Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Karin Winner and Chris Jennewein agree on one thing

Voice of San Diego describes a rift between Karin Winner and Chris Jennewein at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

From personal experience I am able to report that these two think very much alike when it comes to keeping the secrets of San Diego county schools. They both love to write about schools, but they stick to the theatrics, not the real stories.

Rob Davis of Voice of San Diego reports:

"The company essentially has two separate enterprises: The Union-Tribune and SignOnSanDiego.com. Each has a different leader.

"Six current and former employees said a well-known rift exists between those two leaders: Winner, and the newspaper's vice president of Internet operations, Chris Jennewein, who oversees SignOnSanDiego.com.

"Winner and Jennewein "don't like each other, they undermine each other -- and it's one company for God's sakes," said a former employee. "I don’t understand the philosophy of allowing them to do this."

"Said another current staffer: "If you can't solve that most basic problem, how are you going to solve the Herculean problems that are facing this industry?"

"A reporter who attended a 2007 newsroom strategy meeting in which Winner laid out ideas for the company's future said the editor closed the session with this request: Don't tell the workers at SignOnSanDiego.com about what was discussed.

"Winner said she did not recall making the comment. If she did say it, Winner said she was probably joking. Her relationship with Jennewein "is not a personal relationship that matters," she said..."


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Libel--single publication rule

Libel ·
Jan. 18, 2008

http://www.rcfp.org/news/2008/0118-lib-appeal.htmlAppeals court applies 'single publication rule' to Internet

Newspaper Web sites should be treated like the print version for publication date purposes, according to the judges.

Jan. 18, 2008 · The "single publication rule," which holds that the statute of limitations for libel begins when a defamatory statement is first published, applies to publications on the Internet, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Dallas (5th Cir.) ruled last month.

The appeals court upheld the district court's decision to grant the defendants' motion.

The appeal was the result of a defamation charge against Belo Corp. for an article published in both the print and Internet editions of its publication, The Dallas Morning News, concerning the questionable business procedures of Nationwide Biweekly Administration, Inc.

The article, criticizing one of Nationwide's mortgage programs, initially appeared in The Dallas Morning News' financial column on July 29, 2003, and was later made available on the newspaper's Web site. Nationwide filed suit on July 28, 2004, alleging defamation.

Belo successfully brought a motion to dismiss based on Nationwide's violation of Texas' one-year statute of limitations for libel claims. The one-year limitation starts on the last day of publication, commonly known as the "single publication rule." This rule serves to prevent the same recurring claims against publishers. Although Nationwide successfully filed suit on July 28, 2004, just within the allotted time period, it did not serve the defendant until over 10 months after filing the complaint

Nationwide appealed the decision, arguing that the Internet edition of The Dallas Morning News constituted "continuous publication" of the article.

Noting that "Texas courts have not yet considered whether the single publication rule should apply to Internet publications," the court of appeals examined earlier cases to help determine how the state high court would likely come down on the matter.

"[T]he continued availability of an article on a website should not result in republication, despite the website's ability to remove it. Perhaps more important than the similarities between print media and the Internet, strong policy considerations support application of the single publication rule to information publicly available on the Internet," Judge Harold R. DeMoss wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. "We agree that these policy considerations favor application of the single publication rule here and we note that application of the rule in this context appears consistent with the policies cited by Texas courts in adopting and applying the single publication rule to print media: to support the statute of limitations and to prevent the filing of stale claims."

Paul C. Watler, an attorney for Jackson Walker in Dallas and the lead counsel for the defendants, hailed the decision.

"I think it's an important case because it's only the second published opinion by the federal circuit of appeals applying the single-publication rule to Internet context," he said. "This circuit had addressed the issue that no Texas state court has."

(Nationwide Biweekly Administration, Inc., v. Belo Corp., Media counsel: Paul C. Watler, Dallas) -- Alanna Malone


© 2008 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Tom Cruise and Church of Scientology are as mad as Daniel Shinoff and Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz

Gawker Defies Demand from Church of Scientology to Remove Creepy Tom Cruise Video

Posted January 18th, 2008 by Sam Bayard


Earlier this week, a promotional/inspirational video for the Church of Scientology featuring Tom Cruise began circulating online. The video is bizarre -- against the background of what sounds like the Mission Impossible theme, Cruise extols the virtues of Scientology and urges viewers to embrace its ethics and worldview. Among many, many other things, he drops gems like "We are the authorities on getting people off drugs. We are the authorities on the mind. We are the authorities on improving conditions" and "We are the way to happiness. We can bring peace and unite cultures."

