and here it is 2017 now. I was asked in the last few days what this blog is about. Somervell County Salon is, of course, a blog that not only comments on what is read in other outlets, but I attend public government meetings, record the meetings I attend on video and publish on Youtube, gather source materials through open records request, and occasionally interview people on relevant topics. Since I started it in March, 2005, thought it would be interesting to see what I said in "Inaugural Comments" from March 15, 2005.
My (salon) intent is to comment on news and events occurring locally, in the state and nationally. I plan to create blogcasts at a later date to provide a listening experience as well as reading.
My very first post was of Somervell County Commissioners Court meeting of March 14, 2005. I had decided to go to govt meetings and record them on video. I asked then judge Walter Maynard about recording and he told me I couldn't because they were public meetings.I looked it up on the Texas Attorney General site regarding Texas Open Meetings and called the AG hotline to verify. I was told this, printed it out and brought it to the first meeting in case anyone objected to me bringing my camera. Judge Maynard was mistaken about the recording but right that these are not *public* meetings per se but rather open to the public with certain procedural rules.
Sec. 551.023. RECORDING OF MEETING BY PERSON IN ATTENDANCE. (a) A person in attendance may record all or any part of an open meeting of a governmental body by means of a recorder, video camera, or other means of aural or visual reproduction.
(b) A governmental body may adopt reasonable rules to maintain order at a meeting, including rules relating to:
(1) the location of recording equipment; and
(2) the manner in which the recording is conducted.
(c) A rule adopted under Subsection (b) may not prevent or unreasonably impair a person from exercising a right granted under Subsection (a).
Added by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 268, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1993.
Acts 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., Ch. 87 (S.B. 471), Sec. 5, eff. May 18, 2013.
That first recording, a video WMV file, no longer exists, but at some point I started putting the government videos (and some others) that I record on Youtube. That Youtube channel, with LOTS of videos is here or through the red Youtube icon menu above.
And, from the "About" page.
Somervell County Salon is a .... BLOG that also has news. It's MY blog (Salon) but I welcome others to post and comment, as long as the posts aren't outrageous and dumb. We're very opinionated here, we're populists and the posters are Democrats, Republicans and Independents. At right is an example of the site in July 2011 from archive.org. Notice that quite a few of the top level posters have photo avatars with their posts. What we, to include all top posters and approved commenters, have in common is that we believe in representative democracy and calling out those who are supposed to represent us when we think they're not. If you're from Somervell County or a surrounding area OR you have something to share that is particularly of interest and relevant to Somervell County, you're invited to join in posting or commenting. If you have a tip or something you want us to check out, please email talk at glenrose.net. (That email alias goes to site owner *salon*.)
The Glen Rose Reporter, on August 21, 2015, characterized Somervell County Salon as an "online media outlet".(context is the Turk lawsuit against Somervell County Hospital District
In an official statement issued following a special session on Aug. 13, the Somervell County Hospital District acknowledged that it had received a formal notification from the Turks' lawyer "after 5 p.m. on Aug. 7," and that it had first become aware of the possible suit earlier the same morning after reading about it on an online media outlet.
Here's what Texas Watchdog said about me and Somervell County Salon in March 2009 "Citizen journalist lets the sun shine into Somervell public meetings"
But out on the Internet, Somervell County is the site of true grassroots citizen journalism that rivals any other such project I've seen in Texas.....
The Salon is a rollicking place with multiple regular bloggers -- you have to register to get access, but it's free registration -- and like many blogs, it serves up commentary on national and local political issues.
But that's not all: The chief blogger goes out and records her own video and audio of city and county public meetings and posts them on the Salon web site -- thus making it possible for many Somervell Countians to get access to public meetings that they can't attend in person.
No, she said, she didn't start out with the intention of being a journalist or even a citizen-journalist -- she started the blog largely on national political issues that she wanted to speak out on. But as she asked more questions about the things city and county government were doing, she became more and more interested in them, which led to still more questions.
But that brings up an important point about citizen journalism and the changing media landscape we live in: Folks like me, the people whose business cards say "journalist," we're supposed to try to be objective (though I know critics on both sides would laugh at that statement). But the citizen journalists don't have to check their opinions at the door. Whether they are on the left or on the right, they can speak their minds. And as we "pros" become fewer and fewer in number because there are fewer jobs in our industry, I think our society will rely more on citizen journalists for real news, not just opinion.
And that comes back to our original point: Here's a citizen journalist giving folks in her community access to public meetings that they probably couldn't get anywhere else. That's a real commitment to the idea of freedom of information.
