Proof Journalism STILL Matters

Journalism matters.

Journalists are still working to hold those in power accountable for their actions. They are still “giving voice to the voiceless,” as the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics prescribes.

For anyone who doubts that, take a look at the New York Times story on a sexual complaint at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the changes it is causing.

Case in point: A group of U.S. Senators from BOTH political parties have agreed on at least one thing — Something has to change. Colleges need to be held accountable for how they handle sexual assault complaints. There should never be another Anna, the name of the gang rape victim in the Times story.

The bill the senators have proposed includes requirements for sexual assault investigations and financial punishments for colleges who fail to follow the rules. 

If you have yet to read the Times story, I urge you to do so for two reasons: It is good journalism and it is written by Walt Bogdanich, a multiple Pulitzer Prize winner.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he won a fourth Pulitzer Prize for his work on this story.

I’m going to be using this story as an example in my journalism classes. Old school journalism — interviews, records, verification and story-telling — still make a difference today. Just ask Anna.

 

Journalism Groups Unite to Call for Freer Access to Government Information

In a rare move last week, 38  journalism and open government groups signed onto a letter calling for President Barack Obama to allow for easier access to federal government information. Those groups include the voices of the student press and those who teach and advise them. Journalism educator groups the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Journalism Education Association and student press advocacy groups including the Associated Collegiate Press, College Media Association and Student Press Law Center were among the groups signing. The letter details complaints that include:

  • Weeks and sometimes months of delays getting fundamental, important government information to reporters, and thus, the public.
  •  Forcing journalists to go through Public Information Offices (PIO) for information.
  • PIO, in turn, not responding or delaying in providing information or providing “slick non-answers” to questions.
  • Forbidding federal employees from talking to journalists directly.
  • Forcing journalists to hand in interview questions in advance of the interview.

The letter notes that journalists have not always had these problems. It states:

In many cases, this is clearly being done to control what information journalists – and the audience they serve – have access to. A survey found 40 percent of public affairs officers admitted they blocked certain reporters because they did not like what they wrote.

I urge you to read the letter. Problems with receiving public information is not only a federal government problem, it is a state problem. The public has a right to know what its government is doing. Withholding information prevents the public from holding its government accountable for its actions, good or bad.

 

Learn New Journalism Skills for Free, Thanks to Knight

Are you a student looking to learn more about journalism or a journalism teacher looking to update your skills?

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas is offering free, online classes in mobile journalism and in investigative reporting this summer. Yes, I said FREE. All you have to do is sign up here.

The investigative reporting course, Investigative Journalism for the Digital Age, recently wrapped up but is still accessible online.  I took the investigative reporting classes, and I am glad I did. Although the introductory material won’t be new to many journalism teachers, there are great tips from investigative reporters and hands-on exercises on using Excel for database reporting. The course also includes great examples to show your classes and publicly available online resources for information. I highly recommend it for students and teachers alike.

Introduction to Mobile Journalism started June 30 and runs until Aug. 3, 2014. It is not too late to enroll. Among the experts teaching the course are Robert Hernandez, whom some of you on Twitter may know as @webjournalist or through #wjchat. I’ll be signing up for this course later today.

Hope to see you on the class Facebook page or forums! Trust me, the classes are worth your time.

 

 

 

I’m Back: Journalism and ‘the Academy’

I took a break from this blog because I didn’t think it mattered to people, particularly some of those who had power over my tenure review and over whether I got to stay at a job I loved. I tried to focus solely on what those people thought had “value,” and my blog was clearly not one of those things.

I made a mistake.

I’m sure this situation is not unusual to some of you who teach at colleges and are on a tenure track line. I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, journalists, despite their important mission to inform the public and act as the public’s watchdog, are hardly treated with respect. But what I have come to realize is that I cannot let the views of some, regardless of their power, change what I do if I believe in it. It was true as a journalist, and it is certainly true as a journalism teacher.

I have a voice, and I am going to use it.

Thank you to all who have followed this blog.  If you left, I will work to get you back as reader. If you stayed, thank you; I will work to make it worth your time.

So stay tuned for posts about all things journalism, particularly as relates to teaching, college journalism, media law, and gender and the media.

 

Teaching copyright law with Buffy and “Twilight”

I teach Media Law, and I always looking for ways to get students excited about it. All of our Journalism and Broadcasting students have to take the class, and as you might imagine, most are not thrilled about it. I tried something new this semester to get the students attention, and it worked far better than I expected. We watched Jonathan McIntosh‘s “Buffy vs. Edward” remix, and then we discussed his Fair Use Copyright battle with YouTube and Lionsgate. The remix takes excerpts from the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” television show and mixes them with scenes from the “Twilight” movies. The result is a biting (pun intended) commentary on gender issues.

The students watched, laughed and even cheered the six minute film. Afterward, even the normally silent ones spoke passionately about the sometimes conflict between artistic expression and copyright law. This led to discussions of copyright and rap/hip hop music and parody. They were far more engaged then they would have been discussing Harper & Row vs. Nation Enterprises (1985) or Campbell vs. Acuff-Rose Music (1994) (although we did have some fun with that last one, too).

