Overcoming the Legal Challenges of News Reporting: A Case Study of a Start-Up News Corporation

Overcoming the Legal Challenges of News Reporting: A Case Study of a Start-Up News Corporation

Jonathan Bishop (Centre for Research into Online Communities and E-Learning Systems, UK)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2095-5.ch008
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When one thinks of barriers to setting up a news corporation, one might think in terms of the costs of machinery and staffing. This case study of a start-up news corporation called Crocels News shows that the biggest cost can be in resolving legal disputes, most significantly from news articles scrutinising public bodies and their staff. This chapter investigates the difficulties faced by Crocels News in providing news content. By considering the legal correspondence received, the chapter provides insights into some of the problems all news services are likely to experience if they do not have access to the huge legal budgets of the established news corporations. The findings are particularly worrying for emerging forms of news reporting, such as citizen journalism. The chapter therefore proposes changes in statute so that case law that protects free speech is more easily enforced.
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Setting up any business is challenging, but in the case of a news corporation that will have content produced by journalists, a grasp of media law is an essential criterion (Shemberger, 2015). Understanding media law is essential to being able to conceptualise the interactions between the law, the media and society (Price, Verhulst, & Morgan, 2013).

Media Regulation in the Digital Age

The main barrier to entry for a news organisation has been the necessity to establish a reputation in order to sell printed editions of newspapers or broadcasts of news reports (Ihlström Eriksson & Kalling, 2007). This has somewhat changed in the digital age, where the existence of weblogs has made creating news websites that much simpler (St Clair, 2015). Some have argued this provides for greater pluralism in news content (Craufurd Smith, Tambini, & Morisi, 2012), whereas others have argued that barriers to entry for the news industry are actually a good thing (Lau & Wydick, 2014).

One of the problems for news providers of all levels is that many people will try all manners of ways to get content they disapprove of removed from a news website or other news service. This is often done through takedown notices, which can be letters or emails that claim a news service is infringing the legal rights of the sender or the sender’s client (Blankfield & Stevenson, 2012). Takedown notices are often used to harass content providers into taking actions to remove content they are under no legal obligation to remove (Ashley, 2009). Some see them as a double-edged sword that can both protect actual rights but at the same time stifle free speech (Doctorow, 2008). A significant number of the examples of legal issues discussed in this chapter are relating to takedown notices, which seem to be an efficient way for those claiming their rights are infringed to try to get such claims dealt with efficiently.

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