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mgnme
06-16-2011, 04:40 AM
Hi everyone! I'm currently researching for my YA work in progress. Here's the problem. In the book, a newsworthy event happens at a high school and reporters swarm the school. But I'm having loads of trouble finding information about laws regarding reporters and minors in the US.
If anyone can help me figure out the answers to these, I would greatly appreciate it.

(note: I've found tons of pages about "ethical guidelines" for reporters - but I haven't found laws. I'm looking for laws.)

1. what are the rules for reporters interviewing minors? (teenagers, if that makes a difference).
-Can they quote them in a newspaper without the parent's permission?
-Can they do a video interview without the parent's permission?
-if they do require permission, what is *enough* to require permisson? (for example, if a student is walking to their car, and a reporter with a camera calls out "are you upset about what happened to Danny?" and the student says, "yes," would that count? or what if a student just walked by and waved at the camera? does that count as using their image in some unlawful way?
-Whenever they do need parental consent, when do they get it? Do they snag the interview first and then ask for permission to use it later, or do they have to ask first?

basically, i haven't been able to find anything useful on this stuff.

2. so let's say reporters from major tv stations/newspapers (as well as the local news) are swarming the school. there's an ongoing news event relating to the school that takes place over the course of a few weeks.
-where would the reporters be? on school premises, but not in the building? would they be allowed in the building? or completely off school premises? (this is a "what would be realistic" question as well as a "what would be legal" question.)


Thank you so much :)

-Lauren

p.s. I posted this in a different place that I think was wrong....sorry about that, my computer was acting up and I got a little confused.

jclarkdawe
06-16-2011, 05:39 AM
Now there are all sorts of exceptions and things like that involved here, but here's the simple version in life.

If a person is a "public figure," they can be used in an article without their permission. Public figures include politicians and actors, for example. But it also includes a person who is arrested and whose name is released by the police. Juveniles, by statute, cannot have their names released for being involved in incidences, absent some exceptions.

People used in the background of a picture or video may be used without permission.

Otherwise, people have to give permission. This may be a written release, or something as simple as "Can I interview you?" and you answering "Yes." This is viewed as a legal agreement, basically a contract.

However, minors by definition cannot enter into contracts. Therefore they can't give consent to interviews. This is not a criminal statute, but civil law. The parents of the child would have the legal right to sue the interviewer for lots of money.

Schools almost never will allow news people onto the school grounds. Police have no problem enforcing this.

Long answer is a semester long course in a law school.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Kitti
06-16-2011, 07:10 AM
I know a lot of newspapers/reporters that print the names and photographs of minors, without their parents' permission, when that minor is a high school athlete who's been photographed at an athlete event (on school grounds). But I would imagine there is a HUGE difference between that and reporting on an "incident" with legal ramifications.

FocusOnEnergy
06-16-2011, 07:43 AM
2. so let's say reporters from major tv stations/newspapers (as well as the local news) are swarming the school. there's an ongoing news event relating to the school that takes place over the course of a few weeks.
-where would the reporters be? on school premises, but not in the building? would they be allowed in the building? or completely off school premises? (this is a "what would be realistic" question as well as a "what would be legal" question.)


This isn't so much a "legal" question as a "school policy" question. I did an investigation a couple of years ago that involved a local inner-city high school, street gangs, riots, truancy, shootings, drug use, and property damage.

I checked with a friend of mine who was in charge of media relations for the school district and was told that their policy is that no photography/video/interviewing of students is allowed inside the building. Except in the case of a special event, like when the Governor visited the school, and media was permitted in to cover her visit.

Once the students walk out the doors, they are fair game, and I photographed them fighting on (and off) school property, being marched out of the building in handcuffs, flashing gang signs out of school bus windows, etc. I did have an overzealous school security guard harass me about taking pictures of students on school grounds (from across the street) but the police liaison officer (another friend of mine) had a talk with her, and explained the policy and she had to admit that she was wrong and leave me alone.

I published all of it on a hyperlocal news blog I was running at the time (I work for a newspaper, but i cover soft news for it).

I have interviewed minors, photographed them, etc., and I am not required to obtain a parent's permission.

About the only time that you'll see names not being revealed in relation to crimes, are living juvenile sex crime victims-we don't reveal their names. Once someone has been charged with a crime, a criminal is a criminal, adult or child, and their names become part of the public record.

All of this is due to the Constitution (Bill of Rights, actually). The government cannot make any laws abridging the rights of the freedom of the press. Period. Except when it comes to places where there are policies in effect that restrict media access such as school buildings, the courthouse, etc., and as long as I respect the rights of the owners of private property, as a reporter, I can go wherever I want to go, photograph whatever I see, interview whomever I want, and publish it.

