JOURNALISM 370 OCTOBER 5,2011 AVOIDING LAWSUITS AND WRITING AN OP ED
BLOGS OF THE WEEK • h@p://blogs.hbr.org/ • h@p://pewresearch.org/
THOUGHTS ON MEDIA ADVISORY • WriQng More Crisp • Don’t be afraid to ask quesQons – The material you’re given for a project can o^en be insuﬃcient to complete the work. – You have to ﬁll those gaps. • This is an invitaQon – Your a@enQon to detail is good. – Watch going over the top.
HOW CAN YOU GET SUED • WriQng misleading press releases • Making misleading or false product/service claims • CreaQng front groups • Insider trading • Invasion of privacy • MisrepresenQng earnings • Conspiracy
REAL WORLD BACKGROUND I WISH I KNEW WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL • The key is avoiding lawsuits. • You may be legally correct. It might not ma@er. • Lawsuits are costly…even if you win. • Waivers are your friend. • Wri@en correspondence is your friend • When in doubt, ask.
Libel and DefamaQon • Here’s how you prove it. – Statement was broadcast or published. – You can ID who wrote it. – Actual injury occurred…that includes losing cash. – Publisher was negligent or acted with malice.
Libel and DefamaQon • Diﬀerent proofs required for “public ﬁgures” • CorporaQons are considered public ﬁgures • Truth is defense against defamaQon charge
FAIR COMMENT… GET OUT OF TROUBLE CARD • Opinions are protected as long as criQcism is done with honest intenQon and a lack of malice. • Protects criQcal comments of execuQves • Protect yourself when wriQng criQcism – Accompany opinion with facts on which it’s based. – A@ribute quoted opinion to an individual – Review context of surrounding language for defamaQon
AVOIDING DEFAMATION SUITS • #1 rule: Watch your language • Choose innocuous language when talking about personnel issues – We wish them well in their future endeavors. • Avoid unﬂa@ering representaQons of compeQtors
INVASION OF PRIVACY • Employees don’t waive their right to privacy • Employee newsle@ers – Avoid anything that might embarrass employees – Focus on organizaQon-‐related acQviQes • Photos of employees – Implied consent for “news” use, not promoQon – Maintain photo records
INVASION OF PRIVACY • Use of photos/quotes in publicity or adverQsing – Need signed consent to use photos or quotes in promoQonal materials • Media inquiries about employees – Only provide conﬁrmaQon of employment, Qtle and job descripQon, date of employment beginning and end – Don’t provide address, marital status, number of kids, job performance or salary – Serve as liaison between reporter and employee • Employee blogs – Prohibit comments about other employees and conﬁdenQal product informaQon – Employee guidelines for virtual online communiQes
COPYRIGHT LAW • ProtecQon of “ﬁxed” works in any “tangible medium.” Yes, this includes digital. • Work is automaQcally copyrighted the moment it is “ﬁxed.” • Work can be formally copyrighted through Library of Congress, but registraQon isn’t required for protecQon
COPYRIGHT LAW HOW TO BE SAFE • Fair use allows you to quote part of a copyrighted arQcle, but brief enough not to harm the original work • Social Media makes this an evolving jungle. • When in doubt, ask. • When in doubt, have a waiver.
COPYRIGHT LAW HOW TO BE SAFE • You can’t copyright ideas. • You can copyright the expression of those ideas. • Copyright your PR content. That’s why you hire lawyers.
COPYRIGHT LAW • Fair use – A@ributed quoted material that is brief compared to the enQre work – Permission required when used for promoQon. • Photography – Photographers retain ownership of their work – NegoQate use carefully • Work for hire – When working as an employee, copyright belongs to organizaQon • Digital material protected by copyright
TRADEMARK • Trademark is a word, symbol, or slogan idenQfying a product • Trademarks are proper adjecQves • Trademarks should not be pluralized or used as verbs • PR plays an important role in protecQng trademarks • Unauthorized use of celebriQes is misappropriaQon of personality.
LET’S AVOID A LAWSUIT • You’re doing PR for Costco. • The VP has just been ﬁred for embezzling money. • The media calls you asking for informaQon. • What can you tell them?
WHY WRITE ONE? • Allow PR to reach opinion leaders • Op-‐ed authors are perceived as experts on the issue • Op-‐eds are exclusives OP-‐eds are controlled media. This is rare in media rela4ons and publicity
WHY WRITE ONE? • These can talk about policy. • These can promote events more blatantly. • You’re worried the reporter will screw the story up. OP-‐eds are controlled media. This is rare in media rela4ons and publicity
OP ED IDEAS • 750 words max for an op ed. • You need to have one main idea. • Hit it early, and don’t veer oﬀ course. • Short powerful sentences • You need facts to verify your claims.
OP ED IDEAS • Don’t say, “I think.” State it. – I thinks this is a bad idea. – This is a bad idea. • Don’t send out op eds in bulk. • Do call an editor to see if a paper takes them.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR DIFFERENCES • They are shorter (200-‐500 words) • You react to news and should state what sparked the le@er. • State the theme of your le@er a^er saying why you are wriQng • A le@er to the editor is a counter punch. An Op ed can be an a@acking punch.
OP ED A GOOD WAY TO FORMAT What is the problem? What is your opinion on the problem? What is your supporQng informaQon? What is the soluQon? Why should the reader care?
OD ED ROOM TO BE BETTER • Hit harder. • Short, choppy sentences. – This is wrong. – We can do be@er. • A le@er to the editor should be a slap in the face and call to acQon.
OP ED ROOM TO BE BETTER • In terms of subject ma@er, think beyond your organizaQon. – We are worried about rising energy and food prices. – Buying local saves money. – It protects jobs. – Our client helps in both areas. • You can’t do this if you don’t follow current events.
ASSIGNMENT UPDATE • Your Feature was due Monday at the start of class . • It is now due one week from today, October 12, at 5 p.m. • So too is your op-‐ed and third reading memo. • Plan accordingly. • To help, October 12 is a working class. – Doors are open, but there is no class. – I am available via Skype at dan.farkas1 to take quesQons from 1-‐5.
ASSIGNMENT UPDATE • Your feature will be graded based on the class discussion we had Monday. • Your op ed will be graded based on the class discussion we had today. • Monday, we will review the news release and fact sheet.