Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Please Don't Feed the 'Cagey' Columnist

Santa Ana ZooImage by Realitychek78 via Flickr
Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit is fulfilling the fantasies of media-bashers everywhere. Mickadeit has taken up residence in the Santa Ana Zoo, and is streaming his two-day experience as a caged primate over the Internet.

Mickadeit calls his exhibit "Columinist in a Cage: columnist horribilis in his Natural Environment," according to a report in Editor & Publisher magazine. His next door neighbor is a crested capuchin monkey.

No complaints from PETA yet.  Clearly, the idea well has run dry for this columnist to engage in such a gimmick.  "TUOL" fears in today's news media climate, more newspaper columnists may seek shelter in zoos to avoid extinction.

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'Civil Action' Lawyer Slammed With Libel Verdict

A Civil Action (film)Image via Wikipedia
The Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly newspaper reports that Beverly, Mass.-based attorney Jan Schlichtmann has been socked with a $149,000 judgment after being found liable for defamation by an Essex County Superior Court jury sitting in Lawrence.

Schlichtmann, whose battle against two companies that allegedly contaminated the Woburn town water supply with toxic chemicals was dramatized in  the 1998 film, A Civil Action,  in which he was portrayed by John Travolta, finds himself on the wrong end of the verdict in a case brought by The Cadle Co., a debt collection firm located in Ohio. Schlichtmann, who represented himself in the case, has been embroiled in litigation with the plaintiff since 1995, when Cadle sued him to enforce a security interest it claimed that it had on attorneys fees earned by Schlichtmann in a former case.

Schlichtmann set up a website,, to alert visitors about what he perceived to be unlawful conduct by the plaintiff in Massachusetts.  Cadle sued for defamation, and a jury found that the plaintiff proved the defendant made defamatory statements about Cadle with actual malice  on the website.

Judge Kathe M. Tuttman presided over the month-long trial. The case is The Cadle Co. v. Jan R. Schlichtmann et al (Case No. 05-00603-D).

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coffeeshop Newsroom: Where to Get the Latte-est News?

Cup of coffeeImage by tika hapsari via Flickr
The Asbury Park Press & Gannett-operated news blog, Freehold InJersey (["FIJ"], has established a "Coffeeshop Newsroom", partnering with Zebu Fornu Cafe on Main St. in Freehold Borough, the county seat of Monmouth County (N.J.), according to an FIJ press release.

The collaboration intends to involve the community and promote citizen journalism.  FIJ staffers will man a computer workstation in the cafe, from which they will conduct interviews, write stories, and generate multimedia content for the website. Patrons are encouraged to approach the staffers to share news tips, discuss stories, and learn how to post stories  to the open source news site.

The press release claims the cafe will boast a working newsroom with FIJ staffers holding office hours daily. The website editor is hopeful the Coffeeshop Newsroom will enable community members to get to know the reporters and offer FIJ staffers insights into their readership.

Wonder if there will be any signs posted at the workstation, such as "Please don't feed the reporters!" and "Please Don't Make Eye Contact with Our Anonymous Sources!" The dedicated staff at "TUOL" applauds FIJ's novel approach to connect with the community it serves, but would wager that if the FIJ journobloggers had their druthers, coffee would not be the  beverage of choice.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

UPDATE: Judge Allows Contract Claim Against Fox News to Proceed

Bernard Madoff's mugshotImage via Wikipedia
Judge Shira Scheindlin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has ruled that Fox News must answer to a breach of contract claim for its alleged continued airing of footage of convicted Ponzi artist Bernie Madoff and his spouse enjoying a spin on a yacht.

The case, Kenneth Stadt v. Fox News Network LLC (Case No. 1:09-cv-07910), was brought in September 2009, by the owner of  the video footage and included counts alleging copyright infringement, conversion, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. [See "TUOL" post 9/17/09.] Fox sought to dismiss the latter three "state claims," arguing that they were preempted by the Copyright Act.

Judge Scheindlin obliged as to the conversion and fiduciary duty allegations, but sided with the plaintiff in her 23-page decision that Fox's alleged ongoing promotion of the Stadt footage as a "Fox Business Exclusive," could constitute a material breach of contract.  According to Stadt's original complaint, Fox paid him $10,000 in January of last year for the exclusive right to air the Madoff footage for 45 days, and then coughed up another $50,000 to show the Madoffs at sea for another 45 days. The plaintiff contends that Fox continued to show the allegedly copyrighted video of the seaworthy scammer once the exclusive rights period expired.

