Award-winning investigative reporter Willy Stern drops his usual expletive-laced style in favor of a cap and gown in this 8,500-word essay on the role of lawyers in investigative journalism. Stern concludes that corporate ownership of the media has resulted in timid editors, tepid reporting and lawyers who play it safe at all cost. "In the eyes of many investigative reporters, these changes have weakened the historic, watchdog role of the press in American society, and present a new and substantive threat to the press freedoms embedded in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," Stern writes in an essay originally intended for inclusion in an academic collection.

Continue ReadingThe Heroic Media Attorney: An Endangered Species

A state appeals court has sided with City Pages (Twin Cities) in its attempt to force the state and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota to reveal how much they paid a high-powered law firm for its work on the state's lawsuit against the tobacco industry. "We saw the lawsuit as a golden opportunity to remind our elected officials and their powerful friends that to be healthy, a democracy must be watched over by a free, independent, and vigorous press," the paper says in an unsigned editorial.

Continue ReadingCity Pages Wins Another Round in Court

Faced with a challenge from the ACLU, the City of Colorado Springs cancels a hearing on its request for an injunction against the Colorado Springs Independent and drops all charges against the paper. The city was trying to block the paper from publishing any information from Detective Jeffrey Huddleston's personnel file. By mistake, the detective's entire file was given to Editor Cara Degette and reporter John Dicker, who were working on an investigative piece. When the mistake was discovered, the City demanded that Dicker turn over the notes he'd been taking.

Continue ReadingCity Drops Request for Gag Order

"The co-opting of the 'underground' tradition of journalism into the more socially responsible and sales-friendly 'alternative' press is now virtually complete," Miami New Times' John Lombardi writes in response to a letter to the editor from Dan Sweeney, calendar editor of New Times Broward-Palm Beach. The '60s gonzo journalism was "a rancid upchuck onto the desks of the reactionary old fart editors of those times." Now he suggests that young writers like Sweeney should look at Al-Jazeera, the independent Qatar-based television station that doesn't ask permission to make everybody furious.

Continue ReadingAlts Should Look to Al-Jazeera for Inspiration
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The trend toward international justice could force journalists to compromise their craft and profession by testifying in tribunals. What’s bad for the media is bad for the public, Richard Byrne writes in the Boston Phoenix. Major news organizations on this side of the Atlantic are fighting subpoenas from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), based in The Hague.

Continue ReadingJournalists on the Witness Stand

Dan Kennedy, the Boston Phoenix's media critic, originally opposed publication of the video and photo of Daniel Pearl's grisly slaughter. Now that his paper has carried through with its vow to publish the images, Kennedy has changed his mind. "It's important to see the Daniel Pearl video because it's important to look into the face of the pure evil we're up against," Kennedy writes. "It's important to see it because merely reading a description of it cannot do justice to its full horror."

Continue ReadingPhoenix Media Critic Switches Position on Pearl Photo

"This is the the single most gruesome, horrible, despicable, and horrifying thing I've ever seen,'' Boston Phoenix Publisher Stephen Mindich says in an editorial accompanying his paper's link to the unedited video showing Pearl's decapitation. In an interview with the Boston Globe, Mindich decried the fact that the tape had not been more widely viewed and discussed.

Continue ReadingBoston Phoenix Links to Video Footage of Daniel Pearl’s Murder

Speaking at AAN's First Amendment Luncheon, Vanessa Leggett said she learned journalism "the same way an adolescent boy learns about sex -- groping and fumbling my way through, getting rejected and slapped occasionally." Slapping in her case included jail time for refusing to turn over materials from confidential sources to a Texas grand jury. "We must always work to ensure the free flow of information to the public," she said. "When the government gets involved, that can't occur."

Continue ReadingVanessa Leggett Describes Her Crash Course in Journalism