Your Inner NEWSBREAKER
illustrated legal scrapbook for reclaiming the airwaves and improving
detractors and fence sitters alike ask about the legality of this
work we call NEWSBREAKERS. For those of you who feel a twinge of
sovereignty and daydream of launching your own television repair
business, read on and draw strength. If you're inclined to have
us locked up, take a good look, too, so you don't grind your teeth
down to nubs with played-out approaches. And if you're just not
sure about the whole shebang, maybe we can win your heart and mind.
discussion will focus on criminal law, rather than civil law, and
its application to NEWSBREAKERS. That's not to ignore the fascinating
complexities that civil law promises.
GOOD BUST GONE GREAT!
and order adventure begins at a hospital in Rochester, NY at
high noon, January 6, 2005. NEWSBREAKERS launch a double-header
bust on WROC-TV
(Ch. 8) and WHEC-TV
10). All goes as planned except for
the presence of some security guards who throw the place into lockdown
and round up three NEWSBREAKERS before calling in the guys with
to audio from the bust recorded live from our control room.
BIG NURSE, WE'RE IN LOCKDOWN
hospital spokesman tells NEWSBREAKERS that they've committed trespassing
and violated hospital photography policy. Police arrive and quickly
disabuse the hospital flack of that notion. The flack passes along
a warning from WROC that there better not be any video put on any
web site. Like this is just any web site. WROC sticks around
to extricate its pound of flesh by claiming a NEWSBREAKER committed
an assault. NEWSBREAKERS produce a video tape(wmv/Quicktime)
to debunk that notion. Police view the tape and agree with NEWSBREAKERS:
No assault occurred.
to a report recorded live from the interrogation room.
Norm conduct a Q&A with Buck on the mood from the clink.
THE MOOD AT WROC? DEFAMATORY
official word from police doesn't stop WROC (this is their
e-mail address). They forge ahead with a web
story that alleges assault,
truth be damned. WROC's mad as hell and they're not going to take
this anymore. They get so flummoxed they give NEWSBREAKERS close
to two minutes on the six o'clock news(wmv/Quicktime).
Did you hear the line at the end? "One of them could face
prosecution." Sounds like a threat to us. But the cops
warn us about this. "Startling"
can get you second degree
harassment; it's like a parking ticket, they say. Speaking of
police, we get this e-mail
the next day.
reference, here's how you deal with a NEWSBREAKER with a great spin
move, but atrocious mic technique (wmv/Quicktime).
We're diggin' her answers and reporting them first. Someone give
Little Red Riding Hood a raise.
back to the set of unfortunate circumstances that will eventually
lead us to court.
ONE-TWELVE, WE'VE GOT TOM-FOOLERY IN PROGRESS
want to know more about this harassment charge business, so we decide
to go to the top, Rochester Police Chief Robert Duffy. The
Chief's mulling over a run for mayor when we catch him a few days
later, so we cut him some slack when he says he's not down on the
NB tip. Instead he turns us on to his main man and spokesperson
back at the cop shop, Sgt. Carlos Garcia, who goes bottom line on
our dumb asses. "It's not against the law to jump around and
act like fools behind reporters," he
says. Our sentiments exactly.
THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS
in our legal standing, we can now begin the healing process. What
says, "let's make up" better than flowers? We choose just
the right arrangement and head over to WROC to mend some fences.
Maybe WROC didn't like the
card we sent, because the next day this
arrives in the mail. Guess nothing says harassment like flowers.
Somebody call the FTD guy.
first we call our favorite New York assistant DA. Listen
to his advice. (In order to protect our sources, we've disguised
his voice.) We
learn quickly that justice isn't quite so transparent in New York's
Monroe County. The county runs a pre-warrant
program, which functions like arbitration, but, get this, doesn't
allow defendants access to the charges against them. "Show
up on your assigned day, and we'll tell you what it's about,"
is the response we get from the DA's office. If justice is blind,
she's also mute in western New York.
response, NEWSBREAKERS launches the "Save Buck" campaign.
We run out of our first printing of T-shirts. Do
you work in TV news and want to piss off your bosses? (We know you
have more than one.) Go to the NEWSBREAKERS store.
Everything's at cost; we don't make a penny.
day arrives, and Buck slips into his comfy jeans and F.A.I.R.
"You're wearing jeans to court?" asks Mrs. Buck. She's
nervous. But, she's not the only one on edge. Buck watches WROC's
noon broadcast and wonders out loud if the live reporter's tweaking.
He's one distracted news reader. Slow
down, dude. Focus on the camera. You'd think he had a court
date in an hour.
Rusty the Bailiff calls Buck's name for a hearing that feels more
like a trip to the principal's office than a courthouse. Expecting
the riot act, Buck gets something that is closer to a gas. He takes
and listens to the WROC story replete with brand new flourishes,
delivered with that certain pathos only a TV news reporter can deliver.
The DA man asks Buck if he'll play nice. Buck says he'd prefer to
tell it to the judge.(2)
That attitude earns Buck a quick trip to timeout. He's kicked out
of the hearing to wait with the rest of the riff-raff in the hall
while the DA's office and the WROC team hash out the details in
happens behind closed doors, we don't know. The assistant DA says
the case is closed and sealed from public access. Any curious investigative
reporters out there want to check this out? How common is it to
deny a respondent access to the charges and evidence against him?
Why are records sealed? Why does this case warrant such secrecy?
Why was the WROC news director invited into the hearing when he
was neither a party to the claim nor a witness? Why does WROC have
such a troubled relationship with the truth?
April 26, 2006
A Monroe County, New York assistant district attorney with close
ties to the case says that a defendant in a pre-warrant hearing
is not entitled to any records concerning that hearing. He says
it is not a matter of public record, but takes issue with calling
the matter "sealed" and clarifies that charges were never
filed in this case, only a complaint by an employee of WROC.
remains our position that matters of public interest should never
be conducted in private and without regard for accountability and
the transparent operation of government.
thank the assistant DA for his time and valuable advice as we continue
our efforts to improve television news.
Liable For Libel? When actual malice is an editorial policy even
the MLRC can't save your ass.