Master class: Trump, the First Amendment, and media law for investigative journalists **pre-registered attendees only

  • Event: 2019 IRE Conference
  • Speakers: George Freeman of Media Law Resource Center; Jeff Hermes of Media Law Resource Center; Katie Townsend of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • Date/Time: Thursday, Jun. 13 at 2:00pm
  • Location: David Mitzner
  • Audio file: No audio file available.

This four-hour workshop will begin with a discussion of threats to the First Amendment under the Trump Administration and then move into a discussion of specific areas of the law affecting your reporting process and content, including libel, invasion of privacy, confidential sources, subpoenas, and copyright issues. Attorneys from the Media Law Resource Center and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press will cover some of the biggest pitfalls and how to avoid them. Reporters, producers, editors and other managers are welcome.

This class will cover:

  • Threats to “open up” libel laws and White House attacks on the press
  • Strategies to avoid getting sued for defamation and invasion of privacy
  • The ins and outs of libel cases, including common law and constitutional defenses, privileges for opinion and using public records, and the effect of corrections, denials and using anonymous sources
  • Leaks and working with confidential sources
  • Subpoenas for source identities and newsgathering materials
  • The fundamentals of copyright, fair use, and licensing
  • Special legal issues relating to digital media, including the embedding of content and the use of material published on social media platforms

*Please note: This session starts at 2 p.m., a half hour before the main conference schedule. There will be breaks during the workshop.

Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.

NOTE: Registration is required for this session. Click here to sign up.

Speaker Bios

  • George is the Executive Director of the Media Law Resource Center, a non-profit trade association supporting media lawyers in the US and globally. Before that, for 31 years, he was the newsroom/First Amendment lawyer for the New York Times, leaving as V.P. & Assistant General Counsel in 2012.  He was in charge of the Times Company's litigations and counseled their newsrooms . The New York Times didn't lose or settle a libel or privacy case for dollars during his tenure. 

  • Jeff Hermes (@MediaLawMLRC) is a Deputy Director of the Media Law Resource Center, where he focuses on digital media law issues. He previously ran the Digital Media Law Project at Harvard's Berkman Center, where he led initiatives to provide legal resources for independent journalists and online media ventures. Prior that, Jeff assisted clients in First Amendment, media, intellectual property and Internet law issues during fourteen years in private practice. 

  • Katie Townsend (@katie_rcfp) is the Legal Director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.  She oversees the litigation, amicus, and other legal work of Reporters Committee attorneys, and represents the Reporters Committee, news organizations, and individual journalists in court access, freedom of information, and other First Amendment and press freedom matters.

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