Media coverage of court cases is facing alarming threats to its future, the co-author of the UK’s leading media law textbook warned today.
Research is urgently needed to discover the extent and all causes of the decline in court reporting, said Mark Hanna, who has co-written the new edition of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists.
Mr Hanna said: “Anecdotal evidence seems overwhelming that within most cities, towns and regions fewer court cases are being reported, year-on-year.”
Court reporting faces major threats – redundancies and cutbacks in the media, and “a remorseless accumulation of statute affecting in bits and pieces what can be published”, added Mr Hanna, chair of the NCTJ’s media law examination board.
“This is worrying. Communities need to be reassured, through reporting, that justice is being done, and to learn when the system and police are imperfect.”
He said McNae has been radically redesigned, to help journalists understand the newest statute and challenge invalid restrictions, and for the book to further reflect legal and ethical issues arising from convergence and website publication, for example in privacy and libel fields.
The 20th edition of McNae, written by Mark Hanna and David Banks, will be unveiled today at the NCTJ media law seminar hosted at The Law Society, Chancery Lane, London.
The book, known affectionately as “The Bible” to journalists, is published by Oxford University Press at the end of July and will be available to buy from the NCTJ website’s eStore, along with a host of other key texts for a career in journalism.
Guest speaker at the seminar is leading media lawyer Mark Stephens of law firm Finers Stephens Innocent, who has acted in landmark cases and is well-known for TV appearances as a legal expert.
Two NCTJ trainees who achieved top marks in recent NCTJ media law exams will be presented with prizes at the seminar.
Christopher Richards of the Welwyn and Hatfield Times, who trained at noSWeat Journalism Training, and David Seymour of the Boston Standard, who trained at Darlington College, will receive their prizes which are sponsored by Oxford University Press and Johnston Press.