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[UPDATED] Journalist killed in Afghanistan with 4 soldiers

By  •  News
[Note: This post has been updated] Calgary Herald journalist Michelle Lang, 34, and four Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan Wednesday, CBC News reports.

Lang grew up in Vancouver and had also worked in Regina and Moose Jaw. She won a National Newspaper Award in 2008 for best beat reporting.

Lang is the first Canadian journalist to be killed…

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What exactly is responsible journalism?

By  •  Ethics

Question MarkWith the recent Supreme Court decision to widen the available defences to defamation actions comes added responsibilities. Journalists must now debate what constitutes responsible journalism, writes Cecil Rosner
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Libel reform: Be careful what you wish for

By  •  Law

Jeffrey DvorkinThe new defence of responsible communication is good news for the media, but Ryerson University’s Jeffrey A. Dvorkin doubts it will usher in a new wave investigative journalism. As layoffs continue and newsrooms are pared down to the editorial bone, the ability of news organizations to engage in deep, contextual investigative journalism is far from what it once was, or what it should be.

And lawyer Alan Shanoff, who teaches media law at Humber College, cautions the devil will be in the details as judges and juries apply the court’s broad definitions of public interest and responsible journalism to stories targetted with libel suits. Read Shanoff’s columns in The Law Times and the Toronto Sun.
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The responsible communication defence: What’s in it for journalists?

By  •  Law

New defences to libel actions don’t come along every day, so what exactly does the pair of Supreme Court of Canada rulings handed down December 22 mean for journalists? An expanded definition of “public interest,” a list of the steps journalists should take to produce a solid, libel-proof story, and good news for bloggers. Dean Jobb breaks down the rulings in Grant v. Torstar Corp. and Quan v. Cusson.
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J-Source Journalism Integrity Award: nominations close Jan. 8

By  •  News

Do you know someone who is an inspiration to working journalists, educators and audiences? This new award will recognize a person or organization that has had a positive impact on the quality of journalism in Canada in 2009. Nominate your choice now.

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Olympic spin … er, media relations

The Seattle Times‘s Ron Judd is not impressed with the media strategy of the organizing committee of the Vancouver 2010 winter Olympics, VANOC. “The organization seems hellbent on turning its media relations into a virtual-reality experience,” Judd writes in a satirical response to the pre-packaged end-of-the-year video release by committee head John Furlong.

The piece is amusing — but Judd’s complaint about VANOC’s “convenient approach — one which, if it caught on, would negate the need for messy, unnecessary and overly nosey reporters altogether” is deadly serious. The 2010 games entail as much as $6 billion in direct and indirect public spending (by some estimates) and a long list of issues that citizens might want to know about.

And as Judd points out, past media-relations foibles might be “laughable today if it wasn’t for what it might portend for the Olympic Games themselves … can you imagine how it will handle the media crush if, God forbid, something major actually happens during the Olympics?”

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SCC creates new libel defence of responsible communication

By  •  Law

The Supreme Court of Canada has created a new libel defence – the defence of responsible communication on matters of public interest. In a landmark ruling that orders new trials in libel actions against two Ontario newspapers, the court introduced the British defence of responsible journalism with a new name and some made-in-Canada modifications. The defence is based on the conduct of the journalists and editors who produce the story, and can defeat a libel claim even if some facts and allegations published or broadcast turn out to be wrong or false.

The court established a broad definition of the public interest, saying it is not limited to stories on politics and can apply to stories of interest to a limited audience if the subject is of public importance. The rulings set seven criteria for judging whether journalists acted responsibly, including the seriousness of the allegations, the reliability of sources and whether the person defamed was given a chance to respond. There are two other important aspects to the ruling…
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New legal defence: “responsible communication”

Few legal judgements make for inspiring reading — but the new libel defence outlined in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling Grant v. Torstar Corp., 2009 SCC 61 is one of them.

The Dec. 22 decision lays out the criteria under which journalists can use the defence of “responsible communication” against libel suits. It’s a must-read for every practicing or aspiring journalist.

Some initial reports about the case and the ruling: The Toronto Star: “Supreme Court backs press in major libel ruling;” CBC: “New libel defence permitted;” The Globe and Mail: “Supreme Court hands victory to media.”
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Moving on to (better?) things

New York Times science and environment reporter Andrew Revkin is “switching gears for the second half of my professional life.” Revkin wrote in the Times that he’s not abandoning journalism — “I’ll be continuing to blog, write and work with video. And I’ll certainly keep contributing to this remarkable newspaper…” — but is rather taking on new challenges, as senior fellow for environmental understanding at the Academy for Applied Environmental
Studies within Pace University.

His focus, he wrote, will “be education and a broader exploration of new ways to make information work…” He mentions the “untapped potential to use the Web;” calls bloggingan unavoidable responsibility of communicators;” plans for a role in interactive games; and says that in a world of shrinking specialized journalism his goal is to “help make scientists and scientific institutions into better, more committed, more creative communicators.”

It’s exciting and inspiring stuff — and maybe Revkin has the background to pull it off. Reading about his plans brought to mind the hopeful note on which former J-Source editor Ivor Shapiro left the post, with an editorial about how some glasses are half full during these trying times of change. Revkin doesn’t think the sky is falling. Instead, he’s crafting his own airship to explore it.

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Journalism is not the media

“Journalism, the practice, is not “the media,”” argues Jay Rosen in a mini-essay about how the practice of journalism has become trapped in media production routines. He says, “We got into the habit of calling journalism the “news media,” and then just “the media.” Journalism and the system that carries it became equated.”

Now the media industry is in trouble, Rosen suggests, journalists should free ourselves from that way of thinking.

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