Judge rules, again, that blogger Crystal Cox is not a journalist. You know why? Because she ISN’T a journalist.

For those of you not familiar with the the Crystal Cox “bloggers are not journalists” case, it was a bit of a blogosphere kerfuffle when U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez ruled that Cox is not a journalist under the definition of Oregon’s Shield Law. A number of poorly-researched blog posts went up thereafter, with the blogosphere rallying behind her cause. After all, are bloggers not journalists? (Of course they are, but some are “not like us” says Simple Justice).

Unfortunately, not very many bloggers/journalists did their homework the first time around. They were sloppy. They read the simple version “Oregon Judge Says Bloggers are not Journalists” and lost their minds to rally around the cause. Had this actually been the case, the rally would have been for a good cause. Unfortunately, the rally was sloppy work by sloppy reporters.

Kashmir Hill, unsurprisingly, was not one of the sloppy ones. Her piece is here.

Kash summed it up well:

Yes, there are bloggers who are journalists. But just because you have a blog doesn’t mean that what you do is journalism.

The back story is this: Oregon attorney Kevin Padrick filed a defamation lawsuit against Crystal L. Cox, a “blogger” from Eureka, Montana (who, is now in Spokane, WA), who operated the website obsidianfinancesucks.com. On that site, she called out Obsidian Finance, LLC, of which Padrick is senior principal. Cox referred to Padrick as a “thug” and a “thief” and accused him of all sorts of conspiratorial wrongdoing. A jury awarded Obsidian Finance $2.3 $2.5 million in damages—the amount of profits Padrick says his company lost as a result of the blog posts.  She claimed to be a journalist, and thus entitled to protection under Oregon’s journalist shield law. The court rejected that claim. She moved for a new trial, and lost that motion yesterday. (Order here)

This is normally the kind of thing that raises my hackles. But, only Sith think in absolutes. And only a sloppy lawyer or sloppy blogger/journalist doesn’t do a little more research before making the call.

According to Kash, Padrick’s firm found that Cox had created nearly 2,000 websites used to write about other companies. Padrick then said that Cox attempted to offer her “PR and search engine services” in order to fix Obsidian Finance’s reputation. Sort of like a protection racket.

The message was clear. Shame about your messed up reputation. I can fix it for you. Never mind that I’m the one who messed it up.

Hernandez reasoned in his opinion that Cox did not qualify as a journalist. Go figure, given the fact that her writing is barely comprehensible. The only thing clear about it is that she does not seem to write as a journalist or an essayist, but more as an extortionist trying to hide among the bloggers.

In his most recent order, Hernandez lays it out:

In my discussion, I did not state that a person who “blogs” could never be considered “media.” I also did not state that to be considered “media,” one had to possess all or most of the characteristics I recited. Rather, I confined my conclusion to the record defendant created in this case and noted that defendant had presented no evidence as to any single one of the characteristics which would tend to establish oneself as a member of the “media.” In addition, the uncontroverted evidence at trial was that after receiving a demand to stop posting what plaintiffs believed to be false and defamatory material on several websites, including allegations that Padrick had committed tax fraud, defendant offered “PR,” “search engine management,” and online reputation repair services to Obsidian Finance, for a price of $2,500 per month. Ex. 33. The suggestion was that defendant offered to repair the very damage she caused for a small but tasteful monthly fee. This feature, along with the absence of other media features, led me to conclude that defendant was not media. (Op. at 13-14)

While many journalists are “off” in their own quirky way, any reasonable person viewing Cox’s conduct would conclude that it borders on derangement. Hernandez was right to draw a line, and where he drew it leaves plenty of room for even the most casual blogger to find protection. Hernandez’ decision does not say that bloggers are not journalists, it merely says that Crystal Cox is no journalist.

The blogosphere should come to the same conclusion.  The Court’s decision does not require one to go to journalism school in order to be deemed a journalist.  It does not require access to sophisticated and expensive research tools or news wires.  Nor does it require writers to have advertisers, the backing of physically printed papers, or affiliation with sizable web portals like the Huffington Post to be considered journalists.  All that is needed is some indicia that the writer discharges the normal duties of reporting – investigation and distribution.

Cox did none of these things.  Therefore, Hernandez denied her the title of “journalist.”

What she did do was far worse.  I should know.

Why?

