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What would you do in this situation...

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by PalmettoStatesport, Aug 14, 2006.

  1. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Leo, assuming more than one paper covers the team, would consistently shutting out one newspaper be intentional tort?
  2. Herbert Anchovy

    Herbert Anchovy Active Member

    Lawyers need to be involved when you are being prohibited from performing functions of your job as a duly accredited member of the news media. I would be on the horn with the honchos first, and I would not be cool about it.
  3. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    Just cover the team and continually put that the coach refused to respond to the paper's requests for information. It won't take long before they open up. They don't want to look like dicks.

    It reminds me of a city council story I wrote as an intern. They met in closed session for 90-plus minutes. Then they didn't take any action at all and dismissed. I reported the facts with a tinge of sarcasm, and the public got the message. People wanted to know what was taking place behind closed doors, and that was the end of backroom politics.

    Don't put it in a column. Nobody likes a whiner. Just put it in a story. Hell, you might even write a story about the paper being shut out.

    Also, let other people in the organization know the details.
  4. area313code

    area313code Member

    Show them that their tactics do not affect your coverage one iota.

    Don't even blink.
  5. PopeDirkBenedict

    PopeDirkBenedict Active Member

    There is no intentional tort (assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of mental/emotional distress, trespass of land, interference with personal property and conversion/theft) that applies in this situation. I'm sure an enterprising lawyer could try to force it as interference with personal property or emotional distress, but a judge will chuckle and throw it out of court. I agree with Leo, I don't think involving the lawyers is going to do anything: I'm sure the university has plenty of good lawyers on retainer as well and they will call your bluff. As a "duly accredited member of the news media" you cannot legally force government officials to consent to an interview. Period. End of story.

    The best way to handle this is for you and your paper's editor to sit down with the AD and have a good talk. Let the AD bitch -- more than anything, the AD is probably like a lot of irate readers: first and foremost, he wants you to listen to his rant. After he (or she) has gotten their litany of complaints off their chest and feels like you have listened to them, you can probably work it out. Don't forget this as well: you are going to be working with that AD because I'm guessing football isn't the only sport you cover. If you go over his head, he is going to resent it and he won't forget about it. Unless you want him to send down an edict to his coaches that they are to give you the minimal cooperation necessary, respect him enough not to go over his head. Start with him and try to hash it out. Then work your way up the food chain.
  6. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    frank, as dirk suggests in his post, there is no tort covering this. to oversimplify a bit, torts are either the civil version of criminal acts (ie. suing for assault or theft (the tort of conversion) or things that don't have a criminal equivalent such as intentional infliction of emotional distress.

    the only possible legal angle would be a sunshine law violation or equal protection issue (if his paper is being singled out) if we're talking about a state school. i think both would be a huge stretch. no one has a constitutional right to interview the coach. as long as he's being allowed on campus it's not a first amendment issue either.

    actually as i think about this a little more, if the paper suffered financial losses because the coach refused to talk and as a result people stopped buying the paper, an enterprising attorney could try a tortious interference with a business relationship claim. but that doesn't seem to be happening here and like the potential equal protection claim, is more than a stretch. in fact, there has to be an existing business relationship, so that makes this claim even more unlikely. it's conceivable that a good lawyer could prove that there's a business relationship between the paper and the coach - and that the school president and AD interfered with it - but i doubt anyone would call the relationship between reporter and source a 'business relationship.' but dumber lawsuits have been filed... (damn lawyers ;D)
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