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Listed below are legal terms you might come in contact with during your studies of legal issues or in handling legal problems. We have tried to provide full definitions and in cases links for additional or authoritative information.


Accuracy Keeping reporting truthful and within context.

Accused (noun) An accused person is one charged with an offense in a criminal or civil case. It is important for reporters to use the word “accused” or “charged” until a person has been proven guilty.

Advertising policy — An advertising policy could also be part of the overall editorial policy. It should include the types of ads the publication or medium will or will not accept. It could also include a statement about when payments are due, a statement about the right to accept or reject any ad, and a statement about the right to cancel ads. Check out for ideas.

Anonymous sourcesAny source whose name is withheld.

AppellantAn individual or party who appeals a lower court decision the individual or part has lost.

Appellate court – court which hears appeals from lower court decisions, also called a court of appeals.

Appellee – An individual or party who has won at the trial court level. Also,  called the “respondent” for misdemeanors.

Acquitted — A person is acquitted when all the charges brought against him/her have been dismissed or when he/she is found not guilty. An acquittal indicates innocence of the accused.

Arraignment — Courts will call accused individuals to go before a judge to be charged for a wrongdoing. It is a formal reading of the complaint in front of the defendant where the defendant will make a plea of guilty or not guilty. For a complete definition go to


Bail — Bail may be authorized at an arraignment hearing for the defendant. Bail provides temporary release of the defendant in exchange for a secured amount of money pending the defendant’s return for trial. For more information about how bail is set go to


Candidate endorsements — An editorial policy might include a statement about whether your publication can endorse political candidates, or candidates for student offices or for school board positions. Think about what might happen if your candidates should lose. Would your publication suffer as a consequence? Endorsing candidates for national office is different than endorsing candidates within a school setting.

Central Hudson analysis A four-part test by the U.S. Supreme Court used by courts to determine whether a government restriction on commercial speech (e.g., advertising) is constitutional.

Certiorari – An order from a higher court (generally the Supreme Court) to a lower court requesting all documents in a case decided by a lower court.  These document are used to decide whether a higher court will hear a review of a lower court’s decision.

Charge — Authorities charge criminals for misconduct when they place blame on them for an act of misbehaving. In civil cases the charge might be one of libel by an individual who thinks someone defamed him. The Free Dictionary defines a charge as follows: 1) in a criminal case, the specific statement of what crime the party is accused (charged with) contained in the indictment or criminal complaint. 2) in jury trials, the oral instructions by the judge to the jurors just before the jury begins deliberations. This charge is based on jury instructions submitted by attorneys on both sides and agreed upon by the trial judge. 3) a fee for services.

Civic Journalism — Democracy Place defines civic journalism as “an effort to reach out to the public more aggressively in the reporting process, to listen to how citizens frame their problems and what citizens see as solutions to those problems…. and then to use that information to enrich news stories.” The executive director of the Pew Center for Civic Journalism explains the concept in more detail at

Civic Responsibility — This term refers to one’s responsibility as a citizen of the United States. For example, one has the civic duty to serve on a jury and the civic duty to vote in elections. The site traces the history of civic responsibility and its importance to a democratic society.

Conflict of Interest — A conflict of interest arises when a person’s decisions are influenced by his/her personal interests.  A conflict of interest is a situation in which financial or other personal considerations have the potential to compromise or bias professional judgment and objectivity, according to There are two categories of conflicts of interest. Some involve academic activities. Most involve financial gain. For example, a conflict of interest might exist at the secondary school level if a student reporter writes a favorable review of an establishment where he/she works, and as a result the reporter gets an increase in pay.

Conflict of interest policy — A conflict of interest occurs when an individual or a publication is involved in multiple endeavors, and the involvement in one could cause a conflict with the other. All publications should have a policy concerning conflict of interest. Is it a conflict of interest, for example, to accept free tickets to review a movie? Is it a conflict of interest for a reporter who is on the baseball team to write a story about the team? For a definition of conflict of interest go to

Consent For purposes of media law, consent is an important defense to a charge of invasion of privacy or other newsgathering act or publication of information that might give rise to legal claim.  A person found to have validly consented to the publication of information about themselves or to certain newsgathering activities cannot prevail in a subsequent lawsuit based on those acts. In obtaining consent, it is essential that the person providing it fully understand what they are consenting to and that they have the ability and the legal right to provide it.

