AMI is now passing through another round of serious legal peril because it disregards the norms associated with legitimate, recognizable journalistic activity. Its editors and reporters did not spring into action in response to Bezos’s attacks. Its management did, relaying the threat to Bezos through lawyers. And it is not only on this front that AMI is testing the scope of its protections from legal liability as a “press organization.” Its publication of a glossy brochure favorable to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which it then distributed without charge, has raised the question of whether it was acting as a press organization informing the public or the illegally unregistered agent of a foreign government.
In application, the question of whether a press organization is operating on accepted norms can become complicated. Bezos’s example of what no “real journalist” would do was right. But there is a variant that goes somewhat like this: I do not need to pursue this angle X on a story, which is peripheral to my main interest while embarrassing to you, if we can work together on Y, which I (our readers) really care about.