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Bulletin Archive

Bulletin Fall 2008

Top Story

Dozens of Journalists Arrested at Republican National Convention in St. Paul
Dozens of journalists were among the more than 800 people arrested during the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC) held in St. Paul and Minneapolis September 1 ­ 4, prompting questions about whether police and security organizers responded appropriately to allow the news media to do their job while controlling protests. Continue reading

Election 2008

Sen. Coleman Bans Alternative Media from Press Conference
Faced with a three­minute barrage of questions from reporters about whether U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (R­Minn.) received gifts of clothing from businessman Nasser Kazeminy, a spokesman for his re­election campaign refused to explicitly deny the report, saying the campaign will not respond to bloggers. Continue reading

Minnesota News Organizations Granted Access for Exit Polling by Federal Judge
On Oct. 15, 2008 a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of a Minnesota law requiring anyone not voting or registering to vote on election day to remain 100 feet away from the building where voting is being conducted. Continue reading

Bias or Reality? Media Critics Assess Positive Obama Coverage and Negative McCain Coverage
In the days before the presidential election on Nov. 4, 2008, some media critics suggested the press might be too eager to call the election in favor of Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D­Ill.), but others said that coverage reflected reality rather than partisan bias. Continue reading

Journalists and Subpoenas

Judge Orders Michigan Reporter to Give Up Sources in Privacy Act Case
A U.S. District Court judge in Michigan ordered Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter to reveal the identity of confidential sources Aug. 28, 2008, holding there is no constitutional or common law testimonial privilege for journalists in the 6th Circuit. Continue reading

Pennsylvania High Court Upholds ‘Absolute’ Shield Law
Pennsylvania’s highest court refused to adopt a “crime­fraud exception” to the state’s statutory shield law Sept. 24, 2008, holding that the statute’s “unambiguous” text provides an absolute shield for reporters to protect the identity of confidential sources. Continue reading

FBI Apologizes to Washington Post, New York Times over Phone Records Breach
On Aug. 8, 2008, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert S. Mueller apologized to the executive editors of The Washington Post and The New York Times for obtaining the telephone records of some of the newspapers’ reporters in 2004 without following special procedures required by the Department of Justice. Continue reading

State Trial Courts Hold Shield Laws Protect Anonymous Reader Comments on Web Sites
State trial courts in Montana and Oregon have held that their respective statutory shield laws protect the identities of anonymous online commenters who participate in discussions on newspaper Web sites. Continue reading

Court Throws Out Locy Contempt Order
The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit threw out a contempt order against former USA Today reporter Toni Locy on November 17, several months after the lawsuit in which she was called to testify was settled out of court. Continue reading

New Jersey Shield Law Protects Author of Trump Biography
New Jersey appellate court ruled on Oct. 24, 2008 that a former New York Times reporter who wrote a book about Donald Trump does not have to reveal the identity of his confidential sources. Continue reading

FOIA and Access

Detainee Abuse Photos Ordered Released
The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 22, 2008 that the Department of Defense cannot withhold 21 photographs depicting abusive treatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan under the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552. Continue reading

Roundup: Government E­mails as Public Records
Several state and federal cases in the summer and fall of 2008 underscored the need to define the parameters of public access policies and retention procedures regarding government employee e­mails. Continue reading

Detroit Newspapers Sue for Release of Text Messages in Mayoral Sex Scandal
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick resigned on Sept. 4, 2008 and began a 4­month jail sentence on October 29 after the release of text messages exchanged between himself and a staffer led Kilpatrick to plead guilty to perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Continue reading
City Officials Refuse to Release Address­Specific Flood Damage Data City officials in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, have refused to release information about federal payments made to homeowners whose dwellings were damaged by floods during the summer of 2008, according to a story in the Aug. 31, 2008 Cedar Rapids Gazette. Continue reading

Gag Order Lifted on California Paper Seeking to Cover its Own Trial
A gag order meant to halt a California newspaper from reporting on its own trial lasted 10 days before a state appeals court ordered it vacated, saying the trial court “cannot possibly justify the censorship imposed.” Continue reading

FCC News

Comcast to Appeal FCC’s Decision on Internet Network Blocking
Internet service provider Comcast Corporation filed an appeal on Sept. 4, 2008 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking the reversal of an order from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requiring Comcast to stop secretly blocking peer- to­peer applications over its broadband networks. Continue reading


Malaysian Government Faces Criticism over Jailed Blogger
The Malaysian government released the editor of a news Web site who was detained under a national security law for criticizing Islam after a court ruled his detention was illegal. Continue reading

