News Media and the Law

Quarterly magazine on all aspects of media law covering cases, laws and other events that may affect the how journalists report and cover the news.

Articles from Vol. 28, No. 2, Spring

Balancing Acts Need Not Tilt toward Secrecy
GUEST COMMENTARYSomeday, in our lifetime I hope, we're going to reminisce about the media coverage of many high-profile criminal trials and chuckle, as if looking back on the Mesozoic Era. "Can you believe we actually relied on chalk sketches of accused...
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Battle for Gun Tracing Data before the Seventh Circuit
Access to firearm records is at issue in a case currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago (7th Cir.).In late 1998, the City of Chicago brought a civil lawsuit against dozens of firearm manufacturers, distributors and dealers. Although it...
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Dead Weight in the Balance
COMMENTARYThe U.S. Supreme Covirt ruled in March that when death images or data in law enforcement records could cause distress to survivors, the government can keep them secret. Courts will only consider releasing the records if a Freedom of Information...
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From the Hotline
The Reporters Committee operates a toll-free hotline for journalists with questions about free press and freedom of information issues. In this column, our attorneys and media lawyers from around the country discuss the latest hot -topic questions.The...
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Fund Created to Help Minn. Reporter Pay Contempt Fines
LIBEL/CONFIDENTIALITYA group of Minnesota reporters is raising money on behalf of a 73-year-old colleague who was ordered by the state Supreme Court last fall to reveal the identity of a confidential source or pay a fine of $200 per day, beginning April...
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Gunning for Access
With widely varying results, state legislatures debate the merits of public access to concealed weapons permitsImagine this scenario: An argument erupts between two people in a crowded subway station during the evening rush hour. Commuters gather to...
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Hidden High Court
How media-friendly are Supreme Court justices?A federal marshal made headlines this spring when she seized and erased the audio recorders of two reporters covering a speech by justice Antonin Scalia at a high school in Hattiesburg, Miss. She told both...
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Indecent Proposals
As the FCC and Congress take aim at ridding the airwaves of indecency, broadcast journalists worry about getting caught in the crossfireIn his first game back from an ankle injury, Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal led his team to an 84-83 victory...
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In Response to Emergencies
Courts in Colorado, New York and Rhode Island have repeatedly held that emergency response tapes should be made publicTpes and transcripts from 911 emergency response peronnel, as well as internal communication within police and fire departments, are...
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Judge-Speak
The working relationship between judges and the news mediaFrom O.J. Simpson to Martha Stewart, courtroom dramas have emerged as a staple of modern news coverage. And with a fresh wave of high-profile trials dominating the headlines in 2004 Michael Jackson,...
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Legislative Update
The Reporters Committee each spring surveys legislation that could affect the First Amendment and Freedom of Information interests of the news media. The following bills are among those introduced in this 108th Congress that could inhibit, or in some...
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Lens Crafters
Assessments of the military's embedding of journalists in Iraq often vary based upon the lens through which the program is viewedIn the year since President Bush's May 2003 declaration that major combat in Iraq has ended, there has been much post-operation...
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Letting the Sun Shine on Columbine
Court allows new views of the murder rampage of two teenagersNearly 1,000 people converged upon the Colorado State Fairgrounds in late February to view evidence collected in the shootings at Columbine High School. Often a scene of agricultural, artistic...
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Locked Out
Journalists and watchdog groups battle increasingly secretive state prisons for access to inmatesAfter receiving tips from various advocacy groups concerned about the treatment of inmates in New York state prisons, Albany Times-Union reporter Paul Grondahl...
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Open & Shut
A recent collection of funny, fascinating, nonsensical or just notable newsworthy quotations."I think it's legitimate for me to question all of our intelligence information, because I never learned anything from those briefings that I hadn't learned...
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Pleading the First
The public's First Amendment right of access to high-profile trials is at risk, as more and more judges shield court proceedings from the news mediaMartha Stewart's celebrity won her the right to be tried by an anonymous jury. Ironically, the home-decorating...
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Question of Jurisdiction Means No Answer for Camera Coverage of Trial
The fate of an alleged killer, and whether or not justice will be broadcast for all to see, may rest on where his trial will be held.Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., a 51-year-old sex offender from Minnesota, was charged in December with kidnapping University...
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RCFP in Action
* The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Society of Professional Journalists filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U. S. Supreme Court on March 11 in the dispute over the denial of public...
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Reporters Committee Brief of Amicus Curiae
The Reporters Committee's interest in this case is in preserving public access to federal government records, particularly those that may be used by the media to expose ATF actions related to the regulation of firearms to the light of public scrutiny....
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Secret Justice: A Continuing Series
The American judicial system has, historically, been open to the public, and the U.S. Supreme Court has continually affirmed the presumption of openness. However, as technology expands and as the perceived threat of violence grows, individual courts...
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Single-Publication Rule Receives Double Protection
Two recent rulings have strengthened states' single-publication rules, which require defamation lawsuits to be brought within a specific length of timeOn Sept. 7, 2000, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article about a controversy surrounding...
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Speaking out of School
Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson spoke freely to reporters during the Microsoft antitrust trial, and paid a big priceWhen legal pundits contend that judges should refuse to talk to reporters, they frequently cite U.S. District judge Thomas Penfield Jackson...
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The Price of Privilege
A libel lawsuit in Alabama against Sports Illustrated magazine highlights the importance of an inclusive definition of 'news media'In its May 12, 2003, edition, Sports Illustrated magazine featured a story about then-University of Alabama football coach...
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The Rules
Like all citizens, judges have a First Amendment right of free speech. But that right is tempered by the ethical restrictions that come with judicial office - restrictions that often prevent them from speaking freely about pending cases. This guide presents...
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Understanding Justice Scalia
It's not every day that a heavy, cream-colored, embossed letter of apology from a U.S. Supreme Court justice lands on your desk. Leave it to justice Antonin Scalia to write a charming letter that unfortunately is hostile to the broadcast media.In April,...
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