Matt Lewis

Is Glenn Greenwald a blogger?

A couple years ago, my acceptance of CPAC’s “blogger of the year” award sparked a mini-debate on Twitter. The main question was whether or not I should have qualified … whether I’m actually a blogger.

After I made the case for why the description is, in fact, appropriate for me, HotAir’s Jazz Shaw weighed-in, noting,

“[B]y this criteria, anyone who uses a WordPress template or any related species of web publishing software is a blogger. Matt cites some others in this sort of “hybrid” category such as Chris Cillizza, Ezra Klein and… Jennifer Rubin? I suppose that’s where I begin to have some reservations. If the check you receive every payday says The Washington Post on it, it seems a bit of a stretch to say you are a blogger.”

Shaw then added: “But were we to say Matt isn’t a blogger, then were do we draw the line?”

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It’s not clear cut. Just as “alternative music” ceased being an accurate description of the genre, once it also became mainstream, defining who is (and isn’t) a blogger is harder to do these days.

Enter Glenn Greenwald, whose blockbuster story about the NSA’s collecting phone records of citizens rocked the media world this week.

The Guardian, where he writes calls him a “columnist,” but the new New York Times profile of Greenwald to relish in labeling him a blogger, mentioning it in both the headline and the body of the story.

Greenwald took notice of this, tweeting this:

But famed blogger Matthew Yglesias sought to push back on the notion that this is a pejorative connotation:

Should we resent the label, or own it?

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It turns out there are both superficial — and potentially substantive legal reasons — why the distinction could matter. In terms of the superficial reasons, some journalists obviously think the term taints them, as if all bloggers live in their mom’s basement wearing Cheetos-stained pajamas.

But in the wake of the AP and James Rosen scandals, the label may take increased significance. There has been talk about passing a federal shield law to protect journalists.

Presumably, journalists like Greenwald are exactly the types of people we should be protecting from prosecution, but interestingly, there is a question regarding whether bloggers would receive the same protections as reporters under a federal shield law.

It probably comes down to how you define “blogger,” which is an increasingly difficult task to accomplish…

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UPDATE:  This post originally noted that “as an employee of a British newspaper, [Greenwald] could potentially be left out in the cold.” But appearing on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Greenwald noted that he works for the “American edition” of the Guardian, and that it’s “an American company.”