Law and Journalism Intersect at Upcoming Lecture

Posted on March 19, 2014

The crossroads of law and journalism will be explored at Law, Journalism and Justice, on Monday, March 24, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Room 204 of the School of Law.

Legal reporter Mark Curriden will address how journalistic investigative and storytelling skills can be used by lawyers to improve advocacy and why journalists play an important role in illuminating the law in the event sponsored by the School of Law Criminal Justice program and the Department of Journalism and Multimedia Arts.

“There’s a natural overlap between the skills needed to be a good journalist and the skills required to be a good lawyer,” said Associate Law Professor Wes Oliver, who coordinated the lecture. “Journalists can often profit from the legal background that informs their stories and lawyers can benefit from the skills of fact-finding and storytelling that is the work of journalists. Amazingly, the one factor leading courts to find that lawyers are ineffective is failure to investigate that most law schools do not teach fact investigation.”

Utilizing his best-selling book, Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching that Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism, Curriden will illustrate the value of that overlap between the two professions and fields of study. The book recalls how, in 1906, two African-American lawyers successfully appealed to the Supreme Court for a stay of execution for a Tennessee man who had been wrongfully accused of rape, tried and sentenced to death.

“Mark is both a journalist and a lawyer, and his book is a call-to-arms to anyone entering either profession,” said Oliver. “He draws upon his training in law and in journalism to revive a forgotten tale that demands that those in these professions who are uniquely responsible for preventing societal abuses ensure that history, in no measure, repeat itself.”

Echoing Oliver’s sentiments, Dr. Mike Dillon also emphasized the parallels between the two. “There are a lot of similarities and overlap between journalism and the law,” said Dillon, associate professor and chair of journalism and multimedia arts. “Journalists need to know a lot about the law, and lawyers need to know a lot about how to make what they know acceptable to the average person who doesn’t understand legalese. I think we have a lot to offer each other.

“It would benefit journalists as well as lawyers to attend this lecture,” Dillon added. “I also think it would benefit students and citizens who want to have some control over what happens to them in their relationship with power because the more an individual understands about how power works, what their rights are and what resources are available to them, then the more effective they can be as citizens.”

Free and open to the public, Law, Journalism and Justice will be followed by a reception in the lower student lounge in the law school. Register online to attend.

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