Is This Blog Printed?

The word "print" is derived from the Latin word premere, meaning to press or to bear down upon.  Ancient Romans used several mechanisms to write, including pressing letters with a stylus (stilus) into a wax tablet (tabula).  A blank tablet was referred to as a tabula rasa (literally a smoothed tablet).  Romans also used reed pens (calami) to write on paper made from the papyrus plant (Cyperus papyrus).  The Latin word to write, scribere, means to scratch or engrave with a point. Thus, writing for the Romans involved some form of physical contact between a writing device and a substrate.  Johannes Gutenberg's printing press may have changed the mechanism of impression of ink to page, but it did not eliminate touching as an element of writing.

Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court considered whether a blogger who posted online was entitled to the protection of Nevada's news shield statute, NRS 49.275.  Toll v. Dist. Ct., 135 Nev. Adv. 58 (Dec. 5, 2019).  The current version of the statute protects journalists who are associated with newspapers, periodicals, press associations, and radio and television programs from mandatory disclosure of confidential sources.  Both the trial court and the Supreme Court agreed that the blogger qualified as a "reporter" under the statute.  They disagreed, however, on whether he was associated with a newspaper, periodical, press association, or radio or television station. 

The Supreme Court held that the trial court failed to consider one dictionary definition of "print" that included "to display on a surface (such as a computer screen) for viewing". Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed. 2020).  The Court also reasoned that the drafters of NRS 49.275 likely anticipated that technology would change.  While declining to resolve whether or not a blog falls under the definition of a "newspaper", the Court concluded that a blog should not be disqualified from the news shield statute merely on the basis that the blog published on a screen rather than on paper or some other substrate.

Tags: Nevada