Striking the right balance between the government’s legitimate need for confidentiality, the press’s legitimate need to obtain information about government action, and the public’s “right to know” what its representatives are up to, is a difficult and delicate task.
I’ve not seen a more incisive explanation of the legal issues arising out of the Department of Justice’s investigation of reporter James Rosen. Geoffrey Stone’s is a must-read for the basics.
I saw lots of “dear media: stop interviewing the children!” pleas on various social media yesterday following the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I did not see a lot of clear explanations forwhy not(it’s social media, after all). Don’t we need every available piece of information in the immediate aftermath of such an incident? Can there benovalue in carefully asking the children what they saw?
This Michael Calderone piece is a lucid discussion.
The upshot: interviews with the traumatized young witnesses could have a value that outweighs a knee-jerk reaction to leave them be, especially in the early going. But there are lots of good reasons why their descriptions may not be accurate or useful, in addition to adding to their trauma.
This is a really good case study on a growing problem in schools across the country.
Sooner or later, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to have to elaborate on its declaration that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
Van Houlson, Journalism Librarian, University of Minnesota Libraries
For many years, the index cards to the Minneapolis Star and the Minneapolis Tribune at the Wilson Library on the University of Minnesota campus gave researchers a unique tool for locating articles on local people and events. This index was recently scanned by the Digital Collections unit at the University of Minnesota Libraries and is now available for searching as a public access website called the Minneapolis Newspaper Index (https://www.lib.umn.edu/newspapers).
Use this search engine to find articles from the Minnesota Daily (1900-1922, 1963-1977), Minneapolis Tribune (1940-1945,1950-1954) and the Minneapolis Star (1964-1970). Search for keywords found in the headlines of articles or among the subject headings used to organize the card file. This is a fascinating resource for anyone interested in Minneapolis history and will also display the actual image of the original card, revealing the work of dedicated library staff over decades as they added citations about local people, architecture, events and other developments. The Minneapolis Newspaper Index opens up new possibilities for researching local Minnesota history in the 20th century that is currently not possible using any existing newspaper content in print, microfilm, or online.
I can personally vouch for Van’s commitment to thinking creatively about ways these types of valuable resources can be preserved.
Digitization is changing historical research in profound and important ways (some potentially good, others potentially bad) but it is thrilling to see the University of Minnesota Libraries carry on a long commitment to preserving newspapers as a key part of the historical record.
"The Pentagon Papers episode was hailed as a huge victory for press freedom and prompted new skepticism about government. But before any of that, somebody had to do hours of laborious, exacting work preparing articles about, and excerpts from, the papers for publication. Mr. Gold, an assistant foreign editor, shouldered much of the burden."
“An earlier version misstated the term Mr. Vidal called William F. Buckley Jr. in a television appearance during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It was crypto-Nazi, not crypto-fascist. It also described incorrectly Mr. Vidal’s connection with former Vice President Al Gore. Although Mr. Vidal frequently referred jokingly to Mr. Gore as his cousin, they were not related. And Mr. Vidal’s relationship with his longtime live-in companion, Howard Austen, was also described incorrectly. According to Mr. Vidal’s memoir “Palimpsest,” they had sex the night they met, but did not sleep together after they began living together. It was not true that they never had sex.”—The corrections on the New York Times’ Gore Vidal obituary are amazing. (via theatlantic)
Under Minn. Supreme Court standard, university can regulate students' off-campus speech
In a decision released this morning, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the University of Minnesota did not violate a student’s free speech rights when it punished her for Facebook posts related to her coursework in the mortuary science program.
It is an important ruling for student freedom of speech, especially as the line between what counts as “on campus” and “off campus” blurs. Like most big rulings, we’ll have to wait and see what other courts do with it before we really know what to think. But here’s why I think it raises more questions than it answers, and could be deeply troubling for all students’ First Amendment rights:
“It is particularly fortuitous that the very object of this particular first amendment fight can be used to celebrate its protection.”— Professor Jonathan Turley, regarding the state of Idaho’s decision to reverse its ban on the sale of Five Wives Vodka. I haven’t tried the spirit myself, but you can place your order (and buy a “Free the Five” T-shirt!) through the distiller Ogden’s Own here.
Judge Trey E. Loftin of the 43rd Judicial District Court in Weatherford, Texas, found that Wilson is not protected under the state’s shield law because “she did not create her blog for the purpose of making money.” The judge also noted that Wilson had no formal education in journalism and made no claims of total objectivity.
When we pass shield laws, we have to decide who’s in and who’s out. As Justice White put it in the 1972 case Branzburg v. Hayes, this type of line-drawing presents “practical and conceptual difficulties of a high order.”