Because she has tried to do the same thing to me that she did to Kevin Padrick.

Without my knowledge, consent or permission, Cox registered the domain name marcrandazza.com.  Having learned a thing or two from losing a $2.5 million defamation case, she was slick about her stated rationale — claiming she did so to “control the search, and pr” on her case. (She initially asked me to handle the appeal on her case).

Initially, she registered the domain under someone else’s name, as she was trying to evade Kevin Padrick’s $2.5 million judgment. She wrote “ownership is well… a different story now due to my current judgment.”

Crystal cox “need[ed] to make money” so she asked me if I needed a “very good search engine reputation manager.”  Apparently she offered these same dubious services to David Aman – counsel for Kevin Padrick and Obsidian Finance – and he accused her of extortion.  I can’t imagine why.

Apparently I was not sufficiently threatened by this tactic, so Cox went on to register:

fuckmarcrandazza.com
marcrandazzasucks.com
marcjrandazza.com
marcjohnrandazza.com 

She also registered a great many Blogger accounts bearing my name, including markrandazza.blogger.com.

You know, just like a “journalist” would, right?

Fortunately for me, the work I do is not particularly sensitive to public perception – I am roundly criticized by both the political right and the left; copyright maximalists and minimalists, and every stripe of individual in-between.  Fortunately, though, I have friends that understand who I am and what I stand for.

I understand that others’ personal and professional reputations may not be able to weather such a storm.  Mine could, though, so I continued to ignore Cox.  

Then, she pursued my family.

Crystal Cox registered JenniferRandazza.com.  

She then registered jenniferrandazza.blogspot.com

You see a pattern here?

Jennifer is my wife.

When this didn’t get the desired response, Cox turned to a place where even the lowest of the low would not stoop — she focused her stalkerish attention on my three-year-old daughter and registered NataliaRandazza.com.

Natalia, living incognito

Just like a “journalist,” right?

Being three years old, Natalia naturally has no accomplishments to speak of. To date, she has drawn her father a bunch of “happys” (which is what she calls smiley faces), and this week, she started being able to read short words. “DORA” was the first word she read where the concept of letters, sounds, and words all came together. She can also tackle me when I’m on the floor, and she’s progressing well in her little girls’ dance class. While I find these accomplishments mind-blowing, she has attained no notoriety of which I am aware.

Yet Crystal Cox, “investigative blogger” has turned her attention to this innocent three year old.

This is the kind of person Crystal Cox is, and these are the depths she will sink to when one of her victims spurns her offers to do “search engine reputation management” for them.  This is why she lost her case — not because Judge Hernandez has it in for bloggers.

Crystal Cox claims that David Aman, Plaintiff’s counsel in the Obsidian Finance case, accused her of extortion too. A real journalist, David Carr of the New York Times, exposed her conduct in this well-written piece.

The Internet has irreversibly changed the face of news reporting and journalism on the whole.  Many bloggers produce better content than many small, local newspapers, and may even have superior resources.  Regardless of size, bloggers who aspire to journalistic integrity, even if not completely reaching it, should and likely will receive the same protections as reporters if and when the day comes that they need to assert those rights.

In the short run, a “we’re all in this together” mentality among bloggers is appealing.  In principle, I agree that the distinction between bloggers and journalists is thin, if it exists at all.  But as uneducated extortionist stalkers like Cox try to wrap themselves in the cloak of journalistic privilege, an outraged public – the people who elect the judiciary in much of the country, and certainly vote for representatives who legislate press protections in certain states – will demand that lawmakers roll back these privileges from bloggers and traditional journalists alike.  This is not a case where bloggers should be holding their nose to protect the rights of an unpopular speaker like Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Andrea Dworkin.  Here, a bad apple must be kept out of the cart, before it spoils the entire crop. Judge Hernandez’ opinion “has done real journalists a favor,” says David Coursey at Forbes. I agree.

I considered keeping my mouth shut about this idiot. The old maxim says not to wrestle in the mud with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.

When she wrote about me, trying to do to me what she did to Kevin Padrick, the blogosphere proved that the cure for bad speech is more speech. Rather, a lot of people proved that maxim, by writing what they thought of me. Fortunately, I had a large enough public reputation and the Google juice to withstand her attacks.

Kevin Padrick didn’t have that luxury.

Other people won’t have that luxury.

