Saturday, 29 October 2011

WINOL - week 3 and 4

So it seems like I've been made the official Southampton strike correspondent, which is probably my own fault. In week 3 I went to cover the council workers strike, who were picketing outside the Civic Centre. I was pleased with the quality of the news package I produced.

There is room for improvement, as Rachael Canter (BBC South news reporter) and Angus said that my two interviewees (City council deputy leader and Union rep) should be facing opposite directions. Also the fact that I mixed archive footage and recent footage could have been confusing for the viewers.

Now the dispute between the council and the unions being extremely complicated (the Daily Echo makes it sound like it's simple - well, it's not), I've had to produce weekly updates for the bulletin. It was technically easy as we did it as an OOV (or underlay for Angus!) but writing a 20 second script to sum up what has been six months of dispute AND give the update proved to be a difficult task.

Here is the news report:

In week 4, I was eventually getting into my investigative reporter job, as I received the result of a Freedom of Information request that was finally interesting. It revealed that up to 38 serving police officers in Hampshire have criminal convictions. Chris and I discussed all the possible legal issues with the story. We could use the figures as Hampshire police published them themselves, but we had to be very careful with the wording of the article. We have not had any complaint - yet.

We did a video piece - which involves myself talking with a graphic in the background.

I'm not pleased with my delivery, I know I can do a lot better than that - but for some reason it didn't happen that day. Also I'd like to say that the lighting in the studio did not do me any favour.

Sportsweek - 26 October 2011

Having no interest in sports, I was reluctant to present Sportsweek, but Gareth Messenger (Sports editor) managed to convince me that it would be good fun. And it was!

The fact that the links are pre-recorded takes the pressure off. I would not have been able to record everything in one go, as most of the script did not make sense to me. It still doesn't.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Law lecture 4 – Qualified privilege

Justification – statement could be defamatory, but it is true and you can prove it.
Fair comment: you could defame so and so, “this guy is bad at football” which is a defamatory statement – but if you genuinely believe that this guy is bad at football, it is called called fair comment. You couldn't use this defence if malice was involved – it has to be based on facts.

Qualified privilege – common law qualified privilege and statutory qualified privilege (for court reporting)

Privilege in law means exemption of the law. Above the law.

The queen has absolute privilege. Judges have absolute privilege when they are sitting in court – in term of what they say. You can defame anyone in court, you cannot be sued for it.

Journalists, in court, have qualified privilege, to be able to repeat/report defamatory statements.

Lawyer has absolute privilege.

Journalist – qualified privilege: someone has privilege when they report a court hearing so long asit is contemporaneous and free from error and it is without malice. If you apply these rules, qualified privilege is as good as absolute privilege.

Always say that if the defendant pleaded guilty/not guilty. Always say “the case continues”. You must give equal prominence to defence/prosecution. Otherwise you'll be guilty of libel and contempt of court.

Other place for QP: Parliament. In exactly the same way, anything said in parliament is protected, so long as it's accurate fair and contemporaneous.

Robert Maxwell – he was running the funding of the labour party – was accused of being involved with the KGB

If someone in Winchester city council says the leader of the labour group is a cocaine addit, you cant print it unless you've got a full refutation.

QP in common law

ie: made by judges convention etc... not by statue

case: Toogood v Spyring
Clegg case (northern Ireland) British soldier who shot youths in Ireland who were pro IRA. The guy went to jail and there was a “free Clegg campaign” - some argued he was only doing his duty by shooting IRA terrorists. QP was then applied to this campaign in order for journalists to be able to report what they were saying without being sued.

Albert Reynolds vs Sunday Times

Child sexual abuse in a catholic church - before it was widely known. Probably the worst thing you can be accused of in terms of defamation.

The ST alleged that PM Reynolds was involved in covering up child abuse in the Catholic Church. He sued, and won the case. The Sunday Times appealed.

1 – the seriousness of the allegation – the more serious the more protection
2 – the nature of the information and the extent to which the subject matter is a matter of public concern
3 – the source of the information: the more authoritative the source, the more you're entitled to report the allegation
4 – The steps taken to verify the information – there must be a reasonable attempt in the time available to disprove the info.
5 – the status of the information
6 – the urgency of the matter: news is a perishable commodity – it needs to be urgent
7 – whether comment was sought from the claimant
8 – whether the article contained the gist of the claimant's side of the story
9 – the tone of the article
10 – the circumstances of the publication, including timing

Do not print your story with “we couldn't contact them for comment”

the Galloway case (a Reynolds defence fails)

The Daily Telegraph made defamatory allegations against him, saying that he was a spy working for Saddam Hussein. There was no defence of justification. But it was a serious matter obtained from official documents. They phoned Galloway and he denied it. G. sued and he won. The DT attempted a Reynolds defence. The documents didn't constitute proof.

Another failure: Mohammed Abdul Latif

Was accused by the Wall street journal who said he was financing terrorism. They couldn't prove it but they thought it was true. They were only relying on QP – they hoped they had sufficient evidence to make this allegation. They lost the case in british court. They appealed and won.

No legal definition of public interest but the pcc has one:
-detecting or exposing rime or serious impropriety
-protecting public health and safety
-preventing the public being misled by an action or statement of an individual or an organisation.

