University of Minnesota
Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law
myU OneStop

Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law home page.


Bulletin Summer 2009

Top Story

Subpoenas to Unmask Anonymous Internet Users Continue to Challenge News Media and Courts
Subpoenas involving anonymous online speakers are testing the limits of the journalist’s privilege and state shield laws, while courts across the country continue to develop standards for when anonymous speakers should be unmasked. Continue reading

Supreme Court News

Critics, Commentators, and Cases Offer Few Glimpses at Sotomayor’s Position on Media Law
Examinations of the career of recently confirmed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor provide mixed answers to the question of whether she will be a friend or foe to journalists and media organizations in her interpretation of the First Amendment and freedom of information laws. Continue reading

Journalist Subpoenas and Shield Laws

Blogger Cannot Claim New Jersey Shield Law
In a case of first impression, a New Jersey trial court judge ruled June 30, 2009 that a blogger and online commenter who was sued for defamation could not claim the state’s journalist shield law to protect the confidential sources she used as a basis for publishing allegedly defamatory statements about a corporation. Continue reading

California Court Rules State Shield Law Protects Student Photojournalist
A California judge ruled on July 15, 2009 that a student photojournalist who witnessed a murder on a San Francisco street is covered by California’s reporter shield law and does not have to turn his photos over to police. Continue reading

FOIA and Access

Obama and Courts Seek Balance between National Security and Transparency in Terrorism Cases
The Obama administration continued to fight the release of some Bush­era classified detainee treatment materials, while releasing redacted versions of others in response to FOIA requests. Continue reading

White House Continues to Resist Open Government Group’s FOIA Requests
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled on May 19 that the White House Office of Administration (OA) is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Continue reading

College Sports Programs Cite FERPA in Withholding Information
An extensive and ongoing investigation by The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch has reported that the nation’s biggest athletic programs interpret a federal law meant to guard students’ privacy in widely different ways. Continue reading

Courts, Police Decline to Extend Privileges to Reporters
State and federal courts declined to extend a First Amendment right of access to accident scenes, protests, and school property for members of the media in the spring and summer of 2009. Continue reading

Endangered Journalists

North Korea Releases American Journalists; Iran Detains Freelancer
On August 4, 2009, American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were granted a “special pardon” by the North Korean government and released from custody after being detained for over four months. Continue reading

Russia: Politkovskaya Murder Trial to be Reheard; Prominent Activist and Reporter Killed
Russia’s Supreme Court overturned the acquittals of three men accused of involvement in the 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya on June 25, 2009, ordering a retrial. Continue reading


Irish Supreme Court Upholds Journalists’ Right to Keep Source Confidential
The Supreme Court of Ireland has unanimously upheld the right of two Irish Times journalists to refuse to appear before a government tribunal and reveal their source for a 2006 report on a government corruption investigation. Continue reading

Northern Irish Reporter can Keep IRA Sources Secret; British High Court Rules Blogger Cannot Remain Anonymous
In June 2009, one British court upheld a print journalist’s request to keep her sources secret, while another court refused to grant an injunction that would have prevented the unmasking of an anonymous blogger. Continue reading


Media Blogger Charged with Inciting Attacks on Judges, Lawmakers
New Jersey blogger and Internet radio host Hal Turner is facing state and federal charges for separate inflammatory posts on his blog: one regarding Connecticut state legislators and another involving three judges on the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Continue reading

Judge Dismisses Ruling against Mother in MySpace Suicide Case
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

Courts Rule Leagues Cannot Keep Stats Out of Fantasy Sports
A federal judge in Minnesota ruled on April 28, 2009 that CBS does not have to pay to use the names and statistics of National Football League players in its fantasy football league because the information is in the public domain. Continue reading


Juries Assess Large Damages against Music File Sharers in Minnesota and Massachusetts
Separate juries in Minneapolis and Boston assessed statutory damages totaling over $2.5 million against people accused of illegally downloading and sharing music in the first two file- sharing copyright cases to go to trial. Continue reading

Judge Blocks Publication of Salinger Spinoff Book
A federal district judge prevented publication of a book promoted as a sequel to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (Catcher), finding it bears too many similarities to the classic novel without providing sufficient critique or parody. Continue reading

Student Media

High School Administrators Hold Back Yearbooks, Magazines
With the close of another school year, several high school magazines and yearbooks around the country raised the ire of school administrators over their content and the conduct of their staff. Continue reading

Media Ethics

Ethical Questions Surround Times Decision to Keep Rohde Kidnapping Secret
Pulitzer Prize­winning New York Times reporter David Rohde and a fellow reporter escaped from their Taliban captors on June 19, 2009, after being held captive in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan for over seven months. Continue reading

Uproar Follows Revelation of Washington Post ‘Salons’ Sponsored by Lobbyists
In early July 2009, an ethical controversy led Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth to cancel plans for a series of “salons” underwritten by lobbyists willing to pay as much as $250,000 for private, off­the­record access to lawmakers and journalists, saying that The Post’s business side misrepresented the newspaper’s intent in hosting the events. Continue reading

Murdoch­owned British Paper Embroiled in Phone Scandal Media Mogul Denies Paying to Settle Suits
The British tabloid News of the World, published by a subsidiary of media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, paid about $1.6 million to settle various lawsuits involving allegations of phone hacking by its reporters, The Guardian of London reported on July 8, 2009. Continue reading

Criticism and Praise after Web Site Publishes Hacked Twitter Corporate Information
A hacker accessed the e­mail account of a Twitter employee and forwarded detailed company information found there to at least two blogs, the technology Website TechCrunch reported on July 14, 2009. Continue reading

White House Press Corps Resists Background Briefings
The Obama administration is facing criticism from White House correspondents and their news organizations for its practices in the White House briefing room, including the continued use of background briefings, or selective off­the­record meetings held with reporters, and Obama’s decision to select and notify in advance some reporters before he calls on them in press conferences. Continue reading

Silha Events

2009 Silha Lecture: Award­winning Investigative Reporter Charles Lewis
With its First Amendment protections, relative transparency, and physical security afforded to all citizens, the United States should be the world’s most hospitable place for investigative reporting. Continue reading