Relationship Between Law and Journalism

NAME:didi COURSE: Law RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LAW AND JOURNALISM The establishment of justice does not mean merely the establishment of courts or the machinery for the enforcement of law. It means something far more. It means the establishment of just relations between man and man, between man and his own government, between man, the individual and society. It means the creation of a social state that deals justly with every man and every interest of man. This may not be done by the profession of law alone.

To establish justice, the cooperation of the members of other professions and of those engaged in other occupations is necessary. Most important, it is the cooperation of those engaged in the profession of journalism. For journalism, though not the only medium of expression of public opinion, is the chief medium for such expression, and public opinion finally determines the establishment of justice. The relation, therefore, between law and journalism should be cooperative, not contradictory; complementary, not conflicting.

The lawyer is the sworn officer of the court unto society’s welfare; the journalist is the unsworn officer of society unto the common good. Both law and journalism, in their last and final analysis, are professions of public service. There is no other adequate reason for their existence in a social state. Two theories of journalism are held by reputable and high-minded journalists. One theory is that the newspaper, foremost exponent of journalism, has merely the duty to record the news, let its interpretation and its consequences be what they may.

The other theory is that with news presentation there should be news interpretation and comment. Either theory makes of the newspaper, in different degree, an instrument for the establishment of justice or injustice. In the one case a newspaper merely furnishes an abstract of the record, and in the other case it becomes advocate and judge. A newspaper should not content itself with merely printing the news, but in the interest of society, it should be an attorney for the people in a real and vital sense. It may not be such an attorney except it interprets and comments upon the news.

In this way, it seems a newspaper best justifies the tacit franchise given to it by the public for the public good. Nor does the lawyer do his full duty to his client when he leaves unreckoned and uncared for the interests of society. The lawyer should in a very real and vital sense consider society’s welfare. Criticisms many and various are made upon the courts and lawyer and the machinery set up to establish, in legal ways, justice. All considered criticisms result from a feeling that neither law nor journalism is justifying itself, as it might do, in its relation to present day society.

We are told, and with considerable truth, that we have a disorganized judicial system without unity and without adequate effectiveness. Our federal court system lacks the strength and coherence of an organized judiciary. The same is true of our state systems. Frequently judges are not selected for the judicial attainments, but rather for their political strength and affiliations. In many instances judicial qualities have not been the controlling cause in the selection of judges.

Until recently, no serious attempt has been made to establish a better administrative organization of courts, and our machinery of the law. The Bar is criticized in this changing age, for its commercialism, and judges and lawyers for venality. The ineffectiveness of the criminal law, largely made by lawyers, is another frequent cause for criticism. Lawyers are accused, and sometimes rightfully, of defeating the ends of justice for the sake of the fees. Judges are accused of incurring personal favor by publicity, of shading their opinions in other than the public interest.

While there is truth in all these charges as to some individuals and some systems. Criticism is more properly directed against antiquated systems and irresponsible individuals than against courts in general, or the profession of law. The newspaper as an agent of society seeking to establish justice has, resting upon it, the obligation to denounce such systems, to criticize legal mechanisms that do not accomplish their proper purposes, and individual lawyers and judges who in any way fail in their duties to the public.

Such criticism should be welcomed by every honest lawyer and righteous judge. It may not be denied to journalism if journalism is to play its part in establishing justice. Three criticisms are directed against present-day journalism;Newspapers are criticized for such faults as ignorance, cowardice, insincerity, bad taste, slovenly style, triviality, offensive partisanship. These are the inherent imperfections of humanity which lawyers are guilty of t – and judges! Their existence and importance depends upon the personality of editors and publishers.

It is far better, however, to have ignorance and slovenliness and triviality and offensive partisanship in a newspaper, that is free to speak its mind, than to put a padlock by law upon the press. The second category of criticisms is against faults that are self-correcting, such as inadequate news service, inaccuracy, blunders, misquotation, faking of news, malice, dishonorable methods in news or business policy, trouble making, pernicious political doctrine, failure to serve worthy causes, betrayal of public interests to personal, political or pecuniary ends.

Are not these or similar charges properly leveled against certain individual lawyers and judges? Is there no mote in the lawyer critic’s eye? The unfit newspaper, however, unfit in the eyes of an understanding public, cannot survive indefinitely, nor can the unfit lawyer or the unfit judge. The third class of criticism widely expressed and seriously urged, challenges more serious consideration as we discuss the relation of law to journalism, and both to the establishment of justice.

These criticisms have to do with certain definite infringements of the social and moral well-being of the community and of the public at large. They are: (1) The degrading moral effect caused by printing unwholesome details of crime, divorces, scandals and sex stories; (2) the crime-producing effect of sensational publicity in criminal cases through arousing sympathy or admiration for criminals; (3) the direct interference with the administration of justice through unbridled treatment of crime stories, both before and during trials.

