Alfred Baker.

Pitman's practical journalism; an introduction to every description of literary effort in association with newspaper production online

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University of Missouri, where the School of Journalism is in
charge of four expert journalists who hold college degrees.
One of the professors specialises on the history and ethics
of journalism. The technicalities of journalism, including
reporting work, the preparation of copy for the Press, and
the conduct of a newspaper, are treated by two of the



128 PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

professors, who devote their time almost entirely to this depart-
ment. The fourth professor gives instruction in advertising.
On a more comprehensive basis, a department of journalism
has been organised in association with the University of New
York. The instruction is on distinctly practical lines, and
is designed for the five classes of students mentioned below :
Those who wish to prepare themselves for magazine work
either as editors or as writers ; those who are attracted
towards newspaper work and are anxious to secure a pre-
paration for positions as reporters, editorial writers, depart-
ment editors, copy readers, etc. ; those who wish to enter
the field of trade journalism either as editors or writers ;
those who want a special training for the work connected
with the advertising department of a magazine or news-
paper ; and those who want a special training for the work
connected with the circulation department of a magazine
or newspaper.

The Best Type of School.

The practical school of journalism is, in our opinion, to
be preferred to that which seeks merely to impart additional
learning to the embryo journalist. The aspirant ought to
have a sufficiently good general education before he takes
up a course of technical study ; and if schools of journalism
became the recognised method of entering the profession,
they could perform a most useful service both to employers
and to the public by refusing to admit to the courses any who
did not possess a certain amount of education. The schools
might very well serve as a trial ground for aspirants, and a
competent faculty could discharge no more useful duty than
that of dismissing from attendance those who were obviously
not intended for journalists. The question of entrance into
what, after all, must always be numerically a small profes-
sion, needs, we consider, the serious attention of the societies,
as such attention constitutes the most important step in
raising the status of journalism in order to meet the
requirements of the present day,



SOCIETIES, SCHOOLS, SALARIES 129

Salaries, Etc.

Salaries for the various journalistic positions differ widely.
On the great daily papers the editor's, the leader writer's,
or the special correspondent's annual stipend is 1,OCO or
more, but the average salaries of newspaper workers on the
majority of English papers are much smaller. The editor
of a provincial weekly paper, the sub-editor, or the senior
reporter of a daily journal are each paid salaries of about 3 per
week, rising to a larger sum according to length of service.
Many country reporters receive a weekly pay of from 2 to
2 5s. The remuneration of junior or district reporters is
about 30s. per week. Those serving under articles, and whose
parents or guardians have paid a premium, usually get a small
weekly salary, rising to a maximum of about 12s. These
figures must be taken as approximate only : in London and
some large towns higher salaries are paid, while in country
towns they are sometimes less than the sums named. All
travelling expenses and hotel charges are paid by the news-
paper proprietor. No objection is usually made to reporters
earning what they can by correspondence or linage, but this
source of income is precarious, and a great number of
journalists are unable to secure linage work at all. When
objection is taken to a journalist undertaking linage, he
should be paid a higher salary for his exclusive services.
Newspaper proprietors sometimes arrange to pay qualified
members of their staff for special contributions outside the
scope of their ordinary duties ; for this description of work
one guinea per column is often paid. Before entering on a
staff appointment, the journalist is strongly advised to have
a " scrap of paper " defining the duties and also the length
of notice for the termination of the engagement.

Reference Books.

It has not been thought advisable to give a list of reference
books for the journalist, other than those mentioned in the
preceding pages. A reference library ought to be found in
every newspaper office, but where it does not exist, the



130 PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

journalist should avail himself of the resources of the public
library. In some classes of work there may be a particular
reference book, of which it is absolutely essential that he should
always have the latest edition at his elbow. In the choice of
reference books the journalist must, to a large extent, be guided
by the special requirements of his work.



