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CUNY Graduate School Of Journalism Awarded Knight Foundation Grant To Teach Law To Bloggers

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

Bloggers

Bloggers who don’t want to end up in court because of legal issues like libel, privacy or copyright will get training from The City University of New York’s new Graduate School of Journalism.

The journalism school has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to develop an online guide to help educate bloggers, citizen journalists and others about legal risk.

The guide will offer the top 10 rules and guidelines to help keep citizen journalists out of court, with each rule serving as an entry point for more in-depth material. It will appear on Knight Foundation sites, as well as on the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism web site, www.journalism.cuny.edu.

“The Knight Foundation has identified a clear and growing need in the world of online journalism,” said Stephen Shepard, dean of the School. “We are pleased to partner with the Foundation to address this need.”

Geanne Rosenberg, journalism director at CUNY’s Baruch College and on faculty at the Graduate School, will be the guide’s primary author. She is a non-practicing lawyer and journalist who has written extensively about media and Internet law. Jeff Jarvis, head of the interactive journalism program at the Graduate School and author of the influential Buzzmachine.com weblog, is actively involved in the project.

From California to Washington to Maine to Florida, bloggers have been confronted with legal threats and legal actions in recent months, including lawsuits claiming libel, copyright infringement and publication of trade secrets. A blogger was imprisoned last summer for failing to surrender a videotape he had made of a violent demonstration and refusing to testify before a grand jury.

Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation journalism program officer, said, “If this grant helps keep just one blogger out of court for reporting the news, it served its purpose.”

While print and broadcast journalists often have training, guidelines and lawyers to help them avoid and defend against legal actions, bloggers and other citizen journalists typically are on their own, Rosenberg noted. “Some don’t realize that defamation law and other areas of legal risk that apply to traditional journalists also apply to them and many are unclear about how they can protect themselves.”

The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism opened its doors in August 2006 with 57 students. The three-semester full-time Master of Arts program equips students to work in multimedia newsrooms and report in specialty areas; a key mission is to help diversify the profession. The School is one of 20 colleges and graduate schools that make up The City University of New York (CUNY), the nation’s largest urban public university.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes journalism excellence worldwide and invests in the vitality of U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since its creation in 1950, the foundation has invested nearly $300 million to advance journalism quality and freedom of expression. For more on Knight’s work, visit www.knightfdn.org.

For more information, contact: Prof. Geanne Rosenberg, (646) 312-3969, Geanne.Rosenberg@journalism.cuny.edu.