Free online course teaches journalists where they can gather news

By Andrew Gibson

Many journalists learn news-gathering law in college, but that knowledge could dwindle without a refresher.

And with the March arrests of two Chicago journalists near a hospital, as well as the May acquittal of a New York University student arrested during Occupy Wall Street protests -- two incidents in which police took issue with where journalists were standing -- knowing your rights seems as relevant as ever.

Newsgathering Law & Liability: A Guide for Reporting is a self-paced, online course from Poynter's News University that promises to keep journalists up to date on where they're allowed to bring a camera and notebook.

"You'll learn to identify the level of permission you must get to gather news in a location," according to the description. "You'll practice interviewing sources and see what promises you should or shouldn't make to them. You'll find out how to handle documents and other materials, and understand what your rights are to protect and retain them."

Grants from The Harnisch Foundation and The Cutts Foundation have made the course free to everyone, and you can start whenever you want.

David Ardia, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, co-authored the course. He and Geanne Rosenberg, a professor at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, designed it to help people with journalism experience who lacked legal training, he said.

One section focuses on how to deal with police. This could help students in particular, a group Ardia said sometimes ends up in difficult legal territory even when reporting with good intentions. The course also touches on rules for audio recording. Ardia said he often gets questions about this because the rules become murky when dealing with things like interstate phone calls.

Newsgathering Law & Liability combines quizzes, you-be-the-judge exercises and examples based on real cases to appeal to different learning styles.

Are you considering enrolling in the course? Drop us a comment in a few weeks telling us what you think.

Image courtesy of Poynter's News University

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