Liable: Zeran vs. AOL (1998)

24 11 2010

Zeran vs. AOL refers to the 1997-98 legal battle between Seattle artist Ken Zeran and the $4million media conglomerate, America Online.

Zeran’s struggle began in April of 1995, six days after Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  In an AOL “Michigan Military Movement” chat community, someone registered the username KenZZ03 and posted advertisements for insensitive paraphernalia.  After someone tipped off local Oklahoma City radio personality Mike Shannon, of KRXO FM, who told listeners to speak out against the sale. Ken Zeran recieved nearly 100 threatening phone calls.

Independent from the suit against AOL for negligence and failure “to respond adequately to the bogus notices on its bulletin board after being made aware of their malicious and fraudulent nature,” Zeran sued Diamond Broadcasting, owner of KRXO.
In a 2000 interview with Carl Kaplan of “The Skeptic Tank,” an online weekly law reveiw, Zeran said “If you went to an e-mail screen and saw an e-mail from someone you didn’t know — an anonymous e-mail — and the content was provocative and incendiary and pointed toward a particular person, would you publish that information in a newspaper? That’s the essence of this case.”
Robert Nelon, the defense attorney for KRXO, said in the same article that while it was impossible not to feel for Zeran, the person to be angry with, to hold responsible, is whomever posted the messages- not AOL for facilitating or KRXO for perpetuating.

The Supreme Court denied requests to hear the Zeran/AOL case, so the rulings of lower courts stand.
The first suit brought into question AOL’s nonaction and the validity of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act– because the legislation went into effect in 1996, after the defamatory messages were posted online.

Citing Cubby vs. CompuServe (1991),  the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court found that AOL was to be considered a distributer and thereby an extension of the publisher- each protected by Section 230.

In the end, the Fourth Circuit Court found that none of Zeran’s arguments could stand up against the CDA, which  “creates a federal immunity to any cause of action that would make service providers liable for information originating with a third-party user of the service.”


I am absolutely blown away that AOL was not held responsible! Nor KRXO FM!
I can understand that because the internet is essentially endless, AOL or any other host site could possibly hope to police every single avenue of activity… but you would think that once a complaintant came forward they would have helped.

To some degree I feel as though Mike Shannon should have fact checked the tip he received from a viewer.  I know that I would never just repeat or repost information that I had not looked into for myself. On the other hand, I can see the perspective that you wouldn’t hold a news anchor responsible for a statement, later deemed inaccurate, because it is the job of a writer to investigate and create the story.

It is terribly sad to think that Ken Zeran had no recourse for clearing his name.  I wonder why with so many lawsuits that the CDA hasn’t been reevaluated, because to this point I’m not sure it is protecting the right people.


15 11 2010

Chris Dunn reports for 10,000 Words on the 2010 College Photographer of the Year competition.

Held annually since 1945, the Missouri School of Journalism narrows thousands of entries into just under two dozen awards over a six-day judging period.  Prizes range from equipment, to internships, to collaborative opportunities with top visual media companies.

The contest is co-sponsored by Nikon (whos participation allows for the entries to be free), and serves as platform for the National Press Photographer’s Foundation to select recipients of the Col. William J. Lookadoo and Milton Freier Memorial Awards.

The contest’s website boasts that past winners have “gone on to become outstanding professional photographers and leaders in the field of photojournalism.”

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I’ve only recently begun to read 10000words, founded by Mark Luckie, as its praises are sung by many professors in our JRL program.  I find the layout to be a little more bloggy than I care for, but it definitely lives up to the “Where Journalism and Technology Meet” tagline, as the content was very different from the industry news I found on Poynter or #wjchat.

I was grateful to have come across this article and learn about the CPOY competition because I love photography and photojournalism.  [Click Here to read about my favorite works!]

I was really surprised to read about this organization because after 7 semesters in journalism, multimedia, art and photojournalism classes NOT ONE TEACHER ever talked about CPOY!
I bookmarked the official website and plan to scour over the gallery of winning images as soon as I have time!

On The Edge with Kristi

8 11 2010

810 pages of results for Kristi Gustafson’s On the Edge blog.

Good lord this woman is committed! (Or should be committed, depending how you wanna look at it.)

Gustafson blogs multiple times per day, although I notice it is usually within a few hours-long window. She makes references to other social media outlets on which to find and contact her, including Facebook and Twitter.

I like the “ARA” posts, where Kristi sort of lets the readers interact, moreso than stepping right in to give the advice herself.  This is sort of a theme, Kristi acts as facilitator of discussion and information exchange, instead of just giving the word like some bloggers do.

I think Kristi’s lecture will have an interesting perspective, given her young age and growing prominence on the TU blogosphere.  Gustafson will serve as a great example to our class of what it means to practically apply today’s expanding realm of social media in the workforce.

Crossover: Ezine Article

3 11 2010

Group of students examine aspects of last month’s announced budget cuts on the UAlbany Ezine.

Check us out!

JRL 490 – Sports

18 10 2010

The Poynter Institute has been dragged into the Brett Favre-Jen Sterger “sexting” scandal- material better suited for such outlets as Deadspin, Bleach Report, and Hollywood Gossip.

Gregory E. Favre, a “Distinguished Fellow in Journalism Values” on the Poynter faculty, has had to deviate from the normal rule “writers aren’t the story,” in order to correct an unnecessary footnote attached to a Brett Favre analysis.

