Social movements changing journalism and law: Canadian press against Rob Ford

Like most people who spend time on the internets I’m fascinated by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.  I watched his interview with Jimmy Kimmel and thought: this guy is invulnerable.  He has that teflon acumen to look the audience in the face and (according to many accounts) lie.

The Walrus has a cool accounting of the legal changes in Canada which led to the press freedoms to write about the bad-boy mayor.  Including training the next generation of journalists!  That is social movement work.

Rogers and his colleagues were already monitoring defamation cases in other common law countries, such as the US and Britain, looking for effective defences beyond truth and fair comment. A pair of landmark decisions in Britain’s House of Lords in 1999 and 2006 gave them what they needed. “Responsible journalism,” as the Lords called their new defence, posited that if a journalist has taken reasonable steps to verify that a story is true, and has given the subject an opportunity to respond, he or she cannot be found liable for defamation, even if the story contains untruths. Responsible journalism revolutionized British defamation law.

ADIDEM’s task was to persuade Canadian judges to follow suit, but how do you persuade a judge to rewrite the law at your behest? “You start,” says Rogers, “by using defences that are not yet part of the common law of Canada but that you think should be.” First, however, the group had to make sure Canadian journalists were writing stories that hewed to the spirit of responsible journalism, so they began preaching the gospel in their daily interactions with clients and in seminars at journalism schools. At the Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto, Rogers and the Star’s Bert Bruser, considered the dean of Canadian media law, recruited reporters like Doolittle to the cause.

via The Story behind the Rob Ford Story · thewalrus.ca.

Thanks to Longreads.com for the recommendation.

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Filed under communication, learning, resistance

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