Blog writing is a tricky thing — especially when you’re blogging for business. On one hand, you want to recap the day’s events as they pertain to your field of expertise with a certain personality and fire that readers can expect to find from you and you alone. On the other hand, you don’t want said fire to rage out of control while your opinions and accusations potentially tick off readers and big businesses alike. But do bloggers, who are in general news responders, have the same rights as news reporters? And don’t all writers have a responsibility to pursue the truth? We’re pondering these blogging dilemmas right now because of one Crystal Cox.
Ms. Cox, if you haven’t heard, is a Montana-based blogger who was slapped with a $2.5 million fine from a federal judge who ruled that she wasn’t protected under the same laws that protect journalists against defamation suits like this one. Cox took on a one-woman battle against Obsidian Finance Group as she blogged in-depth about the company’s many missteps and injustices. Internet freedom of speech activists were incensed by the ruling, and big-time media allies initially rushed to Cox’s defense. She was poised to become a poster girl for freedom of speech… that is, until actual journalists did some digging.
Turns out the things Cox was writing about Obsidian and its owner, Kevin Padrick, weren’t true but downright ugly. Cox was using her blog as a weapon and, according to Padrick, the injuries were considerable.
“A woman who I did not know, who had no connection to me or my company or with this case she has been making statements on, has turned my business life and personal life upside down,” Padrick told the New York Times. “Companies who are considering doing business with us do a routine search on Google and there is page after page of these allegations. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody.”
Cox wound up perpetuating a blogger stereotype and didn’t really help the cause of the platform as a legitimate news source. She wasn’t protected by the same laws that protect journalists because her information was bad. Period. As journalism and blogging continue to mix together and intersect with one another, these kinds of cases are bound to become more frequent.
The big blogging mess is a great reminder to professional bloggers, writers and content creators that stirring the pot and trashing a person or company in your blog can get you into serious hot water. As Peter Parker’s uncle says, “With great strength comes great responsibility.”