What You Should Know About Legal Journalism
March 12, 2017
All About Legal Journalism
The legal profession is a very competitive one, but not everyone who gets a start in law needs to become a judge or a lawyer. There are other fields, such as legal journalism, that are a good option for people who have earned a law degree.
Familiarity with the Law
Legal journalism is an interesting field. While it is possible to get a job in legal journalism with a standard journalism degree, having a law degree can give you an upper hand with the position. Journalists need to have a basic familiarity with the law, and those who are actually writing about court cases need to have an even stronger understanding of their responsibilities and how what they say could be interpreted, as well as their responsibilities.
There are many things that a journalist must be aware of. Regardless of what field you are working in, copyright is important. In addition, journalists must think about privacy and whether the information will be in the public interest. The more intimate the details that they are thinking of publishing, the greater the ‘public interest’ justification should be. With legal journalism in particular, there are the issues of contempt of court. It is irrelevant whether you intended your reporting to commit contempt; there are restrictions that you must honor and there are others that may be enforced at the discretion of the courts.
Journalists are expected to write quickly and we are entering an age where publications are strapped for resources and sub editors and fact checkers are increasingly being overlooked. More and more responsibilities are being passed off onto the writers themselves, and this is something that anyone wanting to get into journalism should be aware of. The best journalists are ones that can write quickly, and that can do so while still following best practices.
Defamation can be a serious issue for legal journalists. If information is published and it can be reasonably understood to be referring to someone, then regardless of whether you are talking about them or not it is possible for them to try to make the case that you were, and to sue you. Be mindful of this when you are writing, because it can get you into some difficult situations. That’s why so many publications favor people with a good legal understanding for delicate cases.