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Washington Supreme Court rules that YouTube channel isn’t legally a news media outlet

Washington State Supreme Court. (Harvey Barrison, Flickr)

The Supreme Court of Washington State issued a ruling on Thursday, narrowing the scope of outlets that qualify as members of the news media.

The ruling comes in the case of Brian Green, who runs the “Libertys [sic] Champion” YouTube channel. Green was hoping to access photographs and birth date information from personnel files of Pierce County jail staff and law enforcement employees.

That kind of information is exempt from public records requests under state law, unless you are a member of the news media.

Green — who had listed himself as an “investigative journalist” in email exchanges with public disclosure officers — had argued in court that because he reports news on his YouTube channel, that should be enough to cement his status as a media entity.

In the 7-2 opinion, the court said in order to be a member of the “news media,” your media “brand” has to have a legal identity separate from the individual.

“The Libertys Champion YouTube channel does not fit into any of the categories of traditional news outlets listed in the statute, nor is it an ‘entity,'” the court’s ruling reads.

This is likely to have downstream effects for public disclosure requests filed by independent channels and websites run by individuals, who aren’t registered as limited liability corporations.

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