Free Rodney Sieh

One helluva journalist is sitting in prison in Liberia. His name is Rodney Sieh. I had the great pleasure of working with him at The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY. He’s sitting in prison in Liberia for printing the truth and not being able to pay a more than $1  million fine for it. I teach my students in Media Law class that the truth is the best defense in a libel suit because libel is false. Not so in Liberia, where truth and falsity appear to have little to do with libel.

Thankfully, there are ways we can show our support for Rodney. You can sign the petition to free Rodney at change.org. You can follow what is happening at freerodney.org.

My alma mater, Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, is getting involved. Roy Gutterman of the Tully Center for Free Speech is working to free Rodney. Here’s hoping Roy, and the voices of all concerned, hold sway.

Image

SCOTUS Coverage Mistakes Point to Bigger Issues


By now, almost everyone has heard about the big “goofs” on CNN and Fox News today. And no, I don’t mean Wolf Blitzer and Bill O’Reilly.

Erroneously broadcasting what the Supreme Court ruled did not happen only because CNN and Fox raced to be first with the decision. It happened because the people “reporting” the decision probably shouldn’t have been in that position.

Repeatedly CNN’s reporters and anchor referred to getting the news from a “producer” inside the Supreme Court. I have to wonder about that producer’s background. Was that person REALLY the best person to do the job? Anyone who has taken a law class knows that summarizing a Supreme Court decision is rarely — if ever — easy. One cannot simply read or listen to a few graphs on the first page (or even pages) and grasp the answer. Yet it is difficult not to think that that is precisely what CNN and Fox News did today when covering today’s court decision. We need journalists who are educated and know how to cover their beats. J-School 101: It’s more important to be right that first. You would never see NPR’s Nina Totenberg making this mistake.

I’m not blaming the producer(s) for this either. They probably shouldn’t have been there to begin with, but that’s not their call. I blame a pervasive media system in which the bottom line financially trumps everything, including getting the story right. Experienced, qualified reporters who would not make this mistake cost money. And they may not know social media like Twitter. But they would have gotten the story right and saved companies embarrassment.

I would like to believe that newspapers would not have made a mistake like this. (Yes, I know about Dewey vs. Truman.) When CNN got it wrong, I turned to nytimes.com and got accurate information. Newspapers are more likely to have beat reporters who understand how to cover their stories. With all the job cuts newspapers have faced, there can’t possibly be as many beat reporters as there once were. But at least there are some.

We need good journalists. Period. The CNN/Fox News “mistake” is only a small preview of what’s to come if we as a culture don’t start valuing journalism.

‘Thank you, copy desk, for all the saves’

John Robinson, editor of The News and Record in Greensboro, N.C., tweeted a link to a video about the “consolidation” of copy desks by Media General.

This video is a beautiful, but sad tribute to copy editors and all that they do made all the sadder by the fact that many companies don’t value them at all and think merging copy desks will not mean any content changes, just money savings.

Chilling piece on copyright legislation must read

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Demand Progress and at least one academic are sounding the alarm about a copyright infringement bill that could cost some of us our free speech.

Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media and director of the Knight Center of Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, wrote a chilling article about the “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act” in Salon. Simply put, he calls it “yet another dishonest conflating of infringement and counterfeiting, but that’s standard for lawmakers.”

In essence, the law would allow sites that are deemed to be infringing on copyright to be blocked by Internet Service Providers. The problem is the legislation is currently written very broadly. Demand Progess, a Progressive campaigning site founded by Aaron Swartz, has an excellent fact sheet on the legislation here. That means that sites the courts have already deemed as not violating copyright could be blocked under the new legislation.

Gillmor argues that most of us haven’t heard of the bill because corporate media has a vested interest in its passage.

Quite frankly, the fact that Gillmor is concerned about the impact of this legislation is enough for me. I have great respect for him and his work. If he’s worried, I’m worried.

For more on the debate, see Gillmor’s piece. To look at the legislation, go here.

I Guess My Dad is NOT The Stig …

The Media Law Case of the Week involves a secret identity and international intrigue.

Fans of the BBC‘s “Top Gear” show have been wondering for years who The Stig is. The Stig races cars on the popular British show that showcases and tests automobiles in a variety of unique and humorous ways. The Stig is covered from head to toe, including a visored helmet.

Now, despite “Top Gear”‘s court efforts to stop the revelation, The Stig’s identity is known, according to the Telegraph. “Top Gear” wanted to keep The Stig’s identity a secret, but a court has ruled the show cannot stop the publication of The Stig’s book.

So who is The Stig? Check it out here.

I guess it’s not my dad after all …

Media Law Musings

Here are a few gems related to media law that I’ve run into lately. These are the kind of finds I love to mention in media law classes because everyone has heard of the parties involved or because, quite frankly, of the “strange” factor.