None of these journalistic offenses is new, any more than the venality and corruption of the judiciary is new. Both perhaps have increased, through changes in our civilization and the increasing complexity of life While it is unquestionably true that unwholesome details of crime, divorces and sex stories may have a degrading moral effect, yet there is no remedy in censorship. It remains always true that the wages of sin is publicity. The chief deterrent against crime is not always or often the legal penalty, but the publicity thereof.

The greatest of law books, antedating and surpassing Blackstone and the rest, prints within its pages more crime news and more baldly than would be printed by the most daring newspaper, even in this day of daring. But the Bible prints crime news, not for the sake of circulation nor for the exploitation of the romance of the crime, not at the request of lawyers for the prosecution or defense, to advertise or glorify them, but as a human record serving as a deterrent to more crime. It is here that the interference with justice or rather the promotion of injustice may be criticism justly made against some newspapers.

While the omission of news of crime would promote unrighteousness in the land, the presentation of it in the wrong fashion tends to make others guilty of similar offenses. It is not the publishing of the news, but the morally unwholesome presentation thereof which needs to be corrected within, not without the profession of journalism. The grave charge, that which brings directly journalism in its relationship to law, is the so-called interference indirectly or directly with the administration of justice, both before and during trials in courts. This lends itself to more definite regulations through workable methods. An ideal system of administering justice would demand the following policies affecting the press: “1. When a crime is committed, newspapers should be free to relate all the facts and circumstances of the crime itself, but without adding any editorial conclusions or inferences as to who is guilty. This freedom should extend to publication of the names of persons arrested, and descriptions of persons for whom warrants have been issued and who cannot be found. Full publicity within these limits tends to the furtherance of justice and aids in the apprehension of prisoners. “2.

After a prisoner is formally charged with the commission of a crime and held to trial, there should be no publicity bearing upon the question of his guilt or innocence. Publicity should be confined to the nature of the charge and the proceedings actually taken. There should be no exploiting of the personality of the accused, whether such exploitation be favorable, unfavorable or neutral. There should be no interviews with the prisoner or his lawyers, with the prosecutor, the police, or any witness, touching the questions of the prisoner’s guilt or evidence to be produced. 3. At the time of trial newspapers should be free to print a straight narrative of the proceedings in open court, either verbatim or condensed. It is impractical to try to put a limit on the length or fullness of such reports, but they can, and should be confined to a straight, colorless narrative – no feature stuff by ‘special writers,’ no interviews or alleged character studies, no statements that the ‘defense scored heavily’ or that the prosecution ‘dealt a crushing blow to the alibi theory,’ in short, the elimination of all bias, editorial comment and ramatic effects. “4. After the termination of the case by acquittal or conviction, interviews and comment on the evidence are proper; because fair criticism on the action of judges and juries is necessary from the standpoint of sound public policy. “The limitation as to discussing evidence and expressing opinions as to guilt before definite charges have been made, should admit of an exception in cases involving official misconduct or unfitness to hold public office.

It is necessary, in the public interest, to preserve the right to make public accusation of misconduct in such cases, both to inform the public and to force official action when the proper authorities fail to move. Newspapers therefore should be free to deal with such cases without any restriction except for the ordinary liability for libel in case their assertions are untrue. ” It is not within the proper province of journalism to pass upon the guilt or innocence of prisoners at the Bar.

What publicity should be given may be and is a debatable question, but certainly in the interest of society, the newspaper should have full privilege to do its duty to the public unhampered by the decisions of those it criticizes. The reputable newspaper is as much concerned with the interest of the public as is the reputable lawyer and the reputable judge. Neither newspaper nor individual should be limited in any way in making criticism upon the action of the court after this action has been taken in proper deliberative way under the forms of law. Freedom of the Press was one of the subjects discussed by Thomas Jefferson in his first inaugural address, and we agree with this great patriot that freedom of the press from all obligations except that of fidelity to the public interests, is vital in our free government. ” The news of crime is only a small part and often an exaggerated part of the news of the day. Newspapers must be free to consider in the public interest the acts of lawyers and judges, as they affect the public outside the field of crime.

It is a dangerous doctrine to suggest restriction of such freedom of criticism of public officials, lawyers in the courts, and judges on the Bench. Particularly is it the duty of newspaper to print the news of malfeasance in office and of the unethical acts of those invested by the public with a public trust. The entire legal mechanism, courts and judges and laws and lawyers, must have the confidence and respect of the people before it accomplishes the best results. Confidence and respect may not be obtained where just criticisms are denied or ignored.

To that end the lawyer and the journalist alike should make appeal and effort in behalf of higher ethical standards within the professions. There should be a more zealous insistence upon an educated membership. This education should be a firm grounding in the principles of justice and the ethics of the professions more vital to society and to the professions themselves, than schooling in methods, machinery and practice. No man should say or do as a lawyer what he would not say or do as a gentleman, any more than a journalist should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman.