2005 Model Lesson Plan Law & Ethics for Photojournalists Teacher: Katie Meyer Sources



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2005 Model Lesson Plan

Law & Ethics for Photojournalists

Teacher: Katie Meyer

Sources: http://www.medialaw.org/, http://usinfo.state.gov, http://highschooljournalism.org/, http://www.nppa.org/, 52 A.L.R.4th 488

Goals: By understanding the laws governing photographers, students will be able to:

1. Understand that First Amendment rights are balanced with other rights

2. Place new stories about lawsuits surrounding celebrities and the paparazzi in a legal context

3. Learn how to make sound legal and ethical judgments regarding photographs of private individuals



Knowledge Objectives: Because of this class, students will be better able to:

1. Articulate First Amendment rights

2. Understand the elements that must be present for libel to have taken place

3. Learn the difference between public and private figures as far as libel law is concerned



Skills Objectives: Because of this class, students will be better able to:

1. Distinguish between legal and illegal photojournalism scenarios

2. Balance the rights and responsibilities surrounding the First Amendment

3. Understand the relationship and differences between law and ethics



Attitude Objectives: Because of this class, students will be better able to feel:

1. That ethical considerations are important even when an action is legal

2. That even when an action is legal and ethical, considerations of good taste and context are important as well.

Introductory Activity

Hand out Opinion Poll worksheet


Today we are going to talk about the First Amendment and specifically, the protection it gives to the press. Can I have a volunteer read the text of the First Amendment, found on the top of your handout? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” We are concerned today with the part that says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press. To get you all thinking about this, we are going to take a minute to fill out a short opinion poll about the First Amendment.
Have students answer questions silently and then debrief by asking for a show of hands regarding the answers for each question (for Peer Teaching, only debrief 2-4 by asking for a show of hands and showing the overhead to explain how they compare to students across the nation)
Freedom of the press was very important to the framers of the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson even said “If it were left to me to decide whether we should have a government without a free press or a free press without a government, I would prefer the latter.” Can anyone (limit to 2 people for Peer Teaching) guess why they thought it was so important? (press is sometimes considered the “fourth branch” of the gov’t and can provide a check and balance on the other branches of gov’t, a strong and independent press is necessary to democracy, provides a forum for all the different views and information on matters of public importance, etc.)
In our lesson on human rights, we talked about how important rights, like freedom of speech, often conflict with other important rights. Can anyone (limit to 2 people for Peer Teaching) think of rights that may sometimes conflict with a free press? (take a few answers, but we are looking for an individual’s right to privacy). Is there a constitutional right to privacy? (some students may mention search and seizure). The words “right to privacy” are not in the constitution, but the Supreme Court has recognized a constitutional right to privacy, including the right to be let alone (like we learned in our search and seizure lesson). To illustrate the balance between freedom of the press and an individual’s right to privacy, we are going to look at photojournalism, which you may hear about in the news, like when a celebrity sues the paparazzi.



Optional Opinion Poll to Introduce Privacy Rights and Libel Law

in Connection with the First Amendment

  1. You are editor of a feature magazine, and you need a picture of some troubled teens to illustrate a story. Your photographer goes by the high school and shoots some pictures of some teens waiting outside for their rides. You print one of the pictures, only to find out later that these were some of the school's top scholars. Could they sue you successfully? (yes, because you potentially hurt their reputations)

  2. You take a picture of woman with her dress blowing up, showing her undergarments underneath. Although her face is not visible, her children are next to her. Since she was in public view, can your editor run it without fear of being sued? (No, she could successfully prove that the photo was embarrassing but not newsworthy)

  3. You see a bad car accident and begin taking photos immediately, of the smashed cars, of the victims being tended to and put into the ambulance, etc. The police at the scene order you to stop. As a representative of the media, can you legally continue? (Yes) Can you think of any limits to what you can shoot? (You cannot take pictures of a victim in an ambulance)

  4. From the street, you photograph two teenagers kissing on a front porch. Even if you did not ask their permission, can your editor legally run it? (yes, legally it's OK since anything on a public street is fair game, but ethically you might decide against it)