  • Droid: Did you know that Lucasfilm Ltd. of Star Wars fame owns the trademark to the word Droid, the name of the Verizon Wireless phone you see advertised everywhere? I noticed at the end of one such ad a disclaimer that “Droid” was the trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. Verizon Wireless licenses it. Wikipedia tells more.
  • The Naked Cowboy versus The Naked Cowgirl: The Naked Cowboy says he trademarked the Naked Cowboy brand and she is violating it. I don’t know what’s better: the fact the CNN anchor refers to Robert Burck, a.k.a. the Naked Cowboy, repeatedly as “Naked” as if that were his name or the fact the cowboy sings an answer. Trust me, it’s worth your time to watch.
  • “Barbie, Political Philosopher”: Tom W. Bell writes on The Technology Liberation Front blog about a great line the Barbie character in Toy Story 3 had. He put the quote on a T-shirt (pictured in his post) and carefully notes why he does not think he is violating any copyright or trademark. Good luck, Mr. Bell. I’d love one of those shirts, but I can’t see the companies not asking you to stop.

Politicians in trouble over alleged theft of works

You find yourself troubled by politicians using others’ works without permission.

You may ask yourself, “What is wrong with them?”

You may tell yourself these politicians do not represent you.

“Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.”

Forgive me, Talking Heads, for my horrible parody of “Once in a Lifetime.” At least I am acknowledging it and being clear you had nothing to do with it — unlike a certain political candidate in Florida.

David Byrne, former singer of Talking Heads, is suing Florida Gov. Charlie Christ for using “Road to Nowhere” in a campaign commercial without his permission. Byrne is seeking $1 million.

Sadly, Christ is not the only one accused of stealing intellectual property. According to the Washington Post, Idaho Congressional Candidate Vaughn Ward, who has Sarah Palin’s support, is accused of plagiarizing an Obama speech.

See for yourself. The evidence is unbelievably damning.

‘Brothers’ name leads to trademark issue

The Media Law Case of the Week features the little guy taking on a big restaurant chain.

Jim Karagas opened My Brother’s Bar 30 years ago in Denver, according to the Denver Business Journal. Now a chain of restaurants called Brothers Bar and Grill wants to open an eatery in Denver, and it has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court asking for permission to use “Brothers” in its name. Karagas says he is worried about confusion.

Here’s hoping the little guy wins this one.

For the video version of the story, click image below.

Journajunkie Back in Business

I apologize for the break. Sometimes, as you know, life gets in the way of, well, life. But now Journajunkie is back.

Here’s an idea so great I wish I had thought of it. Webbmedia created a google calendar that lists nothing but social media and journalism conferences.

You can search by month or week, get details on individual conferences and even download the entry to your own calendar. Beautiful. Thanks to @jeffjarvis and @knightfdn for tweeting about this calendar.

Beyond the Newsroom: Blogging and Rethinking

Here are the top three ideas I left Day One of the Beyond the Newsroom seminar with: (The seminar is sponsored by the American Press Institute with The Poynter Institute.)

  • 1. Bloggers and Citizen Journalists are not the enemy. In fact, they could help strengthen newspapers’ bond with their readers and provide valuable content. So says John Wilpers, a veteran journalist who is now working as a consultant. He said journalists shouldn’t think of bloggers as replacements. Instead, think of them as covering something journalists don’t. Journalists are still needed, but so are bloggers. He noted that in his experience, some bloggers he has worked with became the best word-of-mouth advertisers for the newspaper. He convinced me.
  • 2. There are innovative journalists out there taking chances — and succeeding. Susan Goldberg, editor of The Plain Dealer, described how eight newspapers in Ohio share stories and work on projects together. What makes this surprising is these newspapers have different owners. Goldberg described how this sharing has allowed them to pay for state-wide polling and provide more depth of coverage on the state as a whole. They don’t share everything. If there is an area of competition, it remains. However, they do share stories daily and run the stories with the original bylines.
  • 3. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for newspapers and online news providers. Butch Ward, managing director and faculty member of The Poynter Institute, noted that each organization is going to have to explore ideas and take a chance on those that might work for it. There is no easy fix to attracting readers and making money.
  • The seminar continues through Wednesday. I’ll post more highlights here later this week.

    Seminar to focus on newspaper newsrooms

    Starting tomorrow, I’ll be blogging and tweeting (@marducey) from the Beyond the Newsroom Seminar being sponsored by the American Press Institute and The Poynter Institute.

    The seminar focuses on ways newsrooms are tackling providing quality journalism in cash-strapped times. Speakers include author and media blogger Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine, and Charles Lewis of the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

    I’m looking forward to learning about ideas being worked on in the newsroom trenches and to sharing that with you. I’d be remiss if I did not thank the James H. Ottaway Fellowship program for making it possible for me to attend API’s seminar.

    If you are a jounajunkie like me, I encourage you to check out the American Press Institute’s offerings. In addition to opportunities to learn about the newspaper industry, the group offers a number of fellowships to make its programs accessible.

    Adult web site claims trademark infringement

    A Las Vegas adult escort web site has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a company that provides background checks for use of the term “date check,” according to the Las Vegas Sun.