NEWSPAPER LAW

BY EDWARD A. COPE



NEWSPAPER LAW

BY EDWARD A. COPE



CHAPTER I

FORMALITIES

1. REGISTRATION. Under the Newspaper Libel and Regis-
tration Act, 1881 (44 & 45 Vic. c. 60), it is the duty of the
" printers and publishers " of a newspaper to register, and
to make " annually in the month of July in every year a
return " to the registry, setting forth (a) the title of the
newspaper ; (b) the names of all the proprietors of the news-
paper, together with their respective occupations, places of
business (if any), and places of residence. Failure to comply
with this requirement involves liability to heavy penalties.
The registry for English newspapers is kept at Somerset
House, London.

In instances in which it is inconvenient to insert the names
of all the proprietors, the Registrar has power, on his being
satisfied that that course is desirable, to allow the name
of " a representative proprietor " to be substituted for the
names omitted.

Registration is unnecessary where the proprietors of a
newspaper are the shareholders in a properly incorporated
joint stock company.

2. IMPRINT. An important Act, passed in 1869 (32 &
33 Vic. c. 24) repealing many former Acts and re-enacting
some of their provisions, continued in force an old statute
requiring every newspaper to bear upon the first or last
leaf , " in legible characters," the name and usual place ot
abode or business of the printer.

133



134 PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

3. PRESERVATION OF MARKED COPIES. Under the same
Act, a provision in a former Act is continued in operation,
the effect of which is that the printer of every newspaper
who prints it for " reward, gain, or profit " must " carefully
preserve and keep one copy, at least," of every newspaper
so printed by him, and must " write or cause to be written
or printed in fair and legible characters," on the copy so
kept, the name and place of abode of the person or persons
by whom he is employed to print it.

He is further under an obligation to produce his marked
copy of any issue of the paper to any Justice of the Peace
who may require to inspect it within six calendar months
after the date of publication.

What is a Newspaper ?

It is sometimes a little difficult to say whether a particular
publication can or cannot be properly described as a news-
paper. The Act of 1881 contains a definition clause, rather
curiously and not too grammatically worded, which gives
the meaning of the term for the purposes of that Act. It
defines a newspaper as " any paper containing public news,
intelligence or occurrences, or any remarks or observations
therein, printed for sale and published in England or Ireland
periodically or in parts or numbers at intervals not exceeding
twenty-six days between the publication of any two such
papers, parts or numbers," and also " any paper printed in
order to be disposed (sic) and made public weekly or oftener
or at intervals not exceeding twenty-six days, containing
only or principally advertisements." It will be seen that
to constitute a publication a newspaper within the meaning
of the Act of 1881, it must be issued periodically at intervals
that are not required to be regular, but must not exceed
twenty-six days, and that if it contains advertisements,
it need not contain news.

An isolated publication is, therefore, not a newspaper,
although it contains news ; a publication issued monthly is
not a newspaper ; but a publication containing advertisements



NEWSPAPER LAW 135

only, if it is issued periodically at intervals of not more
than twenty-six days, is a newspaper.

It is interesting to compare this definition with that con-
tained in the Post Office Act, 1908 (8 Edw. VII, c. 48), which,
for postal purposes, treats as a newspaper

" Any publication consisting wholly or in great part of

political or other news or of articles relating thereto or to

other current topics, with or without advertisements . . .

published in numbers at intervals of not more than seven

days."



CHAPTER II

PRIVILEGED REPORTS

Two questions arise as to the reporting of Parliamentary
proceedings, namely : (1) The rights of newspaper pro-
prietors as between themselves and Parliament ; (2) their
rights as against persons aggrieved by statements made in
Parliament and reported by the Press.

Technically, there is no right to report the proceedings
of Parliament. Both Houses have always been careful to
reserve the right to prohibit publication. A Standing Order
of the House of Lords dated as recently as 1902, and still
in force, declares it to be a breach of privilege for any person
to print or publish anything relating to the proceedings of
that House without its permission ; and there are various
similar Orders of the House of Commons which still remain
unrescinded. As a matter of practice, however, neither
House attempts to enforce its strict rights against the Press
except occasionally in the case of a report which it regards
as grossly inaccurate or obviously untrue.