  5. There has been a bad fire in someone's home, and you want to take pictures inside the house. The owner is not home, and the police and firefighters do not object. Do you, as a representative of the media, have a right to enter the house, or would you be trespassing? (You have a right to enter the house and take pictures)

  6. You're shopping in a grocery store and witness a woman cut by a broken pickle jar. She sees your camera and asks you to photograph her wound. Can you legally take a picture? (yes) What if the manager sees you and asks you to stop? (you must stop since you're on their private property)



Teach Legal Issues

Hand out Libel Law Sheet

One way that states have let their citizens challenge the media’s ability to exercise absolute freedom of the press is through tort law—specifically libel law suits. Libel laws allow citizens to sue over false statements of fact about them that are printed, broadcast, spoken or otherwise communicated to others.

Have students read the Libel Law handout silently or have several students read it aloud to the class. Ask one student to summarize the elements of libel. Write these on the board. Have another student explain the difference in the fault requirement for public and private individuals.

For almost 200 years, the Supreme Court refused to protect the media from libel lawsuits by relying on the First Amendment. This changed with regard to public officials in 1964 in a famous case called New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. This is the case where the Court decided that reporters or editors had to be guilty of "actual malice" when publishing false statements about public officials (and later they decided to extend this to public figures, like celebrities). The Court still has not recognized a uniform requirement like this when the case involves a private individual. This can be seen as the Court saying that privacy rights are more important than freedom of the press in those circumstances (or it can be seen as the Court saying that the states have the right to decide these things for themselves—but that is the topic for another lesson)

Teach Ethical Considerations

Hand out NPPA Code of Ethics

Before we begin our main activity for today, I want to point out that most members of the press are very aware of not only their First Amendment rights but also their corresponding ethical responsibilities as reporters and citizens. This handout is part of the The National Press Photographers Association’s Code of Ethics. Can anyone (one person for Peer Teaching) tell me briefly the difference between laws and ethics? (A simple answer is that laws are the bare minimum required to live peacefully and productively in society, while ethics are the higher standards that we strive to live by, even if we aren’t legally obligated).

Have students read the code silently or aloud.

In our activity, you are going to get to be photographers and editors and in making the decision whether to run certain photographs, headlines, and captions, we want you to consider not only the legal constraints on the Libel Law handout, but also the ethical considerations in the Code. Finally, there may be situations where a photo and story is both legal and ethical, but you still hesitate to run it because of a gut reaction that it just doesn’t feel right. Photojournalists call this good taste and you can consider it in making your decisions.

Activity

Have students get into groups of four (three in peer teaching) by counting off (by five in Peer Teaching). One student from each group will act as a photojournalist and the others as photo editors. Each photographer will have five (one in peer teaching) potential photographs, five (one) potential headlines and five (one) potential captions for the photos that they are trying to convince their editors to run (see Photographer Worksheet). The photographer will first show only the picture to the editors, who will decide whether it is legal, ethical and in good taste to run the photo (see Editor Worksheet). Next, the photographer will add the headline, and the editors will adjust their decision if necessary. Finally, the photographer will add the caption and the editors will again adjust their decisions if they think this changes anything. If the editors refuse to run the photo, they must provide a legal, ethical, and/or good taste reason. The photographer should try to think of a counterargument to their editor’s reasoning. Editors should be reminded to ask the photographer about his or her sources for the photo, headline and caption (provided on the Photographer Worksheet under Source)

Have the class act out their roles and after 15 minutes (8 in Peer Teaching), bring everyone back together and have one editor from each group share their decision for one of the situations (or their particular situation in Peer Teaching), and the photographer state their counterarguments if they had any. For each situation, share the real outcome of the case with the class, using it as an opportunity to review elements of libel and ethical considerations.

Wrap Up
Possible homework assignment…

First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”


Opinion Poll

Source: http://www.knightfdn.org/
1. Based on your own feelings about the First Amendment, please tell me whether you agree or disagree with the following statement: The First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.