    Here are the dirty details:

    DCAEV Inc., which runs the escort site date-check.com, argues that Intelius is violating its trademark with “DateCheck,” a mobile app that does a background search on, well, your date.

    “With DateCheck you know longer have to rely on your intuition or what the guy tells you,” a YouTube ad for the mobile app DateCheck says. “Look up before you hook up.”

    DCAEV also claims Intelius is cybersquatting and using deceptive trade practices.

    The Las Vegas Sun offers a PDF of the court filing here.

    Only in Vegas, baby.

    Times media law article enlightens

    Here’s the good news: Some news organizations are not letting up on legal cases to get records and information.

    Here’s the bad news: Some are.

    Tim Arango of the New York Times wrote an excellent piece about how Hearst and the Associated Press are continuing to fight for legal records, even if it costs them.

    Unfortunately, he also writes that smaller news organizations — regional and local — have had to cut legal costs along with other costs. And the head of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told him that she’s hearing about hard times for media lawyers.

    I hope the Times continues to follow up on this issue. At a time when cost-cutting is the norm in the news industry, we must monitor how this cost-cutting is impacting journalism’s watchdog role.

    Kudos to the Times for doing just that.

    Playing the J-School Name Game

    This story is probably familiar to many of you.

    I have a wonderful journalism student. She’s done everything she’s supposed to do.

    • Internships? Check. She’s had great internships at local newspapers and a regional magazine.
    • School work? Check. She goes above and beyond.
    • Hard worker? Absolutely. She’s a go-getter, no doubt about it.

    The only thing she has not done is go to a journalism school with a top-tier national reputation.

    The school where I teach is not Columbia or Missouri or Syracuse. It’s a good, small, public college in Upstate New York. And now that this stellar student is looking for jobs — or even internships — at larger publications, she’s finding it difficult to compete against the students with the J-School Name.

    Last night this student came to me to ask what she can do. I told her to keep trying, that sometimes it’s about perseverance, luck and timing. I also told her that ultimately, she might want to consider graduate school at a top journalism school. I have no doubt she’d get in and thrive.

    Dear Reader, what should I tell this student? Do you have any advice?

    Term papers have copyrights, too

    If you are buying a term paper off the Internet, you are probably not that concerned about whether someone’s copyright has been infringed upon.

    But some of the people who wrote those papers are concerned about their copyrights, and their lawsuit has led an Illinois judge to order to one of these term paper companies to prove it has permission for the papers it sells.

    According to USA Today, this might “be the first time a court has penalized a seller based on how it acquires papers.”

    Coach v. Coaches insults lead to lawsuit

    An assistant coach’s online insults aimed at fellow coaches have lead to a $200,000 libel lawsuit.

    The showdown is at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in Illinois, where a football coach and his assistant claim the former defensive coordinator has libeled them with labels like “pedophile” and “thief” on Facebook, according to the State-Journal Register.

    The coaches say they have been dealing with three years of online insults.

    Long live online media, because the newspaper has attached a downloadable PDF of the court document for your perusal should you choose.

    Let’s just hope that the only lesson students learn from this case is a positive one.

    Photo on escort site leads to lawsuit

    I love it when truth is stranger than fiction.

    This little gem of a case comes out of the Sunshine State.

    Self-proclaimed porn star Justin Krueger’s photos have shown up on a male escort site called men4rentnow.com, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

    But the angry party in the lawsuit is not Krueger. It’s Liberty Media, which says it owns the copyright to the photos and the trademark to a name in the photos. Liberty filed suit in federal court in Orlando.

    For more on the case, see the story.

    Prosecution of the Innocence Project

    If you are reading this blog, chances are you have heard of the Innocence Project, in which a group of Medill Journalism students at Northwestern University have freed 11 wrongly convicted men and women.

    Today a Chicago-area prosecutor is trying to get access to students grades and class notes. Why, you might ask? You really need to listen to this NPR story.

    In short, the prosecutor is arguing that these students may be being pressured by their professor to prove innocence, even if that means bribing sources to tell the “right” stories. Ridiculous.

    Are we expected to believe this prosecution has nothing to do with the embarrassment these cases might cause to the legal system? Or that the prosecutor is not trying to intimidate these students — and future students — into silence?

    The professor in question, journalist David Protess, says he won’t give up the records. Good for him.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Professor. With people like you, the true spirit of journalism will survive.

    Nudity, copyright and accusations, oh my!

    It’s hard to resist choosing Tiger Woods’s British court injunction to stop publication of nude photos of him as the Media Law Case of the Week, but because of the proliferation of Tiger coverage, I will abstain.

    I’m also tempted to focus on the interesting debate in the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee about who is — and is not — a journalist.You can watch it for yourself here. (Start at 135 minutes in to get to this particular focus.)

    But instead a copyright infringement case that comes on the heels of strangulation accusations is the Media Law Case of the Week.

    Shawne Merriman, who plays for the San Diego Chargers, has accused MTV reality show star Tila Tequila of copyright and trademark infringement. The lawsuit claims that Tequila is using his image and the trademark of his company on her web site without his permission.