Lord Cockburn, delivering judgment in 1868 in Wason
v. Walter, one of the " leading cases " as to the rights of
the Press, summed up the entire position in a few sentences
which every Pressman should bear in mind. " The fact,
no doubt, is," said his Lordship, " that each House of
Parliament does by its Standing Orders prohibit publication
of its debates. But practically each House not only permits,
but also sanctions and encourages, the publication of its
proceedings, and actually gives every facility to those who
report them. . . . Therefore, it is idle to say that the
publication of Parliamentary proceedings is prohibited by
Parliament. The Standing Orders which prohibit it are
obviously maintained only to give to each House the control
over the publication of its proceedings, and the power of

136



NEWSPAPER LAW 137

preventing or correcting any abuses of the facilities afforded.
Independently of the Orders of the Houses, there is nothing
unlawful in public reports of Parliamentary proceedings.
Practically, such publication is sanctioned by Parliament ;
it is essential to the working of our Parliamentary system,
and to the welfare of the nation."

The second question that of the rights of persons
aggrieved by statements made in the course of proceedings
in Parliament and reported by the Press was very fully
discussed in the same case. It was held by a strong Court
of four Judges that, so long as it is faithful and accurate,
a report published in a newspaper of a debate in either of
the Houses of Parliament in which statements were made
disparaging to the character of an individual, is privileged,
and that an action is not maintainable by the person whose
character has been called in question against the newspaper
which merely reported the debate.

It was pointed out, however, that the ground of the
privilege is that the advantage of publicity to the com-
munity at large far outweighs any private injury resulting
from the publication.

The same considerations apply to a condensed or sum-
marised report, provided the facts do not get distorted in
the process of summarising. If by the suppression of some-
thing material a report which, but for that suppression,
would not be injurious, causes injury to an individual, the
privilege will be lost.

Whether the report be professedly verbatim or condensed,
if it turns out to be an inaccurate or untrue report, the
privilege will also be lost.

Parliamentary Papers.

Where either House has directed or authorised the publica-
tion of reports, papers, votes, or proceedings, and any of
these are reproduced, or extracts from them or abstracts
or summaries of them are published in a newspaper, no action
brought by a person who considers himself injured by any

10 (1600)



138 PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

statement contained in such Parliamentary paper or in any
lair and accurate summary or abstract of it, to recover
damages in respect of its publication in the newspaper, will
succeed, if it can be proved to the satisfaction of a jury that
the publication was bond fide and without malice. (See
3 & 4 Viet. c. 9, s. 3.)

Reports of Judicial Proceedings.

Reports of judicial proceedings are protected by the Law
of Libel Amendment Act, 1888 (51 & 52 Viet, c, 64), which
contains a provision enacting that

" a fair and accurate report in any newspaper of pro-
ceedings publicly heard before any court exercising judicial
authority shall, if published contemporaneously with such
proceedings, be privileged ; provided that nothing in this
Section shall authorise the publication of any blasphemous
or indecent matter."

It should be noticed that the privilege is carefully
restricted to reports of proceedings " publicly heard," and
that it applies only when the < ourt is " exercising judicial
authority." Proceedings in court when they are not judicial
proceedings can only be published with risk. When a judge
or a master is hearing an application in chambers, even when
the sitting takes place in a building or room officially known
as a court, and when a court is sitting in camera, the pro-
ceedings are not " publicly heard," because the public is not
entitled to be present, and it is, therefore, contempt of
court to report such proceedings.

