Online Journalism

Judith Townend: Media law for the little guy

Judith was a journalist at Her interest in media law has taken her to city university where she is now engaged in a PhD about just that.

Judith has been carrying out research about how small news orgs and bloggers deal with legal issues – ‘Keeping It Legal Without the Night Lawyer’. She says traditional news organisations have an armoury to deal with the law defammation, copyright, contempt of court and other legal issues that come up in their work.
This includes:-

–Night lawyers
-in-house lawyers
-journalists with traiing#legal insurance
-willing ot take risks and make payouts
-they are high profile and well connected

But as we kknow the culture of media is beginning to change. We now have hyperlocal sites, community news, consumer blogs, student blogs, online chat/debate forums, social netowrking.

All this has completely changed the game. Judith says: ‘Not everyone thinks as themselves as journalists, people using Facebook don’t think of it as publishing, but does expose people to media law.

Judith carried out a survey online (which I took part in) about the legal experiences that bloggers and small media opublishers in the UK had.
Judith got 71 responses to the survey. And the results, shes said , wer not expected. ‘People were more relaxed about it than I thought they would be,’ she said.

27 of respondents had legal enounters and of the 19 hwo were contacted, only senven sought legal advice. Jut two reached court. Six had cases that were dropped at an earlier stage.

27 per cent of respondents had experienced legal encounters and of those 19 people, only seven sought legal advice. Just two cases reached court. Six had cases that were dropped at an earlier stage.

(thanks to Judith for correction!)

How people felt about legal resources?
71 respondents were completely divided –
46 per cent there werent’ enough
54 per cent there were.

Some people said they felt comfortable, but weren’t sure what they’d do if they did get into trouble. Judith said it was clear – and interesting – that there really hadn’t been much research into it at all. It was clear, too, that there was scope for more research.

There’s a Help Me Investigate investigation and a Linked In group – and there’s also the website.
@jtownend @mejalaw @medialawUK

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