February 19, 2005
Judge Wins Defamation Suit Against Boston Herald, Reporter
Judge Ernest B. Murphy has won his libel suit against the Boston Herald and its reporter David Wedge. A jury decided this week that Wedge had misquoted him, leading to threats against the judge and members of his family. It awarded the judge $2.1 million. On the stand, the reporter claimed that he had tried to reach the judge to verify the accuracy of his stories, but had been unable to do so. Wedge's stories began running in the Boston Herald in 2002. The Herald has not indicated whether it plans to appeal. See coverage of the trial on the First Amendment Center's website here, here, here, here, and here.
February 18, 2005
Judge in Jackson Case Releases Juror Questionnaire
Judge Rodney Melville has released the eight page questionnaire which potential jurors in the Michael Jackson trial filled out, revealing among other things whether they had heard about the 1993/1994 investigation carried out against Jackson by the authorities (see question #37). The questionnaire, which the media have been eager to see, is available here.
February 17, 2005
Senator McCain Introduces "Broadcasting Reform Legislation"
Saying that " if a local candidate wants to be on television, and cannot afford to advertise, his only hope may be to have a freak accident", John McCain (R-Ariz.) has introduced the Localism in Broadcasting Reform Act of 2005, which would require broadcasters to renew their licenses every three years, down from the present 8 year cycle. As partial support for his contention that some broadcasters are not meeting their obligations to serve the public interest, McCain cited a recent report by the Norman Lear Center at the Annenberg Center of the University of Southern California. Read the Center's report here.
The Center hosts an impressive array of resources, including pages on the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture and extensive reports on issues of the day. See for example the Center's Local News Archive, a joint project with the University of Wisconsin.
February 16, 2005
House Votes to Raise Fines For Indecency on the Airwaves
The House of Representatives today voted to raise fines to a maximum of $500,000 per incident as outlined in H. R. 310, the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005. The vote was 389 to 38. The bipartisan bill has 67 co-sponsors.
February 15, 2005
Court of Appeals Affirms Lower Court Ruling: Miller and Cooper Must Comply With Grand Jury Subpoena
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has affirmed the decision of the United States District Court for the DC Circuit in the matter of Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper, two reporters who refused to disclose the sources who revealed information to them, including that concerning the identity of a C.I.A. agent revealed to be Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of diplomat Joseph Wilson. The court found that the government had established that "no First Amendment privilege protect[s] the evidence sought. We further conclude that if any...common law privilege exists, it is not absolute, and in this case has been overcome by the filings of the Special Counsel with the District Court." Read the opinion here.
February 14, 2005
Michigan Appeals Court Rules Against Newspaper
In a 2-1 ruling, the Michigan Court of Appeals has held that Eastern Michigan University does not have to release a letter dealing with the construction of the university President's new house. Using MCL 15.243, the Ann Arbor News had sought a copy of the letter discussing the cost of the building; when the school denied it, the paper filed a motion to compel disclosure of the letter. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's denial of the request, ruling that the trial court was within its discretion to rule that, among other things, the material in the letter was of a nature that fell within the "frank communications" exception of the state FOIA statute. The case is Herald Co. v. Eastern Michigan University.
February 13, 2005
MPAA, Website Operator Settle Lawsuit
The Motion Picture Association of America and Edward Webber, who ran a website through which the MPAA said users could download pirated copies of films, have settled a lawsuit over Webber's activities, which the MPAA and its members allege constitute copyright infringement. Among other things, Webber agreed to pay a hefty fine and turn over his domain name, http://www.lokitorrent.com/, to the MPAA, which now warns visitors of the dangers of pirating copyrighted materials. Read more here.
New York Times Article Examines History of PR Involvement With Government, Other Clients
In today's New York Times, Timothy L. O'Brien writes about the history of public relations firms and consultants and the rise of concerns over p. r. ethics. He uses the the current flap over Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher as a jumping-off point, but examines the public relations business as far back as the early 20th century for insights into today's ethical and legal issues. See the article online at the Times website.