 Strongly agree

 Mildly agree

 Mildly disagree

 Strongly disagree

 Don’t know


2. Overall, do you think the press in America has too much freedom to do what it wants, too little freedom to do what it wants, or is the amount of freedom the press has about right?

 Too much freedom

 Too little freedom

 About right

 Don’t know
3. Newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of a story.

 Strongly agree

 Mildly agree

 Mildly disagree

 Strongly disagree

 Don’t know


4. High school students should be allowed to report controversial issues in their student newspapers without the approval of school authorities.

 Strongly agree

 Mildly agree

 Mildly disagree

 Strongly disagree

 Don’t know


5. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Americans don’t appreciate First Amendment freedoms the way they ought to.”

 Strongly agree

 Mildly agree

 Mildly disagree

 Strongly disagree

 Don’t know


6. Are the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment something you personally think about or are they something you take for granted?

 Personally think about

 Take for granted

 Don’t know



Libel Law

Libel and slander are legal terms for false statements of fact about a person that are printed, broadcast, spoken or otherwise communicated to others. Libel generally refers to visual or written statements, while slander refers to verbal statements and gestures. The term defamation covers both both libel and slander. For a statement to be defamatory, it must more than insulting or offensive and must actually harm the reputation of another person. 

Elements of Libel:

  1. A defamatory statement…

  2. Published to at least one other person (other than the plaintiff)…

  3. "Of and concerning" the plaintiff (must identify specifically with the plaintiff)…

  4. That is a false statement of fact (opinions cannot be the subject of a libel or slander claim)…

  5. And made with fault. The level of fault required depends on the status of the plaintiff

    1. Public figures, such as government officials, celebrities, well-known individuals, and people involved in specific public controversies, are required to prove actual malice, meaning the defendant knew his statement was false or recklessly disregarded the truth of his statement.

    2. Private individuals must show only that the defendant was negligent, usually meaning that he failed to act with due care. This means different things in different states but generally covers situations where the defendant didn’t bother to find out if the information was true or relied on a source that is known to be untrustworthy.

The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove these elements.

Defenses to a libel claim include: The statements are true, the statements are not statements of fact, or the statements are privileged (meaning in certain circumstances, the interest in communicating a statement outweighs the interest in protecting reputation)

Libel cases are usually part of civil law and may be heard by juries. It is up to the jury to decide whether a publication has printed libelous information about someone, how much the individual has suffered and the amount of monetary damages to be received as compensation.

Source: http://www.medialaw.org/, http://usinfo.state.gov

NPPA Code of Ethics

The National Press Photographers Association, a professional society that promotes the highest standards in photojournalism, acknowledges concern for every person's need both to be fully informed about public events and to be recognized as part of the world in which we live.


  1. Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.

  2. Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.

  3. Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one's own biases in the work.

  4. Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.

  5. While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.

  6. Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images' content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.

  7. Do not pay sources or subjects or reward them materially for information or participation.

  8. Do not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.

  9. Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists.

Photographer Worksheet

Photo: Nurse

Headline:

Mrs. A. Schuman, One of Chicago's Most Capable and Experienced Nurses, Pays an Eloquent Tribute to the Great Invigorating, Life-giving, and Curative Properties of Duffy's Pure Malt Whiskey



Caption:

"After years of constant use of your Pure Malt Whiskey, both by myself and as given to patients in my capacity as a nurse, I have no hesitation in recommending it as the very best product and stimulant for all weak and run-down conditions."



Source: This is an endorsement. We don’t know if she was paid or if she really thinks these things about the healing powers of malt whiskey.

Photographer Worksheet

Photo: Elderly Lady

Headline:

Delivering More than Just Newspapers



Caption:

“101-year-old newspaper carrier quit her job when she became pregnant by a man she met on her route”



Source: Old person is a paper carrier but is not pregnant

Photographer Worksheet

Photo: Young Couple

Headline:

GUESS WHAT LORI FOUND OUT TODAY



Caption:

"Dear Diary: I found out today that I'm pregnant. What will I do now?"



