The Washington State Supreme Court rules that YouTubes are not a member of the “News Media,” and therefore do not qualify for press privileges. The ruling shows how existing legislation works against individual and independent journalists whose medium is online platforms.
In the Green vs. Pierce County case, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the YouTuber is not a member of the “News Media.” Green runs a news YouTube channel called “Liberty’s Champion,” which has more than 18k subscribers. He submitted a public records request to Pierce County after he had a disagreement with a security guard employed by the county. The purpose of the request was to get more information about the county’s security force.
We obtained a copy of the case documents for you here.
The county obliged to the request, but did not submit all the records Green requested. He requested all the records, arguing that as a member of the news media, he was entitled to the information. The county still refused his request.
So he sued the county at the district court, which ruled in his favor. The county appealed at the supreme court, which ruled against Green.
The states laws define “news media” as:
“Any newspaper, magazine or other periodical, book publisher, news agency, wire service, radio or television station or network, cable or satellite station or network, or audio or audiovisual production company, or any entity that is in the regular business of news gathering and disseminating news or information to the public by any means, including, but not limited to, print, broadcast, photographic, mechanical, internet, or electronic distribution.”
From the definition, it is clear the statute has not been updated to keep up with the current times. While Green’s channel fits the definition of news media, it is disqualified by the phrase “entity,” whose legal definition, according to the court, should be interpreted to fit the traditional news outlets included in the statutes. Unfortunately, the list only includes organizations, not individuals.