Media Law Final Exam Part 1 Essays



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Media Law Final Exam Part 1 Essays
Name _IVAN HOWARD____________________________________________________________________
Review and respond to the following questions. Remember to consider alternatives, and that in law, things are never crystal clear. For every argument and conclusion there is always another argument. Sometimes we agree with the court, sometimes not.

It’s best to allow logic, not your gut, to guide you. I’ve provided a sample question I’ve used before, with a model answer. Look it over before you start. See how the writer considers the elements of a charge, the tests a court imposes in making its determinations, alternative arguments, accepted law, etc. I’ve made some notes within the answer to highlight some of the reasoning. All of the information is available to you in the Pember text. Btu be careful, look for distinctions, exceptions, etc. This should test your ability to apply your knowledge. I don’t expect you to be lawyers, but you do need to be logical.

Sample: Early one morning a worker at a city crisis center received a telephone call from a distraught woman who reported that she was hearing disturbing noises—crying and screaming—coming from a small day care center next to her house. Workers at the crisis center notified a city social services agency of the report. But because the employees at the crisis center believed that the social services agency was lax in its enforcement policies regarding day care centers, the call from the neighbor was relayed to a local television station, WIXR, as well. The TV station sent a crew to the center to talk with the operator of the day care center, Melinda Wall, and outlined the concerns that had been reported to the crisis center. Wall declined to comment. That night the television station broadcast the following report:

“ A city social services agency is reportedly looking into allegations of children crying and screaming at the Happy Days Day Care Center at 1456 Marblehead Way.

A neighbor reported the unusual sounds to a crisis center, which in turn contacted the agency and this station. An agency spokesperson reported that its investigators are looking into the possibility that improper behavior by the staff at the center is causing the crying and screaming.

Happy Days Day Care Center is owned and operated by Melinda Wall, who refused to comment about the allegations. The center has been open for six months. Prior to that Wall operated a similar center in Toledo, Ohio, for two years. The State of Ohio revoked Wall’s license in 2006 when it found unsanitary conditions at the center.”

The television report generated considerable publicity about the center and its operator, with more television reports and newspaper stories. But an investigation by the social service agency revealed that nothing illegal or dangerous was occurring at Happy Days. The noise reported by the neighbor came from a video on a television. One of the children had turned up the volume, so the sound resonated throughout the neighborhood.

Wall sued WIXR for libel because of its initial report. She argued that it contained numerous errors, and that the station employees had been negligent in preparing the story. She cited the following errors.

a. Happy Days had been open for 16 months, not six months.

b. Wall operated a day care center in Toledo, Washington, not Toledo, Ohio.

c. Her license for that facility was not revoked. The state merely refused to renew the license unless Wall added additional bathroom facilities at the center, and she could not afford to do that.

A. What will Wall have to prove to establish her libel suit? She will have to prove the story was published, she was identified, it was defamatory, it was false, and that the station was at fault. Elements of the tort.



B. The station argues that because of all the publicity about the allegations, Wall was a limited purpose public figure. Was she? Why or why not? There was a controversy, but Wall was pulled into it by the media. She was bootstrapped. She did nothing to generate the controversy. She would not be a public figure. Note the way the court applies the test here.

C. Will Wall win her case? It is doubtful. The story was published, she was identified, and it was defamatory. Whether the station was negligent need not be an issue, because it is unlikely Wall could prove falsity. The station reported a government agency was looking into allegations of a problem at the center. That was true. The errors regarding the length of time the center was open and the location of the previous center are immaterial. The station said the license was revoked when it found unsanitary conditions at the center. The truth is the license was not renewed because a new bathroom was required. A judge or jury would likely find that the TV report was substantially true. So here, even though there were errors, the court found that they did not amount to libel. It could have gone the other way as well. MANY STUDENTS IN THE PAST HAVE SAID WALL WOULD WIN HER CASE BECAUSE THE STORY HAD UNTRUE ELEMENTS. IT’S NOT ENTIRELY UNREASONABLE, BUT IT’S NOT THE FULL ANALYSIS. The key is to acknowledge the reasoning in your discussion.

Remember to consider whose rights and responsibilities you’re evaluating, where they are, etc. Cases turn on such details.

1. A public high school student named McCain wears to school one day a home-made t-shirt that reads “Hillary Rodham Clinton Is An Idiot.” It has a picture of Hillary Rodham Clinton with a dunce cap drawn on her head. The only reaction to the shirt from fellow students that day is that a few kids laugh, while others tell McCain that they believe “Hillary rocks, dude.” School administrators, however, object to the t-shirt, finding it offensive and degrading to Ms. Clinton, and they order the student to either put on another t-shirt or to turn the anti-Hillary shirt inside out such that the message does not show. McCain refuses to do so, and he is suspended for ten days. McCain then turns around and sues the school for violating his First Amendment right of free speech. You are a judge asked to consider whether the student’s First Amendment right of free speech has been violated.
A. Identify the name of the U.S. Supreme Court case that is most applicable here as precedent given the facts of McCain’s case, and then set forth the rule or test articulated in that case for determining when school administrators may censor speech without violating the First Amendment. In addition, explain why this is the correct precedent to apply.

-Tinker v. Des Moines (Supreme Court Case)

-The Ruling would there forth be The only way that they could ban the shirt is to prove the shirt caused substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities or created more than an unsubstantiated fear of apprehension of such a disruption or interference. Because the only thing said was "hillary rocks, dude!", and that's not anything that caused an argument or interfered with anything.

B. Explain why two other major U.S. Supreme Court cases on the free speech rights of high school students are not applicable here. Be sure to identify the names of those cases in the process of answering this question.

-1. The Hazelwood case wouldn't be applicable because its just a totally different subject and has nothing to do with it.

-2. The Bethel case wouldnt be applicable because that focuses more on sexually offensive speech.


C. Applying the rule or test that you identified in part “A” of this question, is McCain likely to prevail against the school?

-I mean its possible, but the school definitely wouldn't prevail against him.


2. At the outset of a highly publicized major trial in Chicago of three men accused of terrorism, U.S. District Judge Samuel Gomphers issued the following order:
“I have heard too many remarks on television and read too many comments in the newspapers from persons associated with the case. Therefore, I am today ordering all lawyers, law officers, witnesses and other participants not to initiate any contact with the mass media, not to answer any questions posed by the mass media, and not to say anything in public about any aspect of the matters to be litigated in this trial. Anyone violating this order will be subject to contempt proceedings, which may include a substantial fine or even jail time.
Lawyers for the defendants and lawyers for the press challenged this order. They argued that Judge Gomphers clearly violated the provisions of the test for restrictive orders laid down by the Supreme Court in Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart. They asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to void the order.
A. What are the provisions of the Nebraska Press Association test for restrictive orders?

- 1. There must be intense and pervasive publicity about the case.

- 2. No other alternative measure might mitigate the effects of the pretrial publicity.

- 3. The restrictive order will in fact effectively prevent prejudicial publicity from reaching potential jurors.


B. Does this test apply to this order? Why or why not?

- Yes, because without the order, it wouldn't be tested, right?


C. Is Judge Gomphers’ order valid? Why or why not?

- I wouldn't say so because he's ordering everyone not answer anything that has to do with anything, no matter what they think happened.


2. Central City police get a tip that Milton Miller, a man wanted on a variety of security fraud charges, is staying with his brother on a farm near the edge of town. The police have come under sharp criticism from both the mayor and the local news media for letting Miller escape from their custody three months ago. To try to recoup some reputation, Chief Harley Davidson calls the editor of the local newspaper, the Central Courier, and asks him if he would like to send a reporter and a photographer along when officers to execute the search warrant. The editor says sure and dispatches a team to go with the police. Officers quietly surround the house, and then Chief Davidson, two men, and the journalists enter the house through the front door. Miller’s sister-in-law, who is holding a small baby, tells the reporters they have no right to enter into private property and asks them to leave. But they stay, continuing to snap pictures, after Chief Davidson announces to the occupants that the journalists have his permission to be there. With kids screaming and crying and the sister-in-law protesting, the officers find Miller hiding in a closet, put him in handcuffs, and march him outside. Miller is taken to the courthouse where he is arraigned on a variety of charges and carted off to jail.
Milton Miller, his wife, his brother, and his sister-in-law bring a lawsuit for trespass against the Courier and against the police chief for permitting the journalists to enter their home without permission. They claim a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights in the latter lawsuit. Davidson argues that the reporter and photographer were fulfilling a valuable law enforcement purpose when they entered the home to document the arrest. Lawyers for the Courier argue that as long as the police gave permission, the journalists had the right to enter private property. Who will win this case and why?
-I think it would depend on who the "tip" was. Because if was just some random person tip, then I don't think that gave the police probable cause to enter the home of Milton miller's brothers home. Especially with a team of reporters, reporting everything that they see in the home. But if it was a reliable source them I understand them entering the house, but I still don't know about the reporters entering the house with them.

4. Gil Chesterton, a restaurant critic for the Los Viento Times in Los Viento, N. M., added this item to the end of his weekly restaurant review.

“The county health department has locked the doors at Chopstix City, the perfectly awful Chinese-American eatery in the Periwinkle Mall. Health inspectors found evidence of a variety of vermin in the kitchen. It’s no surprise that rats and cats and roaches and spiders were found running through the bistro. They surely must have been flavoring their mu-shu pork with these spicy tidbits since they opened in May. At least that’s my opinion.”

Chesterton based this item on the following sentence in the health department report. “Inspectors found evidence of rodent hairs and insect parts in the storeroom next to the kitchen.”