“Brett is a distant cousin in six different ways. I am 34 years older than he. I have never met him. I did know his grandfather. I left home 15 years before he was born. He doesn’t know how to pronounce our name, and neither do any of the sportscasters. Or Deadspin, for that matter. I have talked to the managing editor of once in a year and that was about a good place to buy po-boy sandwiches,”  he said.


I am partially amused and partially confused.

Why would an established, career journalist feel the need to buy into the absoulte nonsense of this scandal?

I would have ignored the footnote! Especially knowing (now) that they are distant cousins who have never met!

As much as I do indulge with daily readings of Perez Hilton, and occasionally a stop over at TMZ, I do think that sites like this are contradictory to to real news.  I think that it is important for writers of any format (print, online magazines, blogs) to hold themselves to a high level of credibility.

Perpetuating rumors and clogging up the pipes for real transfer of information isn’t helpful to the industry.
I hope I never find myself in a position where site-hits and ad sales become more important than the ntegrity of my work.

JRL 490 – 3 Galleries

18 10 2010

Three galleries that we like… for someone who has an entire set of shelves in her room dedicated to photography books, this is not an easy list to form!

The first that comes to mind is Renee C Byer’s 2007 series for the Sacramento Bee.  The Pulitzer winning 4-part feature, “A Mother’s Journey,” was described by the Pulitzer judges as “an intimate portrayal of a single mother and her young son as he loses his battle with cancer.” 

Byer, and writer Cynthia Hubert, followed 11-year-old Derek Madsen and his mother Cyndie French as his treatment became ineffective and their family prepared to lose him.

Todd Heisler’s work with Jim Sheeler on the Final Salute series is also a notable collection of photos.  The official slideshow from the Rocky Mountain News seems to have been rendered unviewable after 4 years sitting in cyberspace, but a site called The Digital Journalist has a “Final Salute” section where Heisler’s images are hosted.

Sheeler’s words are so perfect and heartbreaking, it was almost too much to see the scenes for myself, but Heisler captures these deeply personal moments without there being an invasive feeling to their display.

The New York Times took home the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2002. Their coverage of the 9/11 terror attacks was, of course, horriffic and tragic and poignant… And truly could not have been told on such a level by anyone who was not from New York City.

Unfortunate and haunting as that day was, and still is for many, from an industry stand point the staff of the NYC-based papers were at an advantage because they were there.


All of these galleries are Pulitzer winners.
All of these collections are powerful subjects.
All of these galleries brought me to tears at first or second (and sometimes third) look.
All of these collections mean something to me, aside from pure admiration for their accomplishments in this craft.


I was immediately drawn to the “Mother’s Journey” story from the Sacramento Bee because my family is actively involved with fundraising efforts to fight childhood cancer.
When my younger brother was two, he had a seizure, which led us to discover a tumor on his brain.
He responded well to a course of radiation at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN.  Today he is a healthy 13-year-old who plays football and reads every kind of history book he can find.
The events of Derek Madsen and Cyndie French’s lives are a story that is too familiar for those of us touched by any kind of cancer.  This piece is a reminder that no matter how valiantly you fight the battle, sometimes you can lose the war. 

Speaking of war, albeit a different kind, “The Final Salute” is unsettling to me as an American.  I believe in my country, and I support our efforts abroad.
Several of my peers from high school enlisted and have served, my best friend’s significant other did two tours in Iraq, and my roommate’s father recently returned from a 9 month stint in Afghanistan.
I know that this mission is not over, I know that people are going through this every day, and I know that this story needed to be told by Jim Sheeler & Todd Heisler.

There are two images from the NY Times September 11th that stand out to me: Krista Niles’ huddle of FDNY Ladder 21 crew and George Gutierrez’s portrait of EMT Jay Robbins saluting his fallen colleague.
I have a book that gives an overview of Pulitzer Prize-winning photography up to 2008, and I can find the pages for Renee Byer and/or the New York Times sections without even thinking about it.
I don’t have a specific reason for my attraction to these… I think it is a combination of my long-standing, inexplicable soft-spot for firefighters and police officers, as well as my desire to see and capture moments of a singular, honest emotion.

Twitter FAIL (JRL 490 – World News)

22 09 2010

I have not get given myself over to the wonderful world of tweets, twitpics, and trending topics— and perhaps for good reason!

A teenager in Australia recently “tweeted” a JavaScript code that, when moused over, enabled a pop-up window. 
“I did it merely to see if it could be done…  I had no idea it was going to take off how it did. I just hadn’t even considered it,” said Pearce Delphin.

What he hadn’t considered was that by exposing this Twitter security flaw, he would inspire hackers across the globe to pounce on the nearly 6million registered Twitter users. 

The malicious code derouted visitors to Japanese pornography websites, allowed spam advertisements, and randomly generated “tweets” on their accounts.

Delphin hopes that although “Netcraft” security traced the code back to him, officials will consider that he merely “discovered a vulnerability,” and did not “create a self-replicating worm.”

Delphin claimed that Twitter was aware of this hole in their system, but failed to correct it.

My question is why not fix it?!  Why knowingly leave your millions of users vulnerable to such an unnecessary attack? 

I would be interested to know how many users effected by the worm are now going inactive on the popular social site…