Some might say that the clip has only gossip value, but others assert that it reveals something about Cruise's position within the controversial organization (which to some may still have only gossip value). Nevetheless, it has caused some complicated legal maneuvering this week. From Gawker:

Several indoctrination videos were available on Google Video, on Sunday, and showcased on Gawker, before being removed by the person who had originally posted them. Yesterday, for a few hours, the clip of Tom Cruise discussing his beliefs as a Scientologist appeared on Youtube, and was republished by Radar and Defamer. That video is no longer available, most likely after the Church of Scientology sent in a copyright infringement notice. Gawker is now hosting a copy of the video; it's newsworthy; and we will not be removing it.
Sure enough, lawyers for the Church of Scientology sent a takedown notice to Gawker Media, alleging that the video was stolen and that Gawker and Defamer's distribution of the video violated its copyright. It also asserted that, because the video was stolen, California criminal laws relating to receipt of stolen property and theft were implicated.

Not intimidated, Gawker fired back:

We are using this video in the context of news reporting and critical commentary, which are uses that may not be authorized by your client, but which serve the public interest. For this, and other reasons, we believe our use is fair. We further do not accept that we have broken any criminal laws in publishing it, and in any event, several of the statutes you cite are inapplicable in this case.
Gawker's fair use argument looks like a strong one, although the video's previously unpublished status might give a court some pause (assuming that the Church's previous use of the video would not qualify it as "published"). Even if it were unpublished, the fair use provision states expressly that "[t]he fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of [the four fair use factors]." Moreover, the First Amendment would likely block any criminal prosecution of Gawker for publishing material that it lawfully obtained, even if it knew that the clip was initially stolen (which itself would be hard to prove). See Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001).

Eriq Gardner at THR Entertainment & Media Law Blog has some detailed analysis of the fair use argument, but I disagree with his conclusions.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tom Cruise gives journalists an automatic "F"

SP: "Suppressive Person." An SP is someone who commits suppressive acts, like murder, criticizing Scientology or altering LRH's teachings, according to former and current members. Journalists are automatically considered SPs because they traffic in bad news and so are barred from entering Scientology. Psychiatrists would also be SPs, so Cruise says, "Crush these guys! I've had it! No mercy! None! Go to guns!" as a call to arms. Since all's fair in war, LRH once issued a policy called "Fair Game" that decreed that anyone who opposed Scientology could be "tricked, sued or lied to and destroyed."

Jan 18 2008
Tom Cruise Scientology-- What Is He Talking About?

The actor talks for nine minutes in his instantly famous Scientology video. Can you figure out what he's actually saying? Here's a guide.

By Jennifer Vineyard

Tom Cruise talks for nine minutes in his instantly famous Scientology video — now, can anyone figure out what he's actually saying?

Apparently, non-Scientologists are just "spectators." It's a far nicer thing to call us — kind of like "Muggles in "Harry Potter" — than the term they usually use, "wog," which is more equivalent to the derogatory "Mudbloods" in the "Potter" books. Here's a breakdown of some of the other Scientologese words, acronyms and turns of phrase — culled from a variety of sources, including books, Web sites, and current and former church members — that might get lost in translation:

LRH: L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology and author of sci-fi books such as "Battlefield Earth" and "Mission Earth."

...KSW: Keeping Scientology Working. Refers to a policy LRH published in 1965 that requires all Scientologists to follow his words and rules exactly.

"It is something that you have to earn": Cruise is referring to taking Scientology courses. According to the church, to get to the higher levels of Scientology — he's an OT VII, the highest level is OT VIII — you must complete a number of courses and auditing sessions, a sort of Scientological take on the Catholic confession. And it all costs; depending on your level, the tab for wisdom can be hundreds if not thousands of dollars. To finally learn what the basis of Scientology's precepts are (about how we got remnants of space aliens known as thetans trapped in our system), you must attain the level of OT III. The secrets of Xenu aren't free!

