free-press   49

Think Like a Libel Lawyer
March 9, 2019 | The New York Times | By David McCraw, deputy general counsel of The New York Times.

It's the best way to keep an open mind in our “pick your side and stay on it” era.

My job, when I am doing it right, is to please no one. I’m a press lawyer. I’m paid by this newspaper to vet stories before publication.

Think of me as a story’s first and worst reader: doubtful, questioning, blind to subtlety, skeptical of the facts, regularly prodding editors and reporters to do something more or different. And if I have done my job well, many of the subjects of those same stories will be unhappy as well, but for all the reasons we want them to be: We got it right.

The basic idea of libel law is simple. A publisher can get sued for making a factual statement that proves to be false and hurts a person’s reputation.......I am all about the villains in many pieces — the doctor who botched the surgery, the insurance company that shafted its customers, the professor who hit on the student, the greedy industrialist who ground up workers to make a fortune. I try to look for the counternarrative that they could (and their lawyers will) build from the same set of facts. It’s a counterintuitive form of reading. It’s looking for the innocent explanation or the possibility that what appears to all the rest of the world to be nefarious may in fact just be a mistake made in good faith. It’s a tricky skill to take into the real world....for a libel lawyer, a little sympathy for the villain is almost an occupational requirement. And maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea for all of us in the tribalized “pick your side and stay on it” era we are living in......Libel lawyers don’t serve as the fairness police. If anything, they are more like fact cops. Coverage can be wildly unfair and still be true. .....Over the past half-decade, The Times and others had reoriented themselves to reader-centered journalism. The shift in attitude has been like opening a window after a long winter. Journalism should be done as if the readers mattered.

But in a divided America there was a risk, too — the risk that we would set our compass by what people wanted rather than giving them the journalism they needed.......It was discouraging that so many people apparently believed that the time-honored journalistic act of telling a story straight had become a problem and that The Times needed instead to take sides and coach readers on what to think.

Journalism is hard when people feel the failure to take sides is in and of itself a surrender....The great risk we face comes not in giving them (the alt-right) voice but in taking their worst instincts and making them our own.

The First Amendment gives a lot of protection to even nasty speakers.....we write about people in the news, not just the people we agree with.....that is how the First Amendment works — thanks to our “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide open,......Speakers are allowed to be provocative, colorful, contradictory and wrong.

