeared in the New York Times Magazine.

A series of blogs have popped up around the show, which is to be expected. And I'm sure people involved with the production track those as well.

It'll be interesting to watch how this continues to proceed and whether all forms of media can build the strong fan base such a show needs to survive. Considering that Battlestar Galactica 's going into its third season, it's already a pretty successful run.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Truth in Numbers: PR and the Blogosphere

Edelmen PR and Technorati just completed a terrific study on how bloggers interact with PR people. Of course every blogger is different, but since these people chose to take the study they're a pretty self-selecting group of (most likely) business-related bloggers.

On his blog, Richard Edelman has a quote about how PR people should be interacting with bloggers:

Companies must enter the blogosphere in ways that respect its values and norms. We should never assume we can barge into a conversation; we need to ask permission to interact. We must always be transparent about who we are and what our motives are. Communications should be based on genuine understanding of each person's interests and needs. When companies or agencies act duplicitously, we should recognize that they are interfering with human conversation, and we should not stand for it.
Great advice.

But I think we should take things one step further, we should become bloggers ourselves. It doesn't have to be a complex blog or something you update daily, and it's probably best not to be just another PR blog, but focus on a hobby or your family or something that you are passionate about. I learned more about blogging from writing about my children than I ever could have learned by simply reading a bunch each day--though, I do that too.

So get out and blog, but blog about something that feeds your true passion.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Google the Publisher?

I heard an interesting comment on an NPR podcast the other day. The fact that I was actually listening to an NPR podcast is interesting in and of itself, but lets just talk about the comment.

During a piece about Google’s desire to search book content that originally aired on Day to Day, Xeni Jardin talked about why the Author’s Guild was suing Google.

But toward the end of the piece, during a discussion with host Noah Adams, Jardin said the following:

If the idea behind this lawsuit were extended to the Internet, there wouldn’t be any search engines. What’s the difference between Web pages and books? What is Web page owners could sue Google for indexing their pages?
It threw me. “What’s the difference between Web pages and books?” Would anyone have asked that question a year ago? Two years ago? You can actually break this down to “what’s the difference between a blog and a book?”

Frankly, other than the income potential, I’m not sure. If someone can give me a good definition I’d love to hear it.

But she seemed to throw away the following line and that had me thinking:
If publishers say they want Google to make the whole book available through a print-on-demand program, they can do that… otherwise they only get a preview of what’s inside so they can borrow or buy the book somewhere else.
I can’t find any information about a print on demand program through Google, the only options on the Google Print results pages are for you to purchase the book through the publisher, Amazon or a few other options. So I’m not sure if Jardin was speculating here or of she has information that I can’t find.

But print-on-demand makes complete sense and it actually lines up perfectly with Chris Anderson’s Long Tail concept. Publishers have long hoped to find a way to sell out-of-print books and they’ve launched a few ventures to this end. I'm not sure how successful they were, but my guess is: not much. They relied on local book stores to fulfull orders from people who knew what they want. But how do you know you want a book that's out of print? Chances are, you had heard of the book somewhere, probably by reading it or for some academic purpose (why would marketers waste their time on an out of print book?). On the academic side, you probably will be happy with the library. Otherwise, some searches of a few used book suppliers will do.

But if you combine Google's search capabilities and reach with all the books that have EVER been printed, you may have something interesting.

A few toner-based printing presses placed in regional locations around the country could make it so no book is ever really out-of-print again.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Who is a Journalist?

It sounds like such a simple question. What makes you a journalist?

In American society, we all have the same right to free speech. Yet many states have shield laws protecting "journalists" from having to reveal their sources. This issue has come up recently on the national level with people asking about a national shield law in the wake of the recently wrapped up Judith Miller case.

New York is such a state, and considering the number of media outlets that operate within its borders, this is probably a good thing. So how does New York define a journalist? A "professional journalist" is who, for gain or livelihood, is engaged in gathering, preparing, collecting, writing, editing, filming, taping or photographing of news intended for a newspaper, magazine, news agency, press association or wire service or other professional medium or agency which has as one of its regular functions the processing and researching of news intended for dissemination to the public; such person shall be someone performing said function either as a regular employee or as one otherwise professionally affiliated for gain or livelihood with such medium of communication.
There are a number of interesting qualifiers here. My favorite is as someone who provides information "for gain or livelihood..." in other words, you have to make money doing this. How many bloggers out there make nothing for their work but do it for the love of writing or finding things out? What if one of these finds themselves with a “source” who provides some sensitive information? Could this person duck behind the shield?

A bigger question for me is “would they?” But let's explore that another time.

Another interesting definition in this of "news," which is defined as
...written, oral, pictorial, photographic, or electronically recorded information or communication concerning local, national or worldwide events or other matters of public concern or public interest or affecting the public welfare.
Obviously, many bloggers wouldn't fall into this catetory. Yes, a blog about a person's homelife is interesting, but it certainly wouldn't meet the standard of "matters of public concern" or "affecting the public welfare."

But there are certainly blogs out there that do meet this standard, such as Lisa Williams' She's a citizen who started a blog about local information. She's been interviewed on "Open Source" about the hyperlocalization of news, has been invited to events as a member of the local media and is part of the "power blogger" set. BUT, does she make money at this, or is it a hobby? And if it's a hobby, does she qualify?

Also, what falls under the definition of “public welfare”? And does a blog have to meet this criteria outside of the article that would be the subject of that particular court battle?

I guess these vagaries are what make the law the law. So I posed the question to someone much more experienced than I am, Vincent Blasi, professor at both Columbia Law School and the University of Virginia School of Law. I took his class as a journalism student in the early 90s, which he taught with Anthony Lewis, who was then writing the "Abroad at Home" column in the New York Times.

Professor Blasi agrees that as court cases come up, this will test the definition of a journalist and he agrees that a blogger/journalist probably deserves the same protection as a newspaper or broadcast journalist. However, he believes that the courts may create a rather narrow definition, but not because of any reason that you and I may expect.

…most courts are hostile to shield laws and construe them narrowly whenever the language permits -- and sometimes even when the language would seem not to permit. So I would predict that many courts would simply say that “journalist” means someone who writes for traditional publications and that if bloggers are to be protected, the legislature will have to change the statutory language to make that clear.
It'll be interesting to see how the courts handle this and whether they even approach the issue when it comes up.

But if bloggers want to benefit from the shield, we may have to first organize, then try to update the law.