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When reporters call the Legal Hotline, I often talk through what amounts to a public records flowchart in analyzing their questions. For a couple years, I’ve wanted to put that analysis into an actual flowchart, and if I were better at Word or Power Point, that would be my column for this month. Instead, I will outline – with words instead of boxes and circles -- the questions I ask to determine whether a particular document (or portion of a document) is a public record. more
This term the United States Supreme Court had its first “Facebook case” but issued a ruling that dodged both the technology/social media aspects of the case and the First Amendment. If you are like me, you may get quizzed at cocktail parties about how the First Amendment could possibly protect such monstrous speech, but given their ruling on evidentiary grounds, the Court found “it is not necessary to consider any First Amendment issues.” Therefore, this case is as important for what it does not say as what it does. more
Your phone is a powerful reporting tool, much more than calls, emails and text messages. Your smartphone is a computer, camera, recorder and publishing tool that is always in your pocket. My Apps for Journalists list contains only apps that are practical and useful for journalists. more
During the past few years—and only for certain clients—I’ve been suggesting they get away from the traditional half-point frame for photos. The option I recommend is a photo frame with a soft drop shadow. Why? A few reasons... more
“My editor is the biggest moron this side of the Mississippi!” “My coworker sleeps through the afternoon after tying one on at lunch almost every Friday.” “My paper is about to get sold to one of those big chain newspapers.” “Hubby and I are so excited that we found out today we’re going to have a baby!” more
One of the presentations we set for this year’s institute was titled : “Ed’s Top 10 Design Tips…and Maybe More.” And here’s a chance for me to share some of them with you. Over the years, these tend to become more or less important. Tip number 1 may slip to tip number 5…tip number 7 may become tip number 3. But these are all worth keeping in the top 10…for now - more
Whether on a printed page, monitor or mobile device, the headline is the most important part of an ad. It tells the reader what the ad is about. With the blink of an eye, he or she decides whether it’s worth the effort to keep reading. Numbers can help you create compelling headlines, as long as they are specific and relevant. Here are a few examples. Note that these numbers as expressed as digits, not words... more
Is it necessary that the traffic ticket was reported in the newspaper again, a reader asks. The original citation was published two months ago. Publication of traffic citations probably generated the most calls during my tenure as editor. No 1, nobody likes being linked with a police report – whether it’s something as common as speeding or something that carries greater notoriety, such as a DWI. No. 2, the offenders get confused – and often angered – between the report of the actual ticket and then the report of the court disposition. more
In the last few weeks, it seems that every time I read or hear the news, police body cams are at the forefront. Even as a bill was being introduced in the General Assembly, and the North Charleston case was making headlines, I got calls on the Hotline asking whether the video from “body cams” and “dash cams” are public record. On Sunshine Day, a panel comprised of NCPA General Counsel Emeritus Hugh Stevens, Frayda Bluestein of the UNC School of Government and Christopher Brook of the ACLU discussed the merits of using body cameras and whether the video they capture is a public record. As of now, the state of the law is unsettled, with different judges reaching different conclusions. more
NPCA General Counsel Amanda Martin provides a handy "cheat sheet" for political advertising. more
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