Editorial

A scary Halloween

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On Halloween, I was having one of those days when I just wanted to plant my forehead on my keyboard.

The previous week’s headlines had included a mind-boggling number of examples of public officials behaving in not just a stupid way; but in an outrageously stupid way. Consider these examples:

In Washington, D.C., you can be thrown in jail for taking more than five minutes to take a photograph on public property. A delayed-shutter night shot of the Washington Monument? Forget about it.

Lessons from Wye River

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From the Summer 2011 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 1.

New York Times reporter James Risen and his attorneys pulled a journalistic and legal coup in late July that many media law experts thought was nearly impossible: A federal judge quashed a criminal trial subpoena asking him to identify a confidential source who allegedly leaked classified information to him.

Transparency in the statehouses

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From the Spring 2011 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 1.

I should have known that the pro-transparency campaign promises spewed from the lips of political candidates during the 2010 election season were too good to be true. In fact, I probably should have my head examined because I naively believed many of those promises.

As our cover story reports, the collapse of the transparency promises once the candidates took office has been nothing short of astonishing.

Covering the border wars

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From the Winter 2011 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 1.

The Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a reporter. As difficult as it sometimes is for American reporters to get access to government meetings, records and court proceedings, at least they don’t get jailed, beaten, shot or beheaded when covering a corrupt American politician or drug boss.

The future of news

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From the Fall 2010 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 1.

One of the primary (and certainly most enjoyable) duties as executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is to attend and speak at journalism and legal conferences across the country. The benefits of attending these events are obvious: I get to spread the word about the Reporters Committee’s services to journalists and potential funders, and attendees hopefully learn something about media law.

Shield law should not be blocked over Wikileaks

Anonymous information dumps are not journalism
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From the Summer 2010 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 1.

It was only a matter of time before someone used the Internet to anonymously spread sensitive classified information collected by the United States and other governments.

And it’s not surprising that it was Wikileaks, a website founded in 2006 by Australian Julian Assange as a repository for secret information collected by self-styled “whistleblowers” from around the world, that in July dumped more than 90,000 Afghanistan war reports onto the Internet.

Changing times, changing committee

Reporters Committee celebrates its 40th year
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From the Spring 2010 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 1.

The Reporters Committee celebrated an important milestone last spring — it’s 40th Anniversary.

The organization was born of a very simple idea — reporters helping other reporters besieged by subpoenas seeking confidential newsgathering information.

Barely transparent

Obama administration only scratches surface
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From the Winter 2010 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 1.

I’ve never thought it was fun, or even very productive to file request after request after request for records under the federal Freedom of Information Act. I don’t have the patience to wait month after month, or even year after year, for the feds to get me what I want. Yet I know there is no other law on the books that is as important to self-governance as FOIA.

Jack Nelson was a journalist

Reporters Committee co-founder championed a federal shield law, but didn’t see it passed
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From the Fall 2009 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 1.

As I write this column, negotiations between key lawmakers, media leaders and the White House appear to have resulted in agreement on compromise language for a federal shield law.

Protecting kids from shadowy justice

With so much at stake, the public needs a window into the juvenile courtroom
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From the Summer 2009 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 1.

For three years in the early 1980s, I pulled the general assignment beat at the St. Paul Pioneer Press every Sunday afternoon. As anyone who has ever been the only human being in a newsroom hour after hour can tell you, you're either bored out of your skull or overwhelmed by the sheer volume of news.