My three year old daughter doesn’t have that luxury.

I don’t now wrestle with Crystal Cox because I care about her insane, grammatically challenged and barely literate scrawling. Anyone who reads it universally reacts by calling it “batshit crazy.” I don’t need to defend myself against the likes of her.

I wrestle with her now because I realized that I have a responsibility to. When she attacked me, it had no effect. Then she turned to my innocent wife. Then she turned to my even more innocent three year old daughter. Then, I realized that there were other innocent people out there who she tried to extort, harm, and smear. Some of them contacted me. I needed to speak up for them.

I realized then, thanks to Natalia, that even if I had to wrestle with a pig, I had to do it before Cox causes harm to anyone else. The reason she was able to do what she did to Kevin Padrick was, in part, because nobody had pushed back and put a spotlight on her behavior before. Her loss in the District of Oregon, and the sloppy blogging about the case elevated her credibility.

She needs to be exposed, and bloggers need to reject her.

There is no doubt that the blogging community needs as many protections as it can get, and I believe many bloggers who I read, talk to and work with would qualify for protection under Oregon’s shield statute.  Crystal Cox did not, does not, and cannot advance this goal.  If the blogging community wishes to stand among those with the title of “journalist,” then it must reject people like Crystal Cox, and relegate them to their own bizarre, obsessive and child-targeting corner of the Internet.

She is not one of us.

She harms us.

UPDATE: If there is any doubt, Stephanie Studebaker-DeYoung (an apparent acquaintance of Cox’s) had this to say about her:

Studebaker-DeYoung was Cox’s main source of information in her attacks against Kevin Padrick.

39 Responses to Judge rules, again, that blogger Crystal Cox is not a journalist. You know why? Because she ISN’T a journalist.

  1. Clint says:

    I hate it when I agree with you.

  2. Eddie says:

    Wow. Now I see why there were so many blogs dedicated to you being a “First Amendment bad ass”. This woman must really be crazy to spend not only the time and effort but the money that she does to register all those domain names. Pretty sad.

  3. Dan says:

    Woah. I did not expect the post to unfold the way it did. I have three children, all six and under. I can imagine the fury you felt when you saw that your daughter’s name was used this way. This is a well-thought out, restrained response to a rather deplorable effort to get a rise out of you. Good job.

  4. The ruling was flawed. The result will be a later use as precedence for chilling speech. Understand that I do not believe her “protection racket” was protected speech. However, the judge had no need to define “journalist” as if the courts have jurisdiction in defining the terms of free speech and commerce.

    When all is said and done the judge could have sidestepped her claim of protection by saying “no matter what you define yourself as, you were acting to harm someone else for financial gain from them, making your action a form of extortion just as if a famous journalist were to contact a subject of a story and promise to make their problem “go away for a nominal fee.”

    • Ja says:

      I should never engage in a conversation about stuff I have only read a little bit about and I admit that I have not been following this story, but I think — was one of the issues here the state’s shield law?

      That makes it more complicated.

      We have a free press. You can’t stop someone from defaming you, you can only get damages from them after the fact. That’s how it should be, otherwise we gag people. She is free to defame and free to be dragged back into court to pay for it until she starts to realize it doesn’t pay. (I hope that is very soon)

      She can also be slammed for what looks like extortion.

      But the shield law is another matter. I haven’t read Oregon’s but they usually protect media from discovery of their inner workings, their sources, notes, interview tapes, video outtakes etc on the argument that news dissemination is so crucial to democracy that chilling it would harm citizens ability to know what their government is up to. If whistle-blowers saw reporters as agents of the government, able to be hauled in on every story to spill their notebooks, they would never go to reporters and without that recognition by the courts (on First Amendment arguments adapted to the purpose of the press at least, in the absence of a shield law) reporters would never be able to protect a whistle-blower.

      No one believes that the Wash Post should have suppressed the Watergate story — all gleaned from a confidential informant. No one believes that it would have been better for authorities to raid the Wash Post offices and take their notebooks, phone records and stop the whistle-blower that way. This is the kind of crucial reporting to a democracy that was used to justify the shield laws.

      Unfortunately, it comes with a danger zone. It flirts ever so closely to defining journalists. It slides ever so easily into creating a class of semi-licensed media elites. That’s why a lot of journalists say the heck with it, it’s better to go to jail, not have a special law, fight each subpoena on the first amendment and so on. Purests.