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UPDATE: Control of Le Monde Goes to Banker, Fashion & Porn Moguls

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The supervisory board of the 66-year-old French newspaper,  Le Monde, has turned to a troika of billionaires to rescue the daily, which is drowning in debt.

A consortium led by a subsidiary of France Telecom (see "TUOL" post 6/22/10) withdrew its bid Monday, leaving the field wide open for Matthieu Pigasse, 41; Xavier Niel, 43; and 80-year-old Pierre Berge to gain control of Le Monde, which employs about 280 journalists and boasts a circulation around 300,000.  Pigasse is a prominent figure with the investment bank, Lazard, Berge, the co-founder of fashion giant Yves-Saint-Laurent, and the colorful Niel founded Free, France's largest non-state owned telecommunications company, after initially amassing a fortune running sex chat services. Ooh, la la.

The winning bidders are not favorites of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, because of what he perceives to be their left-leaning political sentiments. 

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Appeals Court Tunes Out Judge's Claims Against Radio Station

County courthouse in Newark.Image via Wikipedia
The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Appellate District in Ohio this week in Vicky M. Christiansen v, Douglas C. Pricer and WCLT Radio, Inc. (Case No. 09-CA-126) upheld the trial court's summary judgment dismissal of defamation and false light invasion of privacy claims by a judicial candidate arising from an editorial broadcast on a radio station and posted on its Website.

Newark, Ohio-based WCLT aired an editorial in November 2008, in which its station manager said two of three candidates for a domestic relations judgeship, including the plaintiff, were unqualified for the position. Regarding the plaintiff, the editorial cited several complaints about her conduct  filed with the Ohio Supreme Court's disciplinary counsel and mentioned an assault complaint filed with the Newark Police Dept. in July 2007, alleging the plaintiff had struck an individual in a courthouse elevator.

Plaintiff sued, contending that although the editorial's statements were "literally true," they created an improper inference that she had been sanctioned by the disciplinary counsel and charged with assault, neither of  which was accurate. The trial court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment, finding that the editorial was not made with actual malice, contained constitutionally protected statements of opinion, and could be construed as non-defamatory. By a 2-1 margin, the appellate court agreed.

"Judge not, that ye be not judged." Matthew 7:1.  "This is why judges shouldn't be elected." TUOL 6/25.

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Judge: Media Can See Dash-Cam Video of Allegedly Drunk Solon

Marquee of The Salt Lake Tribune on the Tribun...Image via Wikipedia
Utah 3rd District Court Judge Denise Lindberg has upheld a Utah Records Committee decision that a state police dashboard camera video recording the arrest of former Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Killpack is a public record to which the news media should have access, according to a Salt Lake Tribune story.

The Utah Dept. of Public Safety had refused to produce the video, claiming its release would jeopardize Killpack's right to a fair trial of the misdemeanor DUI and failure to signal charges he faced. Killpack was arrested Jan. 15, 2010, and allegedly registered a Breathalyzer blood-alcohol level of .11, above Utah's .08 legal limit. He resigned from the Senate the day after his arrest.

The Department of Public Safety had appealed the Records Committee ruling to the 3rd District Court. State police routinely release dash-cam videos and arrest reports, which weakened the department's argument in the Killpack case.

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'Libel Tourism' Focus of Senate Judiciary Committee

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)Image via Wikipedia
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee members Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) and Jeffrey Sessions (R.-Ala.) this week introduced SPEECH--Securing the Protection of our Enduring Established Constitutional Heritage--a bill designed to protect journalists and authors from foreign defamation claims.

The bill, which the Judiciary Committee is expected to address at their business meeting next Thursday, may be offered as a substitute amendment to the companion House measure, H.R. 2765, passed last year by the House of Representatives. Patterned on a New York law that was prompted by an author targeted in a libel tourism suit, SPEECH nullifies any foreign libel judgment obtained against U.S. citizens that would not have succeeded in U.S. courts because of First Amendment protections. Unlike other libel tourism bills seeking Senate review, the SPEECH legislation does not contain a provision that would allow American defendants to counter-sue plaintiffs who file defamation claims in foreign courts.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Court: Gov. Wrongly Withheld Documents from Wyoming Tribune Eagle

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In her decision this week in Freudenthal et al. v. Cheyenne Newspapers Inc. (Case Nos. S-09-0813, S-09-0814) Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Marilyn C. Kite wrote that Gov. David Freudenthal violated the Wyoming Public Records Act ("WPRA") [Wyo. Stat. Ann. secs. 16-4-201 through 16-4-205] when he refused to produce budget documents requested by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

The Tribune Eagle on May 5, 2009, requested budget reduction plans prepared at the governor's behest by the state Department of Family Services and the Department of Health. The government's refusal to comply was based on what it asserted was a "deliberative process privilege" exemption within the WPRA.