In State of Emergency, Thai Government Blocks Web Sites but Not Mainstream Media
Anti­government protests in Thailand in September 2008 resulted in a declaration of a state of emergency by Thailand’s prime minister on Sept. 2, 2008. Continue reading

New Media

Judge Lifts Restraining Order; Students May Discuss Transit Security Research
A federal judge in Boston ruled Aug. 19, 2008 that three Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students can publicly discuss the findings of a research project that explains how to manipulate the state’s electronic payment system for transit fares. Continue reading

YouTube Bans Videos that ‘Incite Violence’
Popular video sharing Web site YouTube adopted a policy banning videos “intended to incite violence or encourage dangerous, illegal activities” on Sept. 11, 2008, several months after Sen. Joe Lieberman (I­Conn.) pressured the site and its owner, Google, to remove content he said was “designed to incite violence against America and Americans or that show graphic violence against American troops and others.” Continue reading


Federal Judge Says Copyright Owners Must Consider Fair Use Before Sending Takedown Notices
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled Aug. 20, 2008 that copyright owners must determine whether online content makes fair use of a copyright before demanding a host Web site remove the content. Continue reading

Blogger Arrested for Posting Unreleased Guns N’ Roses Songs
Federal police arrested a blogger on Aug. 27, 2008 for streaming nine songs from “Chinese Democracy,” an as­yet unreleased album from the band Guns N’ Roses, on the Internet. He has plead not guilty to the charges. Continue reading

Student Media and Speech

8th Circuit Rules Students May Wear Black Armbands to Protest School Policy
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled Sept. 2, 2008 that students have a right to protest by wearing black armbands to school, calling a 40­year­old landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on the same issue “dispositive.” Continue reading

Facing Censorship, College Students Quit School Paper and Launch Independent Web Site
In the fallout from a conflict between Quinnipiac University officials and student journalists over posting breaking news stories on the Internet, members of The Quinnipiac Chronicle staff left to form the Quad News, an independent online publication. Continue reading


State Courts Issue Libel Verdicts against Local Media Outlets
A mid­level Pennsylvania appeals court upheld a $3.5 million libel verdict against a Pennsylvania newspaper Sept. 18, 2008, ruling that it negligently defamed a businessman and one of his companies. Continue reading

House Passes Libel Tourism Bill; Illinois Enacts Its Own Law
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on September 27 that would change federal law to prohibit U.S. enforcement of certain foreign defamation judgments. Continue reading

International Libel Roundup
A Senegalese court sentenced a newspaper publisher to three years in prison for including “false reports” in an article claiming the president and his son had stolen government funds. Continue reading


Florida Supreme Court Unanimously Rejects False Light Invasion of Privacy
The Florida Supreme Court declined to recognize the tort of false light invasion of privacy on Oct. 23, 2008 in a unanimous opinion that held the tort’s chilling effect on protected speech outweighed its potential to create a new remedy for a narrow class of wrongs. Continue reading

Media Ethics

False Online News Reports Drive Plunges in United Airlines and Apple Stock
It began early Sunday morning, Sept. 7, 2008, when somebody searched the archives of the South Florida Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and clicked on an old article from the Chicago Tribune about a company called UAL’s 2002 bankruptcy filing. Continue reading

Texas Weekly Folds after Plagiarism Accusation
A small Texas weekly newspaper shut down in August 2008 after plagiarizing dozens of stories from publications such as online magazine Slate and USA Today. Continue reading

DVD About Radical Islam Delivered to Swing State Homes via Newspaper Inserts
A documentary film about radical Islam that was distributed to approximately 28 million homes as a DVD insert in about 70 newspapers and through direct mail sparked controversy over the film’s content as well as the political motives behind its targeted distribution. Continue reading

Record Fine for BBC over Phone­in Scams
On July 30, 2008, the British Office of Communications (Ofcom) announced that a record 400,000 British pounds in fines had been levied against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in connection with phone­in competition violations that occurred on various programs on the network from 2005 to 2007. Continue reading

Silha Center Events

2008 Silha Lecturer Says Media Organizations Need Ombuds
Silha Lecturer Siobhain Butterworth was introduced as “a member of an endangered species.” Continue reading

FCC Legal Adviser Defends Ownership Rules at Silha Fall Forum
Despite intense opposition based on “as much passion and emotion as reason,” a lawyer for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) argued that the recent decision to relax the 32­ year­old ban on joint ownership of media outlets would improve news coverage through the combination of resources at the Silha Fall Forum Oct. 23, 2008. Continue reading