Monday, May 16, 2005

Two-Minute Miner

Miner actually covers a relevant topic this week -- laws governing what journalists can and can't print -- but of course he manages to hopelessly muddle the issue. Here's a quick guide to the story so that anyone following recent First Amendment news can skip to the worthwhile parts.

Paragraph 1: Misc. bloviation -- skippable
Paragraphs 2-6: There was this Pennsylvania case that addressed the issue of what reporters can and can't quote. One of the justices in that case made a distinction between two different standards: the "fair report privilege" and the "neutral report privilege." (Here's a readable discussion of these two concepts. Skip down to paragraph 7.) The "fair report privilege" is a pillar of common law.
Paragraph 7: In March, the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court undermined the fair report privilege. The occasion was a libel suit against "Start" magazine, a Carol Stream, Ill.-based trade journal.
Paragraphs 8-12: Details of the court case. Skippable? Hint: It centers around a "system by which central computers communicate with a factory's array of automated machinery."
Paragraph 13: The 3 appellate judges, especially Judge Anne Burke, seemed to be awfully aggressive in their efforts to limit the fair report privilege. Ultimately they charged "Start" with defamation, even though it hadn't done anything you or I would consider wrong.
Paragraphs 14-19: The Reader, the Trib, the Illinois Press Association and Copley Press filed a brief supporting Start magazine. The brief cited precedents supporting the fair report privilege.
Paragraphs 20-23: In other news, the Reader didn't lend its support to Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper in the Valerie Plame case. The Reader feels this case may prod the Supreme Court to restrict reporters' ability to protect their sources.

Hope this helps.


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