Posts Tagged ‘newspapers’

AB5: California’s much-predicted freelancer disaster

“California’s new employment law has boomeranged and is starting to crush freelancers” [Elaine Pofeldt, CNBC] “As with many of my colleagues today, because I live in California, I was just told that I can no longer hold a paid position with SB Nation.” [Rebecca Lawson, Mavs Moneyball; Whitson Gordon thread on Twitter] “Separately, there’s some bit of irony in the fact that just a few months ago, Vox itself had a headline celebrating AB5 calling it a ‘victory for workers everywhere.’ Except, I guess, the freelancers who worked for Vox.” [Mike Masnick, Techdirt] “These were never good jobs,” claims the measure’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), but lots of freelancers have made clear they disagree [Billy Binion] “Mainstream politicians and pundits love to cite ‘unintended consequences’ when their preferred policies cause harm in the exact ways libertarians said they would.” [Elizabeth Nolan Brown, earlier]

More: impacts on music, theater, and the performing arts make AB5 a creative-unfriendly law [Joshua Kosman and Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle]

Appeals court strikes down Maryland law regulating online political ads

I’m in the Baltimore Sun discussing a bad Maryland law passed in response to the furor over Russian trolling on social media. I wrote about it earlier when a federal district court struck the law down, and now a Fourth Circuit panel, in an opinion by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, has agreed that it is unconstitutional. Excerpt:

Exposing foreign governments’ meddling in U.S. politics is a worthy goal. Infringing on First Amendment freedoms is no way to go about it….

[After the law passed] Google immediately stopped hosting political ads in Maryland, a step particularly unhelpful to newcomer candidates, for whom advertising may be one of the few effective ways to boost name recognition. Other platforms, including some Maryland newspapers, also faced a tough position as the effective date of the law drew near. Rather than publish disclosures that might expose to competitors’ eyes confidential information about their ad rates and viewer reach, they might prefer just to immunize themselves by turning down political and issue ads in the future as a category.

Whole thing here.

Great moments in media concentration law

This is just absurd: to comply with federal regulations barring owners of daily newspapers from also owning local broadcast stations, the owner of the venerable Dayton Daily News in Ohio may knock it down to three-times-a-week publication so that it won’t count as a daily anymore. Keith J. Kelly of the New York Post spotted the story, Cox Media Group outlined the plan in a press release a few weeks ago, and Joshua Benton at Nieman Lab has more:

To increase the quality of local journalism in Ohio, the Federal Communications Commission is requiring three newspapers to stop printing daily….

Did you get that? To strengthen the local news ecosystem in Dayton, the government is making its biggest newspaper publish less.

The rules date back to 1975 when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted regulations barring cross-ownership of local broadcast and newspaper properties while grandfathering in existing arrangements. It was never a good rule, but progressive social critics then as now traced countless social ills to media concentration and for-profit ownership of the press (what’s new these days is that populist conservatives crusade against the corporate media too).

Don’t blame today’s FCC. Two years ago the agency voted to scrap the decades-old newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rules, recognizing that the local news market had gone through convulsive changes in the meantime, with new media sources cutting deeply into ad revenues and the economics of newspaper publishing taking one deep hit after another. (Local broadcasting economics has suffered too, even if not as badly.) But opponents sued, and in September a Third Circuit panel struck down the deregulatory effort, a move that immediately called into question the terms of a pending deal transferring partial control of the large Cox Media Group, which got its start long ago with the venerable Dayton paper.

Others, such as Jonathan Rauch, have pointed out that antitrust laws may need easing anyway if newspapers are to organize successful ways to finance journalism in the online economy. And as we’ve warned before, there are special dangers in unleashing antitrust law on the media sector, where it can leave government with a corrupting influence over whether opposition papers are profitable and who gets to own them. But does anyone really think Dayton residents are better off if their local newspaper stops publishing every day?

[cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]

California vs. freelance writers

A new California anti-gig-economy law sponsored by a labor-organizer-turned-lawmaker is shaping up as a disaster for freelancers — exactly as Virginia Postrel and others predicted it would. “If a freelance journalist writes for a magazine, newspaper or other entity whose central mission is to disseminate the news, the law says, that journalist is capped at writing 35 ‘submissions’ per year per ‘putative employer.'” The law is set to go into effect January 1. [Hollywood Reporter; earlier here, here, etc.]

Win, but still lose, in defamation law

In May of last year a judge dismissed a former police officer’s defamation suit against the Carroll Times Herald, published in the small town of Carroll, Iowa. “Even though the newspaper handily won the case, the legal expenses have left the family-owned local newspaper in financial peril.” [Meagan Flynn, Washington Post/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette]

“They’ve cut off our newsprint,” says opposition paper’s publisher

It’s a longstanding hazard of state-controlled economies, especially when newsprint or other essential supplies have to be brought in from abroad and are thus subject to foreign exchange or import regulations. This time the target is Nicaragua’s historic and now embattled newspaper La Prensa, published by the Chamorro family. “The government customs office has held up La Prensa’s imports of newsprint and ink since October, according to its editors. Nicaragua’s leading daily is now a skeletal eight pages – down from 36.” [Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post/Laredo Morning Times]

Court: Maryland law regulating newspapers and social media flunks First Amendment

Last year following the Russian Facebook scandal the Maryland legislature passed a bill regulating newspapers (!) and other online ad platforms. Gov. Larry Hogan refused to sign it, citing First Amendment concerns. Now a federal court has agreed and blocked the law’s enforcement as an unconstitutional infringement on the freedom of the press.

I write about the case at Cato. “Social media trickery is bad. Chipping away at First Amendment liberties to stop it is worse.”

Free speech roundup

  • Fourth Circuit rejects gag order on parties and potential witnesses in North Carolina hog farm litigation [Eugene Volokh]
  • Eighth Circuit, interpreting Missouri law’s obligation to register as “lobbyist,” leaves open possibility that requirement extends to unpaid lobbyists, also known as concerned citizens [Jason Hancock, Kansas City Star; Institute for Free Speech on Calzone v. Missouri Ethics Commission]
  • “9 Months in Prison for Forging Court Orders Aimed at Vanishing Online Material” [Volokh] Per one account at least 75 fake court documents have been sent to Google as part of takedown efforts, including an order purporting to come from the UK Supreme Court [same]
  • The accused pipe bomber had made online death threats against Ilya Somin, libertarian lawprof and friend of this site. Lessons to draw? [Cato Daily Podcast, more]
  • Entanglement of press and state leads nowhere good: Canadian government to allocate C$600 million in subsidies to newspapers and legacy media [Stuart Thomson, National Post; earlier on press subsidies here, here; some Canadian background from 1983]
  • Court: First Amendment doesn’t protect Comcast from bias charge over its decision not to carry block of black-owned TV channels [Jon Brodkin, ArsTechnica]

Regulating “fake news”

Legally penalizing the circulation of “fake news,” misinformation and faulty rumor, newly popular in Europe especially as regards social media, is not a new idea at all. It’s a very old one, which again and again results in governments’ enshrining their particular version of orthodoxy as truth [Jacob Mchangama, Quillette]

More: on the German experience, earlier here and here.