    Last month, Tequila filed a lawsuit against Merriman, whom she claims imprisoned and tried to strangle her. (Merriman was never charged, reportedly due to lack of evidence.)

    Tequila hosted a show called “A Shot At Love with Tila Tequila” in which MTV says “16 luscious lesbians and 16 sexy straight guys” compete to be with Tila, a bisexual. Yes, it’s as horrible as it sounds.

    And, yes, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

    Libeled on Wikipedia?

    Actor Ron Livingston, whom some may know from the movie Office Space or the TV series Sex and the City, is suing an anonymous Wikipedia and Facebook writer for libel.

    Livingston contends that someone has been repeatedly rewriting Wikipedia posts to say he is gay and involved with a man named Lee Dennison, according to an article in the Toronto Star. This person is also believe to have created fake Facebook accounts for Livingston and Dennison listing them as a couple, the report states.

    The recently married Livingston is asking a judge to force Wikipedia and Facebook to reveal the identity of the anonymous poster.

    Annarbor.com brings FOIA to readers

    I stumbled upon a great feature in Annarbor.com called FOIA Friday. Each week, Annarbor.com uses information gathered through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to “shed light on the activities of government.”

    FOIA Friday is written like a column, with a conversational tone and lots of information.

    For a good example of what FOIA Friday does, see this entry. Not only does it inform readers about the National Security Archive, but it also lists the upcoming local information that might come from pending FOIA requests.

    My hat’s off to you, Advance Publications, for FOIA Friday.

    Author ordered to pay for libeling friend

    With friends like these …

    The author of the New York Times best-selling book “The Red Hat Club” is out $100,000 after a jury decided that she libeled her former friend in the book.

    Her friend said one of the characters resembled her in many ways — except that she was not the “sexually promiscuous alcoholic” that the character in the book is.

    The jury agreed that Haywood Smith libeled her former friend.

    For more details on the case, go here.

    The FCC is on MySpace–with censorship?

    FCC MySpace Page
    I stumbled across an article in The Hill about the Federal Communications Commission launching a MySpace page last week.

    Not only is the MySpace page of interest, but so is a question raised by a blogger Adam Thierer at The Technology Liberation Front. Will the FCC censor the comments on its MySpace page?

    The Hill writer Kim Hart found out that yes, an FCC spokesperson says it has a policy to remove comments deemed obscene or inappropriate.

    If you want a look at some of the comments that were cut, check out Thierer’s blog.

    My favorite comment so far, out of the 11 still remaining on the FCC’s MySpace page, is the following by someone identified as “The Ambience Project”: “Thanks for all the years of suppressing creativity and wasting our money in the process. America is a ****** ***** for it.”

    So far, the friends of the FCC on the MySpace page far out number the negative comments. As of 4:20 today, the FCC had 73 friends on My Space and 11 comments (not all negative).

    It just makes you wonder how many comments might be there without the policy.

    Butler drops lawsuit against student blogger

    Watch out, student bloggers.

    You may think you can freely spout whatever you choose in your blog, but that’s not the case. In fact, even words that you might see as standing up for your dear mom might land you in court.

    A Butler University student has learned that the hard way.
    Media Law Case of the Week Logo
    Butler University has dropped its libel suit against a student blogger after learning his name. But that’s not the end of the story. The university is going to use “internal disciplinary proceedings” instead to punish the student instead.

    And what, oh what, did this student say in his blog to cause all this ruckus?

    The comments that the university considered defamatory were about administrators who removed the blogger’s stepmother from her job as chair of the music school, according to the IndyStar.

    The comments included calling an administrator “power hungry” and saying that administrator “hurts the ability of the school to recruit talented students and faculty members,” according to the Indiana Daily Student.

    See The Indiana Daily Student‘s fabulous editorial on the case here.

    So when is a Subway a Subway (TM)?

    One of the latest lawsuits out of Vegas has nothing to do with gambling, skin shows or even entertainment.

    It has to do with subs. The kind you eat.
    Media Law Case of the Week Logo
    According to the Las Vegas Sun, Gevork Boyadzhyan opened up a sandwich shop in Las Vegas and called it Subway Avenue.

    As you might imagine, the owners of the Subway chain of sandwich shops, Doctor’s Associates Inc., were none too amused. They filed suit in U.S. District Court for trademark infringement and cybersquatting (because of the potential confusion about the name).

    So now Subway Avenue has reportedly become Sub Avenue.

    It’s Vegas, Baby.

    Court stymies attempt to limit ringtones

    Finally, common sense prevails.

    The fact that others can hear copyrighted music when your cell phone rings does not make you a copyright violator. That’s what a federal judge ruled last week in the U.S. District Court (Southern Division of New York State).
    Media Law Case of the Week Logo
    The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was suing Verizon and AT&T and argued that, in essence, when one’s cell phone rings, it creates a “public performance” of the copyrighted work, and THAT was copyright infringement.

    Keep in mind that cell phone users already PAY royalty fees when they buy the ring tone.

