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Chapter Summary
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  • Press rights fall into two main categories:
    • privileges and protections for journalistic activities, and
    • access to government operations and records.
Privilege and Protection for Sources and Stories
  • Privilege: When reporters publish their work, they're protected by:
    • fair report privilege,
    • opinion privilege, and
    • fair comment and criticism.
  • Freedom from newsroom searches
  • Shield laws
Journalistic Access: Letting the Sun Shine Behind Closed Doors
  • Freedom of information or "the right to know"
    • open courtrooms
    • open meetings
    • open records
  • Online legal resources for reporters
  • What happens when your big story leads to big trouble?
The Reporter's Guide to Trouble
  • Contempt of court
  • Trespassing
  • Sedition
  • Libel
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Breach of contract
  • Plagiarism
  • Fabrication
  • Lapses in Ethics
  • Bias
  • Bad taste
  • Blunders and bloopers
  • Publication of a false statement that deliberately or carelessly damages someone's reputation.
  • It's essential to know the difference between what's acceptable and what's defamatory.
At a Glance: The Beginning Reporter's Guide to Libel
  • Who can sue for libel?
  • Who is it that gets sued? Me, the reporter?
  • What exactly constitutes libel?
  • How do I defend myself if someone claims that I libeled him/her?
  • How can I avoid libel?
Explosive Words
  • A list of common words and phrases that can lead you into libel litigation, when used carelessly.

The Cherry Sisters v. "Fair Comment and Criticism"

Landmark Libel Cases
  • The New York Times v. Sullivan
  • The Associated Press v. Walker
  • Curtis Publishing v. Butts
  • Gertz v. Welch
  • Hutchinson v. Proxmire
A Lexicon of Libel
  • Actual malice
  • Opinion
  • Public official
  • Public figure
  • Slander
You Make the Call
  • Seven situations you might face as a reporter. What would you do?
  • When unfair reporting victimizes unwilling people. When do ordinary people have a right to be left alone—to stay out of the news, if that's what they want?
  • Libel cases challenge journalistic accuracy. Privacy cases challenge journalistic ethics and judgment.
The Four Most Common Ways to Invade Someone's Privacy
  • Intrusion
    • trespass
    • secret surveillance
    • misrepresentation
  • False light
  • Public disclosure of private facts
  • Appropriation
  • It prevents thieves and plagiarists from stealing your work and publishing it somewhere else, and it stops you from stealing the work of others.
Advice and Suggestions
  • At a Glance: A Journalist's Guide to Copyright
  • Respecting Trademarks
  • At every publication there are restrictions on what you can say.
    • Censorship: when these restrictions are imposed from outside the newsroom (by courts, the military, school administrators, etc).
    • "Conforming to community values" or "Meeting our editing standards": when the restrictions originate inside the newsroom (also called "self-censorship").
You Can't Say That: Five Reasons Why Your Story Might Get Spiked
  • Vulgar language
  • Offensive topics
  • Conflict of interest
  • Legal/ethical issues
  • Reporting flaws

Two Case Studies

Student Press Law: How Much Can a School Administrator Censor?
  • American newspapers are free from virtually all forms of outside censorship. But student publications aren't so fortunate.
  • Two key decisions and their impact on student papers.
  • Ethical pitfalls that can lead to trouble-or termination.
    • Deception: lying or misrepresenting yourself to obtain information.
    • Conflict of interest: accepting gifts or favors from sources or promoting social and political causes.
    • Bias: slanting a story by manipulating facts to sway readers' opinions.
    • Fabrication: manufacturing quotes or imaginary sources, or writing anything you know to be untrue.
    • Theft: obtaining information unlawfully or without a source's permission.
    • Burning a source: deceiving or betraying the confidence of those who provide information for a story.
    • Plagiarism: passing off someone else's words or ideas as your own.
  • Reporters and editors must maintain a high standard of professionalism.
  • The importance of developing a code of ethics: standards and values that guide your professional conduct.
The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists
  • Seek truth and report it.
  • Minimize harm.
  • Act independently.
  • Be accountable.

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