When he went to prison for refusing to give law enforcement a videotape he made of a San Francisco political protest, journalists debated whether Josh Wolf was really a journalist.
While Wolf was sitting in a federal prison, the Chronicle appeared to be more concerned about the fate of two of its reporters who might have to go to jail for refusing to say who gave them a grand jury transcript in the Barry Bonds case. It turned out that they never spent a day in jail. But Wolf, now 26, spent 226 days behind bars at a federal prison.
The mainstream media mostly ignored Josh Wolf. Some argued that since he had professed anarchist political beliefs, he couldn't fairly report on a protest that included anarchists. When the Press Club began counting up the days Wolf was spending behind bars, it received e-mails from journalists criticizing that decision.
But Wolf's views didn't stop KRON4 and KTVU Channel 2 from paying him for portions of his video.
Now that he's out of prison and has landed a job at the Palo Alto Daily Post, the Chronicle has decided Wolf is a journalist. Here are a few paragraphs from the story:
- The case helped fuel the debate over the definition of what constitutes journalism — in an age of blog posts and video uploads by noncredentialed amateurs - and who is entitled to press protections, specifically journalists' ability to maintain the confidentiality of an unnamed source or unpublished material. For now, Wolf said the debate concerning his professional status can be put to rest.
"I felt like it was an irrelevant argument before," Wolf said. "But it feels like it's much harder for them to make their point now that it's how I earn my paycheck."
The shift from only a blogger to a just-the-facts reporter at a 16,500-circulation newspaper may seem counterintuitive at a time when newspapers and their staffs are shrinking.
Yet Wolf enjoys the lot of a small-town cub reporter at a traditional local newspaper, which doesn't even maintain a Web site. At the Palo Alto Daily Post, he files 10 to 15 stories a week written in standard newspaper style, devoid of personal analysis, and most of his stories are only a few hundred words long and fail to include what Wolf calls the "significant nuances" of his reporting.
"I could write 10,000 words on some stories," Wolf said. "But I think it's understood you're trying to get the facts of the story a reader can easily understand, and no story is free of minute details that are also important." ...