    The decision states, “ASCAP has not shown any infringement of its members’ rights by the playing of ringtones in public from Verizon’s customers’ telephones. The customers are not liable for copyright infringement, and neither is Verizon.”

    For an article about the case and a link to the decision, see Wired’s piece here.

    C-SPAN offers video treasure trove

    Originally I planned to focus this post on a great documentary on the U.S. Supreme Court that C-SPAN has been showing — and which is also available for viewing online. I showed the piece to my media law class, and they were more interested than one might expect for a group of 20-somethings at 8 a.m. in the morning. I definitely recommend it for other media law teachers.

    But while nosing around the C-SPAN site, I discovered a wealth of videos on everything from press conferences to in-depth interviews. I even found dozens of videos featuring one of my journalism heroes, Helen Thomas.

    So if you are looking for clips from politicians, educators, journalists and business people, give the C-SPAN Video Library a try.

    Helen Thomas Video

    Media Law Case of the Week

    So I guess Russians can say that Stalin was responsible for thousands of deaths after all.

    Russian autocratic leader Josef Stalin’s grandson sued a Russian newspaper for libel after an article referred to Stalin as having sent thousands to their deaths. Today a Russian court ruled against the grandson.

    The case had some in the country wondering if the government and courts would try to change history by denying Stalin’s responsibility.

    Will the grandson appeal? We will know within five days.

    Somber reminder not all journalists free

    “I am still alive. I am one of the lucky journalists.”

    That’s what Rochester Democrat & Chronicle Global Editor Maidstone Mulenga told the roughly 100 international journalists, students and teachers gathered at the United Nation of Rochester’s Freedom of the Press: A Global Crisis earlier this week held at The College at Brockport’s Metro Center.

    Maidstone was a journalist in Zambia, and he and his family were threatened because of a story he had written. The government wanted to know his source. He said his story is not unique, and said that according to World Press Freedom Day, 673 journalists were arrested in 2008. Even worse, 70 journalists were killed. So far this year, 31 journalists have been killed and 30 journalists are missing worldwide, he said.

    “Each time freedom of press is threatened, all other human rights are threatened,” he said.

    He urged the audience to take action. He mentioned that when he visits journalists in Africa and sees them waiting in line to use the one computer available for them to follow reports, he wishes people would realize that they could help with freedom of the press by donating computers and technology or by giving a little money to support the families of imprisoned journalists, families often left destitute because the family bread-winner cannot work.

    Some of the organizations that try to help international journalists and work to ensure a free press include:

    I’m in love with iWeb

    True confession: I went from Mac Hater to Mac Lover in the course of one hour.

    I’m a PC person — I use PCs at home and, most of the time, at work. I do, however, teach one class on Macs. It was like trying to speak a foreign language. I’d try to hit my shortcut buttons and they didn’t work. Everything was in a different place. I didn’t know what I was doing, and quite frankly, blamed the Mac instead of me.

    And then last week I was introduced to iWeb, the fabulous web site creation program on Macs. I’m in love. The designs (most of them, anyway) are beautiful and it is incredibly easy to use. Although I know HTML and CSS, I didn’t have to use any. And that got me thinking: What if this program — or one like it — could be used on multimedia news sites?

    Not only would the sites be cleaner and easier to use for the news consumer, but it also would be easy for almost anyone on staff to update and tweak the sites. (Admit it, most news sites are not beautiful.)

    And now I’m off to figure out a way to talk my husband into getting a Mac …🙂

    Media Law Case of the Week

    “Don’t upset the apple cart …”

    Maybe that old saying should be changed to, “Don’t upset Apple Inc.”

    Peggy Watt at PC World writes a great piece about Apple Inc.’s attempt to claim that an Australian company is infringing on its trademark with its logo. She mixes humor and good ole’ media law facts to create the interesting piece.

    Here, by the way, are the trademarks:

    173106-woolworths_logo_180164271-Apple_logo_inline_original

    What does lack of sex assault coverage mean?

    The silence is deafening.

    It sounds cliche, but I can think of no other way to describe the astounding lack of local media coverage of a reported sexual assault of a College at Brockport (SUNY) student by three men. The student was walking home on a village street and assaulted, according to reports.

    The college media are covering it, as you can see here. But I have yet to see any mention of it in the mainstream media that covers the area. By the way, the mainstream media are located only about a half-hour away — less if you don’t drive at peak times.

    How many days have passed? FOUR.

    The College at Brockport did the right thing and made its students aware of the situation with a Campus Safety Alert e-mail. Thank goodness it did, because the community certainly isn’t learning about it through the mainstream media. (In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you I teach at The College at Brockport.)

    But what happened to the local mainstream media?

    I started wondering how on earth they could miss this big of a story and came to only one conclusion: the impact of the job cuts in the reporting industry are showing.

    The Democrat & Chronicle, the local daily newspaper for this area, cut at least 59 jobs last year alone. It’s a Gannett company, so it also instituted the now-famous job furloughs.

    The TV stations, with all due respect, appear to have been pretty thinly staffed since I arrived here a year ago.

    So is missing the sexual assault of a college student the only thing the mainstream media have missed? I doubt it.