Law lecture 3 - Defamation

What is defamation? It is what you write/broadcast about someone/company that tends to:

- lower them in estimation of right-thinking people
- cause them to be shunned or avoided
- disparages them in their business trade or profession
- exposed them to hatred, ridicule or contempt

Defamation via pictures:
- common danger in TV
- careless use of background shots with voice over can be defamatory

Reputation and meaning

Reputation is precious, especially if you are in public life, have money or both
meaning as interpreted by reasonable man
inference = hazard
innuendo = hazard
assess the whole context


Libel defences:

Justification: it's true and I can prove it
Fair comment: honestly held opinion based upon facts, also in public interest
Absolute Privilege: court reporting
Qualified privilege: police quotes, pressers
Bane and antidote: defamation removed by context
apologies and clarifications

Reynolds defence – it must be:

-in the public interest
-product of responsible journalism

No defence:
-when you have no checked your facts
-when you haven't referred up
-when you have not put yourself in the shoes of the person you write about
-got carried away by a spicy story
-not bothered to wait for lawyer's opinion

recognise risk:
-who am I writing about and could they sue?
-is what I'm writing potentially defamatory?
-do I have a defence?

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Law lecture 2 -reporting crime and law court

Reporting crime and law court – chapter 2-7

Contempt of court: It can be as simple as disrupting a court of justice or using recording equipment - but for journalists this is the biggest risk: (Mac Nae's definition) "When material is published which creates a substantial risk of serious prejudice or impediment to particular legal proceedings which are active". In human words, you cannot publish anything about the accused person or victims, (apart from what is listed below) you cannot interview their friends, enemies or witnesses - while the case is active. It could influence the jury and make them base their opinion on the wrong pieces of evidence. In fact you should not interview witnesses of a crime, even when the trial is over.

Pre trial reports – 7 points (What you can publish when the case is active)

-names of defendants, ages, addresses, occupations
-charged faced or a close summary
-name of court and magistrate's names
-Names of solicitors or barristers present
-date and place to where case is adjourned
-Any arrangement as to bail
-Whether legal aid was granted

When does a case become legally active? – a definite prospect of a person facing trial
-When police make an arrest
-When an arrest warrant is issued
-A summons is issued by magistrates
-A person has been charged

Detention without charge:
-Police have 24hrs to question
-Senior officers can extend by 12hrs
-Magistrates can extend by 36hrs
-Cannot exceed 96hrs
-In suspected terrorism cases – up to 28 days

Categories of offences

-Indictable only – possible sentence of 5yrs+
-Either way – can go to crown court or Magistrates court
-Summary: stays with magistrates

Magistrates' powers

-6 months jail – fines up to £5,000
-Suspended sentences
-Conditional discharge
-Community orders, binding over
-ASBOs (Anti Social Behaviour)

Key stages of trial

-prosecution opening
-Key prosecution witnesses
-defence opening
-key defence witnesses
-judge's summing up
-Jury sent out, deliberation and verdict

Law lecture 1

Here are my notes from the lecture.

Law lecture 1 – chapter 1

Plan for the next eight weeks:

Outline of the legal system (England and Wales)
Crime reporting and the courts
Libel and defamation
Investigative journalism and privilege
Confidentiality and privacy
Freedom of information
Copyright and codes of conduct
Reporting elections

Lord Chief Justice Paul Judge (for England and Wales)
DPP: Director of Public Prosecutions (Keir Starma)
Ken Clarke: Justice minister

Outline of the court system:

Supreme court
Appeal court
High court
Crown courts (Criminal law)
Magistrate courts (Criminal law)
County court (Civil law)
Coroners court (unexplained deaths?)
Employment tribunals (E.T.)

Winol - Week one and two

Welcome back on le blog de Julie. I have finally decided to get started on this blog, and I'm going to write about Winol / media law as often as I can. There, I've said it. I've got no choice but to do it now.

So this year I am meant to be investigative reporter, which is a great job, as well as being extremely difficult. Being investigative reporter means finding stories that aren't in the news agenda. Which means... I've got to find ideas, question everything I see/hear/read etc. And read the news. Radio 4, the Guardian and BBC News have become my best friends. And for entertainment I watch the French news when I come home at night.

I have decided to focus mainly on Freedom of Information Requests. And it is not as easy as I thought. Take Hampshire Constabulary for instance. They really, really, really hate FOIs, and they'll do anything to delay your request. Sounds like they've got something to hide.... In any case, when I sent this request: "How many vehicles - including bicycles - computers and printers were stolen in the last 10 years from Hampshire Police?" I certainly did not expect this response:

" Dear Ms Cordier

Perhaps you can clarify your request, please - are you including computers and printers under the category of 'vehicles' ?"

When I said they'll do anything to delay your request, it means ANYTHING, including making themselves sound like retards.

Anyway, in the past two weeks I have not been investigating much I'm afraid. But it'll come. Instead, in week one, I mostly helped the second years with the technical side of news reporting. I went filming with Lou, and helped people on Final Cut Pro. In fact it was a great confidence boost as I remembered how nervous I was last year at the same time, and how much I've learnt since then. I don't stress anymore when I interview people, and I can edit a package in less than 2 hours. Which is pretty outstanding considering that in December I spent a whole night (from 7 pm til 5 am...) editing a 1'30" long package!

In week two, Chris walked into the room and stepped all over my beautiful news story-to be. I wanted to "investigate" whether the university had met their own targets regarding education access for people from disadvantaged background. Instead he entrusted me with an investigation that shall remain confidential for now...

Then Becky (my dear news editor) decided that I should do a story on bacon. Well, Chris had heard of a student who had to google how to cook bacon and thought that would make a fascinating story. Uldduz (second year news reporter) had already organised the interview with the girl-who-can't-cook-bacon, but as she had already a package in the news bulletin I was given the story. Putting this story together was very entertaining, but writing the script was difficult. I got help from Cara, Becky and Mikey - he's the one who thought about the "pig's ear" pun! And for those who thought I've been nasty in the script, I was strongly encouraged by Angus to do so. So I only followed my lecturer's advice really.

here's my tasty "news" story: