Responsible communications: the lawyers weigh in

The Law Times has a good comment on the recent Supreme Court decision on defamation and the defense of responsible communications, certainly more thoughtful than most of the responses to the news story that demanded that journalists be 100 per cent right 100 per cent of the time, an impossible bar for anyone to reach. The Times is asking for more clarity on some issues, but I like the notion of the SCC leaving most of the clarity to be determined by judges and juries on a case by case basis.

Law Times, December 29 2009

Libel laws clarified, applies to bloggers as well as reporters

Leaving aside the philosophical question of whether a blogger can be a reporter, the Supreme Court of Canada today outlined new rules to clarify laws on libel, loosely called “responsible communication” (which I have a problem with: shouldn’t all communications,  journalism included, be responsible?) The Court outlined eight factors to be reckoned with in determining responsible communication:

1. The seriousness of the allegation.

2. The public importance of the matter.

3. The urgency of the matter

4. The status and reliability of the source.

5. Whether the plaintiff’s side of the story was sought and accurately reported.

6. Whether inclusion of the defamatory statement was justifiable

7. Whether the defamatory statement’s public interest lay in the fact that it was made rather than its truth (reportage).

8. Other.

It’s heavy reading, but read the actual verdict below, scroll down about three quarters of the way down for the discussion of the points above, or read the CBC summary.

Supreme Court of Canada, December 22 2009

CBC, December 22 2009

Miami Herald passes the hat

Well, it’s one step  above begging, but it might work. In an effort to make some money off its home page, the Herald is asking for donations. It’s somewhere between lame and desperate, but it just might work. No newspaper yet has figured out  how to make money off the net, so it just bring in a few dollars from well to do readers who appreciate the fix newspapers are in.

Associated Press, Dec. 15 2009

CAJ fights expansion of libel laws

Interesting case before the Supreme Court, a little below the radar, has a group of Arab/Haitian cab drivers from Quebec arguing they were defamed as a group b a shock jock. Lower courts decided that defamation is restricted to individuals, not groups. I thought defamation against a group was covered by hate laws, not defamation, but it will be interesting to see how the Supremes handle this, along with the other media law cases they are looking at this fall, such as the right to withhold the name of a source. Looks like a media-heavy set of rulings this winter.

CAJ, December 15 2009

Editor and Publisher dies

The bible of the US newspaper industry, Editor and Publisher, is now defunct. No reasons given, but likely the perilous state of the industry  itself is the cause of death. Founded in 1884, E and P has been iconic in its coverage of the industry. Other trades, like Adweek, Mediaweek etc. will continue, but you have to wonder for how long.

Editor and Publisher, Dec. 10 2009

Ray of hope for US newspapers?

The New York Times is reporting an uptick in on-line advertising, though the traditional print side is still 25 per cent behind normal (and this is the best time of year for media sales). Unfortunately, the rise in on-line sales doesn’t offset the decline in print revenue, the classic cconundrum US newspapers in particular are feeling.

The imbalance between the erosion in print advertising and relatively small revenue gains from online advertising has been squeezing newspaper publishers for the past three years.

Associated Press/Canoe, December 8 2009

Science Media Centre of Canada established

Here’s an idea whose time might have come. Science reporters have been declining generally, particularly as people like the Aspers laid off Southam science beat reporters to centralize everthing in Winnipeg. Reporters without a science background, which is most of them, have to fight their way through incomprehensible scientific data (e.g. Kyoto, Copenhagen) without any support. Here’s a link to their site, and an announcement about their new CEO.

“The Centre will be able to help harassed reporters come up with respected experts and reliable information faster, this making their jobs a little easier,” she said.

Science Media Centre of Canada

Marketwire, Dec. 8 2009

Canadian record companies face massive copyright suit

A group representing Canadian musicians is suing the record industry for up to $60 billion for breach of copyright. Since the 80’s, record companies have been doing compilation tapes and CD’s, not paying copyright fees, and just putting them on something called a pending list. The companies admit to owing at least $50 million, so we seem to have begun a negotiating process. If somebody tries to do the same thing to the blogosphere, we’re all doomed. This is from the Toronto Star, which has not given me permission to link to a story they paid Professor Geist to write.

Toronto Star, December 7 2009

20 sharks circling Global remains

As CanWest’s bankruptcy goes forward, 20 companies are going over Global TV’s books to see if it’s worth buying (it’s actually not; the creditors/debtors are looking at pennies on the dollar to recover their investment.) There’ll be a separate sale for the newspaper group. Anyway, one interesting suitor is the Pattison Group. Hmmmm, Jimmy Pattison has a well known habit of taking command by firing the new firm’s least competant employees. If my name was Asper, I’d be nervous.

Report on Business, Dec. 3 2009

FInding value in newspapers

Fabrice Taylor of the ROB argues that there’s value in CanWest’s stable of newspapers, but doesn’t quite get to describing that value, which simply is content. He cites the Economist as a successful model of MSM, but doesn’t quite connect the dots: the Economist focuses on sharp analysis, covering stories other media don’t cover, and stick the knitting: good writing, good editing and good reporting, all in print form. Do we really need daily newspapers to tell us what the web/blogosphere is telling us about Tiger Woods, or do we need the kind of thoughtful critique Greg Stoba brings in the National Post, arguing Woods is absolutely right to protect his privacy above all else (in counter to a story it did yesterday arguing the opposite, thus giving the reader two clear, opposing takes on a situation in the news, but with thoaght and argument, not salaciousness.  People will pay for that kind of content and that’s the economic model for newspapers: print beyond gossip and provide a take that you can’t get elsewhere.

Globe and Mail, Dec. 2 2009