      I am among the purests because I am convinced the danger is too great. And I am not only a journalist, but I stared down a subpoena once too, in a state that had no shield law. It wasn’t unscary.

      Anyway, this Cox person is a fright. There is yellow journalism and not yellow. The extortion puts her in a whole different category, well, almost. The National Enquirer is yellow-fiction journalism. Minnesota newspapers of yesteryear were yellow and court cases involving them laid down the law against prior restraint of the press.

      (For a good short book, read “Minnesota Rag”)

      In the old days you would hear of newspapers doing shake downs of subjects that wanted to stop bad press about themselves.

      In the era of the shield law all of this is being handled differently, with more complexity and in some ways more risk to a free press.

      I want to read — well I dread it actually so let’s say I would have to read the whole case to learn why they could not just sue her for extortion and defamation without the shield law being invoked.

  5. geekhideout says:

    Wow.. what to say about that..

    Being a dad myself to two beautiful girls, both teenagers now (hence my insanity) I can say that your restraint on not committing acts of bodily harm on this batshit lunatic of the nth degree to be remarkable. Has anyone asked for a court ordered psychological examination of her brain because I’m concerned that she might be a danger to herself and others with the animosity and vitriol she is spewing forth at this stage in what could only be classified as the onset of a major mental disorder(s).

    Also for someone claiming to be a journalist and a “reputation manager” you would naturally suspect that her own name with the addition of sucks would of been one of the first things she registered online, just to remove it.. you would suspect that but strangely it is still available.

    Oh and DORA is great, though soon The Wiggles will be everywhere with their big red cars and hot potato songs (it’s an Aussie conspiracy).. Insanity as a Dad awaits you and its fantastic ;)

  6. keithrl says:

    That’s about as low as it gets. What a loon.

  7. blueollie says:

    Hmmm, I follow your blog but was completely unaware of all of this.

    You know that you are famous when you have a xxxxsucks.blogspot.com just for you. :)

  8. Please enter your name here says:

    Wow. Going after a 3-year-old.

    This lady needs help. And I don’t mean the legal kind.

  9. Ronald Pottol says:

    Well, and stuff like this is how England got their wonderful (hah) libel laws. The tabloids were blackmail rackets, pay up, or see what we print about you. Or so Aleister Crowley wrote about their behavior around 1900 in his Autohagiography.

  10. mamamara says:

    And this is why I was one of those who posted nice things about you, even though you have no idea who I am. That kind of smear campaign is bad for all of us and needs to be nipped in the bud by rational people.

  11. [...] that with her email to Marc Randazza, telling him that she had already registered http://www.marcrandazza.com, and needed money, and she had [...]

  12. [...] work for a traditional news outlet, and was “just” a blogger. The thing is, whether a journalist or not, the defamation claim seems clear [...]

  13. marklyon says:

    I’m amazed she hasn’t registered crystalcoxisanutjob.com or crystalcoxextortionist.com.

  14. OhEmGee says:

    this sounds like the Deb Frisch case all over again

  15. [...] Cox tried to extort Marc Randazza by registering multiple domain names including his name and offering him the same [...]

  16. dan says:

    One wonders what Cox did to the poor judge who had the nerve to find for the other side? I’m afraid to do a domain search on Judge Hernandez :(

    On the bright side this is becoming more and more something that walks like RICO, quacks like RICO and has multiple predicate acts in multiple states. They may have to call it riCOX in her case

  17. RICO refers to corrupt organizations. Judging from her writing and capitalization style, her brain doesn’t even qualify as organized.

  18. [...] NY Times, and thanks to an explosion in the blogosphere following Crystal Cox’s attacks on First Amendment Lawyer Marc Randazza, the truth came out about what really [...]

  19. WP says:

    I do hope that you will make a very good example of this person about the fact that cyber bullying and identity theft (through domain registrations) is a crime!

    Good luck with this case.

  20. [...] marcjrandazza.com, and marcjohnrandazza.com. When that didn’t get her anywhere, Marc says, she registered several domain names containing “Jennifer Randazza” — Mark’s [...]

  21. [...] a number of bloggers applauded the decision, including Marc Randazza, who writes The Legal Satyricon blog and had been asked to represent Ms. Cox on appeal: Hernandez was right to draw a line, and [...]

