Scribes without Safety Nets: Teaching Law to Journalists in the Digital Era

11 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2016

See all articles by Jeff Roberts

Jeff Roberts

McGill Center for Intellectual Property Policy; Fortune Magazine

Date Written: June 26, 2016


Journalists regularly confront legal threats from powerful people and organizations that seek to censor their work. While this is nothing new, two developments mean the threat is more acute than before.

First, the economic struggles of the media industry means many journalists can no longer turn to in-house counsel for guidance. Second, the culture of digital journalism, which often prizes speed and volume over accuracy, means reporters are more likely to run afoul of various legal pitfalls.

This paper explores this problem by reviewing the syllabi and other teaching material of journalism schools around the United States. It finds the current approach to teaching journalists about the law often fails to take account of digital-related legal issues or changes to the culture of journalism.

Keywords: Media Law, Journalism, Teaching Journalism

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Jeff, Scribes without Safety Nets: Teaching Law to Journalists in the Digital Era (June 26, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Jeff Roberts (Contact Author)

McGill Center for Intellectual Property Policy ( email )

1001 Sherbrooke St. W
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1G5

Fortune Magazine ( email )

United States

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