What is privileged is a " report " of that which actually
takes place in court. It may include all statements made
by counsel, judge or witnesses, provided it is shown clearly
by whom any statement was made. It must not state as
if it were an admitted fact a mere allegation by counsel
or by a witness. And it must not include statements that
were not made in court. Facts sometimes come to a
journalist's knowledge, through conversation with a litigant
or his solicitor, which have not been proved in court facts



NEWSPAPER LAW 139

which it may or may not be intended to state in court.
If they are not subsequently stated in court, they should
not be stated in print. If they are mentioned in open court,
they may be safely included in a report published afterwards.
The following is a matter which requires special care :
it happens sometimes that a journalist becomes aware that
a defendant has paid a certain sum into court in satisfaction
of the plaintiff's claim, and that the plaintiff has not accepted
the amount. A rigorous rule forbids mention of such a fact
in court till after the verdict of the jury has been given.
Earlier mention of it might prejudicially affect the decision
of the jury. The fact must, therefore, not be incorporated
in any report of a part-heard case. Publication of a report
mentioning such a fact before the verdict has been given
may be held to amount to contempt of court.

The second restriction, namely, that the report, to be
privileged, must be published " contemporaneously " with
the proceedings, is equally important. At the time of the
trial, the matter is " news," and is presumably published
because it is considered to be of interest to the public.
Publication at a later date suggests a motive of a more per-
sonal character ; and a jury may, in such a case, not
unreasonably infer " malice."

What is " contemporaneous publication " ? The expres-
sion cannot be construed literally. Apparently it means,
for the purposes of the Act, publication in the next issue
of the newspaper going to press after the hearing of the
judicial proceedings, or, at all events, in a number issued
soon after the hearing.

Under the Children Act, 1908 (8 Edw. VII, c. 67), the
duly accredited representatives of newspapers or of news
agencies are entitled to remain in court after the general
public have been requested to leave while a child or young
person is giving evidence in relation to an alleged offence
against public decency. In all other cases, the right to
report is subject to the right of the court to exclude the
public (including reporters) for certain reasons.



140 PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

Reports of Coroners' Inquests.

The business of the coroner is, with the aid of a jury, to
endeavour to ascertain the cause of a death which has not
been satisfactorily certified in the usual way, to certify the
result of the inquiry and to see that that result is communi-
cated to the Registrar of Deaths. He is not engaged in
trying a charge against anybody ; he does not sentence any-
body or deliver judgment as an ordinary judge does. His
utmost power is to issue a warrant for the arrest of a person
whom the evidence points to as having probably caused the
death : he does not try that person.

A coroner's inquest does not stand on quite the same
footing as a trial in court. A coroner does not necessarily
conduct his inquiry in a building technically termed a court,
though in many of the large towns the municipal authorities
have, as a matter of convenience, provided such buildings
and named them " Coroners' Courts." The practice of
admitting the public, including representatives of the Press,
is very old established ; but no express right has been con-
ferred by statute upon either the public or the Press to be
present at a coroner's inquest. It seems, however, to be
incontestable that the proceedings are open to the public.
At the same time, the coroner has absolute discretion to
exclude the public or any individuals, and his exercise of
that discretion is final and cannot be overruled by any
superior authority. All this amounts to, so far as the Press
is concerned, is that reporters are entitled to be present until
they are excluded, and that if they wish to remain they must
submit to such conditions as the coroner chooses to impose.

The reasons for the very large discretion accorded to
coroners are not difficult to understand. The circumstances
that preceded the death of a particular individual do not
necessarily concern anybody but the members of his family.
The publicity of print might cause them great pain without
serving any real public purpose. Or the facts elicited in the
course of the inquiry may be such that, in the public interest,
it is not desirable to make them known.



NEWSPAPER LAW 141

Meetings of Local Authorities to which the Press
has Right of Access.

By the Local Authorities (Admission of the Press to
Meetings) Act, 1908 (8 Edw. VII, c. 43), which removed
many doubts on the subject, an express right is conferred
upon all

" duly accredited representatives of newspapers and duly
accredited representatives of news agencies which system-
atically carry on the business of selling and supplying
reports and information to newspapers,"
to admission to meetings of certain specified bodies. The
right, however, is subject to a power reserved by the Act to
every one of those bodies to exclude all Press representatives
temporarily from their meetings

" as often as may be desirable at any meeting when, in
the opinion of a majority of the members of the local
authority present . . . expressed by resolution in view
of the special nature of the business then being dealt with
or about to be dealt with, such exclusion is desirable in
the public interest."
The meetings to which the Act applies are those of

