Reunion, ‘Post’ remind of newspapers’ purpose

By Layne Bruce

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Layne Bruce

OLIVE BRANCH – This town used to be known only to me as the “last pit stop before Memphis.”

In the 70s, Olive Branch seemed little more than a couple of gas stations at an exit on U.S. 78 just before you reached the Tennessee line. It wasn’t until much later – until I actually lived in the city from 2004-2006 – that I learned of its charming downtown and tight-knit community.

Like much of suburbia, the city exploded in growth in the 80s and 90s as city dwellers moved outward. Likely sensing what was coming, Doug Jones opened the DeSoto County Tribune in Olive Branch in 1972 on the cusp of a period of rapid growth. Population in the small town exploded from 1,500 in 1970 to upward of 20,000 just 30 years later. It’s estimated 35,000 call Olive Branch home today.

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Revisiting the ‘Right to be forgotten’

By John C. Henegan, Sr.

2016 henegan, john
John Henegan

Three years ago this column reported about a legal ruling by the European Union Court of Justice (“EUCJ”) issued in May of 2014 establishing the so-called “right to be forgotten” under European law. See “Law Bytes: The Right To Be Forgotten When Everybody Knows Your Name,” The Fourth Estate (March 2015). The decision arose from a private party’s request that a search engine operated by Google in Spain pull down a 1998 legal notice that his home was being foreclosed. Google refused to comply with the request. In his suit against Google, the requester admitted that the legal notice was once true but contended that by 2014 it was no longer accurate and should be taken off Google’s search engine in Spain. EUJC upheld the requestor’s claim for relief.

The EUCJ’s decision drew an immediate firestorm of hostile commentary from media outlets in the United States who routinely publish the contents of official records and legal notices in print and electronic format. These media companies were justifiably concerned that they might soon face similar requests from private citizens, followed by suits for defamation or invasion of privacy, if a media company refused to take down similar information that could arise in a variety of different contexts. How has the so-called right to be forgotten fared in our country since then?

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When a political Tweet crosses the line into defamation

By John C. Henegan Sr.

2016 henegan, john
John C. Henegan Sr.

United States Supreme Court Justice William Brennan traced the history of public debate about political affairs in our nation in 1964 in the landmark decision New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, concluding that public officials could recover for defamatory statements about their conduct in public office only if they could prove that the statements were false and that the speaker subjectively knew that they were false. In Sullivan, he famously wrote that in our country there is “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,” permitting “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” In the most recent presidential campaign and the first year of his term of office President Trump has vigorously exercised this principle in social media such as Twitter when responding to his critics.

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Court to public officials who would meet in private: Don’t

By Layne Bruce

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Layne Bruce

It was a long, rainy summer across much of the state.

But September brought with it cooler temperatures and lots of sunshine – both literally and metaphorically.

Just as we in Jackson started to enjoy one of the longest sustained periods of mild, sunny weather in months came news the State Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the Columbus City Council violated the Mississippi Open Meetings Act.

It was a unanimous 9-0 vote, no less. Talk about a win for sunshine laws.

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Politely refuting the ‘liberal bias’ label

By Al Cross

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Al Cross

Last month I shared the story of a community newspaper editor who showed an effective way to respond to concerns of readers, often not politely expressed, that his newspaper was liberally biased. Brian Hunt of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin is an experienced editor, but an intern at a Kentucky weekly newspaper took a very similar approach in a manner that was just as professional. Here’s an adapted version of our report on The Rural Blog:

Josh Qualls was having difficulty finding a source to help him explain how the House health-insurance bill might affect seniors on Medicaid in Lincoln County, Kentucky, where he recently completed a summer internship with The Interior Journal in Stanford. So he went to the Boone Newspapers weekly’s Facebook page.

“The very first response echoed some of the most disheartening, gut-wrenching rhetoric we’ve seen directed toward journalists in recent months. Its author offered a scathing indictment of the news media and accused us of being liberally biased,” Qualls wrote in his intern report to the Kentucky Press Association, relying on memory because the poster had deleted the post. “She talked about how much ‘Obamacare’ didn’t help her health-hindered family, so I saw a way to connect with her.”

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CJR article errs in assessment of public notice, newspapers

By Richard Karpel

Karpel, Richard
Richard Karpel

In a recent article in Columbia Journalism Review, Liena Zagare and Ben Smith argue that local governments should move public notice and other civic advertising from newspapers to local-news websites like their own BKLYNER.

To buttress their case, they claim that a newspaper in their borough, the Brooklyn Eagle, recently had “three of its 12 pages entirely covered” by advertising designed to “make sure taxpayers see how their money is being spent, and to prevent officials from hiding corrupt deals.” But those three pages of advertising in the Eagle were placed by law firms, not public officials. And its purpose was to provide official notice of courtroom process, not public spending. That’s a pretty glaring mistake. Surely, CJR would want to correct the record, right?

We thought so too, but CJR disagrees.

However, we’re less interested in CJR’s editorial policy than in what the mistake illustrates about the authors’ understanding of public notice: It is sorely lacking. And people who write about subjects they know little about tend to spread misinformation, which is what Zagare and Smith have done.

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New law on liquor ads takes effect July 1

By John C. Henegan Sr.

2016 henegan, john
John Henegan

In the exercise of its powers under the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution, the State Legislature recently amended the state law regulating liquor advertising and signage, Miss. Code § 67-1-85 (2016).

Under the current law it is unlawful for a newspaper in a “dry” municipality, county, or judicial district to publish liquor advertising even if the advertising only appears in papers only distributed in a “wet” municipality, county, or judicial district.

The title to S.B. No. 2345 sums up the change:  The new law “DELETE[S] THE PROVISION THAT MAKES IT UNLAWFUL FOR ANY ADVERTISEMENT OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES TO ORIGINATE IN ANY MUNICIPALITY, COUNTY OR JUDICIAL DISTRICT WHICH HAS NOT VOTED TO LEGALIZE THE SALE OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES . . . .”

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