Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Business Week Fights Legal Chill

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Business Week Fights Legal Chill

Article excerpt

Court-ordered restraints on journalistic enterprises are not a common occurrence. But for Business Week, visits to court have become all too common since the magazine was slapped with a prior restraint in September by a district court judge in southern Ohio.

The article in question--an investigative piece about the ongoing derivatives-related litigation between The Procter & Gamble Company and Bankers Trust Company--has since been published. But Business Week is fighting on, hoping to overturn a decision that could have a chilling effect on newsgathering efforts.

The whole thing started when U.S. District Court Judge John Feikens issued the prior restraint on September 13, as the New York City-based magazine's September 25 issue was about to go to press. He based his ruling on the fact that certain information in the article, "The Bankers Trust Tapes," was available only in sealed court papers. The article was subsequently pulled, and McGraw-Hill then filed a request on September 15th for an expedited appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati. After Judge Feikens'ruling was upheld by the three-judge panel, Business Week turned to the Supreme Court. But Justice John Paul Stevens turned down the appeal on procedural grounds.

The case then bounced back to Judge Feikens, who ruled on it in conjunction with a request by Procter & Gamble to upgrade its charge against Bankers Trust to racketeering. In granting the upgrade request, Feikens opened the sealed documents to the public. He also ruled, however, that the original documents had been obtained unlawfully and that the restraint on Business Week. should be made permanent. The decision had no practical application ( the sealed information had been made public, so Business Week was able to publish its piece in the October 16 issue), but the judge's ruling was issued as a strict warning about newsgathering practices. …

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