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Whether journalists serve collectively as some citizen-informing ‘fourth estate’ or act instead merely to satisfy the consumer desire for entertainment, they need access to information. Journalists rely upon being able to disclose or convey content that is unavailable to, or at least unexploited by, others. Some will obtain this information by fair means, others by foul. The core aim of this course is to consider how law and other forms of regulation influence pre-publication behaviour.
The course reviews a range of news and information gathering practices, and assesses the extent to which such behaviour is facilitated or proscribed by law and/or regulation. The themes in the course will be taught through the comparative review of English, Australian and United States law. Dr Andrew Scott is a senior lecturer in media law at the London School of Economics.
Principal topics will include:
- The relationship between newsgathering practices and constitutional guarantees of free speech
- The protection of sources and materials (in principle; in the context of crime, terrorism and official secrets; payment of sources).
- Access to government information (freedom of information; news management)
- Journalism and justice (access to the courts and court documents; cameras and other technology in court; access to prisoners; policemedia interaction)
- Surreptitious and invasive methods (harassment; subterfuge and secret recording; entrapment; regulating the ‘dark arts’ – hacking, blagging and tapping; a ‘law-breaking privilege’?)
- The influence of publication torts on newsgathering.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Have a specialised understanding of the range of newsgathering practices and the legal and regulatory concerns that these practices generate
- Appreciate and explain the divergences of approach to these concerns in a number of legal jurisdictions
- Appreciate and explain the influence of constitutional, political and commercial factors on newsgathering practices and regulatory responses
- Be an engaged participant in debate regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field
- Be able to critically examine and assess the effectiveness of the legal and regulatory rules that have been or should be developed to address these concerns
- Have the skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating to newsgathering and regulatory responses, and to evaluate existing legal theories, principles and concepts with creativity and autonomy
- Have the technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging legal issues relating to newsgathering
- Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding newsgathering.
Last updated: 11 February 2021