"Am I going to look at that guy or am I too afraid?": Cruise's relentless stare is actually a technique from "Success Through Communication" training routine (TR) drills. According to former and current members, pre-clears have to learn to look someone straight in the eye for hours. It's supposed to generate self-confidence and intimidate the other party. No blinking!

SP: "Suppressive Person." An SP is someone who commits suppressive acts, like murder, criticizing Scientology or altering LRH's teachings, according to former and current members. Journalists are automatically considered SPs because they traffic in bad news and so are barred from entering Scientology. Psychiatrists would also be SPs, so Cruise says, "Crush these guys! I've had it! No mercy! None! Go to guns!" as a call to arms. Since all's fair in war, LRH once issued a policy called "Fair Game" that decreed that anyone who opposed Scientology could be "tricked, sued or lied to and destroyed." The church says it no longer officially practices this, however, it is still a fairly contentious organization.

PTS: "Potential Trouble Sources," as in Scientologists who are losing the faith or are being influenced by an SP.

PTS/SP: A course in how to "handle" and/or "disconnect" PTS and SPs, which usually costs about $1,600, according to estimates from church members.

"Ways to Happiness": Actually, "A Way to Happiness," a booklet of the Scientology version of the 10 Commandments, except theirs has 21 Commandments. The number-one precept is "Take Care of Yourself." Also on the list: "Don't Be Promiscuous," "Set a Good Example," "Do Not Murder," "Do Not Harm a Person of Good Will" and "Flourish and Prosper."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Everybody but Daniel Shinoff: The North County Times stops naming MiraCosta College's lawyer

Suddenly you can't find Daniel Shinoff's name in the North County Times. Why? Because Shinoff is trying to prove that he's not a public figure so he can stop me from writing about him?

My suspicion is that Shinoff, one of the favorite sources of information for NCT, suddenly doesn't want to be mentioned by name, and the newspaper wants to stay on friendly terms with him.

Shinoff's new moniker is "the district's lawyers." He comes alone to settlement conferences and board meetings. This morning he is listed as MiraCosta College's lawyer on the San Diego Superior Court calendar (no judge listed):
North County
08:30AM Dept N-27
Ex Parte
Case number GIN058018

But like the Queen of England, Daniel Shinoff apparently prefers to refer to himself in the plural.

Other than that, North County Times is doing a terrific job reporting on education. Until now, the NCT frequently quoted Shinoff in its top-notch articles about north county schools.

The following opinion piece from NCT is typical of good reporting and opinion writing, with the omission of that once-ubiquitous name. By the way, I didn't write any of the comments, although I heartily agree with most of them.

North County Times
January 15, 2008
Click HERE to see the original article.

Slapped by karma?

By: SUNANA BATRA - For the North County Times

The new year has already ushered in some positive developments in the ongoing sordid saga at MiraCosta College.

When former MiraCosta President Victoria Munoz Richart was sued by faculty member Eileen Kraskouskas, who alleged that Richart had besmirched her reputation and forced Eileen to retire, Richart's attorney, Randy Winet, contended that Richart was well within her rights, and argued that people working in public education have to bear the "cross" of intemperate comments about their work performance.

The judge agreed, dismissing the case on the basis that she believed it to be a SLAPP, or Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation, suit, which aims to silence a group or an individual raising issues of public concern.

Fast forward a few months and, lo and behold, luck being the friend of the righteous, the judge presiding over the case brought by Leon Page against Richart and the district just happens to be the same judge, Judge Jacqueline Stern.

Imagine the dread Richart must have felt knowing the frailty of their argument, since it's the exact same argument the district successfully crushed just a few months ago. What a delicious tidbit of irony. Kraskouskas' grandstanding was no different from Richart's, Kraskouskas just didn't have free lawyers to duke it out for her.

So, what to do? Richart must get Judge Stern removed (or "papered" in fancy lawyer speak), and did, as was her right. While this sort of practice isn't illegal, it's certainly questionable. Did her lawyer "paper" Judge Stern because Stern knew that Dr. Richart, as president of the college, had previously rebutted a claim similar to the one she made when negotiating her buyout package, clearly working against her credibility? Is Mr. Winet now hoping that the new judge, Judge Thomas Nugent, never finds out about what happened in the Kraskouskas case?

You gotta love comeuppance for trying to silence people.