Copyright — Copyright protects an author against unauthorized use of his or her work. This includes cartoon characters, photos, song lyrics, news stories and books. Using images from the Internet without permission is a form of copyright violation. Copyright is not easily understood. To read about 10 myths concerning copyright, go to

Correction To fix a statement previously published (compare to “retraction.”) A correction is appropriate when part of an original statement is determined to be inaccurate or seriously misleading and updated information can be substituted to make the statement accurate.


Death policy — Publication staffs should have an obituary policy in order to cover deaths consistently the same way. The policy should state if it will cover the deaths of all students, all faculty members, all alums. If so, in what manner will that coverage occur? Scan

For examples of situations you might include in an obituary policy. This policy might also be part of the overall editorial policy.

Defamation — the printed or broadcast word has damaged someone’s reputation. For defamation to occur, however, the person has to be identifiable. That means someone in the reading or listening audience not connected with the publication or broadcast station is able to identify the person who has been defamed. Complete information concerning defamation and the law may be found at

Due process — The Constitution guarantees that the government cannot take away a person’s basic rights to ‘life, liberty or property, without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the deprivation of liberty or property without due process of law. According to “due process is best defined in one word–fairness.”


Editorial policy — All publications need a code of operating practice—a policy that provides the guidelines for reporters and editors as to what is or is not acceptable. If students are making content decisions, the editorial policy should state that the medium is a public forum. A policy should point out that the medium will not do anything unethical or illegal, such a defaming someone’s character or invading someone’s privacy. It might also include guidelines about use of anonymous sources, types of ads that will or will not be accepted, and how to handle obituaries.

Elements of Journalism — According to Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel there are nine elements of journalism. They discuss them in their book entitled The Elements of Journalism. The nine elements are: (1)  Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth; (2)Its first loyalty is to the citizens; (3) It’s essence is discipline of verification; (4) Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover; (5)It must serve as an independent monitor of power; (6)It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise; (7)It must strive to make the significant interesting, and relevant; (8)It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional; and (9)Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience. Check out

En banc – A decision at the bench. This happens when all of the judges in an appeals court sit on the bench and made decisions about major cases of note.

Ethics staff policy — See the New York Times ethics policy at An ethics policy should go far beyond just talking about conflicts of interest. It should also include, among other things,  statements about plagiarism, copyright infringements and photo manipulations. It could be part of the overall editorial policy.


Fair use — The “fair use” exemption to (U.S.) copyright law was created to allow things such as commentary, parody, news reporting, research and education about copyrighted works without the permission of the author. Fair use is generally a short excerpt and almost always attributed. The distinction between fair use and infringement is not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.  For a closer look at fair use and its meaning go to

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent federal agency established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating over-the-air radio and television. The FCC may also oversee long-distance telephone companies and other industries providing interstate communication services by wire. The FCC’s jurisdiction covers the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions.

FOIA (federal act)The National Security Archive defines the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as “a law ensuring public access to U.S. government records. FOIA carries a presumption of disclosure; the burden is on the government – not the public – to substantiate why information may not be released. Upon written request, agencies of the United States government are required to disclose those records, unless they can be lawfully withheld from disclosure under one of nine specific exemptions in the FOIA. This right of access is ultimately enforceable in federal court.” The complete text of the act is at

Felony – a crime carrying a minimum term of one year to life in state prison. In some states a death sentence can be given for a felony.  Sentences of less than a year can be served in county jail.  Sometimes called a “high crime” as found in the U.S. Constitution.

FERPA — FERPA stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It is sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment. FERPA says schools can be penalized for improperly disclosing students’ educational records. In 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court cited FERPA in its decision in the Owasso v. Falvo case. The Student Press Law Center interpreted the ruling as one that would also have an impact on student publications. See SPLC’s comments about the Owasso v. Falvo case at

First Amendment The first of the ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, which amended the U.S. Constitution and went into effect in 1791. The First Amendment guarantees individuals five specific freedoms: (1) freedom of religion, (2) freedom of speech, (3) freedom of the press, (4) freedom of assembly and (5) freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Forums – Three forums of expression are public forums, limited public forums and nonpublic forums.  Public forums are those places where communicating of idea or sharing of information have historical been permitted.  Limited forums are usually restricted by time, place and manner restrictions.  Nonpublic forums are restricted by the nonpublic entity.