    My hope is that as more and more stories are missed, media companies will realize they must hire more staff.

    My fear is they simply don’t care.

    Media Law Case of the Week

    When is a libel threat really an attempt to muffle criticism, in particular press criticism?

    Journalists at an Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, argue that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is trying to use his libel suit against the paper to do just that — shut up opposing voices, according to UK newspaper The Guardian.

    And what did this paper do that the Prime Minister did not like?

    La Repubblica has asked that Berlusconi answer “10 New Questions” about his relationships with several women — some of whom are reported to be prostitutes and at least one a minor.

    The Guardian reports that the Italian newspaper is trying to get 500,000 people to sign an online petition calling for press freedom by Oct. 3 and that newspaper editors in Britain, Germany, Spain and France have signed it.

    If you’d like to sign it, click here. To easily translate the petition from Italian to English, you can use Babel Fish.

    Is it who or whom? It’s laughs.

    Is it who or whom?

    This clip from The Office will make you laugh if you’ve ever had one of these debates (and what writer hasn’t?). Thanks to Editor Extraordinaire Deborah Gump, Ph.D., for passing this one along.

    Media Law Case of the Week

    It was bound to happen.

    The lawyer for the suspect in the Yale student’s murder is filing a complaint about law enforcement leaks about the case to the media.

    Who can blame him?

    At this point, even the casual news consumer knows that law enforcement claims Raymond Clark III’s DNA is all over the crime scene. Public Defender Joseph Lopez is laying the groundwork for a claim that it will difficult, if not impossible, for his client to get a fair trial.

    Speaking of high profile cases that lead to difficulties in getting a fair trial, the Sam Sheppard case — which inspired “The Fugitive” — was back in the spotlight again on NPR after Sheppard’s son objected to host Scott Simon referring to his father as “the most famous convicted murderer in America.”

    You can hear Simon’s interview with the son, Sam Reese Sheppard, here.

    Quinones talks diversity with college students

    John Quinones discussed diversity in the newsroom and the world.

    John Quinones discussed diversity in the newsroom and the world.

    He was a migrant farmer and the first in his family to go to college.

    His work has helped save children around the world.

    His face is familiar to many TV watchers, but his journey to network journalism may not be as well known.

    John Quinones, ABC journalist of “20/20” and “Primetime” fame, spoke today to hundreds of students, faculty and community members at the Ninth Annual Diversity Conference at The College at Brockport (State University of New York). He told them that he wanted them to take one thing from what he said:

    “If I could make it to network television … then anything is possible,” he said.

    After hearing the story of his life and career, it is difficult not to believe him.

    He spoke of his upbringing and the hard work it took to make it to the network. He said his goal was to be a good journalist and “to tell stories that reflected the Latino population of San Antonio.”

    “I was a good reporter who just happened to be Hispanic,” he said.

    Being fluent in Spanish helped him get a network job at ABC reporting in Central America. But he still had to work his way up the network and prove himself worthy of prime time. Along the way he has raised public awareness about poverty and injustices all over the world.

    He noted that we all have biases, and we need to recognize them.

    He also said that TV news is getting worse, not better, when it comes to diversity. He thinks that perhaps if more people of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds were producers and news executives, that could change.

    He urged students to work hard and not listen to those who tell them that they cannot do it.

    “It’s all about shining the light on the darkest corners of the world.”

    It’s difficult not to be inspired by the words and life of John Quinones.

    Group aims to help mid-career journalists, students

    Amy Moritz, sports reporter and blogger for the Buffalo News, was voted president-elect of the Association of Women in Sports Media recently. The Amy Moritz headshotAssociation works to promote diversity in sports media, including offering scholarship and internship opportunities. (FYI: This year’s scholarship/internship deadline for applications is Oct. 31.)

    Moritz took some time to talk to Journajunkie about ways she hopes AWSM can help both mid-career journalists and young journalists starting out and why a group like this is still needed in 2009.

    Q:  What would you like to do as president-elect?

    A: I would like to get involved in our mid-career grant program. With so many changes in the world of journalism (and public relations for that matter) many of us in our 30s and 40s are needing new skills. While there is no replacement for good writing and good reporting, the nature of HOW we tell the story is changing. And while that landscape is a bit unclear, there are ways that I feel AWSM can help its members be better equipped to use multi-media.

    Q: I see that AWSM does a lot to help students interested in sports-related communication careers. Can you tell us  a little about what you do and why?

    A: We think it’s so important to reach out to young women who want to get into sports communications, whether it be a form of journalism or public relations. In part, it’s our way of paying it forward because along the way, someone helped us out with an internship or scholarship. But also, we want to help talented young women get their foot in the door and get the experience they need. To that end, we’re working on grants to fully fund internships at media outlets as the industry feels the economic pinch and can’t afford to hire as many interns, if any at all.

    Q: What would you say to people who think and/or would argue that in 2009, we dont need a group like Association of Women in Sports Media?

