Law and Ethics for Today's Journalist : A Concise Guide book cover
1st Edition

Law and Ethics for Today's Journalist
A Concise Guide

ISBN 9780765640765
Published October 30, 2013 by Routledge
240 Pages

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Book Description

Law and Ethics for Today's Journalist offers aspiring and working journalists the practical understanding of law and ethics they must have to succeed at their craft. Instead of covering every nuance of media law for diverse communications majors, Mathewson focuses exclusively on what's relevant for journalists. Even though media law and media ethics are closely linked together in daily journalistic practice, they are usually covered in separate volumes. Mathewson brings them together in a clear and colourful way that practicing journalists will find more useful. Everything a journalist needs to know about legal protections, limitations, and risks inherent in workaday reporting is illustrated with highlights from major court opinions.

Mathewson advises journalists who must often make ethical decisions on the spot with no time for the elaborate, multi-faceted analysis. The book assigns to journalists the hard decisions on ethical questions such as whether to go undercover or otherwise misrepresent themselves in order to get a big story. The ethics chapter precedes the law chapters because ethical standards should underlie a journalist's work at all times. There may be occasions when ethics and law are not parallel, thus calling for the journalist to make a personal judgment. Law and Ethics for Today's Journalist is user-friendly, written in clear, direct, understandable language on issues that really matter to a working journalist. Supplementary reading of the actual court cases is recommended and links to most cases are provided in the text. The text includes a fine (but purposely not exhaustive) bibliography listing important and useful legal cases, including instructive appellate and trial court opinions, state as well as federal.

Table of Contents

To the Reader: An Introduction

1. Courts and the Legal System
Sources of American Law
State and Federal Courts
Types of Law
Civil Law and Criminal Law
Anatomy of a Lawsuit
Court Opinions

2. Ethics, Root and Branch
Opportunities Forfeited
Success Under a Cloud
Classical Ethics
Professional Codes of Conduct
Concealment and Confidentiality
Conflict of Interest

3. Prior Restraint
Seditious Libel
Declarations of Press Freedom
Press Freedom Sustained
Prior Restraint Isn't Totally Gone

4. Libel
Seditious Libel and Civil Libel
New York Times v. Sullivan
Public Figures, Too
Private Plaintiffs
Actual Malice Proved
The Wall Street Journal in Error
Proof of Libel
Defenses to Libel
Product Disparagement
Internet Libel

5. Invasion of Privacy
American Origins
Five Privacy Torts
Intrusion upon Seclusion
Disclosure of Embarrassing Private Facts

6. Less Common Invasion of Privacy Torts
False Light
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Defenses to Invasion of Privacy Claims
Libel Plus Invasion of Privacy

7. Fair Trial v. Free Press
Prejudicial Pretrial Publicity
Gag Orders
Closed Courtrooms
Access to Court Documents
Cameras in Court
Crime Coverage

8. Anonymous Sources and the Journalist's Privilege
Federal Law
State Law

9. Copyright
The Copyright Act
Fair Use
Digital Millenium Copyright Act
On Using Fair Use

10. Access to Government Documents and Meetings
Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1966
Open Meetings
Access to Prisons

11. Broadcast Regulation
Ownership Rules
Content Regulation
Cable and Internet Regulation

12. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
Opening Wedge
Citizens United and Hillary
Super PACs
Hard Money and Soft Money
"Social Welfare" Organizations
Follow the Money

13. The Ethical Journalist
Promises, Promises
No Government Discrimination
Today's Environment

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Joe Mathewson teaches courses in the ethics and law of journalism in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. As a former Supreme Court correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, he is author of The Supreme Court and the Press: The Indispensable Conflict (2011, Northwestern University Press). He’s a contributor to, having written pieces on Chicago-based Supreme Court cases involving prominent lawyers. In Chicago, Mathewson covered business for The Wall Street Journal, was a WBBM-TV reporter, and served as press secretary to Illinois Gov. Richard B. Ogilvie. He authored a book on Chicago politics, Up Against Daley (1974), as well as op-eds and Sunday magazine articles for the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times. He has been a Cook County commissioner, a director of several community banks, an officer of a minority-owned broker-dealer, and a securities arbitrator for the National Association of Securities Dealers. Mathewson has degrees from Dartmouth and the University of Chicago Law School, and did graduate work in European politics and economies at the Bologna (Italy) Center of John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He has served ten years as a trustee of Dartmouth College.


"Mathewson's Law and Ethics for Today's Journalist is long overdue--featuring concise, practical coverage of media law and ethics that journalism instructors have been searching for. No longer will I have to adapt texts created mainly for law students to suit a class of journalists in training. The landmark First Amendment cases are here, as are the big ideas and ethical dilemmas reporters are bound to face on the ground. The research is thorough, the writing is clear, and students will learn plenty." -- Dick Lehr, Boston University

"Law and Ethics for Today's Journalist covers the essential areas of journalism law including libel, privacy, and access while retaining a sense of broader media law context. With universities moving toward merged law and ethics courses, Mathewson effectively tackles the challenge of creating a text that adequately serves both areas by paring down and sharpening the content to the most relevant information." -- Jason A. Martin, DePaul University

"Mathewson's book is well-written and concise, making its discussions of important journalism cases accessible to the average journalism student. Its focus on practical legal and ethical advice for the working journalist also makes it an excellent choice for any professor teaching a combined ethics and law class to journalism students." -- Derigan Silver, University of Denver

"Mathewson provides an excellent summary of legal issues that can affect working journalists ... Written from a working journalist's perspective, the book offers a pragmatic approach to the legal conundrums reporters and editors might face while pursuing stories. Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates, professionals, general readers." -- Choice