"Sooner or later, it would be necessary to define those categories of newsmen who qualified for the privilege, a questionable procedure in light of the traditional doctrine that liberty of the press is the right of the lonely pamphleteer who uses carbon paper or a mimeograph just as much as of the large metropolitan publisher who utilizes the latest … methods.”
Philadelphia Police Department policy urges police to expect and accept that they will be photographed while on duty.
“As such,” the policy reads, “police personnel shall not interfere with any member of the general public or individuals temporarily detained from photographing, videotaping or audibly recording police personnel while conducting official business or while engaging in an official capacity in any public space.”
Temple professor Ed Trayes, whose class Van Kuyk was taking the photos for, said this is the worst case of a student photojournalist arrest he’s seen in 50 years of teaching.
“I can’t think right now of another time when (an arrest) resulted in physical injury,” he said.
Join the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information in celebrating Freedom of Information day. This year’s ceremony will include a presentation by Amy Goodman, award-winning investigative journalist and syndicated columnist, author and the host of Democracy Now!.
Plaintiffs bring this action to challenge Defendants’ policies, practices, and/or actions that culminated in the unreasonable use of force and Plaintiffs’ unlawful arrests, and which violated Plaintiffs’ rights as journalists to gather information and cover matters of public interest, including law enforcement activity in public places.
“The White House keeps praising these journalists who are, who’ve been killed … How does that square with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court?”—
- Jake Tapper, pressing White House press secretary Jay Carney on what one might consider to be inconsistency on the administration’s views of doing journalism in the interests of democracy.
Tatro v. University of Minnesota: a big one for student speech
The Minnesota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Tatro v. University of Minnesota tomorrow morning, a case which addresses the question of how much power universities should have to punish students for speech posted online, and off campus. (I wrote about it in the Silha Bulletinlast summer.)
The case arose in 2010 following a series of Facebook posts by Amanda Tatro, a student in the U’s Mortuary Science program. Depending on who you ask, the posts were satirical, creepy, or threatening. After law enforcement officials found that the posts could not lead to criminal charges, university officials launched a disciplinary proceeding anyway. Tatro was placed on academic probation and the school required her to undergo a psychiatric evaluation in order to return to classes. The school’s central justification for the punishment was that Tatro’s posts threatened funding for the program by making it look bad.
Think about that for a second. The school is arguing that it should have the power to punish students who speak off-campus when their speech might make the institution look bad, because it might make donors queasy.
If you’re still not getting it, Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center (where I used to work) explains the stakes pretty well in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
"If speech loses its First Amendment protection because it causes so many grantors to withdraw their support that a program’s viability is threatened, which is the legal standard that the university is asking the court to adopt in the Tatro case, then no student may ever feel safe, in any venue, blowing the whistle on wrongdoing."
It’s an excellent commentary, and you should read the whole thing.
I’ll try to post my take on the oral arguments here tomorrow or Thursday.
“Mr. Bryan confirmed that he had posted on his Tweeter website account that he was coming to the United States to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe. Also on his tweeter account Mr. Bryan posted that he was coming to destroy America.”—A Department of Homeland Security memo on a British couple that was detained overnight upon arrival at Los Angeles International Airport. Bryan explained that “destroy” is British slang for partying, and digging up Marilyn Monroe is a reference to the TV show Family Guy. (via officialssay)
"Good lord, if people had asked tough questions … let me be blunt, David — if people had asked the right questions about Vietnam, my good friend wouldn’t be dead. So I feel pretty strongly about this stuff.
But that doesn’t mean, even then, that you have to crucify people; let’s get the information out. Ultimately, I think it becomes self-defeating if people are convinced you’re out there to score points. They’re going to dismiss the information you do want covered because, well, he’s loaded the dice, and more likely to dismiss what you have found out. So then you end up with these two camps yelling at each other.”
“In the pre-Web days, someone like Ms. Cox might have been one more obsessive in the lobby of a newspaper, waiting to show a reporter a stack of documents that proved the biggest story never told. The Web has allowed Ms. Cox to cut out the middleman; various blogs give voice to her every theory, and search algorithms give her work prominence.”— David Carr offers an alternative (and not entirely unreasonable) take on the Crystal Cox Affair.
BUT! It’s a bit more complicated than most of the media are reporting (as usual). If you look for the words “even if” in the opinion (scroll down), you’ll see why Cox would be on the hook for the $2.5. million regardless of whether she was considered a journalist.
The Oregon shield law at issue doesn’t apply to civil defamation cases, so not even The Oregonian would be protected by it.
Broadly speaking though, it’s a good example of why, as NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen tweets, “courts should protect acts of journalism, not kinds of people.”