The owners of the restaurant sued the newspaper for libel. The trial court made a preliminary ruling that because the restaurant was a small, family-owned business that didn’t advertise it would not be regarded as a public figure for purposes of the law suit.
A. The newspaper argued that the review was based on a privileged government document and therefore the restaurant owners could not successfully sue. Would privilege work as a defense in this case?

-Yes, privilege would work, only because it is a government based document.


B. The newspaper argued that because the comments were contained in restaurant review, they must be viewed as pure opinion. Would this defense work?

-No, those were clearly not opinion. You cant just put "Thats my opinion" and says its opinionated. so no, that defense would not work.


C. Will the restaurant win its case?

-No, not in my opinion.




  1. Al Modem has generated his own Web site that focuses on alternative music in the Austin, Texas area. The stylish site lists upcoming concerts and new record releases, provides information about upcoming dances, contains music reviews, and features articles about new clubs, local performers and DJs. The site also carries real time audio feeds from local musical events and permits users of the site to chat with one another periodically. Club owners and concert promoters help Al operate the site by paying a monthly fee to Al for the inclusion of promotional pages on the site. A new club, the Chameleon, opened recently, and Al got pictures of the opening from a local photographer. He scanned the photos onto the site and used them with a review of the new venue. One of the pictures showed film actor Christian Slater going into the club.

The owners of the Chameleon loved the story about the club and the picture of Slater. Without getting Al’s permission, they made a copy of the photo and included it in their promotional page for the club. Remember, they pay Al each month to include this page on the site. The caption under the photo says: “The many-colored Chameleon club, a favorite nightspot for Hollywood’s Christian Slater.” Slater’s sister, who lives in Austin, learns about the use of the photo on the Web site, and informs her brother, who sues Al Modern and the owners of the Chameleon club. He argues that the use of his photo in Al’s story about the club amounts to giving publicity to private facts and that the use of his photo and name on the Chameleon’s promotional page is an appropriation, a violation of his right to publicity. Answer the following questions:

  1. Both Al Modem and the club owners argue that the law of privacy doesn’t even apply to the appearance of material on the Internet; consequently, the lawsuits should be dismissed. What do you think and why?

  2. Is the use of the photo in Al Modem’s story a case of giving publicity to private facts?

  3. Was the use of the photo on the promotional page an appropriation?

5. Oscar Madison is a mid-level manager at Henderson Aircraft Company, the manufacturer of a new super-sophisticated military helicopter that has been in development since the early 2000s. But the project has been plagued with problems. After the first twelve helicopters were delivered to the U.S. Army, two crashed. The remaining ten were grounded until it could be determined what caused the crashes. This was not the first instance when a mechanical or design problem interfered with the deployment of these aircraft. Henderson Aircraft is located in Big Bend, Kansas. It employs nearly 4,700 workers and is the largest employer in Big Bend and the surrounding region.
Three days after the helicopters were grounded, Sean O’Grady, a reporter for the Big Bend Bulletin, received a call from Madison who said he wanted to talk with the reporter. At the clandestine meeting Madison told O’Grady that he would tell him what was wrong with the new helicopters in exchange for a promise from the reporter not to reveal his identity. Madison said he was a loyal employee of Henderson Aircraft, but that this helicopter seemed to have one problem after another. Someday soon, Madison said, a pilot is going to be killed. Madison said that his 23-year-old son was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, and he was fearful that he might one day end up flying one of these defective aircraft. After O’Grady agreed to protect Madison’s identity, the manager revealed that the problem in the aircraft was a substandard rotor blade. Madison said that the company bought the blades on the sly from an unlicensed and disreputable manufacturer in Mexico who used cheaper metal in fabricating the rotor blades. Henderson Aircraft was trying to save money by buying the cheaper blades because development costs for the helicopter were higher than they expected.
O’Grady told his editor about Madison’s allegations and was assigned to write the story as the next day’s lead. Late in the day Bulletin publisher Kate Jackson heard about the story and immediately ordered the editor to kill it. Henderson Aircraft will be seriously harmed by the story, she said, and the company is too important to the local economy. A story like this will anger Henderson Aircraft, its employees, and many readers who rely on the Henderson payroll to keep their own businesses going, Jackson said. The editor and O’Grady protested. After much discussion Jackson finally agreed to publish a modified version of O’Grady’s story. However, she insisted that the source of the allegations about the rotor blades be named in the story. She said O’Grady must also point out that Oscar Madison is only a mid-level manager at Henderson, someone who might not really understand what is going on. Jackson said she believed this would lower the credibility of the news report and make it much easier for Henderson to deny the allegations. Faced with no story or with using the name of the source, O’Grady agreed.
Following publication of the story a spokesperson at Henderson denied that there was any problem with the rotor blades. A week later the company fired Oscar Madison, ostensibly because of an unfavorable annual evaluation. Madison, who has a large mortgage, two children in college, and other financial obligations, sued the Bulletin for revealing his name after promising not to.
A What kind of a lawsuit would Madison likely file?
B. What will Madison have to prove to the court in order to win his case?
C. Is it likely Madison will win?


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