June 2010 Archives

On April 20, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a federal law imposing criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly "creates, sells, or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty . . . for commercial gain," saying it was overly broad and violated the First Amendment right to free speech.

The Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion on Jan. 13, 2010, that blocked the broadcast of a high-profile federal court trial on the constitutionality of California's recently enacted ban on same-sex marriages.

The Supreme Court of the United States struck down portions of a federal campaign finance law in an opinion published Jan. 21, 2010, ruling that the law impermissibly discriminated against the First Amendment rights of corporations to expressly support political candidates for political office.

In a 7-2 decision handed down on Jan. 19, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the jury selection process in most criminal cases must be open to the public under the defendant's Sixth Amendment guarantee of a public trial.

As he entered into his second full year in office, President Barack Obama continued to introduce new measures he said were intended to increase government transparency. But some critics maintain the administration's changes do not do enough to stem entrenched practices of federal government secrecy.

The Ohio Supreme Court struck down a gag order on April 13, 2010, that had been imposed by an Ohio state trial court judge. In State ex rel. Toledo Blade Co. v. Henry County Court of Common Pleas, No. 2010-01, 2010 Ohio LEXIS 865 (Ohio April 13, 2010), the court ruled that the judge's attempt to keep news media from reporting on a criminal trial was "patently unconstitutional," and struck down the gag order by applying U.S. Supreme Court precedent and rejecting the trial court's argument that advances in media technology had rendered the precedent obsolete.

A Federal District Court judge in Florida denied a freelance journalist's request for the mug shots of a man who had pleaded guilty to securities fraud after the judge determined that the guilty man's privacy interests outweighed the public interest in the photos' release in a Dec. 14, 2009 decision.

State Supreme Courts across the country sided with news organizations, a labor union and a private citizen in recent decisions that clarified state open records and meetings laws, and mandated disclosure of salary figures and a court settlement.

KSTP Gains Access to Absentee Ballots

In a ruling issued Jan. 5, 2010, a Minnesota state district court judge granted a Twin Cities ABC affiliate the right to see and copy rejected and unopened absentee ballots from the 2008 election, calling the ballots "public data" for the purposes of Minnesota open records law. As the Bulletin went to press, the decision was pending further review by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Recent rulings by state courts in Kansas, Nevada, and Massachusetts recognized the rights of the accused as well as the rights of the public by allowing varying degrees of access to trial court jury proceedings.

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson signed a journalist shield bill into law on April 15, 2010, saying that "we must allow journalists to perform their jobs without fear of prosecution and continue bringing the news home to Kansans."

In two unrelated incidents in April 2010, California police searched the home of a technology blogger who had written about the prototype of a new phone from Apple, and Virginia officials raided the newsroom of The Breeze, the student newspaper at James Madison University, while investigating recent student riots.

A federal district court judge ruled on March 18, 2010, that financial news website Theflyonthewall.com (Fly) had misappropriated the financial recommendations of three prominent Wall Street firms and instituted strict time guidelines for the site's future publication of stock recommendations.

The New York Times Co. apologized and agreed to pay $114,000 to Singaporean leaders as part of an out-of-court settlement after the International Herald Tribune ran a story on Feb. 15, 2010 that included Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his two predecessors in a list of Asian "political dynasties."

Two Journalists Resign amid Plagiarism Allegations

In February 2010, two high-profile plagiarism scandals involving a reporter for The New York Times and the chief investigative reporter for news website The Daily Beast resulted in the resignations of both journalists. Both men allegedly used language from other online news sources without acknowledgement or attribution, highlighting one of the potential pitfalls of web-based journalism.

Several major news organizations drew criticism in recent months for paying sources or providing gifts in exchange for exclusive licensing or interview rights.

The Washington Post deleted a reporter's Jan. 27, 2010 blog post on the newspaper's website that was critical of the relationship between The Post's editorial board and a prominent local school official, and reposted a redacted version of the same story a few hours later without notifying readers that the post had been altered. The episode highlighted an ongoing debate over the extent to which news organizations should notify readers of changes to online content.

On Feb. 1, 2010, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a libel suit against best-selling author John Grisham and several other authors who wrote about two men wrongfully convicted of murder and rape in Oklahoma.

The Internet search giant Google announced on March 22, 2010, that it would no longer comply with Chinese government censorship and was suspending its online operations in mainland China. Since the announcement, Google has redirected users attempting to access its mainland China site, Google.cn, to Google.com.hk, a search engine based in Hong Kong, where it offers uncensored Internet searching.

On March 1, 2010, Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) announced a ban on news coverage showing footage of live attacks by Taliban insurgents. Afghan officials claimed that the images embolden Islamist militants, a March 1 Reuters report stated.

On Dec. 22, 2009, the Canadian Supreme Court vacated libel verdicts against two Canadian newspapers in separate rulings, and created a new defense for members of the public or media who engage in "responsible communication."

On Feb. 4, 2010, the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued two opinions that reached separate conclusions regarding whether schools can discipline students for material posted on social networking websites. The resulting uncertainty prompted the 3rd Circuit to vacate both opinions and schedule a rehearing of the two cases before the full circuit court.

D.C. Circuit Strikes Down Net Neutrality Measure

The D.C Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on April 6, 2010, that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has no authority to regulate an Internet service provider's (ISP) network management practices. Some commentators speculated that the decision could represent a serious setback for advocates of "net neutrality," the doctrine that requires Internet service providers to treat all content equally.

A state appellate court panel in California issued a decision on Jan. 29, 2010, allowing a lawsuit to proceed against the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and two of its officers for disseminating photos depicting a dead woman's body at the scene of an auto accident, on the grounds that the deceased's family members had a sufficient privacy interest in the photographs.

An Italian judge convicted three Google executives of violating Italy's privacy law on Feb. 24, 2010, after a 2006 user-generated Internet video of teenagers bullying a disabled boy was posted on a Google-maintained website. The three executives each received a six-month suspended sentence.

On March 1, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Hustler magazine, allowing a right-of-publicity lawsuit filed against the magazine by the mother of a deceased professional wrestler to continue.

Blogger White Convicted; Two Mistrials for Turner

On Dec. 18, 2009, a federal jury in Roanoke, Va., convicted white supremacist William White on four counts of criminal threats and intimidation. Although one of the counts was later vacated, White was sentenced to 30 months in prison on the remaining three convictions.

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals released an unpublished opinion on Feb. 2, 2010, that rejected the 9th Circuit's national Internet obscenity standard and instead applied a localized, "contemporary community" standard to affirm the conviction of an online pornography producer.

The Silha Center hosted a broad spectrum of events in March and April 2010. Topics covered included crime in the virtual world, the effects of corporate public relations, and the health of journalists themselves as well as the journalism industry.

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