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Mass Media Law

The Printing Press to the Internet

Arthur S. Hayes

Digital media law is now the dynamic legal territory. Mass Media Law: The Printing Press to the Internet is a textbook designed to introduce students to the panoply of legal theories raised by the Internet revolution as well as those supporting traditional media. The book takes a historical approach beginning with the printing press and the telegraph and proceeding to the digital technologies of today, such as social media and search engines. Concepts such as defamation, broadcast regulation, privacy, and free expression are covered along with new media legal theories including Internet exceptionalism, cyber libertarianism, and digital speech and democratic culture. These are introduced to explain why traditional theories such as First Amendment medium-specific analysis, common carriage, and network neutrality are just as relevant today as they were in the early twentieth century. In order to help readers develop critical reasoning skills, each chapter opens with a highly readable realworld vignette and goes on to identify and explain legal doctrines and tests. Key passages from court opinions are highlighted, and each chapter closes with a list of online media law resources and thought-provoking questions, including legal hypotheticals, to give readers a solid understanding of the area in question. Mass Media Law is designed to be the main text and a valuable resource for undergraduate and graduate courses covering media, mass communication, free expression, and journalism law.


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8. Reporter’s Privilege


C H A P T E R E I G H T Reporter’s Privilege CONTROVERSY: Without exaggeration, the Medill Innocence Project is unique. Its news reporters are Northwestern University journalism students. Their investigations led to the release of 11 wrongly convicted men from prison, five of them from death row, the suspension of the Illinois death penalty in 2000 and its abolishment in 2011. Of all the news reporters in all the world, few have had such a life- and social-policy-chang- ing impact. But were the students really journalists? They interviewed, investigated, wrote, and published like journalists. But were they conducting journalism as defined by the Illinois Reporter’s Privilege Act, a shield law, which grants news reporters the privilege of keeping unpublished information secret? The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said the students did not qualify as news reporters under the state shield law and subpoenaed their professor, David Protess, in 2009. The prosecutors wanted Protess to hand over, among other evidence, his grading criteria, student grades and notes related to the project’s probe into the conviction of Anthony McKinney, who was seeking to overturn a life sentence for murder. Protess refused to comply. Newspapers, news agencies, and journalism groups filed amici briefs in support of the project. In September 2011, a Cook County Judge rejected the Project’s arguments. Generally, student journalists may invoke the protections of the state shield law, but the Innocent Project students did not qualify as journalists because they acted as criminal investigators under the direction...

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