Wrapped only in her ambition, Richart had to know Judge Stern would point out that the queen had no clothes.

In the Kraskouskas case, she framed the suit against her as an attempt to squelch her free speech. But in striking the "do as I say, not as I do" posture, she does not believe her employers should be granted the same free speech that she enjoyed.

So, a question comes to mind: Why didn't the district's lawyers force Richart to file a lawsuit and then challenge her flimsy claims with an anti-SLAPP motion, since they beat a similar lawsuit just four months prior?

Of course, such questions are not likely to go unanswered for too long, as I'd wager that Judge Nugent is likely to compel Richart to testify soon.

But, hands down, the cherry on top has to be a comment, steeped in foreshadowing, made by Richart, in a letter addressed to her ally Charles Adams. She complains that the minority board members made a public evaluation of her by stating in public that they did not agree with the majority. She states: "This action causes me to believe that it may be in my best interest to publicly reveal all of the misconduct that has occurred at MiraCosta College prior to my arrival."

Unbelievable. Funny? Pathetic? Both? We shall see.

-- Encinitas resident Sunana Batra is a freelance columnist for the North County Times. Contact her at sunanabatra@gmail.com.

Comments On This Story

Note: Comments reflect the views of readers and not necessarily those of the North County Times or its staff.

We want to know more wrote on Jan 16, 2008 7:48 AM:
When Ms Richart is questioned under oath, the public deserves to learn if the school's lawyer was representing his client, MiraCosta College, or her. If the lawyer was representing her, did he inform his client, MiraCosta College, of the conflict. To do so would have been his ethical duty.

thank you wrote on Jan 16, 2008 8:24 AM:
I appreciate the NCT for printing this commentary.

Ethical? wrote on Jan 16, 2008 9:04 AM:
One uses the word "ethical" in relationship to the lawyers for MiraCosta and/or Richart? This relationship is almost incestuous and the trustees (majority) just seem to bless everything the taxpayers' money pays for! Now the bill for defending the district against the D.A. will be added to the toll. Ethical? A joke!

angry taxpayer wrote on Jan 16, 2008 10:52 AM:
Is the faculty happy with Leon Page's lawsuit which the taxpayers must defend? This gadfly simply wants to run for office and is playing a game to advance his political ambitions. And at the taxpayers' expense.

To Angry wrote on Jan 16, 2008 11:08 AM:
You need to check your facts before you open your mouth and let the loose thoughts fly out. Mr. Page is working to save the taxpayers' money - a job the trustees (get the word trustee?) are elected to do, but at which they failed. Mr. Page will get his expenses paid - that's all. This has nothing to do with faculty as the spinners are trying to imply. This is what the public is supposed to do when the politicians try to pull the wool over the public's eyes. Put your anger toward the trustees who got us into this mess by colluding with Richart to hide the truth.

What a mess wrote on Jan 16, 2008 11:16 AM:
This whole mess has come about because of Richart's inability to fulfill her duties as a leader. She can hand out the criticism but can't take it? Oh boo hoo. Let's get the majority off the board and get some new people in there who care more about finances and education than politics!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

San Diego needs a new newspaper to hire SDUT reporters

Voice of San Diego reports the loss of 29 reporters at the San Diego Union Tribune.

Shrinking Union-Tribune: 'Doing Less With Less'
By ROB DAVIS Voice Staff Writer
Jan. 7, 2008

I found this section of the article interesting:

"...If you're going to downsize your reporting staff you don’t take a (federal law enforcement reporter) Kelly Thornton or Mark Sauer out of the mix," said one newsroom employee who accepted the offer. The staffer had signed a non-disclosure agreement and agreed to speak anonymously. "Those are the people you want to keep. To keep people interested in the paper, they take things away? It's all business driven at this point."

Nelson also pointed to Thornton as a key loss, saying he was "stunned" she wasn't begged to stay. Early in 2007, she helped break news that U.S. Attorney Carol Lam was being forced by the Bush Administration to resign -- before Lam had even announced the news. Her reporting in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks deeply detailed the lives of three hijackers who had trained and lived in San Diego.

"She's probably the most respected, reviled and feared reporter in San Diego," Nelson said. "And they're letting her go? That would be like The Washington Post letting Bob Woodward go..."