In upholding the decision of the Laramie County District Court, the Wyoming Supreme Court said "the budget reduction plans contain factual information, rather than opinions, deliberations or thought processes and are not, therefore, the sort of documents protected by the deliberative process privilege."  Justice Kite said the facts of the case did not allow for an evaluation of whether the alleged privilege exists.

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USA Today Staffers Brace for More Bad News

LONG BEACH, CA - JULY 16:  A USA Today newspap...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
According to GannettBlog, an independent journal that covers media conglomerate Gannett Co., the 1,500+ employees at Gannett's flagship national paper USA Today are on tenterhooks following Publisher Dave Hunke's remarks at a staff meeting last week concerning an imminent significant reorganization of the paper that will include "involuntary layoffs."

Grappling with industrywide drops in circulation and ad revenue, a slowdown in business travel, and fierce challenges from national competitors New York Times and Wall St. Journal, USA Today has experienced a 14 percent drop in circulation from a year ago and an 11 percent decline in advertising in the first quarter of 2010, compared to a year ago. The GannettBlog post notes that the A section of the 28-year-old paper one day last month featured only two advertisements.

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UPDATE: CNN Announces Spitzer & Parker to Host 'Not-Crossfire' Talk Show

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 02: Kathleen Parker spea...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
As "TUOL" noted in a 6/15/10 post, former NY Gov. Elliot Spitzer this fall will helm CNN's Prime Time 8 p.m. talk show, replacing Cameron Brown, and banging heads with entrenched cable tv gabbers Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.

Joining Spitzer as co-host of the as-yet unnamed talk show (just don't call it "Crossfire--The Sequel") is syndicated Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker, a Pulitzer Prize winner and self-proclaimed "rational Conservative" whose twice-weekly commentary appears in more than 400 newspapers nationwide. Spitzer, the "Sheriff of Wall St.," and one-time formidable liberal Governor of New York until forced to resign in disgrace two years ago over his unveiling as "Client No. 9" in the Emperors Club prostitution sting (see "TUOL" post 8/11/09), has been making the cable talk show rounds, appearing as a guest commentator on Bill Maher's program, among others.

Parker said that unlike artificial roundtable discussion programs, her & Spitzer's effort will focus on what  people discuss at their kitchen table.  This should pose a challenge for Spitzer, who has thus far been recogized for his bedroom chat skills.
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

UPDATE: Judge Tosses $10m Libel Verdict Against St. Petersburg Times

St Petersburg FloridaImage by calebism via Flickr
Pinellas-Pasco (Fla.) Circuit Court Judge Anthony Rondolino, who presided over the libel trial of Dr. Harold Kennedy against the Times Publishing Co.owned St. Petersburg Times that ended with a $10 million jury verdict in favor of the former Bay Pines VA Medical Center chief of medicine, has thrown out the judgment, according to a story in the St. Petersburg Times.

Kennedy's attorney plans to appeal the decision, which overturned the award of $5.1 million compensatory damages and $5 million punitive damages decided by a six-member jury after a five-day trial last summer (see "TUOL" post 8/31/09). Kennedy sued the paper over 3 articles written  in December 2003, concerning his reassignment from chief of medicine to his subspecialty of cardiology at the VA Medical Center. The author of the articles, Paul de la Garza, died of a heart attack in 2006.

In a 2-page decision, Judge Rondolino concluded the evidence did not satisfy "the threshold required by the First Amendment." A heart-rending decision for the plaintiff cardiologist.

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Sans Exam Screening, Will UNLV Journo Students Still Write 'Good'?

A UNLV (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) Rebel...Image via Wikipedia
Faced with cash-strapping declining enrollment, the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has jettisoned its entrance exam that tested writing ability and core skills acquired in pre-journalism courses, reports the school's student paper, Rebel Yell.

School officials insists the entrance exam has merely been shelved for a few years, rather than abandoned. Students must now maintain a 2.5 grade point average in designated introductory journalism courses and a 2.0 GPA overall to be admitted to UNLV's j-school. Previously, a cumulative 3.0 GPA was a prerequisite for admittance to the program.

