Journalist? Blogger? Self-promo Strategist? You Decide on Josh
Wolf, New Capitalism
Journalism is a tough profession to crack legitimately. At no
earlier time in media history have there been far more candidates than
there are job openings as layoffs continue to plague an industry best
defined as a sinking ship.
So, why would one young man who calls himself a journalist sit in jail
(coercive confinement) rather than try breaking into the profession
Josh Wolf has become "news," which used to be an unwritten 'no, no' by
professional media standards.
Once upon a time...a journalist was someone who gathered information,
wrote on the topic of interest, and found his/her story with a byline
in some future print edition. Today however, technology has changed
what accounts for news, what defines rounded or objective journalism,
and who is indeed a journalist.
As the Internet increasingly makes newspapers, especially The New York Times, and broadcast
news lack relevancy in society and enable all to publish or broadcast
views from their world as news -- one such case in California
Federal Court clearly exposes where journalism has failed to protect
itself -- lack of definition.
Josh Wolf has not written for The
New York Times. In fact, by reviewing his biography one could
question when --if at all-- Wolf, 24, ever reported news. Nonetheless,
the young man now has a lobbying group (working as
Representatives of the Free Josh Wolf Coalition) in Washington DC
urging Congress to call for Wolf's prison release -- and they define
him as a journalist.
Wolf splashed some headlines on indymedia (under the ID of inthecity,)
and videotaped a public protest from San Francisco on 8 July 2005 for
his own blog. He uploaded a 16.5MB file to San Francisco/ Bay Area indy
9 July 2005 at 4:44 a.m. under the title "Globalization &
Capitalism." Wolf wrote at the time, "Here's a 6:08 [minute] video from
footage I shot last night. Didn't really take my time editing it. A
more polished video of tonight’s action will be posted within a day or
He titled the movie file empiresmustfall.mov.
On 10 July, a few comments had been posted about the video, in which
Wolf wrote to the group, "...I've also uploaded a video in which the
video has been enhanced and you can sort of see what's going on. The
video was shot on a fairly high-end DV camera that doesn't have
"If you'd like to donate money
so that I can get a high-quality camera with night-vision, please drop
me an e-mail and I'll be happy to put it in a bank account for that
very purpose," Wolf wrote.
His clips made their way onto television news and across the Internet
for free distribution at the time.
Wolf's footage later became the focus of grand jury investigation at
the scene of the protest to determine how a police officer was injured
and how a police car was damaged by an explosive device during the
protest, which was held to coincide with the G8 Summit in Scotland.
In 2006, Wolf refused to hand-over the footage to prosecutors, claiming
he was a journalist and needed to protect his sources as guaranteed by
the First Amendment. His decision landed in him jail 1 August 2006.
Judge William Alsup of the Federal District Court did not buy the
argument that Wolf was or is a journalist.
The Society of Professional Journalists disagrees with Alsup and
attempted to further Wolf's cause in the name of journalism. The
organization, which has a small membership base --in relationship to
the entire journalism industry-- called for Wolf's release from
prison and now claims that at 169 days behind bars, "Wolf to be become
[sic] longest-jailed journalist in U.S. history."
The "independent journalist has shown no signs of wavering in his
refusal to comply with the federal grand jury that subpoenaed him one
year ago," the group wrote on its Northern California Chapter website.
Wolf's attorney, Martin Garbus, argues that since television news
stations had purchased Wolf's video at the time of the protest, the
young man was elevated to the status of a journalist. (FYI for future
attempts to reach journalism stardom, both CNN.com and Yahoo! clearly
define in small print that by submitting video clips as news -- not
only does the submitter relinquish owner rights to the footage, but in
no way qualifies the submitted work of any value more than a news tip.)
As with all good stories, there will be a happy ending indeed for the
determined, attractive, bi-speckled young man due to the capitalist
protest he set out to film.
Whether protests in Wolf's name succeed in securing an early release
from Dublin, CA, federal prison, or Wolf stays locked-up until the
grand jury's term expires in July 2007 -- the 20-something aspiring
videographer will have left his mark.
Some half-a-million websites, supporters, fundraisers, and the Society
of Professional Journalists undoubtedly will cheer-on in his release at
some point during 2007 in the name of journalism. Book deals, movie
rights, job offers, video gigs, Oprah, Larry King Live -- are all
normal and high-payout predictions for someone who makes headlines
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