counternarratives  counterintuitive  dark_side  facts  First_Amendment  free-press  journalism  lawyers  libel  NYT  skepticism  open_mind  villains 
march 2019 by jerryking
Today Is the 50th Anniversary of the (Re-)Birth of the First Amendment - The Atlantic
On March 9, 1964, a unanimous Supreme Court reversed a libel verdict against The New York Times in a case brought by Alabama officials who complained about a civil rights advertisement in the paper. The First Amendment, thankfully, hasn't been the same since.
free-press  first-amendment  sullivan 
february 2019 by daniel.zappala
On the UK's Equating of Journalism With Terrorism - The Intercept
Equating journalism with terrorism has a long and storied tradition. Indeed, as Jon Schwarz has documented, the U.S. Government has frequently denounced nations for doing exactly this. Just last April, Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine dramatically informed the public that many repressive, terrible nations actually “misuse terrorism laws to prosecute and imprison journalists.” When visiting Ethiopia in 2012, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns publicly disclosed that in meetings with that nation’s officials, the United States “express[ed] our concern that the application of anti-terrorism laws can sometimes undermine freedom of expression and independent media.” The same year, the State Department reported that Burundi was prosecuting a journalist under terrorism laws...It should surprise nobody that the UK is not merely included in, but is one of the leaders of, this group of nations which regularly wages war on basic press freedoms.
journalists  terrorism  secrecy  free-press 
february 2014 by altoii
Free Press
Free expression, access to information, openness, innovation and privacy. They could all disappear. Tell your policymakers to stand up and save the Internet.
Internet  freedom  free-press  NetNeutrality 
november 2013 by maw
The Evolution & State of Journalism Becomes a Key Focus in Bradley Manning’s Trial | The Dissenter
The defense in Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial was able to successfully qualify Professor Yochai Benkler of Harvard University as an expert on the “networked Fourth Estate,” who could discuss research he had done on WikiLeaks and how it fit into the “networked Fourth Estate"...What this meant was the defense could present testimony on how WikiLeaks is, in fact, a legitimate journalistic organization and not some kind of criminal enterprise worthy of the wide government investigation, which the United States Justice Department launched into the organization after it released the information Manning is charged with disclosing.
free-press  wikileaks  expert-witnesses 
july 2013 by altoii
Soldier’s Lawyers Rest Case With a Defense of WikiLeaks’ Journalistic Role -
The defense in the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning rested its case Wednesday with a Harvard law professor testifying that WikiLeaks performed a legitimate journalistic function when Private Manning gave it vast archives of secret government files...The professor, Yochai Benkler, who wrote a widely cited academic article about WikiLeaks and the evolution of watchdog journalism in the Internet era, testified that at the time of Private Manning’s leaks the group had established itself as playing a reputable and valuable journalistic role by publishing documents about corporate misconduct and government corruption around the world.
free-press  wikileaks 
july 2013 by altoii
The Ruthless Prison State » CounterPunch
This crackdown on Internet speech, largely targeting the young, is radically misguided. It takes a sledgehammer to the First Amendment and arbitrarily determines which speech is “threatening” and which is not ...It puts young people and their families through a legal nightmare straight out of Kafka, resulting in financial ruin and incalculable social and reputational damage. It takes more youths who have committed victimless “crimes” and tosses them and their futures into the merciless American Prison State...Children being arrested and called Terrorists, bail amounts set at hundreds of thousands of dollars, multiple felonies, long prison sentences: we have lost our minds. This is a flagrantly excessive and destructive assault on free speech that is racking up an impressive count of victims. Our elected leaders have gone berserk over the virtually nonexistent threat of Terrorism and they are quite obviously willing to sacrifice our most cherished values...
war-on-terror  free-press 
july 2013 by altoii
Will journalists take any steps to defend against attacks on press freedom? | Glenn Greenwald
As Calderone detailed both in his latest article and especially in a great one he wrote after the story of the DOJ's seizure of AP emails broke, the establishment media voluntarily provides the US government with all sorts of benefits, considerations, cooperation and other informal agreements that it has no obligation to provide. Media outlets constantly go to the US government before publishing stories about classified information, seek input about what they should and should not reveal, and honor government requests, oftentimes concealing vital stories clearly in the public interest. They routinely grant anonymity to government officials in the most dubious cases, allowing those officials to propagandize the public with no accountability.
journalists  free-press  obama-administration  gov-info  national-security  doj 
may 2013 by altoii
Jake Tapper On Team Obama's Outrageous Treatment of the Press
HH: So Jake Tapper, I’m very relieved to hear that, but I’m not sure I believe it. What’s your reaction to the President’s assurances that we shouldn’t be prosecuted for doing what we do?

JT: Well, here’s the thing. They aren’t prosecuting journalists. That’s not the point. Nobody has objected, James Rosen is not indicted, the Fox News reporter. The Associated Press reporters who broke their story, they’re not in trouble. The New York Times reporter, James Risen, he’s not being prosecuted. And this is the legalese and the lawyers in the Obama administration, whether it’s President Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder, are leaning on. The problem isn’t that journalists are being prosecuted. They’re not. We’re not. The problem is that people in leak investigations are not able to find out where the leaks are coming from by investigating people who have the sensitive information. So what they’re doing is they are targeting the journalists in question who are printing stories about things that the government doesn’t want them to be printing. Sometimes, you could make an argument that it’s a state, you know, it’s a matter of national security. Other times, it’s obviously just things that the government’s embarrassed about or doesn’t want to get out on the reporter’s terms. They target the reporter, they get a judge to sign off on a warrant to search the private email accounts of this reporter, and that is, in the view of many people who advocate for a free and fair press, a violation of the guarantee of a free press. That’s not, that’s really the issue. So when Eric Holder said in his Congressional testimony that he wouldn’t, you know, that he doesn’t know of any cases where journalists are being prosecuted, that’s technically correct. But that doesn’t mean that what they’re doing is right, because what it does is, it has a chilling effect on what journalists do, because then…
Free-Press  Media  Press  Jake-Tapper  Barack-Obama  Eric-Holder  tcot 
may 2013 by Flap
A rare peek into a Justice Department leak probe - The Washington Post
When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material...They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.
leaks  journalists  obama-administration  doj  free-press 
may 2013 by altoii
Obama DOJ formally accuses journalist in leak case of committing crimes | Glenn Greenwald
Under US law, it is not illegal to publish classified information. That fact, along with the First Amendment's guarantee of press freedoms, is what has prevented the US government from ever prosecuting journalists for reporting on what the US government does in secret. This newfound theory of the Obama DOJ - that a journalist can be guilty of crimes for "soliciting" the disclosure of classified information - is a means for circumventing those safeguards and criminalizing the act of investigative journalism itself. These latest revelations show that this is not just a theory but one put into practice, as the Obama DOJ submitted court documents accusing a journalist of committing crimes by doing this.
obama-administration  free-press  leaks  classified-docs  journalists 
may 2013 by altoii

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