Whether the revised standards will affect the school's efforts to secure accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) remains to be seen.  The entrance exam was last offered in the Spring 2010 semester. Officials blamed the change in the exam requirement to the statewide crisis in education funding.

Though some may worry that relaxed admission standards means journalism schools such as UNLV's Greenspun School won't attract the best & the brightest students, which doesn't bode well for job-seeking graduates or the profession, the dedicated staff at "TUOL" is  unconcerned because: 1) there's always Fox News and 2) we really were just looking for an excuse to use the accompanying photo.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Judge: Campus Cops Wrongly Seized Photog's Camera

Campus of the UC Berkeley in Berkeley, Califor...Image via Wikipedia
Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court Judge Yolanda Northridge has ruled that U.C. Berkeley campus police violated state law when they seized Bay Area Independent Media Center ("Indybay") photographer David Morse's camera on Dec. 11, 2009, as Morse was snapping pictures of a protest outside Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's campus home that resulted in vandalism to the home and the arrest of Morse and a handful of protesters.

According to a story in The Contra Costa Times, Judge Northridge ordered campus police to return photos to Morse that were seized after his arrest. Morse purportedly identified himself to police as a journalist a half dozen times during the demonstration, at which windows in Birgeneau's residence were smashed and eight arrests--including Morse--occurred.  Police secured a search warrant to retrieve photos from Morse's camera, but Morse's attorney claimed authorities did not disclose that Morse had identified himself as a journalist when they obtained the warrant.

Article 1, Section 2(b) of the California Constitution articulates a strong shield law that, in part, protects journalists from having to surrender unpublished information obtained during newsgathering, including photographs.
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Consortium to Acquire Majority Stake in Le Monde?

Le Monde front pageImage via Wikipedia
According to a Reuters story, France's newspaper of record, Le Monde, has enlisted financial advisors to assist it in selling a majority ownership share to stanch losses from declining ad revenues and shrinking circulation.

France's Telecom is joining forces with Spain's Prisa (Promotora de Informaciones SA) and Nouvel Observateur weekly magazine owner Claude Perdriel to submit a bid for a majority stake in the daily newspaper. Reportedly, the consortium has its eye on a 34 percent ownership bid for the paper's online version, Le Monde Interactif.

Another triumverate consisting of Pierre Berge, an Yves St. Laurent Group partner; telecommunications mogul Xavier Niel and Matthieu Nagasse, a Lazard banker, reportedly has submitted a pre-offer to Le Monde. The Reuters account suggests the purchase price could reach 100 million euros ($122.8 million).

The French state has a 28 percent ownership interest in France Telecom.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

'Found' Amanda Sues Film Director Uncle for Invasion of Privacy

Libel-in-fiction cases are springing up around the nation, according to, with the latest involving the about-to-be released film, Finding Amanda, starring Matthew Broderick.

The film has prompted a lawsuit in Nevada's Clark County District Court by the filmmaker's niece, who alleges the movie's character of a prostitute is drawn from her life. The suit, Alix Daily v. Capacity Pictures, LLC et al. (Case No. A-10-617721-C) includes counts alleging invasion of privacy and intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The movie's writer and director, Peter Tolan, is a defendant in the case, in which Daily, Tolan's niece, alleges the character of Amanda was created without her permission, using personal and confidential information about her that Tolan and his wife learned while helping Daily with a personal crisis. The plot of Finding Amanda involves Broderick's gambling-addicted screenwriter's efforts to save his niece Amanda from prostitution and drug use in Las Vegas.  Tolan purportedly has told interviewers that the film was inspired by personal real-life events.

Previously, California resident Brendan Cody has sued author Alexandra Sokoloff, alleging her novel, The Unseen, features a character with his name whose troubled family background includes alcohol abuse. Cody claims Sokoloff used personal information about him in her book  that he revealed to her as a personal friend. The Unseen is a 2009 thriller involving two psychology professors investigating paranormal events in North Carolina. The fictional Cody purportedly suffers from a mood disorder shared by the real-life Cody, as well as a personal and family history of alcohol abuse.

Additionally, reports that  Danzy Senna, author of the memoir Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, has been sued by her retired journalist father Carl Senna for allegedly disclosing he was an alcoholic, which he purportedly admitted to her on condition that she keep the information confidential.

Creative Writing professors may think twice before advising students to write about what they know and real-life experiences. It remains to be seen whether the spate of libel in fiction cases has a chilling effect on the creative arts.

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Buffalo News Putting End to Hidden Posters

The Buffalo News: Web Team Video DeploymentImage by inju via Flickr
The Buffalo News, the only newspaper owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, will no longer allow anonymous comments to stories in their online edition.