Public (open) forum for student expression — A public forum, also called an open forum, is open to all expression that is protected under the First Amendment. This means a publication must accept comments or articles from virtually everyone. The key word is protected. It does not allow for expression in the nine categories of unprotected speech. Public forum status, according to the Student Press Law Center “is determined by examining two things: policy and practice. The key question is whether the government agency in question (a school, for example) intended to allow speakers to make their own content decisions. Official statements of the government’s intent are probably most important, but if such policies do not exist or are unclear, the practice or tradition of how the venue operates will be significant. For a more complete definition go to

Limited forum — A limited public forum, as related to student publications, means a publication has not opened itself up to the general public, but it has opened up to a specific group of people, such as student journalists. Since non-student members of the general public are usually not permitted to use a student publication to publish anything they want, student media are usually referred to as limited or designated public forums. Opinions may be limited to certain people, such as letter writers, guest columnists and the publication staff members. For more information check out

• Closed forum — Closed forums have not been established to function as places for free expression. “In a non-public forum,” the Student Press Law Center says,  “government officials can limit expression as long as their restrictions are “reasonable” and not simply an effort to silence a particular viewpoint.”  Go to for additional information.

Fourth Amendment – guards against unreasonable searches and seizures Search warrants are delivered by officers of the Court for searches.

14th AmendmentThe fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified and adopted in 1868. The 14th Amendment has itself been amended a number of times over the years. It includes the Citizenship Clause, which has been used to expand the definition of citizenship to include groups of people not recognized as full citizens under the U.S. Constitution when it was originally adopted.  It also includes both the Due Process Clause, which recognizes that individuals are protected as both citizens of their state and of the United States (requiring, among other things, that states and state and local government officials not violate the federal Bill of Rights) and the Equal Protection Clause, which requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all persons.

Fourth Estate – A relating to the professional press.  Often, relating to the press functioning as the watchdog of the government. (where this info was obtained).


GuiltyWhen a jury or a court of law has ruled that a person is responsible for an offense of some type, then he is no longer accused. He is guilty. Until a person is found guilty, he/she is a suspect.



IndependenceKeeping the business and editorial sections separate.

Indictment – when a district attorney charges  an individual with a  felony based on gathered evidence and testimony of reliable witnesses

Infotainment – “television or radio programs that treat factual material in an entertaining manner, as by including dramatic elements.” (

Internet Filtering—Several states have adopted filtering laws that apply to public schools and libraries. Most of these laws require school boards and public libraries to adopt Internet use policies to prevent minors from accessing sites that might contain obscene or sexually explicit materials. Some of the states also require filtering software on the computers to block access to certain sites. The federal congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act in 2000. Part of this act required placing filters to block certain sites on school computers. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this act did not violate the First Amendment because schools and libraries may disable the filters upon request. School administrators often disable the filters for journalism students doing viable research. For more information check out:

Invasion of privacy—The right to privacy means a person has the right to live his or her private life without it being exposed to the public for comment, criticism, or ridicule. It is not well defined in law, but there are four kinds of privacy cases. They are: disclosure of private facts; intrusion; false light; and appropriation. For a complete definition of these four types, check out


JEA Adviser Code of Ethics

Media advisers will:

  • Model standards of professional journalistic conduct to students, administrators and others.
  • Empower students to make decisions of style, structure and content by creating a learning atmosphere where students will actively practice critical thinking and decision making.
  • Encourage students to seek out points of view and to explore a variety of information sources in their decision making.
  • Support and defend a free, robust and active forum for student expression without prior review or restraint.
  • Emphasize the importance of accuracy, balance and clarity in all aspects of news gathering and reporting.
  • Show trust in students as they carry out their responsibilities by encouraging and supporting them in a caring learning environment.
  • Remain informed on press rights and responsibilities to provide students with sources of legal information.
  • Advise, not act as censors or decision makers.
  • Display professional and personal integrity in situations which might be construed as potential conflicts of interest.
  • Support free expression for others in local and larger communities.
  • Counsel students to avoid deceptive practices in all practices of publication work.
  • Model effective communications skills by continuously updating knowledge of media education.
  • Jurisdiction –



Landmark case a case in which the legal decision is significant, precedent setting. Among the landmark decisions affecting scholastic journalism:

• Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969)