  22. [...] To read a personal and detailed account of just how Ms. Cox operates her scheme, click here. [...]

  23. [...] via Judge rules, again, that blogger Crystal Cox is not a journalist. You know why? Because she ISN’T …. [...]

  24. Susan Tillotson Bunch says:

    Marc,

    As usual, you never fail to impress! Tremendous article! Definitely food for thought. Also some good ideas on types to avoid at all costs ….

  25. It looks like she has been a fundamentally bad person. I’m sorry for what she’s done to you and yours. Sincerely.

    Looking at the legal perspective, I do think the opinion at I.B.2 is wrong. Flat wrong. The “press” in “freedom of speech and of the press” is not an institutional media–it is an individual right to use a printing press, and the right to publish. It has always been understood to be coextensive with the individual right to speech, from the first treatise on the Constitution to Citizens United. 130 S. Ct. 876, 904, 906-08 (2010). I’m not saying this issue is dispositive of her case. I’m not saying she’s right, or that she should win. I’m saying it doesn’t matter for First Amendment purposes whether Cox is “media” or not. It matters for Oregon statutory purposes, it seems. But not under the federal constitution.

    Yes, Justice Stewart advocated reading of the press clause as holding higher protections for some institutional press than what would be afforded to general individuals. Yes, some concurring opinions and dissents have as well. No majority U.S. Supreme Court opinion has ever distinguished rights of a member of the media from those offered to ordinary individuals. There have only been holdings to the contrary. Judge Hernandez’s opinion doesn’t rely on precedent–he apparently relies on some absence of precedent. It would be very bad for the freedom of speech and of the press if he were right. Thankfully, he is not.

    At the founding, there was no institutional media or institutional press. But many individuals used the (printing) press to publish their ideas–it was cheap, efficient and convenient. Today people use the interwebs to publish their ideas for the same reason.

    Again, I am not saying she is right. I am saying I.B.2 is wrong.

  26. [...] Worse still :: Jennifer and Marc Randazza have done some :: Dangerous TO the LibertieS of Fundmental 1031 BankrupPts :: breeding … forcing Crystal Cox Investigative Cyber Extortionist to do what any hero of free speech would do … register a website in the name of their three-year old daughter :: who can be seen here now forced into pigtail-incognito. [...]

  27. [...] this point, it’s old news that attorney Kevin Padrick and Obsidian Financial got a $2.5m verdict against Cox when she tried the shakedown on them. In the defamation lawsuit, Padrick and Obsidian contended [...]

  28. >>Studebaker-DeYoung was Cox’s main source of information in her attacks against Kevin Padrick.<<

    Indeed, Cox wrote on December 24, 2009:

    "My Blog on Obsidian Finance is based mostly on what I learned through reading Stephanie Studebaker DeYoung's Blog after it was brought to my attention by a disgruntled party." [ http://www.anonymous-insider.net/blogging-astroturfing/research/2009/1224-a.html ]

    See a timeline on Studebaker-DeYoung and Cox at http://www.anonymous-insider.net/blogging-astroturfing/kevin-padrick-v-crystal-cox.html

    Cheers,

    AI

  29. [...] original story is about Kevin D. Padrick and Obsidian Finance, who won a $2.5 million judgment against Crystal for her defamation of them.  A jury determined that Cox indeed defamed Attorney Padrick and Obsidian Finance, and held her [...]

  30. [...] reputation services” at a steep fee. Read the details here. I was alerted to this story by Randazza, who was the subject of one of her attacks. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  31. [...] declined. Cox then bought domain names involving Marc’s wife and three year old child, and has engaged in an anti-Randazza campaign similar to what she did to [...]

  32. [...] Randazza, calling on New York Attorney Scott Greenfield’s comments on the ruling, makes clear it’s about Cox , personally, and not whether bloggers are entitled to shield protection. Hernandez was right to [...]

  33. [...] Cox rose to a particular level of notariety after going after Marc Randazza‘s three year old daughter. As you might imagine, bringing a three year old child into the mix didn’t play [...]

  34. [...] Bloggers are not journalists. [...]

  35. Chris Mark says:

    Thanks Marc for outlining the case. I was (until today) one of those who took offense at the findings of the case. I am ashamed to say that I had not done my own homework on the case. Thanks again.

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