Sunday, August 7, 2011

Journalism and the Law: Guilty or not guilty?

By Shellon Lambert (Queens, NY)

How much does the law protect journalists? Well, that’s what we wanted to know.

On our fourth day of the program, Rich Tucker, one of our counselors who is also an attorney, spoke to us about journalism and the law. He answered the question of how much the law protects journalists.

Presented with two scenarios, we chose if we wanted to represent the defendant, the plaintiff, or whether we wanted to be the judge.

Autumn, Anhar, Jimmy, Ebony, Stephanie, Farah, Rajaa, Citlaly, and I, were the 9 Supreme Court Justices, and the court cases went on.

First we were presented with the case of a police officer from Montgomery, AL, who was suing the New York Times for defamation.

New York Times published an article about Sullivan, which accused Sullivan of expelling people and padlocking people in a dining hall. After evidence proved the NY Times wrong, Sullivan sued them for compensation.

With the vote of 5-4 among the Supreme Court justices, NY Times was found not liable.

After the original case was revealed to us, we found out the NY Times was found not liable, but some rules adjusted with how much journalist can make mistakes.

Secondly, We took on a case of a reporter, Paul Branzburg, who was ordered to reveal the source that he got his information from. Branzburg refused to reveal his source and was held in contempt.

With the decision of 5-4 Branzburg was found not guilty by the Princeton Summer Journalism Supreme Court.

With crucial decisions to make, we had to determine the ruling of these cases. We were torn between protecting people and protecting journalism.

We learned that journalism is full of challenging decisions, and some day, it will be our turn to make them.

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