A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: journalism

“A Desperate Need for More Protections”

AP Sign

By LASIS Staff

We recently wrote about the plight of a Fox News reporter who is being threatened with jail time for not revealing her sources. We took the opportunity to lament the absence of a federal shield law for reporters.

Though it’s a shame it took the A.P. scandal to remind our lawmakers about the importance and desirability of such a law, we’re glad a federal bill protecting reporters is being reintroduced by Senator Schumer.

An editorial in today’s New York Times says that it’s unclear at this time whether or not a federal shield law could have protected the A.P. from the administration’s intrusion.

Still, as the editorial points out: “This scandal shows that there is a desperate need for more protections of press freedoms.”

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A Great Night with Good Night and Good Luck

David Strathairn Edward R Murrow

By José I. Ortiz

Because we’re accustomed to a packed house at the Forum on Law, Culture & Society’s films and post-screening discussions, when I saw several empty seats on the chilly evening of October 22, I worried that I might have chosen the wrong night to attend. But once the evening’s film, “Good Night, and Good Luck” began, my worries were over.  I sat back and settled in for what turned out to be a truly outstanding event.

The post film panel was composed of the film’s star, David Strathairn, reporter Bob Simon of CBS’ “60 Minutes,” and Sam Roberts a New York Times editor and correspondent. Leading the discussion, as always, was the charismatic law professor Thane Rosenbaum, director of the Forum Film Festival.

The film is George Clooney’s tribute to one of the most revered journalists in our nation’s history, Edward R. Murrow. Mr. Clooney directed, co-wrote, and acted in this movie, in addition to helping to fund the film, which was made for under $8 million, a marvel of thrift when films’ budgets regularly soar into the hundreds of millions.

This is precisely what is right about this film. As a movie lover I’m one of those “cinephiles” who watch European films to indulge the side of me that wants a deeper, more “artsy” form of entertainment. “Good Night, and Good Luck” has no flashy flyover scenes or CGI explosions. In fact, the movie was filmed in black and white and made to look like it was filmed using a Kinetoscope camera, the kind used for Mr. Murrow’s own shows on CBS.

A very well spoken yet down-to-earth journalist who took his job seriously, Edward R. Murrow didn’t pander to his audience. When was the last time you listened to a reporter who was able to quote Shakespeare on a live broadcast and not sound pretentious? That was Mr. Murrow.

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The Ubiquitous Full Employment Act for Lawyers: You’re Not the First (Nor the Last) to Hear About this “Legislation”

By Jethro K. Lieberman

Come on, admit it. You’ve reacted to news that Congress or your state legislature has passed a law protecting red-beaked gnats or requiring warning labels on chewing gum as a “full employment act for lawyers.” And you’ve even been amused. Right? But don’t tell us you thought you were being original.

We just stumbled across a memo from 1988 that summarized a search for the phrase in an early news database (most likely Nexis-Lexis). More than 60 uses turned up, mostly during a two-year period from 1986. The phrase was archly planted in stories that ran in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and many other publications. Often the phrase purported to be the coinage of a source who is quoted. Bankruptcy, we are told in an Institutional Investor story, is a full-employment act for lawyers. The New York Times ran an op-ed by Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, who opined that an FCC rule requiring radio stations to be relicensed is a “full employment act for Washington communications lawyers.” A Washington Post columnist said that a local scandal was “rivaling the Wall Street insider trading mess as the best full-employment development for lawyers in years.” And — but you don’t want us to repeat 60 more of these lines, do you?

And just in case their readers were literalists, many of the writers added that their sources “joked,” “are joking” or “referred jocularly to” the benighted laws they mocked.

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Redford, Woodward, and Bernstein on Film and Truthtelling

By Trevor Timm

On September 18th three Titans of Truthtelling – two legendary journalists and one celebrated filmmaker – got together at Brooklyn’s BAM Theater to watch and then discuss one of the finest historical films ever made, All the President’s Men.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are considered journalism’s royalty. As rookie reporters for the Washington Post, they slowly, over two years and in more than two hundred articles, exposed the White House’s role in the cover-up of a burglary of Democratic headquarters at Washington’s now famous Watergate Hotel. Their reporting, widely considered the best journalistic scoop in the history of American newspapers, led to the resignation of the 37th President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon. (more…)

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