In the coming weeks, the daily newspaper serving the Buffalo/Niagra Falls market will require its Website readers to complete an online form that requires readers to disclose their name, town, and telephone number. Any posted comment following news stories will include the name and town of the blogger.

 The newspaper's online editor hopes the new policy will elevate discourse and provide a measure of accountability to readers who post comments. In the past, the newspaper has tried several measures to curb vitriolic and incendiary anonymous posts, including not permitting comments after certain stories editors believed might attract hateful commentary.

The News acknowledges its new practice is labor-intensive, but is hopeful it will raise the level of discussion.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

U.K. Mirrors U.S. in Declining Newspaper Circulation

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Things aren't going well for the newspaper industry across the pond, according to a story in The Guardian (

"The Evolution of News and the Internet," a report prepared by the Organsation for Economic Cooperation and Development ("OECD"), revealed that since 2007, the U.K. is second only to the U.S. in declining newspaper circulation. Between 2007-2009, newspaper circulation dropped 25 percent in the U.K., compared to a 30 percent plunge in the U.S. Other nations that experienced a dramatic drop in newspaper readership included Greece at 20 percent; Italy, 18 percent; and Canada at 17 percent. In all, 20 of the 30 OECD nations surveyed experienced a decline in newspaper circulation.

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More Layoffs at San Diego Union Tribune

SAN DIEGO, CA - MARCH 18:  A copy of the San D...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
The bleeding continues at The San Diego Union Tribune, where up to 40 editorial staffers were pink-slipped this week, according to a report by NBC.

Reporters, feature writers, and web editors were among those axed as a cost-savings measure to offset shrinking ad revenues.  Since it acquired the Union Tribune last year, investment firm Platinum Equity has slashed nearly 300 jobs off the newspaper's payroll (see "TUOL" post 8/13/09).

According to the NBC story, management has created junior staff writer positions that pay between $30,000-$35,000 to generate news content. The Union Tribune would not confirm the latest round of staff layoffs.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Michigan Solon: License to Kill (Free Press)?

Michigan entrance signImage via Wikipedia
The Duluth News Tribune reports that Michigan 7th District Republican State Sen. Bruce Patterson has introduced a bill that would require the licensing of journalists.

Thus far, no other Michigan legislator has joined Patterson as a sponsor of S.B. 1323 Voluntary Registration of Reporters. Patterson is hopeful his measure would promote credibility and ensure "good moral character" among members of the Fourth Estate. Under provisions of the proposed bill, "registered reporters" would have to belong to a "generally recognized media or press association or organization," and meet certain requirements pertaining to college training, professional experience, and published work, as determined by the state department overseeing the ink-stained wretches.

Ah, there's the rub, and the rub has a name--the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That whole: "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." thing. You see, Sen. Patterson, it could have a chilling effect on a reporter covering Michigan's government doings, if within that government is an agency that can decide whether the watchdog should be licensed as a reporter (or at least get a dog license).

Patterson also introduced S.B. 1285, a bill that requires a deposit on newspapers.  "TUOL" believes Sen. Patterson needs to find another way to work out any problems he may be having with his newspaper deliveryperson.

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New Mexico Daily Sues Governor for Release of Employee Records

Richardson as Secretary of EnergyImage via Wikipedia
The Albuquerque Journal has sued Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson under the Inspection of Public Records Act (14-2-4 NMSA 1978) for the release of documents concerning 59 state workers who were laid off, the Associated Press reports.

The Journal filed suit in district court in pursuit of information concerning the identities of the pink-slipped workers, the purported savings to the state budget from the payroll deductions, and the criteria used by the governor's office to determine which positions were expendable. The newspaper claims the governor's office was foot-dragging and had released the names of only a handful of the 59 workers.
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Judge Won't Gag Blago

Official congressional portrait of former cong...Image via Wikipedia
They could sell tickets when former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich finally testifies in his own defense in the  public corruption trial currently playing out in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division (U.S.A. v. Rod Blagojevich, Case No. 1:08-cr-00888).

In the meantime, the ersatz Chicago tourist attraction is drawing its share of publicity, the latest being an 18-page government motion to limit extrajudicial comments filed by prosecutors seeking a court order to stifle the chatty Blago's remarks about his trial and the testimony of his one-time best friend, chief of staff and star prosecution witness Alonzo Monk.  Prosecutors want Blago and his attorney enjoined from making public comments about the legal proceedings, citing the former governor's Blagojevich on Trial blog comments that Monk lied on the stand.

