Monday, February 11, 2008

Sheild Or Sham

Personally, I don't agree with his methods or tactics, but we live in a society that doesn't necessarily do background checks. Thaddeus Matthews is someone who has achieved somewhat of a spokesman status among a certain group of people in Memphis. He's like a local Al Sharpton without the processed hair. I commend him on the success and amount of attention he has been able to attract to his radio show and blog. Considering the fact that he seldom if ever backs his innuendos up with proof, the comments he makes gets the public's attention. More than once he has started a rumor or taken one and ran with it, only to vacate the rubble in the aftermath. In another time and place this guy might have been a threat. In the day of the internet, and everyone having access to much of the same information. This guy comes across as being a rebel who created his own cause.

I have nothing to do with how the law is being administered here, but this is one the D.A. should take to court. This case is as good as any to define what the "shield law" does and does not allow. I for one don't think people who call themselves the media should go unchecked. There is a thin line being exploited here. The gray area differentiating journalism from gossip is being put in question here. When they're really two totally different things. Certain rules have to be followed by any responsible journalist. You can't just say whatever sounds good, or whatever gets the most hits. So much for slander suits and defamation of character. The advent of the blog erases those parameters to a degree. It's supposed to be a log of one's personal thoughts. In many ccases they've become like the national news sources. When you have thousands of people reading what you write like a book, or listening to you. That carries a certain amount of responsibility too.

Go to the Commercial Appeal story:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Law & The Courts
Area Journalists Are Heading to Law School

On March 6, reporters who think a bar exam is a night of trivia at the local pub will be getting some help. The Law School for Journalists will be held that day in Room 250 at the University of Memphis' School Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.

The workshop is modeled after a program started by the Tennessee Supreme Court and Vanderbilt University's First Amendment Center in Nashville.

"So we wanted to try and introduce this to the western section of the state," said Amy Amundsen, Memphis Bar Association treasurer. "The judges thought it would be important to have a better understanding of what the judicial branch of the government does."

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, the University of Memphis law school and journalism department and the Memphis Bar Association are sponsoring the Memphis workshop. They formed a steering committee of 20 law, journalism and education professionals to make it happen.

"It was one of these ideas that we started in the fall of last year and it started growing when more people came on board," Amundsen said.

Accountability on tap

Sue Allison, public information officer for the Tennessee Supreme Court, said the organizations sponsored the Nashville event in 2001 to an overwhelming response from journalists and public relations people. They had another in June, and it was equally successful.

"I had to cut off registrations at 110," Allison said. "This was from big papers, little papers, broadcast and everyone. We've been really pleased with the media's interest in taking the time to learn how the courts work."

The seminars covered various topics from the most basic themes to complex legal issues.

"It is no reflection on the media or anyone that they don't understand the court system. It's incredibly confusing," Allison said. "So we tried to touch on as much as we could in a long day that would help practically in covering the courts."

"Wherever you can find opportunities for journalists to become more sound and to express themselves more accurately, I'm very interested in that."- Mearl PurvisFOX 13 anchor and member of Law School
for Journalists' Memphis steering committeeLast year, only five of the attendees at the Nashville event were from Memphis, partly because of the distance and the fact that it was a daylong event. Most local journalists didn't have time to miss that many deadlines so far away.

Mearl Purvis, an anchor for FOX 13 News who served on the Memphis steering committee, said she's looking forward to the event.

"Wherever you can find opportunities for journalists to become more sound and to express themselves more accurately, I'm very interested in that," she said.

Purvis said editors, reporters and television news producers can learn from the workshops, especially when legal language collides with what looks good in print or flows better on the air.

"It's a good reminder that we ought to remember some terms that feel good, sound good and make your copy flow," she said. "There are other terms that are legal and there is no changing that. I think this type of workshop helps us get back in the middle and see litigious terminology for what it is and what happens when you turn a legal term into one that reads well."

About being in sync

The Law School for Journalists could also help journalists and lawyers see eye to eye more often.

"I think there is great synergy for us to learn from each other," Purvis said.

To help achieve this, the Memphis workshop will include an open, 45-minute session titled "Things I Hate about You" that discusses the relationships between journalists and legal professionals.

Scheduled speakers are Circuit Court Judge George Brown, Memphis City Council attorney Allan Wade, WREG-TV news anchor Jerry Tate and retired Commercial Appeal editor Angus McEachran.

"If you can hear from the people who are at the other end of your daily reporting - how they are affected, why they are affected and what their feelings are about what you didn't put in or what you intentionally left out - I think it will make us better journalists," Purvis said.

It might also help assuage some of the tensions, whether perceived or real, between journalists and lawyers.

"I thought this was a great way to get this out on the table," Purvis said. "I hope (it's) an honest dialogue."

Political undertones

Organizers also added an ethics session near the end of the day titled, "Ethical Limits on What Judges and Lawyers Say." One of the reasons it was put on the schedule is because it's an election year for judges in Tennessee.

"This 45-minute section will focus on judicial campaign speech as governed by recent court decisions and by recent judicial ethics rules," Amundsen said.

Allison said one reason the workshops were started was because beat reporters are becoming less common, meaning they might know less about a particular subject area such as law and courts.

"A reporter could be covering the criminal investigation of a murder one day and then be thrown into a civil trial with complicating issues the next day. They might be in federal court one day, state court one day, general sessions one day and then be covering a dog show," Allison said. "We've realized from our day-to-day interaction with media, that not only is there need to provide the information, but they want it."

While much of the law school's content will be useful for people who are just starting out in law reporting, the workshops could also help veteran reporters, Purvis said. She covered county government and crime early in her career.

"But that was 20 years ago, and sometimes you just need a refresher course on things that you are aware of on some level, but you just need a little more focus," she said.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read TM's blog and he was and is WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! for posting the young girls name. Karma is not going to be nice when it comes back around.

3:33 PM  

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