Petitioners, three public school pupils in Des Moines, Iowa, were suspended from school for wearing black armbands to protest the Government’s policy in Vietnam. They sought nominal damages and an injunction against a regulation that the respondents had promulgated banning the wearing of armbands. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the ground that the regulation was within the Board’s power, despite the absence of any finding of substantial interference with the conduct of school activities. The Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, affirmed by an equally divided court. Held:

  1. In wearing armbands, the petitioners were quiet and passive. They were not disruptive and did not impinge upon the rights of others. In these circumstances, their conduct was within the protection of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth. Pp. 505-506.
  2. First Amendment rights are available to teachers and students, subject to application in light of the special characteristics of the school environment. Pp. 506-507.
  3. A prohibition against expression of opinion, without any evidence that the rule is necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others, is not permissible under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 507-514.

•  Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988)

This US Supreme Court decision gave schools the ability to limit student expression if student media are not public forums for student expression by policy or practice and if school officials have a legitimate pedagogical reason.

• Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973) was an important United States Supreme Court case involving what constitutes unprotected obscenity for First Amendment purposes. The decision reiterated that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment and established the Miller test for determining what constituted obscene material.

• Bethel School District v. Fraser (1986) was a United States Supreme Court decision involving free speech and public schools.

On April 26, 1983, Matthew Fraser, a Spanaway, Washington, high school senior, gave a speech nominating classmate Jeff Kuhlman for Associated Student Body Vice President. The speech was filled with sexual innuendos, but not obscenity, prompting disciplinary action from the administration.

• Dean v. Utica Community Schools (2004) is an important legal case in United States constitutional law, namely on how the First Amendment applies to censorship in a public school environment. The case expanded on the ruling definitions of the Supreme Court case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, in which a high school journalism-oriented trial on censorship limited the First Amendment right to freedom of expression in curricular student newspapers. The case consisted of Utica High School Principal Richard Machesky ordering the deletion of an article in the Arrow, the high school’s newspaper, a decision later deemed “unreasonable” and “unconstitutional” by District Judge Arthur Tarnow.

• Morse v. Frederick (2007) (Bong Hits for Jesus) was a school speech case in which the United States Supreme Court held that the First Amendment does not prevent educators from suppressing student speech, at a school-supervised event, that is reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use.

Letter to the editor —Publications operating as a limited public forum should be willing to accept letters to the editor. The editor should know who wrote the letter, and the publication should have a letter policy that dictates the maximum length acceptable and gives the publication the right to edit and/or to refuse to print. Editors need to realize a publication can be liable for libel based on the contents of a letter.

Liability —In New York Times Co, v Sullivan the U.S. Supreme Court outlined when journalists would be liable for libel against public officials. The court said “A defamatory falsehood relating to his (a public official’s conduct) “must be made with actual malice—that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” Generally, malice usually does need to be proven before those sued become liable for defamation of character. Liability for a libel falls on anyone connected with the story from the original writer to the publisher. Read more:

Libel —Any false statement, written or broadcast, that causes a person to be hated, shunned, avoided, or to suffer financial loss. For libel to occur, four elements must be present. They are: defamation (also called harm); identification; publication; and fault. For a comparison of libel vs. slander and for a definition of libel per se, go to


Malice —The U. S. Supreme Court defined malice in the New York Times v. Sullivan case. It said malice occurs when a publication knows the information presented is false and if the victim can show by “convincing clarity” the libel was made with “knowledge” of falsehood or “reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” More details about the Court case may be found at

Material disruption of the school process —This is the Tinker standard. In Tinker v. Des Moines, the U.S. Supreme Court held students could wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam war, since the administration could not prove wearing the bands would disrupt the educational processes. Student publications have used the Tinker standard to try to prevent administrators from censoring school publications, if they cannot prove the content in dispute would disrupt the school day. Information about the Tinker case and some exercises related to it may be found at

Misdemeanor – crime usually assessed by a fine or time in jail up to one year.  Tried in local court not state or federal court.  Traffic violations, drunken driving, disturbing the peace, etc.


News values —The University of North Carolina at Pembroke lists “seven news values held by news media gatekeepers – impact, timeliness, prominence, proximity, bizarreness, conflict, and currency.” You might add emotions and human interest to the list. The number of these values a reporter can identify as being present in a story makes the story more newsworthy. The key, however, is finding facts that interest most readers. For a description of each of the seven values the University of North Carolina suggests, check out the following site:

The NSPA Code of Ethics for high school journalists establishes seven ethical principles for high school journalists. No more modifying other codes of ethics. This one is specific to the situations facing high school students and advisers. And, it’s been created with all media in mind.