Focus

johnnysannie
06-16-2011, 04:22 PM
The school district here (small town Missouri) passes out a release at the first of the school year with tons of other paperwork that parents sign to permit their child to be videotaped, photographed, etc. I'm really not sure how binding or legal it is but they do this.

That's from a parent perspective - as a journalist, our rule was always if it was "news" - sports, winning a scholarship, activities (debate, choir, band, etc), we could use names, quotes, pics w/o additional permission....but hard news, crimes, etc. was different for minors.

mgnme
06-16-2011, 06:16 PM
this is making me realize that maybe I should clarify a little -

-the "newsworthy event" happened to a 17-year-old student OFF school premises (so the school isn't at any risk of being sued for what happens to him)
-it wasn't a crime, but he was badly hurt
-the reason the reporters are interested in the high school is because (A) it's very big news, and they want to interview his peers, especially since he was a star athlete and (B) as a result of what happened, schools around the county are putting tons of new rules into effect.

1. i am a little confused. jclarkdawe, you mentioned that according to civil law, minors can't enter into contracts, and an interview is a contract. but focusonenergy, you mentioned that b/c of the bill of rights, the gov. can't restrict the freedom of the press. both of these things sound accurate in the part of my brain that vaguely remembers government class, so this means....what? the government technically does restrict the freedom of the press, just in a really really roundabout way? (lol)

2. it occurs to me that you all are right about reporters on school grounds....otherwise, they would never be there for events like football games! i'll just have to have them behave in a non-obnoxious fashion so they aren't asked to leave. so here's my next question. assuming the hype doesn't die down for a few weeks, where would all these reporters be hanging out on a suburban high school campus while the students are arriving/leaving? surely not right by the doors, that would get them booted. so would they all be in a group, or dispersed? would they maybe approach students as they walked to/from their cars/buses?


thank you so much for your help everyone! i may still be confused but at least now i "know what i don't know," right? ;)

WriteKnight
06-16-2011, 08:45 PM
I work in television and I'm a doc filmmaker.

I also had a kid grow up and go through school.

A camera crew would need permission to go onto campus to conduct interviews. They would need permission from the school. Chances are the school would be discinclined to give carte blanche. Chances are greater that the school might co-operate if it was in their interests to do so. Perhaps they WANT the changes that are coming - or don't want them. They are likely then to select students to BE interviewed, and allow them to be interviewed on the campus.

This happened to me when I was in high school. A number of us were selected for interviews by the local paper, because we were all 18 or turning 18 and were the first 18 year olds to get the right to vote. So there was a huge ammount of interest in the media as to what 'the kids' thought about it. I still ahve that interview in my files. We did not have to sign a release - IF we were already 18, as we were adults. Those who weren't - did have to get their parents permission. The interviews were conducted in the principals office as I recall.

As a television ENG crew - when I shoot on campus - for instance a govt official is visiting - I generally shoot to avoid the students faces. Lots of 'back of the head' shots and the like. This is because OUR STATION requries signed releases from minors, and it's too much trouble to get them. Though the school has releases that allow for videography on campus - BEFORE WE SHOOT - the teacher will ask if anyone who doesn't want to be shot - they are free to leave.

If the school does not want the crew on campus - and the news station wants to get 'off campus reactions' with the school in the back ground - then that's where they set up. Depends on the location of course. Maybe there's a sign that's visible from across the street, or down the road a bit. The ENG trucks set up there, and wait for kids to pass by.

MOST stations are going to want a release before showing an interview. SO standard practice is "What's your name? How old are you? Can you answer this question? Can we contact your parents?" - And most news directors won't run it without a parent's permission.

That's my practical real life experience.

"Breaking" news is handled differently. There's a gunman or fire on campus - the ENG trucks arrive, they shoot what they can see from behind police/fire lines. They grab what interviews they can live and go with it.

PinkAmy
06-16-2011, 10:59 PM
I think you have to look at what's standard practice as well as what's legal.

Reporters have to have parental permission to air minors on tv if they minors are being interviewed, but not if they are doing a scene shot and the minors just appear in the background.
Bottom line is that the reporters and photographers do not want to be sued and we live in a litigious society. The school usually won't want students talking unless it's to say how wonderful the school is.

After Columbine photographers who could get close enough to the scene shot close ups of faces, but that was 15 years ago. Most of the kids interviewed were with parents, who had swarmed to the school. In this day and age with cell phones and text messaging, I am sure parents would be flocking to the school in the event of a tragedy, so the parents might be with the students and it wouldn't matter if they had parental permission. Certainly reporters couldn't get closer than the parents.

