October 30, 2013

The Daily Tar Heel

University of North Carolina journalism students now enjoy some financial protection in the event of libel suits, thanks to a year-long multimedia insurance policy purchased by the school, according to a report in The Daily Tar Heel.

“The insurance covers lawsuits related to libel, copyright infringement and invasion of privacy,” Haley Waxman writes.

The policy, which cost the school $1,353, offers $1 million in insurance, the story said, and students aren’t paying for it.

According to Waxman, the policy covers the work of students involved with the school’s journalism program.

“For example, the policy covers work published in classes, as well as ongoing projects housed within the school, including the Reese News Lab and Carolina Week.

The policy does not cover the personal publications of journalism students or other campus publications not affiliated with the school.

David Ardia, assistant professor of law and co-director of the Center for Media Law and Policy, worked closely with Packer and was part of the national working group.

‘We’re being watched as a pilot project,’ Ardia said.”

Officials at the school report they don’t know of any cases of students being sued, and that the policy is meant to be proactive, rather than reactive.

“Libel cases are uncommon and I don’t know of any against journalism students,” Baruch College professor Geanne Rosenberg told Poynter in an email. She continued:

However, it is a widely accepted and highly advisable best practice for those engaged in journalism whether as professional journalists or bloggers or regardless of the venue to have media liability coverage because if a legal problem does occur — and we’re not just concerned about libel but also newsgathering liability, copyright infringement, privacy issues and subpoena risk, the cost of defense alone can be disastrous even if the journalist has done nothing wrong plus a good policy will ensure representation by expert media lawyers who share pro-journalism and First Amendment values. Now that journalism programs are publishing so much work, it’s a good idea to protect not just the school and faculty, which the schools generally routinely do, but also to offer some media liability protection to students.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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