What happened: Blogger Michael Brodkorb of Minnesota Democrats Exposed claimed a source told him Democrat Coleen Rowley’s campaign refused to hire Democrat Blois Olson’s PR firm, New School Communications. Olson criticized the Rowley campaign. Olson then sued Brodkorb for implying that his firm tried to get consulting work with the Rowley campaign, and that his criticisms were therefore probably motivated by feelings of rejection, or something like that.
Brodkorb, formerly director of communications and research for the Republican Party, and currently a “freelance consultant doing opposition research for political candidates,” blogged the following, leading to this lawsuit:
According to my source, it was only after Rowley’s campaign decided against hiring Blois’ firm that Blois started to appear in newspapers criticizing Rowley’s campaign.
If my source is correct, and I believe they are, Politics in Minnesota and Blois Olson have some explaining to do.
Why did Blois never disclose he was trying to get Rowley’s campaign to hire his firm?
According to Jane Kirtley, a University of Minnesota professor who teaches media ethics and media law:
“If what you’re doing is expressing your opinion, that’s classic political speech,” Kirtley said. “It’s going to be protected.” But, she said, “If you present factual statements that are untrue that you demonstrably know to be untrue, that’s actual malice and that’s going to undercut any broad protections.”
The case will likely be closely watched nationally. Blogging is still an emerging media source, and courts are still somewhat uncertain whether to class bloggers who report news as journalists, private citizens, or something else when addressing First Amendment issues.