Journalism Laws & RightsMelissa Wantz & Kelly Savio
First Amendment - 1791• Congress shall make no law respecting the establishmentof religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; orabridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or theright of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petitionthe government for a redress of grievances.
Libel• A published false statement that is damaging to aperson’s reputation; a written defamation
Slander• The action or crime of making a false spoken statementdamaging to a person’s reputation (not writing, pictures,etc…). Oral defamation.
Can I be sued?Very rarely, but it can happen, and its important to observeprofessional standards if you want your work to be takenseriously.You cant be liable for defamation if you just publish a criticalopinion about someone or reveal an unpleasant truth. But if youmake a false accusation of fact (even one implied in an "opinion"column), then you may have committed defamation.Invasion of privacy occurs when a publication publicizesembarrassing personal information without consent and with nonewsworthy justification, such as gossip about a teachers maritalproblems. It can also happen if you mislabel a photo so that itgives a false impression that harms a persons reputation ("falselight")
Tinker -- 1969Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community SchoolDistrict-Students maintain their First Amendment rights on schoolgrounds-Marybeth Tinker, armband-Private schools not affected because First Amendmentonly protects against action by government officials.
Tinker - 1969• Court ruled school officials can’t prevent students fromexpressing their opinions on school rounds, as long as:1. Do not cause a material or substantial disruption ofthe school environment2. Intrude on the rights of others
Prior Review• Principal or other administration reads, reviews orapproves the publication before publication• Cannot be challenged legally; they have the right but putthemselves at risk for legal action of published content
Prior Restraint• Principal or administration can require changes to orremoval of content before distribution (deny studentsright to publish content)• Can be challenged legally• JEA believes prior review is a form of prior restraintbecause it leads the reviewer to censor and to studentsself-censoring to assure approval
Hazelwood - 1988• Missouri high school newspaperwanted to publish articles ondivorce and teen pregnancy (1983).Pseudonyms used for quotedstudents• Principal reviewed articles on nightbefore going to print and cut thetwo-page spread they were onbecause there was not enough timeto change them to protect identitiesbetter. Students found out when thepaper returned from the printers.• Three students sued.
Hazelwood - 1988•School officials can censor student speech for “reasonableeducational justification”•Defined distinction between student expression in a “publicforum” versus “non-public forum”•Hazelwood publication found not to exist in a public forum sostudents were allowed a lower level of First Amendmentprotection•Private schools not affected
Public Forum• Includes extracurricular and independently producedstudent media• Have greater First Amendment protections• Not subject to Hazelwood standards
Non-public forum• School officials exercise hands-on gatekeeping authorityover editorial content• Hazelwood created the distinction between student-initiated speech and curricular speech in settings such asa student newspaper, yearbook or school play
7 states• Arkansas• California• Colorado• Iowa• Kansas• Kentucky• Massachusetts• OregonPassed laws guaranteeing all student publications have the rightto publish freely, so Hazelwood does not apply to them
Sunshine Laws• Most states (including CA) have some kindof “sunshine laws”• Their purpose is to ensure that the public hasaccess to government records andproceedings.• The government is “by the people, for thepeople, of the people,” so its proceedingsshould be transparent.
CA Sunshine Laws• Ralph M. Brown Act• CA Public Records Act
Brown Act• Applies to all CAgoverning bodies• City councils,school boards,boards ofsupervisors, etc…• Not applicable toprivate/non-profitorganizations
Brown Act• You have to give advanced notice of meetings. Evenspecial/emergency meetings need to be announced 24 hours inadvance.• Agenda should be published before, minutes after.• This happens every time there’s a quorum… even if it’s byaccident in a grocery store.
Brown Act Exceptions• Certain things they are allowed to discuss in “private”• They still have to tell you they’re going to meet and give you ageneral idea of what they will talk/talked about in theagenda/minutes• Litigation, personnel issues, hiring, etc
CA Public Records Act• You can look at state and localgovernment public records• You may have to pay a fee, butthe fee must be reasonable(cover cost of materials, etc.)• Request during office hours andreceive with in a reasonableamount of time (gray area, butabout 10 days)
CAPRA• Can’t look at personnel records (or confidentialstudent records)…• Or investigative records, trade secrets, litigation….• Some drafts of documents not yet made “official”• Material made confidential by other state or federalstatutes.
CAPRA• You CAN see police reports/ criminal history• Licenses (liquor, teaching credentials, etc)• Court records / transcripts• Megan’s Law information (sex offenders)• Public officials’ salary / benefit information
FOIA• Enacted in 1966, and taking effect on July 5, 1967, theFreedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides that anyperson has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain accessto federal agency records, except to the extent that suchrecords (or portions of them) are protected from publicdisclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of threespecial law enforcement record exclusions. (FOIA.gov)
FOIA• Really came into the spotlight after9/11• People wanted to know what thegovernment knew, how it potentiallyfailed us, and what it was going to doabout the attacks• The government didn’t want anyoneto know what it knew, how itpotentially failed us, and what it wasgoing to do (citing “security”)
FOIA• Some things aren’t public• Troop movements, real matters of public security, etc• But there are stacks and stacks of court cases regarding what’sexempt and what’s public (most dated within the last 11 years)
FOI Letter Generator• Student Press Law Center