The Week in Writing: Court rules blogging is not journalism

And it costs one online scribe in Oregon big bucks. Plus, holiday gifts for writers, language and grammar peeves, and more.


It’s been a busy news week for writing formats. Blogging was legally declared not journalism by a federal court, and Twitter is getting a new design to make it more appealing to non-Twitter users and advertisers.

Meanwhile, there have been a bunch of holiday gift ideas for writers that don’t include the usual style guides and blank journals, plus a look at Apple’s social media guidelines for employees.

12 holiday gifts for writers. Do you ever get gifts for the holidays like pens or classic books or leather-bound dictionaries because your friends or relatives think those are the kinds of things writers want? Maybe you’ll want to find a subtle way to send them this link. In The Millions, Hanah Gersen gives 12 great ideas for gifts writers will actually use. Gersen correctly sums up the reason for all those pens and journals you’ve been getting. “Writers get blank journals for the same reasons that teachers get mugs, assistants get flowers, and grandmothers get tea.”

The Twitter redesign. Does Twitter have an obligation to reach every person on the planet? Its CEO says so, and that’s one reason why it’s unveiling a new user interface over the next few weeks. If you’re a Twitter user—which most people are not —you probably recognize that Twitter brings back some pretty messy search results at times, regardless of whether you’re looking for people or topics. As this piece in Wired states, “It’s a problem for any kind of search… But it’s a nightmare for major brands and businesses who want to use Twitter to burnish their brands.” So Twitter is making things more accessible—to everyone in the world.

A blogger is not a journalist. Crystal Cox is a blogger, and $2.5 million says she is not a journalist. In a case that settled some debates about whether a blogger is a journalist and opened new ones about media shield laws, a U.S. District court judge in Oregon ruled that Cox had to pay $2.5 million to an investment firm she defamed on a blog she runs. Cox argued that media shield laws protect her against defamation suits. The judge disagreed. Cox told a Seattle paper, “This should matter to everyone who writes on the Internet.” Maybe, but I’m guessing most Facebook updates aren’t intended to be journalism.

Apple’s social media guidelines revealed. Does your company have a social media policy for all employees? Apple does. And this week, its policy was leaked to a blog following the firing of an employee who had posted negative things about the company on Facebook. Not surprising, much of the document focuses on leaking information about new products. One of the stranger rules: Staff may not post pictures taken inside an Apple Store.

Watch your language. We all have a few pet peeves when it comes to the misuse of language and grammar. Some that bother writer Michael Hess are pretty standard, including “irregardless” and “there vs. their”. What makes his list interesting though, is that it was published on CBS Marketwatch, a business site, and Hess is a CEO, not a writer or educator. So why does he care so much about proper grammar? “I am especially sensitive to this because I do a lot of international business, and in most of the countries now giving America a run for its money, education, propriety and formality are still meaningful and respected.” Writing and good grammar have a place in the business world.

Evan Peterson is a writer and communications pro in Chicago who has written speeches for executives and presidential cabinet members. His writing has appeared in USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Politico, and other publications.

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