Media law for the little guy


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Short presentation for the Brighton & Hove Community Reporters

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Media law for the little guy

  1. 1. Media law for the little guy By Judith Townend
  2. 2. Traditional news orgs… • ‘Night lawyers’: specialised legal professionals to check copy at the last minute • In-house lawyers • Journalists with media law training • Legal insurance? • Willing to take risks (can make payouts) • High profile and well-connected
  3. 3. But new sites are springing up… • ‘Hyperlocal’ sites • Community news projects • Consumer blogs • Student blogs • Online chat/debate forums • ‘User-generated content’ (UGC) • Social networking
  4. 4. So what about media law…? • It applies to everyone, ‘journalist’ or not • I wanted to find out more so I set up a survey in summer 2010 • Publicised via Twitter and media blogs, including:, the MediaBlog, FleetStreetBlues, Talk About Local and other blogs (Jon Slattery, CurryBet, One Man and His Blog).
  5. 5. Survey • For ‘small’ or independent publishers based in the UK: – What legal resources do you use? – What legal encounters have you experienced? – Do you feel there are enough resources available to you? • Survey conducted using Google Docs; self- selecting group of participant • 71 responses
  6. 6. The results
  7. 7. On legal trouble… • Of the 19 online writers who were contacted over a legal matter in the last two years (27 per cent), only seven sought legal advice, which was paid for in four instances. The remaining 12 dealt with it alone. • Only two of the cases reached court. For six of the publishers, the case was dropped at an earlier stage. Two published corrections or clarifications. Nine involved payment and/or removal of material, although in two cases this was only partial removal of material.
  8. 8. On legal resources… • 71 respondents were completely divided: 46% said they did not think there was enough legal information and advice at hand; 54% said there was an adequate amount. • But the overall picture contrasted with answers from those who had encountered legal trouble in the last two years: only 32% of those 19 respondents felt they were able to access adequate legal information, 68% did not.
  9. 9. Resources used… • Of the respondents who cited the resources they used, the most popular was McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists, with 17 respondents mentioning the law title, now in its 20th edition. “McNae’s for frontline advice,” one said. “I ring the NUJ if I need further help.”
  10. 10. On what they want… • A mixed reaction, but some felt they’d like to see some kind of additional legal support: “I think there’s a real case, nonetheless, for an organisation that serves to help small-scale online publishers with legal cases when they do arise. I’d say that this shouldn’t be restricted to ‘professional journalists’, since one’s professionalism or otherwise doesn’t have much bearing any more on how often/much you publish and how much trouble you can get yourself into!”
  11. 11. More research is needed • How many online publishers have legal insurance? • How much do publishers actually know about the law? • How many legal incidents will occur in next 12 month period? Is there any way of tracking this? • Can some kind of organisational support be developed? What shape should it take?
  12. 12. Help Me Investigate
  13. 13. LinkedIn
  14. 14. Meeja Law & Twitter • @jtownend, @meejalaw and @medialawUK
  15. 15. Thank you! Any questions? • • • @jtownend / @meejalaw