As I said in February 2017, "How Important is Freedom of Speech and of the Press? FIRST guarantee of our democracy"
As a blogger, I also consider myself a citizen journalist and in this regard am backed up by opinions from the US Supreme Court. From Obsidian Finance Group v Chrystal Cox p 9
..Although the Supreme Court has never directly held that the Gertz rule applies beyond the institutional press, it has repeatedly refused in non-defamation contexts to accord greater First Amendment protection to the institutional media than to other speakers. In Bartnicki v Vopper, for example, in deciding whether defendants could be held liable under a statute banning the redistribution of illegally intercepted telephone conversations, the Court expressly noted that "we draw no distinction between the media respondents and " a non-institutional respondent. .. And in First National Bank of Boston v Bellotti, a case involving campaign finance laws, the Court rejected the "suggestion that communication by corporate members of the institutional press is entitled to greater constitutional protection than the same communication by" non-institutional press businesses.
The Supreme Court recently emphasized the point in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission. "We have consistently rejected the proposition that the institutional press has any constitutional privilege beyond that of other speakers..... the rights of the institutional media are no greater and no less that shoe enjoyed by other individuals engaged in the same activities"
Any effort to justify a media/nonmedia distinction rests on unstable ground, given the difficulty of defining with precision who belongs to the *media*. ...
Some notes about blogs and journalism. First, it's interesting to note that, in President Donald Trump's term, there are more bloggers that are credentialed to attend White House Press Conferences.
"White House Grants Press Credentials to a Pro-Trump Blog"
The Gateway Pundit, a provocative conservative blog, gained notice last year for its fervent pro-Trump coverage and its penchant for promoting false rumors about voter fraud and Hillary Clinton’s health that rocketed around right-wing websites.
Now the site will report on politics from a prominent perch: the White House.
Bloggers and pundits have been granted access to White House briefings in previous administrations, and Mr. Spicer in recent weeks has taken questions from conservative talk-radio hosts and reporters at local broadcast affiliates.
Federal court (United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit) ruled in 2014 that bloggers are journalists-at least when it comes to their First Amendment rights. PDF (Fuller commentary on that decision)
Was Cox, a self-titled blogger, in fact a journalist? On this, Hurwitz was clear.
“Although the Supreme Court has never directly held that the Gertz rule applies beyond the institutional press, it has repeatedly refused in non-defamation contexts to accord greater First Amendment protection to the institutional media than to other speakers,” he wrote. In one case, he said, “the Court expressly noted that ‘we draw no distinction between the media respondents and’ a non-institutional respondent.”
The protections of the First Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others’ writings, or tried to get both sides of a story. As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable: “With the advent of the Internet and the decline of print and broadcast media . . . the line between the media and others who wish to comment on political and social issues becomes far more blurred.”
What makes a journalist a journalist is whether she is gathering news for dissemination to the public, not the method or medium she uses to publish. So the better way to frame the debate is: Can journalists blog?.. A test used by many federal courts is whether that person intended to disseminate information to the public, and whether that intent existed at the inception of the newsgathering process (where "newsgathering process" can mean seeking, collecting, or receiving information from a source). Under this test, courts have provided the privilege to non-traditional journalists, including book authors and documentary filmmakers.
...An online journalist seeking access to the Congressional press gallery was initially denied access because he was not a full-time journalist, and not working on salary for a for-profit organization. However, the Periodical Correspondents' Association, which determines access, subsequently adopted broader regulations that allowed for online journalists.
Here is a very interesting recent Anti-Slapp case in which a blogger's opinions versus objectivity won the suit. In other words, I as an opinioned blogger/journalist would be able to defend against SLAPP suits.
So, one activist/journalist article in 2010 is not protected by the anti-SLAPP statute. Another in 2017 is protected. Both sets of defendants held themselves out as “journalists” in connection with their work. What gives? Is it simply the case that the expanded view of petitioning activity set forth in Town of Hanover has overruled Fustolo? No. According to the SJC, Fustolo is still good law, just distinguishable.
What is the distinguishing feature? Is it money? No. Hollander, the reporter in Fustolo, was paid for her articles, and the defendants in Foytlin were not. However, the Fustolo opinion expressly rejected compensation as the basis for its holding, and the Foytlin court makes no mention of the issue.
Rather, the distinguishing feature appears to be intent. The reporter in Fustolo had submitted an affidavit attesting to her attempts to be an “objective” journalist. That objectivity, according to Justice Lenk, “was pivotal to [that] decision in so far as the reporter was not exercising her own constitutional right to petition when authoring the challenged article.” Foytlin and Savage, on the other hand, emphasized that they were subjective bloggers. Citing the Merriam Webster dictionary, they argued that a “blog” by definition is a place where “someone writes about personal activities and experiences.” Justice Lenk’s opinion does not expressly incorporate this argument, but it does hold that Foytlin and Savage were “speaking for themselves at their own behest” and as a natural extension of Foytlin’s extensive activist efforts. Put more simply, because they were “advancing a cause in which they believed,” the anti-SLAPP statute protected them.
Musing about first amendment rights and recording the police