    A: Just because things are better doesn’t mean that they’re good. Women still are vastly under-represented in management positions (especially as sports editors). And sadly, issues still do arise over the treatment of women in sports media. The case of Erin Andrews demonstrates that women still face barriers which can be not only detrimental to the ability to do one’s job but brings up safety issues as well.

    Q: What advice would you give journalism teachers about helping to prepare women and men for careers in sports media?

    A: Sports journalism is still journalism. The explosion of sports talk radio and various opinion and sports/entertainment shows can blur the line for students who think being loud with an opinion is the way to go. You have to have experience and credentials. Don’t succumb to the lowest common denominator. This would be the same for aspiring political journalists who watch the attack shows on cable news networks.

    At the end of the day, we’re telling stories that entertain, inform and perhaps inspire. The cliche that sport is a microcosm of society means that there are plenty of stories, and types of stories, to tell. And not all of them will be the ones that lead SportsCenter. In fact, the best ones are usually the ones that would never make SportsCenter.

    Q:  Is there anything youd like to say to journalism students or teachers?

    A: The advice I give is the same as the advice I received as a journalism student: Read as much as you can and write something every day. The medium is not as important as the ability to communicate what you have learned and observed, but take advantage of learning as many skills as possible.

    Media Law Case of the Week

    Poor Annie Leibovitz.

    Or perhaps I should say Lucky Annie Leibovitz

    The world-famous photographer was in jeopardy of losing her right to the copyrights on some of her famous works because she had not paid off a $24 million loan by the deadline. But now, according to BBC News, she will be able to keep her copyright as long as she sticks to new loan terms.

    That is lucky indeed.

    Coming Wednesday: An interview with Amy Moritz,  president-elect of the Association for Women in Sports Media and Buffalo News reporter.

    Media Law Case of the Week

    Sorry Journajunkie has been a way for so long. It’s nice to return and be back in action.

    So let’s get right to it with an update to a Media Law Case of the Week from May. Some of you may remember the libel lawsuit of a politician angry that a radio host sent e-mails claiming that said politician was gay. Well, that politician — Tom Fetzer, North Carolina Republican Party chairman — is reportedly getting married next month.

    The News & Observer reports that he and his fiance met while she working on a Republican campaign.

    But don’t think the glow of love has led to a case of forgive-and-forget. The lawsuit is still on.

    Food for thought: Job of the journalist

    These were powerful, insightful words.

    “Right now, part of the job of a journalist is advocating for the job of journalist.”

    Kimberly Humphreys, a journalist with the Rocky Mountain News when it closed in February 2009, should know.

    She now works for the Rocky Mountain Independent, an online news site started by some former Rocky Mountain News staffers. She’s also director of IWantMyRocky.com, an ambitious initiative orignally started to save the Rocky Mountain News that now is trying to save journalism itself. (See what IWantMyRocky wants to do here.)

    Last week she spoke  as part of panel called “Journalism at the Crossroads: After Newspapers, Then What?” aimed at journalism educators. The session was part of the national convention for  the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication held in Boston.

    Humphreys noted that traditionally the editorial and business side of newspapers have been separate in the name of objectivity. Journalists did not want an appearance of conflict of interest when writing stories. She argued that the time to change that tradition has come  because this separation means journalists have no voice in what is going on in their newspapers.

    “We need to pull up a seat at that table,” Humphreys urged.

    Her message is an important one for journalism educators to keep in mind.  As we prepare students for the changing world of journalism, we should make them aware of this responsibility.

    Good journalism depends on it.

    Media Law Case of the Week

    Accusations, feuds, removal of two board members (who happen to be married) from the board.

    Is this a soap opera?

    No, it’s a chess group, and there is still no check mate in the battle among board members of the United States Chess Federation.

    The NY Times has a great article today about the feud that has lead to libel and slander lawsuit filings in the millions.

    If only chess were so exciting. (Sorry, chess fans.🙂 )

    Journajunkie vacation

    Jouranjunkie is on vacation. It’ll be back soon.

    Media Law Case of the Week

    Here’s yet more proof that libel is not only the concern of the journalist.

    The Hartford Courant featured an interesting case in which a Connecticut mother was fined $88,000 for an e-mail campaign in which she likened her daughter’s swim coach to a pedophile. The judge reportedly said that the mother admitted to having no evidence of this.

    Let’s just hope for her daughter’s sake that she does not take after mom.

    Godspeed, fellow journalists

    Many, many of my fellow journalists from my days at The (Syracuse) Post-Standard are taking the buyout that was offered and going their separate ways.

    I don’t blame them. The buyout includes a year’s pay to employees with at least seven years experience. Those staying are facing pay cuts of 5 to 12 percent on top of having to contribute 25 percent of the cost of their health benefits.

    I realize the reality of the industry and the economy. But I feel sorry for the people of Central New York. Whether you read The Post-Standard or not, if you are a Central New Yorker, your life has been impacted by it. The journalists at The Post-Standard have monitored and held politicians accountable. They have reported the good and the bad. Now this newspaper is going to have to try to do the same work with far fewer people and with a huge loss in the institutional knowledge and local history.

    Godspeed, fellow journalists.