Obscenity —The U.S. Supreme Court defined obscenity in Miller v. California (1973). Under Miller, prurient and “patently offensive” sexual material is obscene unless it possesses “serious literary, artistic political, or scientific value.” For the most part, the court left it up to local courts to decide what might be obscene in their jurisdictions, since the definition of obscenity will vary based on geographical location. More information about the case may be found online at

Off campus speech — Schools are punishing students for what they consider inappropriate off-campus speech. If courts are allowing schools to do this for off-campus speech, it’s even more likely they would allow punishment for “inappropriate” language for on-campus speech. Punishment for off-campus speech has occurred because of what teens have said on their Facebook sites. In Morse v. Frederick, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a student for a banner he held at a school-sponsored event, even though he was off campus. Read about the case at

Online comments Individuals may post comments online in various places, including their own web site, someone’s blog, or on social sites such as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. One needs to be aware that comments made online are often public for everyone to see and comments made may come back to haunt an individual. For one person’s opinion on what online comments should or should not do check out,2817,2327851,00.asp

Open meetings law — States have open meeting laws that pertain to public, collegial, deliberative bodies that meet as a group for deliberation and decision making. This would include school boards. State laws do make exceptions and allow these groups to deliberate some agenda items behind closed doors. For most school districts that would include deliberations about personnel matters. For more information go to

Open records law — Open records means that working newsmen have access to public information in order to do their job and inform their readers about government decisions. Each state and D. C. has its own open records law, so one needs to become familiar with the law in his/her state. The First Amendment Center’s web site at gives more information.


Photo manipulation —When a photographer changes or alters the content of a photo, he/she is manipulating it. A publication should label the photo as a manipulation. If a photograph goes beyond what is routinely done in a darkroom to improve the image quality, it would be manipulation. Excellent examples of photo tampering over the years may be found at

Plagiarism An ethical, not a legal, term. Plagiarism occurs when a person uses another’s works or ideas without attribution. It is a term for the academic crime of claiming the words or ideas or methods of someone else as your own. Plagiarism can have serious consequences because it involves the integrity of the writer, photographer, etc. Prominent newspaper columnists and reporters have resigned or been fired after plagiarism accusations.  (See page 259 in The Law of the Student Press)

Prior restraintPrior restraint is a term used to describe banning the expression of ideas prior to publication, or prior to a reporter even writing an article.  Adminis-trators use prior restraint in order to keep materials from being published. For a legal definition go to

Prior review — One means administrators use to censor articles is to review all articles prior to publication. This often means letting principals or other individuals  review the entire publication prior to printing to decide what they will or will not allow. For arguments against prior review check out the Journalism Education Association’s comments at

Private figure – For purposes of American defamation law, a private figure is anyone that is not determined by a court to be either a public figure or public official. Unlike public figures/officials, who must show that the publisher of a false and damaging statement either knew the information was false when they published it or who were reckless in verifying its accuracy, a private figure must only show that the publisher was negligent (i.e., the publisher failed to do something they reasonably should have done — or unreasonably did something they shouldn’t have done — to verify the accuracy of the information.)

Public figure For purposes of American defamation law, in order to win a lawsuit, persons determined by courts to be public figures must show that not only was the information published about them false and seriously damaging to their reputation but also that it was published by people who either knew the information was false or who were reckless in verifying its accuracy. (A private figure generally must only show that the publisher was negligent, a much easier standard to meet.) Public figures will usually have voluntarily put themselves in the public spotlight and typically enjoy access to the media that allows them an opportunity to respond to false statements. That said, identifying who is and who is not a public figure is, as one judge said, like “trying to nail a jellyfish to a the wall.” Journalists are wise to treat all of their subjects the same and never publish information about an individual without doing all that they reasonably can to verify its accuracy.



Responsible journalism —Reporting should be non-biased, accurate and balanced without editorial comment, unless the reporter is writing an opinion piece, such as a personal column or a straight editorial giving the publication’s viewpoint. As well as being factual, reporting should also be free of grammatical and spelling errors. Responsible journalism means a publication will avoid doing anything that would cause it to lose its credibility. That means the publication will adhere to a Code of Ethics in all it does. To learn how to use the Internet as a reporter responsibly check out . See also for JEA materials on responsible journalism.

