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Newsgathering and the Law

Interested in legal issues and the press? The website of the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press is a great place to start.

This website gathers legal information and targets it largely to members of the press. On the front page there is information about current issues (including legislative actions, court decisions, and other legal actions). For example, the South Carolina Supreme Court recently reversed a lower court decision finding that its state public records law does not violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Other sources of information include the “Digital Journalist’s Legal Guide,” “The News Media and the Law” (the organization’s magazine), handbooks & guides, and briefs & comments. There is a guide to “..covering the news in public places, private property, government building, and more.” Other guides discuss topics ranging from military justice, FERPA, HIPPA, & DPPA, and police investigation records. Several guides contain 50 state surveys. These deal with topics such as open courts, taping conversations, public records, and access to police records. The briefs & comments section is a good place to look for issues currently being litigated (and a good place to find a note topic).

You can also explore the site by media law topics: content regulation, prior restraint, freedom of information, privacy, libel, reporter’s privilege, newsgathering, and secret courts. If you click “secret courts” you get information from the “Digital Journalist’s Legal Guide”, “The News Media and the Law” (organization’s magazine), handbooks & Guides, briefs & comments, and a news feed. Under briefs & comments you will find the amici curiae brief by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and others seeking to get access to orders and opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Another brief concerns access to the docket and documents in the Bradley Manning cases. Under freedom of information you will find a guide on filing federal FOIA appeals. While under the Digital Journalist’s Legal Guide you will find out information about possible fees involved in gaining access to government information. Looking at the information by topic will give you a wide variety of information on that topic.


Hat tip: C. Amanda Marin, “State Open Records Law and Libraries: Can we Value Openness and Privacy at the Same Time?” presentation G-3 American Association of Law Libraries annual meeting, July 11, 2013.