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.
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.
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.
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.
Twitter is abuzz with the announcement of the 2009 winners of the Knight News Challenge, a project that funds news experiments with the goal of helping communities.
Some interesting ideas got funded — ideas that have the potential to help journalism teachers and students.
My favorite is DocumentCloud, a non-profit effort by the New York Times and ProPublica to offer an online place where the public can access and share documents. Very cool. Can you imagine the stories students can do if they can easily access documents? FOIA and FOIL requests are great, but even if you get what you want, they take a while. The DocumentCloud documents will be there for the taking, and hopefully inspire journalism students to add to the collection. What a great learning experience.
Other ideas funded also lend themselves to classroom use. Take Mobile Media Toolkit, an idea to make it easier for people to get the applications and tools needed to do reporting.
One of the things I like best about this is it has the potential to allow my journalism students to get excellent experience without having to spend a fortune. I teach at a state school, and we simply don’t have the resources that larger, private journalism schools do (and quite frankly, neither do most of our students). Thanks, Knight News Challenge and Knight Foundation, for an effort that could help many future journalists.
Applications for the 2010 Knight News Challenge start being accepted in September.
What are you still doing here? Get to work on that application! Journalism students everywhere need you. 🙂
If you’ve never been to the Project for Excellence in Journalism web site, you are missing a lot.
I’m hooked on the Weekly News Coverage Index, which examines what stories get the most coverage. But there’s so much more there for journajunkies like me.
For researchers, downloadable data on close to 71,000 news stories are available. For journalists, teachers and students, a list of journalism resources. For the curious, an annual State of the News Media report.
Page after page is full of information about journalism and what gets covered. It’s a journajunkie’s dream.
Before I get into the Media Law Case of the Week, I want to tip my hat to the Columbus Dispatch for its excellent stories outlining the (mis)uses of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, better known as FERPA.
They called their six-month investigation into FERPA Secrecy 101. The stories are definitely worth a read.
And now to the Media Law Case of the Week …
I try to stay away from huge cases and focus on smaller gems you may have missed. However, I cannot ignore the plight of American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who have been sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp in North Korea.
The International Women’s Media Foundation and Reporters Without Borders have a joint petition calling for the reporters’ release.
If you want to sign the petition, click here.