Introduction to Journalism

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Law for journalists in the UK.


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Whether you are publishing online in a blog, on Twitter or in print, you are responsible for what you say. It’s no defence in law to say you didn’t know the rules of libel or it didn’t count because only a few people saw what you wrote.

It’s vital for everyone who is publishing anything online or in print to have a good idea of the rules of defamation. Here are some books and resources to discover more about the subject.

In addition, I’ve included lots of useful guidelines published by media bodies such as the Press Complaints Council, BBC and The Guardian on good practice within journalism. They can give you a good idea of what is acceptable behaviour, although remember they are simply guidelines, rather than legal requirements.

Libel continues to be the law which will most concern journalists. It is essential you have a working knowledge of defamation laws and at least, know when to ask for help or a second opinion about what you are publishing.  For a simple Common Sense guide to Libel, see my An introduction to defamation powerpoint.

There are other laws and regulations which it is a good idea to know about when publishing content to an audience. If you are using images, for example, it is essential to have a good idea about copyright laws.

Finally Freedom of Information requests are now regularly used by reporters. If you want to find out information from a local authority or government body, you may need to know what is permitted.


McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists

McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists maintains its reputation as the definitive guide for journalists and students. Endorsed by the National Council for the Training of Journalists as the essential text for students on journalism courses, it provides an unrivalled level of accuracy and detail. It is the indispensable, complete and portable resource for the practising journalist or editor; used in newsrooms, courtrooms and at public meetings across the country. Now in its 20th edition.

Law for Journalists by Frances Quinn (Longman)

Law for Journalists is a jargon-free introduction to media law and contains indispensable information suitable for those who are, or seek to become, newspaper, magazine, broadcasting and online journalists. It covers the content of most journalism courses including those accredited by the NCTJ.

Good and accurate precis of journalism law from one of the Carter Ruck one of the top media law firms in the UK.

Organisations with useful guidelines for journalists.

The Press Complaints Commission  Editors’ Code of Practice   is a detailed list of best practice for print journalists which is essential reading.

The  BBC Editorial Guidelines  explains the standards expected of  BBC journalists and is an excellent resource for all journalists, professional or not, broadcast or print.

Ofcom Broadcasting Code.


The Copyright Law

Basic facts on copyright from the Intellectual Property Office.

Libel and Slander

Read the actual law which covers what you can and can’t say about people.

Defamation Act 1996

Freedom of Information

Lots of useful information for anyone wanting to make a Freedom of Information request.

The Information Commissioner.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information.

Guardian newspaper guidance on FOI.

The Freedom of Information Act.

Photography, filming and videoing

Useful information from the  Editorial Photographers website  on laws which may affect photographers reporting news.

National Union of Journalists London freelance branch website – guidelines for police on media photographers.


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