Free Legal Hotline for AAN Members Debuts

New member service includes pre-publication libel review.

AAN’s newest member service debuted on Monday when the Newslaw legal hotline prepared to accept e-mails and phone calls from AAN members. Owned and operated by sole practitioner Alice Neff Lucan, Newslaw will be available to editors, publishers and advertising managers seeking confidential advice on libel, advertising content and general business issues.

There is no charge to AAN members for the use of Newslaw services, which include the following:

Pre-publication advice on stories or advertisements that may present a legal risk;
Analysis of the gravity of post-publication complaints and suggestions regarding an appropriate course of action;
Advice on copyright and trademark matters, invasion of privacy and appropriation, defamation and other advertising content issues;
Analysis of general business problems, identification of ensuing legal issues, and suggestions for appropriate further legal advice, as needed; and
Advice on the hiring of local counsel, and consultation with local counsel.

Although Lucan has agreed to discuss general approaches to reporters’ access issues, she will refer all requests for specific advice on the application of state or federal laws regarding public meetings or records to the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press or the appropriate state press association. In addition, she will not provide advice on labor, employment, tax, corporate organization, patent law or securities matters.

Lucan has had her own practice since 1991 and has been a First Amendment lawyer since the late 1970s. Prior to her career in law, she worked as a radio and television journalist. Her client base consists almost exclusively of newspapers and magazine publishers, including USA Today, the Maryland, Delaware and D.C. Press Association legal hotlines and the West Virginia Press Association.

She can be reached at 202-298-7210 or

Lucan’s proposal to operate the legal hotline was selected last month by the AAN Editorial Committee, which was particularly impressed with her willingness to provide pre-publication libel review. (The service was originally conceived by AAN’s Board of Directors solely as a libel hotline, which is why authority for selecting a proposal was referred to the Editorial Committee.)

During its Oct. 6 meeting in Evanston, Ill., the seven-member committee also agreed to move forward with a plan to promote newsroom diversity by providing matching funds to help AAN papers hire minority interns. The committee will present further details about the program on Jan. 26-27 at AAN West.

Finally, the committee discussed ideas for editorial programming at the 2001 AAN convention in New Orleans, and also modestly revised the editorial awards contest, axing the cartoon competition and adding categories for cover design and editorial layout.

The following AAN members serve on the Editorial Committee: Blake de Pastino (chair), Missoula Independent; Patricia Calhoun, Westword; Michael Tisserand, Gambit Weekly; Michelle Rubin, PitchWeekly; Brian Lindamood, Columbus Alive; Andy Markowitz, Baltimore City Paper; and Marc Eisen, Isthmus.

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