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Bulletin Archive

Spring 2009

Bulletin Spring 2009

Top Story

An Exclusive Report from the Silha Center: Cameras Monitor Minnesota Recount Trial
As Minnesota’s experiment with cameras in the courtroom during the Coleman­Franken recount trial drew to a close on March 12, 2009 after 34 days of testimony, news outlets across the country had produced thousands of stories about the fight between Norm Coleman and Al Franken over Minnesota’s empty Senate seat. Continue reading

Supreme Court News

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Leaves FCC’s Ban on Fleeting Expletives in Place
In a 5 to 4 ruling handed down April 28, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision that found that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) rule change on “fleeting expletives,” was “arbitrary and capricious.” Continue reading

U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Animal Cruelty Video Case
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that will ask whether depictions of animal cruelty should join the few categories of speech not protected by the First Amendment, like obscenity, “fighting words,” and child pornography. Continue reading

FOIA and Access

Obama’s Policies Promote Openness; Some Secrecy Persists
Barely three months into its first term, the Obama administration continued its trend toward an increasingly open federal government by announcing new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policies and the release of previously unavailable photos and memoranda from the Justice Department regarding treatment of terrorism suspects. Continue reading

1st Circuit Blocks Live Webcast of File­Sharing Trial
The 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overruled a Massachusetts federal district judge April 16, 2009 and barred live webcasting of a prominent file­sharing lawsuit brought by several record companies against a Boston University graduate student. Continue reading

Wisconsin Group Sues Newspaper, Alleges Exclusive Right to Coverage of High School Sports
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) filed a declaratory judgment action in state court Dec. 5, 2008 asserting exclusive ownership of all pictures, video, and written accounts of the Wisconsin high school athletic events it organizes. Continue reading

Coach Apologizes after Threat to Ban Student Reporters
The head football coach at the University of Wisconsin ­ Whitewater apologized to the student newspaper April 23, 2009, one day after threatening to ban student reporters from covering the football team in an angry outburst motivated by a critical editorial. Continue reading

Veterans Affairs Seizes, Returns Radio Reporter’s Equipment at D.C. Medical Center
On April 10, 2009, the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) returned a digital memory card to a radio reporter after confiscating it while the reporter interviewed a veteran at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Continue reading

Minnesota Legislature Toys with Secrecy Measures
The Minnesota House of Representatives recognized Sunshine Week 2009 with a unanimous resolution affirming constitutional rights to “freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” but media law commentators questioned the depth of that conviction, pointing to actions designed to increase secrecy earlier in the session. Continue reading

Endangered Journalists

Two American Journalists Arrested, to Face Trial in North Korea
Two American journalists arrested by North Korean border guards on March 17, 2009 will be put on trial June 4 for entering the country illegally and committing “hostile acts.” Continue reading

Saberi Released from Prison in Iran, Sentence Suspended
Iranian­American freelance journalist Roxana Saberi was released from prison on May 11, 2009 after an Iranian appellate court issued a two­year suspended sentence in her espionage trial. Continue reading

RNC Update: Report Faults Police on Media Planning; Legal Fallout Continues
St. Paul officials continue to face fallout from the September 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC). Continue reading

Subpoenas and Shield Laws

Judge Rules in Ashenfelter’s Favor on Fifth Amendment; Reporter Protects Sources and Avoids Contempt Order
A U.S. District Court Judge in Michigan ruled April 21, 2009 that Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter could refuse to answer questions about confidential sources based on the Fifth Amendment right against compelled self incrimination. Continue reading

Texas Enacts Shield Law
Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a journalist’s shield bill into law on May 13, 2009, making Texas the 36th state, as well as the District of Columbia, to adopt a statutory testimonial privilege for reporters. Continue reading


Did Financial Journalists Misjudge the Economic Downturn?
As commentators continue to explore the sources of the economic downturn in the United States, critics of fi nancial news reporters as well as business journalists themselves are saying little was done to predict the current problem. Continue reading

Los Angeles Times Criticized over Ads that Look Like Newspaper Stories
In July 2009, a federal judge in Los Angeles threw out a criminal case against a Missouri woman convicted of computer fraud stemming from a 2006 hoax on the Web site MySpace targeting a teenage girl, who later committed suicide. Continue reading


1st Circuit Denies Rehearing in Libel Case Disallowing Truth as An Absolute Defense
The 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied a petition for rehearing en banc brought by the office supply company Staples March 18, leaving in place a panel decision that permitted the plaintiff to continue a defamation lawsuit even though the allegedly defamatory statements are true. Continue reading

Silha Events

Silha Spring Ethics Forum and SPJ Town Hall Meeting Address Health Journalism’s ‘Fever Pitch’
As media coverage of an imminent swine flu pandemic raised concerns around the world, about 80 community members, journalists, journalism students, and professors gathered to discuss health news reporting at a spring ethics forum and town hall meeting titled “Fever Pitch: Does Health News Reporting Leave Consumers Out in the Cold?” Continue reading

Speakers Meet at the Intersection of Law Enforcement and Digital Privacy at Silha Spring Forum
At a March 25 Silha Spring Forum, Stephen Cribari, a criminal and constitutional law professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, said an ever­changing digital landscape has raised questions about constitutional interpretation. Continue reading