Source: The girl is neither Lori, nor pregnant

Photographer Worksheet

Photo: A boxer

Headline:

The Garbage Pile of Sports



Caption:

“Managers and promoters in the boxing world often take advantage of economic necessity or inordinate youthful ambition.”



Source: The particular boxer in the photo was not necessarily taken advantage of by managers and promoters.

Photographer Worksheet

Photo: An overcrowded boat

Headline:

Some Idiots Afloat



Caption:

“Rub-a-dub-dub, too many in a tub”



Source: There are probably too many people in the boat.

Editor Worksheet

For each situation, decide whether running just the photo, the photo and headline, or the photo, headline and caption is legal, ethical, and in good taste. Use specific reasons from your libel and ethics handouts to justify your decision! Don’t forget that good editors will question their writers and photographers about the truth of their sources.

Editor for the Seattle Weekly

Photo:

Headline:

Caption:

Editor Worksheet

For each situation, decide whether running just the photo, the photo and headline, or the photo, headline and caption is legal, ethical, and in good taste. Use specific reasons from your libel and ethics handouts to justify your decision! Don’t forget that good editors will question their writers and photographers about the truth of their sources.

Editor for The Inquirer

Photo:

Headline:

Caption:

Editor Worksheet

For each situation, decide whether running just the photo, the photo and headline, or the photo, headline and caption is legal, ethical, and in good taste. Use specific reasons from your libel and ethics handouts to justify your decision! Don’t forget that good editors will question their writers and photographers about the truth of their sources.

Editor for Teen People

Photo:

Headline:

Caption:

Editor Worksheet

For each situation, decide whether running just the photo, the photo and headline, or the photo, headline and caption is legal, ethical, and in good taste. Use specific reasons from your libel and ethics handouts to justify your decision! Don’t forget that good editors will question their writers and photographers about the truth of their sources.

Editor for Sports Illustrated

Photo:

Headline:

Caption:

Editor Worksheet

For each situation, decide whether running just the photo, the photo and headline, or the photo, headline and caption is legal, ethical, and in good taste. Use specific reasons from your libel and ethics handouts to justify your decision! Don’t forget that good editors will question their writers and photographers about the truth of their sources.

Editor for the Seattle Times

Photo:

Headline:

Caption:

Teacher Worksheet
Whiskey Loving Nurse:

In Peck v Tribune Co. (1909) 214 US 185, 53 L Ed 960, 29 S Ct 554 the Supreme Court ruled that it was possible that what was imputed to the woman by the endorsement would seriously hurt her standing with a considerable and respectable class in the community (and remanded it for trial).


Pregnant Paper Carrier:

Even though this was printed in a tabloid magazine, and despite its claim that article was obviously fabricated and could not be taken as true, the court here found that the elements of libel were met. Mitchell v Globe Int'l Pub., Inc. (1991, WD Ark) 773 F Supp 1235, 19 Media L R 1405, later proceeding (WD Ark) 786 F Supp 791, 19 Media L R 2097.


Pregnant Teen:

In Triangle Publications, Inc. v Chumley (1984) 253 Ga 179, 317 SE2d 534, 10 Media L R 2076, the court said that because of the bold print of the advertisement and the strategic placement of the teenager's picture, a jury could reasonably interpret the photograph as depicting her as a pregnant teenager and thus constitutes libel.


Poor Boxer

In Oma v Hillman Periodicals, Inc. (1953) 281 App Div 240, 118 NYS2d the court rejected the libel claim, finding that there was nothing to the discredit the plaintiff fighter in the photo or article, even if the article engendered feelings of regret and sympathy for him (feelings he would rather not have).


Idiot Boat

In Cowan v Time, Inc. (1963) 41 Misc 2d 198, 245 NYS2d 723, the court rejected the libel claim and noted that to charge even a professional boater with ignorance or mistake on a single occasion cannot be considered defamatory on its face in the absence of an accusation of general ignorance or lack of skill.














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