(1) County Councils, County Borough Councils, Borough
Councils, Urban District Councils, Rural District Councils,
Parish Councils, a Joint Committee or Joint Board of any
two or more of such Councils to which any of the powers
or duties of the appointing Councils have been transferred
or delegated under any Act of Parliament or Provisional
Order ;

(2) Parish Meetings held under the Local Government Acts ;

(3) Education Committees (including Joint Education
Committees) so far as respects any acts or proceedings not
required to be submitted to any Council for its approval ;

(4) Boards of Guardians, and any Joint Committee con-
stituted under the Poor Law Acts ; and Boards of Manage-
ment of a school or asylum district formed under those Acts ;

(5) Any Central Body or Distress Committee under the
Unemployed Workmen Act, 1905 ;



142 PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

(6) The Metropolitan Water Board, and any Joint Water
Board constituted under any Act of Parliament or Provisional
Order ;

(7) Any other local body which has or may hereafter have
conferred upon it the power to make a rate.

When " Fair and Accurate " Reports are
Protected.

Reports that are " fair and accurate " are protected under
a provision in the Law of Libel Amendment Act, 1888 ; but
the protection is carefully restricted ; and it is important
for journalists to bear in mind the exact language of the
statute.

" A fair and accurate report "
so runs the Act

" published in any newspaper of the proceedings of a
public meeting or (except where neither the public nor any
newspaper reporter is admitted) of any meeting of a vestry,
town council, school board, board of guardians, board or
local authority formed or constituted under the provisions
of any Act of Parliament, or of any committee appointed
by any of the above-mentioned bodies, or of any meeting
of any Commissioners authorised to act by Letters Patent,
Act of Parliament, Warrant under the Royal Sign Manual,
or other lawful warrant or authority, Select Committees
of either of the Houses of Parliament, Justices of the Peace
in Quarter Sessions assembled for administrative or deliber-
ative purposes . . . shall be privileged unless it shall be
proved that such report or publication was published or
made maliciously."

The protection, however, does not extend to the publication
of matter that is " not of public concern and the publication
of which is not for the public benefit." And it will be lost
in cases where a report that comes within the four corners
of the section quoted, reflects upon the character or conduct
of an individual, and he addresses to the newspaper publishing
it " a reasonable letter or statement " in the nature of a



NEWSPAPER LAW 143

correction, contradiction, or explanation, and the letter or
statement is not published.

Where the published report purports to be an account
of the proceedings of a public meeting, in order to enjoy the
protection of the Act, the meeting must be one which falls
within the following definition contained in the Act

" Any meeting bond fide and lawfully held for a lawful

purpose and for the furtherance or discussion of any matter

of public concern, whether the admission thereto be general

or restricted."

Defamatory Statements.

Any statement, whether published in the news columns,
the correspondence columns, or the advertising columns of
a newspaper, which is so worded as to be, in the opinion of
a jury, calculated to expose the person named or referred
to, to ridicule, hatred, or contempt, or to convey a serious
imputation against his integrity, or to injure him in his pro-
fession, trade, business, or occupation, is a defamatory state-
ment. Unless the occasion of its publication is clearly
privileged, or lawful justification or excuse can be shown for
publication of it, it is libellous, and its publication involves
liability for pecuniary damages.

To take it out of this category, it must be proved

First, that the statement is true ;

Secondly, that publication of it at the particular time at
which publication took place was a matter of public interest ;
and

Thirdly, that publication was bond fide, without malice,
and for the protection or otherwise for the benefit of the
public.

Fair and accurate reports of statements made in the course
of proceedings in Parliament or in the Law Courts aie privi-
leged, even when the statements are injurious to individuals,
so long as they are made at the time and as a matter of news.
If they are published or re-published at a later date, it may
be inferred that there was some other motive for publication


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Online LibraryAlfred BakerPitman's practical journalism; an introduction to every description of literary effort in association with newspaper production → online text (page 11 of 14)