I'm an adult and I've been interviewed for TV for a number of times. When the interviews were scheduled in advance, I always have had to sign a release. When I've been interviewed as a random person (I've been on TV a few times at our local Race for the Cure,) I have not had to sign anything.

jclarkdawe
06-17-2011, 12:30 AM
Please note that I stated that the release can be as simple as saying "yes" to an interview. It does not have to be in writing. PinkAmy's experience is very consistent with what I've seen from most reporters.


this is making me realize that maybe I should clarify a little -

-the "newsworthy event" happened to a 17-year-old student OFF school premises (so the school isn't at any risk of being sued for what happens to him) Neither the police nor the hospital would release the identity to the press. (I'm assuming this is happening at the present time.)
-it wasn't a crime, but he was badly hurt
-the reason the reporters are interested in the high school is because (A) it's very big news, and they want to interview his peers, especially since he was a star athlete This could make him a public figure, resulting in his news being released. It doesn't help the press with the other students, however. and (B) as a result of what happened, schools around the county are putting tons of new rules into effect. If it isn't a school activity, then it's awfully hard for schools to make rules.

1. i am a little confused. jclarkdawe, you mentioned that according to civil law, minors can't enter into contracts, and an interview is a contract. but focusonenergy, you mentioned that b/c of the bill of rights, the gov. can't restrict the freedom of the press. both of these things sound accurate in the part of my brain that vaguely remembers government class, so this means....what? the government technically does restrict the freedom of the press, just in a really really roundabout way? (lol) People can publish what they want in this country without the government stopping them under the Constitution (more or less). That doesn't preclude an individual from suing the press for violating their rights. Two entirely different things.

An interview is not a contract. A release of rights is a contract. Basically someone who is interviewed needs to release their right to privacy for the interview to be published.

2. it occurs to me that you all are right about reporters on school grounds....otherwise, they would never be there for events like football games! i'll just have to have them behave in a non-obnoxious fashion so they aren't asked to leave. Sporting events are public events, in which the public (including the press) are invited to watch. Violate the school rules, and the invitation is withdrawn (try smoking at a high school football game). Athletes are public figures and can be broadcast without a release.

so here's my next question. assuming the hype doesn't die down for a few weeks, where would all these reporters be hanging out on a suburban high school campus while the students are arriving/leaving? surely not right by the doors, that would get them booted. so would they all be in a group, or dispersed? would they maybe approach students as they walked to/from their cars/buses? It depends upon how the school, and to a lesser extent, the police, want to manage this. Understand that the buses and parking lots are school grounds, controllable by the school. As long as the school develops an approach, I'd probably buy it in the book.


thank you so much for your help everyone! i may still be confused but at least now i "know what i don't know," right? ;)

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

mgnme
06-17-2011, 12:59 AM
This is so helpful....I think that I'm going to have the reporters be a presence on campus, but also have them hang around at some popular "student hangout" (yet to be invented....maybe a coffee shop near school that they all frequent or something like that) to get quotes. and I'm definitely going to focus more on the press reporters than the tv reporters (after the first day).

Do they always get permission beforehand, or if it was just a little quote, like, "John Smith, a sophomore at Franklin High School, says, 'I hope life goes back to normal soon,'" could they just get the quote and then give John's parents a call later to make sure it was OK to run it?
Basically, I'm looking for a believable way for my MC to hear a lot of the questions the reporters are asking on a regular basis - and hear how the questions change as the days go on - without getting interviewed herself. I also need her to hear a lot of the responses her peers are giving, and not just the ones that make the news.


oh, and JClarkDawe, the new rules are safety regulations due to a new and unanticipated threat. it's realistic - similar to something that happened in my high school less than a decade ago, actually. but thanks for pointing it out as potentially unrealistic :)


thanks everyone!! :)

WriteKnight
06-17-2011, 05:18 AM
Press 'hanging around someplace' - doesn't happen. They have places to go and things to do - quite often wearing more than one hat. They go somewhere to get an interview. You're talking about some sort of investigative journalist - if I take your drift. Someone trying to 'dig up' some information - not just grab sound bites on 'how did it feel when you saw this tragic event'?

Places are either public or private. If they are 'hanging around a public place' - hoping to catch teens gathering, then you're talking about something like a park, maybe a skate park or something, right? Something that's owned by the city/county and is open to the public, not a private place like a malt shop or pizza parlor?

When I conduct an interview, I'm hoping for getting a clean sound take. I don't want people hanging around. I especially don't want people eavesdropping or possibly ruining the take. Think of all the kids hopping up and down in the background of live shots on the news.

Print journalists are going to want privacy too. The only way to 'overhear' their questions are to be part of the interview group.

Again, this is my experience. You could invent a situation I suppose, where a reporter is interviewing a kid, and the MC overhears the questions. But having that scenario play out again and again? Not likely.