Judge James Zagel told both sides to confer over the weekend and work out the parameters of permissible public comments by the defendant. Judge Zagel considers a court order banning public remarks a last option.

"TUOL" considers it only fair that Judge Zagel impose a gag order on Blago, given that Blago's appearances on Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice, The View and elsewhere made countless viewers gag.

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Journos Grapple Over Best Seat in the (White) House

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 12:  (L-R) Veteran White...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
White House correspondents seem to take in stride the dearth of presidential press conferences, the administration's recalcitrance in producing White House visitor logs, and their own increasing irrelevance, but now the American public knows what gets the dander up of the creme de la creme of the Fourth Estate--Who gets to sit in former UPI icon Helen Thomas' front row seat?

Since the 89-year-old Thomas' ill-conceived remarks about Israel's Gaza presence prompted her resignation, a battle royale is taking shape between Fox News and Bloomberg News over which organization will occupy the front row, center seat from which Thomas signaled the end of press conferences by bleating: "Thank you, Mr. President," seemingly dating back to the Polk Administration.

Traditionally, the seat has been occupied by a reporter from the wire services, but Bloomberg Executive Editor Al Hunt and Fox News Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammons each has fired off a letter to the White House Press Correspondents Association ("WHPCA") outlining why his organization deserves the coveted chair. A verdict is expected sometime after July 16 when new WHPCA board members assume office.

Some unsolicited observations from   "TUOL"'s editorial team. Initially, we wonder what the commotion is all about, unless, because of Thomas' advanced years, she sat in an ergonomically perfect orthopedic chair that is more comfortable than the rest of the briefing room furniture. Seniority and tradition have fallen by the wayside, as has the influence of ink-stained wretches, because no one is dusting off the seat for any major metropolitan daily newspaper reporter, perhaps out of concern that a print journalist  might rent out the seat to offset sagging ad revenues.

"TUOL" believes Thomas' seat should be filled by a blogger, who would be required to attend all briefings dressed in pajamas. Alternatively, the seat could be occupied by a White House plant (of the two-legged variety) along the lines of the faux journalist/gay escort employed by the Bush Administration to lob softball questions to W. that he still somehow managed to swing at and miss.

Another possible solution--give each of the watchdogs of democracy a "barka-lounger" of his or her very own.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Canada High Court 'Bails' on Free Press Ruling

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By an 8-1 margin, the Supreme Court of Canada last week upheld a statute barring journalists from reporting on evidence at bail hearings.

The majority opinion by Justice Marie Deschamps said the statutory publication ban was a "reasonable compromise" that protects the defendant's right to a fair trial without unduly compromising freedom of expression. The court noted that journalists are permitted to identify a defendant, list the charges against him or her, report the outcome of the bail proceeding, and attend the bail hearing. Additionally, the opinion stated, the publication ban expires either when the trial ends or when the defendant is released after a preliminary inquiry.

The case at issue concerned bail hearings of 18 defendants charged with engaging in terrorist activity.

According to Justice Deschamps: "[I]n the context of the bail process, the deleterious effects of the limits on the publication of information are outweighed by the need to ensure certainty and timeliness, to conserve resources, and to divert the disclosure of untested prejudicial information; in other words, to guarantee as much as possible trial fairness and fair access to bail."

In the U.S. legal system, judges grapple with the inherent conflict between the First Amendment right of freedom of the press and the defendant's Sixth Amendment guarantee of a fair trial. Case law has established a right of access to criminal proceedings, including preliminary hearings. Richmond Newspapers Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555 (1980); Press Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 48 U.S. 1 (1986).

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AGs Pow-Wow Over Google's Wi-Fi Network Data-Trolling

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
Attorneys General from 30 states conferred this week on whether to consolidate their investigations into Calif.-based Internet search engine colossus Google's assembly of private data culled from unsecured wireless networks, according to a story in The New York Times.

Google admitted last month that it collected emails and other personal information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks while its vehicles were providing photographic content for Google's Street View service. Google concedes the data-gathering was improper, but denies it was illegal.

Attorneys general  are probing whether Google may have violated any state laws. The Times credits Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal as being the prime mover behind the conference call regarding whether to join forces to investigate Google. That's the same Blumenthal running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Christopher Dodd who the Times took to task for allegedly inflating his military record. In a series of stump speeches, Blumenthal "mis-remembered," as pitching great Roger Clemens used to say, that his stint as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve  included a tour of duty in Vietnam during the war.

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