Law and the Media Workshop

Each year, the Law Society of BC and the Jack Webster Foundation invite the media to a free workshop featuring members of British Columbia’s legal community, including experts in media law. The goal is to help journalists boost or refresh their knowledge of law, as it relates to journalism.

To suggest topics for future workshops, email Communications.

2016 Law and the Media Workshop

More than 50 members of the media attended the annual Law and the Media Workshop on April 28. This year’s workshop focused on an unfolding fictional scenario of reporting on a high profile scientist suspected of misusing public funding and manipulating results of her scientific research. The workshop touched on topics related to FOI requests, the open-source whistleblower submission system SecureDrop and the “reportage” defence.

The audience heard from panelists David Beers, founding editor of the Tyee, leading media lawyers Dan Burnett, QC and David Sutherland, and Kathy Tomlinson, investigative journalist at the Globe and Mail.

Watch the 2016 workshop.

Past Workshop Topics

Here are topics covered at previous media law workshops:

2015 – An unfolding news story examined a fictional scenario involving an offer made to a reporter of a video taken by a drone and the subsequent legal pitfalls encountered as the story unfolds.

2013 -  Major crimes and mega trials: reporting on police, criminals and the courts in the 21st century. Watch the 2013 workshop

2012 – Get the story, avoid the legal traps, covered how the courts expect journalists to adhere to nine "responsibility factors," including how to pursue a story without getting sued, and what to do when information takes an unexpected turn. Watch the 2012 workshop

2011 – Socially sound, legally smart: the legal implications for journalism of an on-line age, explored the legal implications of social media and other “new” media technology for journalism.

2010 – Publication bans, access to court documents and an update on Supreme Court of Canada decisions that could affect how journalists do their day-to-day jobs.

2009 – Designed to be especially relevant to Chinese-language media outlets, this workshop covered topics such as publication bans, contempt of court and defamation.

2007 – Reporting on the Courts: What You Should Know . . . and Do: introduction to reporting on the courts — contempt of court and other sticky issues; deadline decisions — how to get the right advice from your media lawyer; challenging publication bans and other court orders — what you should know and do; a toolkit for court reporters.

2005 – Reporting on The Courts: What You Should Know . . . and Do: contempt of court and other sticky issues; how to get the right advice from your media lawyer; challenging publication bans and other court orders.

2004 – What to do when the police come calling: the experiences of reporters involved in police searches, legal challenges, survival tips, and more.

2003 – researching court files, the legal and ethical issues surrounding confidential sources and recent developments in libel law.

2002 – Libel and Slander: What You need to Know: libel and slander law and qualified privilege in court reporting.

2001 – When the Police Come Calling: Search Warrants in the Newsroom: the legal rights and obligations of journalists when police demand notes, arrive with a search warrant or serve a subpoena.

1999 – Mental Health and the Law: an examination of how the justice system treats offenders with mental illness: how the system is set up to handle the mentally ill in custody, whether the shortage of mental health treatment options affects the crime rate, and if sentencing results in too many people going to jail or being set free rather than receiving medical attention.

1998 – Immigration: The B.C. Experience of Coming ... or Going: who gets in, what the processes are, who stays in Canada and why, and how extradition/deportation issues are handled by government officials, police, community workers and the judiciary.

1997 – Sentencing and Parole: Who’s Giving It, Who’s Getting It, What the Public is Doing About It: sentencing options, public reaction, parole issues and the societal challenges of offenders returning to the community.

1996 – Stalking: one woman’s story of being stalked, policing issues, the psychology of stalkers and how to deal with them, and the law of criminal harassment.

1995 – DNA legislation, the work of the Coordinated Law Enforcement Unit, and keynote speaker John Rosen, defence counsel to Paul Bernardo.

1994 – publication bans and contempt, demystifying the courts to get the news, television coverage of the courts, a critique of the Young Offenders Act.