Freedom of Speech

Student adviser fired from ECU appeals termination on First Amendment grounds

Paul Isom, who was fired as East Carolina University’s student media adviser after the college paper published photos of a streaker, is appealing his termination on free speech grounds. The deadline to appeal is today, but Isom said he sent a letter Wednesday asking for an extension because he hasn’t received all of the emails the university has unearthed related to his employment.

Contrary to a recent editorial in the local newspaper stating that the school hasn’t allowed him to review the documents, Isom said he gets about one batch of emails a week. “The last batch I got, I was told there were more, but they didn’t tell me how much or when I’d get them,” he said in a phone interview.

Isom said he won’t decide whether he’ll allow the documents to be released until he sees everything. So far, though, he hasn’t come across anything that would cause him to withhold them. Read more


Twitter now can censor tweets in certain countries

Twitter | Marketing LandGuardian
Last year at this time, the people of Egypt were using Twitter and other social media to communicate as they successfully sought to overthrow the government. Now the company has set up a system to enable it to censor (or “reactively withhold,” as Twitter puts it) certain tweets in certain countries. Twitter explains what’s going on:

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.

Users in affected countries will see a notice that a tweet has been censored if they try to access it, and Twitter will notify the website Chilling Effects when it takes this action. According to Marketing Land’s Danny Sullivan, Twitter already notifies the website when it removes tweets, generally due to copyright complaints. Read more

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DC to overhaul regulations on street photography

The Washington Post
Last fall the Post’s Mike DeBonis pointed out that you can be arrested in Washington, D.C., for taking more than 5 minutes to snap a photograph, which seemed to infringe on photojournalists‘ ability to do their jobs. A proposed regulation would clarify that the regulation is aimed at street vendors who take photos of people to sell them. That may make photojournalists happy, but not artists or street vendors with shaky hands: the regulation would require that the photos are in focus. || Related: News photographer arrested on Long Island for videotaping police (Poynter) | What to do when police tell you to stop taking photos, video (Poynter) Read more


NPPA asks ECU to reinstate ousted student adviser

The Daily Reflector | MSNBC
The National Press Photographers Association is hoping to persuade East Carolina University to rehire a student adviser who was fired after a streaker photo appeared in the student newspaper. NPPA President Sean Elliot sent ECU’s chancellor a letter Tuesday expressing the organization’s concern. Paul Isom was fired earlier this month; Isom believes his dismissal was retaliation for protecting the students’ right to publish without prior restraint. ECU issued a statement Tuesday that said the firing was not related to the photo or any First Amendment issues. The statement from Vice Chancellor Virginia Hardy reads, in part:

East Carolina University is concerned that a decision to change leadership in its director of student media role has been connected to a First Amendment issue without full knowledge of the facts at hand. It is important to distinguish between any personnel matter and the First Amendment.

We ask all advocacy groups and the public to trust our internal process, which has been deliberate, correct and legal, as we move forward to address these two separate issues.

The First Amendment demands public universities provide student journalists the opportunity to make their own news decisions and learn from them without interference. ECU puts that principle first. It has upheld it, especially in this instance.

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Lawyer: Where’s the journalist who leaves Halifax supposed to get a job?

The broad noncompete agreement that Halifax Media employees are being asked to sign from California to Florida may hurt journalists and journalism, but it appears enforceable in most of the states where former employees of the New York Times Regional Group work.

UPDATE: Late Tuesday evening, Halifax told former NYTRG employees that the policy would not apply to them.

The agreement limits those who sign it from working for another media company — in print, online or on the air — for two years in markets that Halifax currently serves or plans to serve. That agreement remains in effect even if Halifax fires the employee.

Noncompete agreements like this one are state-specific, said David Ardia, assistant professor at the UNC School of Law. “States can themselves decide whether or not noncompete agreements are valid in their jurisdiction.” And if they’re valid, they decide how they are enforced. “So a one-size-fits-all approach is typically not what employers would be doing with noncompetes if they have employees in multiple states.”

In fact, one of those states — California — where Halifax has three papers, does not allow this type of noncompete agreement, though employees at The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, North Bay Business Journal and Petaluma Argus-Courier have been asked to sign them, according to reports.

The remaining states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina — where Halifax bought NYT regional papers are in the south, which are generally “happy to enforce noncompetes,” Ardia said. Read more


Carr says Montana blogger case shows how Google elevates fringe attacks

The New York Times
David Carr looks into the case of the Montana blogger who was hit with a $2.5 million defamation lawsuit after a judge ruled that she couldn’t invoke a shield law because she isn’t a journalist. The woman, Carr writes, “didn’t so much report stories as use blogging, invective and search engine optimization to create an alternative reality … In the pre-Web days, someone like Ms. Cox might have been one more obsessive in the lobby of a newspaper, waiting to show a reporter a stack of documents that proved the biggest story never told. The Web has allowed Ms. Cox to cut out the middleman; various blogs give voice to her every theory, and search algorithms give her work prominence.” || Related: Poynter’s Ellyn Angelotti on why journalist should be redefined || Earlier: Journalists may want to think twice about defending Oregon blogger who lost suit (
Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly stated that the blogger lives in Oregon. She lives in Montana; the target of her attacks lives in Oregon. Read more


Journalists may want to think twice about defending Oregon blogger who lost suit
Defenders of the Oregon blogger who was found guilty in a $2.5 million defamation suit “have not dug deeply enough,” writes Kashmir Hill at While the blogger, Crystal Cox, promoted herself as an “investigative journalist,” Hill notes that Cox behaved more like somebody whose goal was to destroy the reputation of her target, an investment firm called Obsidian Financial Group. Cox started several websites with names like “” and “”

Obsidian says Cox then offered it a service starting at $2,500 a month to protect its “online reputation.” (Obsidian founder Kevin Padrick forwarded a copy of the offer to Forbes.) “Most journalists would not want to include Cox in their camp,” Hill wrote. || Related: Dan Kennedy says ruling is bad because it means journalists have more constitutional rights than others (The Huffington Post) | Federal judge says Montana blogger is not a journalist (AP) | Cox “was never able to prove her accusations against Padrick were true” (Seattle Weekly)  | Who decides what is “real” journalism? (Bloomberg Businessweek) Read more

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Radio station reports that newspaper has agreed to ID anonymous website commenters

An Illinois company wants to know who posted comments to The Pantagraph’s website alleging that the company knew of unsafe working conditions before a nearby building collapsed. “Court documents show the Pantagraph has agreed to reveal the true identities of ‘toldyouso’ and ‘The One.’ … The Pantagraph’s privacy policy warns users that the company won’t protect their privacy in legal disputes,” Beth Whisman reports. Although Gary Sawyer, regional editor for Lee Enterprise’s properties in central Illinois, told me Monday that Lee’s legal department hadn’t reached a decision, he said Tuesday that he was mistaken. || Related: Federal court rules that Topix isn’t liable for defamatory content that a user posted on its website (Street Fight) || Earlier: embraces its anonymous commenters (NetNewsCheck) | Advance Internet settles lawsuit after Plain Dealer outs judge as anonymous commenter ( | St. Petersburg Times says county commissioner had been posting to newspaper’s website under pseudonym (St. Petersburg Times) Read more

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