Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the 28th Law and the Media Seminar put on by the Houston Bar Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Houston Press Club. It was a great, eye-opening experience that made me realize journalists not only need to be photographers, editors, and writers, but also lawyers.
The conference covered the roles of the news media and law when it comes to campus crises. With the recent Purdue shooting and the many on campus incidents that have happened in the past year, it was a very appropriate and fitting topic.
In the first session, one of the topics brought up was the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which has a lot of restrictions concerning what type of student information school administrations can and can’t release to the public and to parents. Through the discussions and Q&A on this topic, I realized just how easy it is to break the law simply out of ignorance. Some of the laws are so restrictive and specific that if you are not aware of your boundaries, you could be one tweet away from committing a crime.
Speaking of tweets, again, I’m seeing more and more how much social media impacts our society. I could probably start a whole other blog with just posts about the problems and solutions that social media creates for journalists. About a decade ago, there was no such thing as “Facebooking” and “tweeting,” but today it has become a part of our lives. One of the things discussed in the seminar was the fact that technology moves so much faster than we do. Breaking news can literally change by the minute and keeping up with all of it while remaining ethical and respectful is a lot to juggle.
I could go on and on, but I think I’ll stop there. Long story short, this major (journalism) is turning out to be a lot more complex than I anticipated. I guess that’s what makes it so great. There is so much to learn and do through this one industry and I can’t wait to dive into all of that, but for now, I have some reading to do for my Media Law class…