Frida Ghitis of CNN wrote that Assange “is not a journalist and therefore not entitled to the protections that the law – and democracy – demand for legitimate journalists”. This is a dangerous position. Generally, the law doesn’t actually distinguish between “journalists” and “non-journalists”, giving everyone the same protections. This is for good reason: if such a distinction becomes legally relevant, it means the government is empowered to decide who the True Journalists are.
Those of us who work for independent media outlets – I edit a small-circulation political magazine – will always operate under the threat of being deemed “illegitimate” and having our rights taken away. Even if you think Assange is “not a journalist”, the precedent his case sets has ramifications for journalists everywhere. [Source]
The US Constitution's Bill of Rights First Amendment says nothing about journalists. It rather guarantees freedom of the press. The "press" was the term used at the time to mean those who publish. Every blog publishes. I am the press. My publishing is guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Are there limits? Yes. Can the line be drawn between "government-authorized journalists and publications" and what I'm doing right here by publishing this blog post? No. The press was, remains, and must remain the act and what's published, not the person, not the organization. Are there other laws that matter? Yes. Those who are engaged in commercial profit making have to abide by constitutional laws, such as paying taxes and such.
Those lesser laws have to pass muster with the Constitution. We are always to err on the side of freedom to publish.
Is Julian Assange a journalist? It's irrelevant to the issue. He is a publisher. He runs a press. In my view, he is, however, also a journalist, as he has written much of what has come out from WikiLeaks that is not simply the data leaked. WikiLeaks provides context and opinion, reporting, etc., in addition to simply releasing information leaked to it.