21 October 2005
Briefing on Media Law.
When should a reporter use the word "alleged" when writing about a crime story? If you accurately quote a person who utters slander, and you have tape that proves your quotation is accurate, can you be sued for libel? Compare: "Students of music teacher John Doe are angry because he sexually assaulted them," "Students of music teacher John Doe say they are angry because he sexually assaulted them," and "Students of music teacher John Doe are angry because they say he sexually assaulted them."
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Think of a fairy tale or other children's story, and imagine it as a news story. For the first part of the exercise, find two or three news articles that cover the same general subject. For instance, if you choose "Tom, Tom the piper's son / Stole a pig and away he run," you'll need to find a news story about theft. In "Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean," you might look up a health story about anorexia in males, as well as a story about violence that ensued from a domestic dispute. (Hint: use news.google.com.)
Print out the news stories, and write a brief essay that identifies where, precisely, the justice-related events described in your fictional (emphasis added --DGJ) news story (arrest, hearing, trial, sentencing, etc.) fall on the flowchart available on this site: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/flowchart.htm
For context, refer back to the readings assigned for Oct 19.
Update: You are welcome to begin workin gon your storybook crime story, but this assignment is just preparation -- I'm not actually asking you to write a final draft yet.
When I do read it, I'll take on a skeptical, aggressively legalistic attitude, which means if you call the Big Bad Wolf as "fierce" or if you indentify the female juvenile he is suspected of assaulting, I'll note it. So be ready to have fun with this assignment, while still demonstrating that you are aware of what a reporter should and shouldn't reveal about suspects, victims, and the investigation process. (There's more to come on that.)
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