RetractionTo take back a statement previously published (compare to “correction.”) A retraction is appropriate when an original statement is determined to be false in its entirety or, in some cases, when serious questions exist about its accuracy.

Right to information gathering – Any person’s right to legally and ethically obtain information.

Role of the adviser —The role of the adviser should be to advise. He/she should be a coach, but not a player. He/she should make suggestions and critique the outcome, but he does not make the plays. Once the adviser starts doing the students’ work, they will expect it to continue to happen and they will not take ownership of the finished product.


School-sponsored Speech that is at least partially supported by a school, typically by providing funding, personnel (e.g., a faculty adviser) physical resources or infrastructure overhead.  In its 1988 Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier decision, the U.S. Supreme Court distinguished school-sponsored student speech from non-school-sponsored student speech. Only school-sponsored student speech may be subject to the Hazelwoodcensorship standard and even then some school-sponsored student speech is excepted.

Section 230 A provision of the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. Section 230, that provides immunity from liability to Internet service providers for content created by third parties. (As interpreted by most courts, Section 230 also extends liability protection to Web site or blog owners.) For example, under Section 230, a news media organization could claim immunity for defamatory comments created and posted by non-staffers on its reader feedback section.

“7 dirty words”Comedian George Carlin started the whole debate in a 1972 monologue saying there were seven dirty words you can never say on TV.  The words were considered highly inappropriate and unsuitable for broadcast. Although most of the words on Carlin’s original list remain taboo on American broadcast television as of 2010, the list has never been considered official. However, a radio broadcast featuring these words led to a Supreme Court decision that helped establish the extent to which the federal government could regulate speech on broadcast television and radio in the United States.

Shield laws — According to Wikipedia, “ A shield law is legislation designed to provide a news reporter with the right to refuse to testify as to information and/or sources of information obtained during the newsgathering and dissemination process.” The Poynter Institute gives information about journalist shield laws at

Slander — False words spoken orally that damage the reputation of another person is slanderous. For a legal definition of slander go to

Social/new media – Information sites driven by user content and spread through social networks. Examples:, twitter

State action – in Federal Civil Rights cases a claim that  a state employee like a sheriff invokes “color of law” to violate a person’s civil rights.  The accused individual can sue for damages under the Civil Rights Act against such a violation of civil rights.

Supreme Court – highest court in the land.  Decides constitutional questions granted by the Constitution, both in federal statutes when the federal government is involved.


Time, place, manner restrictions – Restricts places and times when people can convene under First Amendment right to assemble or speak in locations when the greater good of the citizens might be hindered by such assembly or speech – like in the middle of Time Square in the middle of rush hour.

Trademark — Individuals and companies use trademarks to help distinguish their products or services from others. Trademarks are usually names, words, phrases, logos, symbols, designs or images that depict a certain business or enterprise. Owners of trademarks may take action against someone who has used the trademark without authorization. For an overview of trademark law go to

TransparencyAllowing full access to information gathering and decision making process.  (How Mass Media Stimulate Political Transparency by J.M. Balkin, who is the Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale)


Unprotected speech — Courts have held there are nine areas of unprotected speech—speech the First Amendment does not protect. According to the Student Press Law Center there are nine areas of unprotected speech. They are: obscenities; defamations; expressions intended to incite an unlawful action; fighting words (directed toward a person that will likely invoke a violent reaction); invasions of privacy; deceptive or misleading advertisements; clear and immediate threats to the national security; copyright violations; and expression on high school grounds that causes a material and substantial disruption, is indecent or vulgar, or advocates illegal drug use. For more complete definitions of some of these areas go to


Verification – Making sure the information the publication provides has been double or triple checked by a second person or editor.

Viewpoint neutrality — Perhaps instead of endorsing candidates for office, you might consider giving each candidate a chance to present his/her viewpoints. You could do this using the Q & A method where each candidate answers the same questions. That way your publication is not supporting one candidate over another, but the quality of answers might sway your readers to vote one way or the other. Viewpoint neutrality goes beyond endorsements, however. In any story of a sensitive or controversial nature, the writer needs to be careful to present both sides in a non-biased and impartial manner with direct quotes for and against the issue. The Student Press Law Center discusses viewpoint neutrality in one of its news releases at