Dodge Foundation Grant to Support Rutgers Law Research on Digital Journalism

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In an information age fueled by ever-evolving technologies, the job of a journalist has become highly complex, and the rights of those reporters can be difficult to navigate. Thanks to a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Rutgers Law–Camden Professor Ellen Goodman, with the help of law students, will provide legal guidance on newsgathering issues, making digital journalism in the Garden State more manageable.

“I’m very excited to be part of the Dodge Foundation’s work on sharpening and deepening local journalism in New Jersey. New initiatives focusing on data journalism and digital platforms are abounding, and we’re looking at a real renaissance in reporting,” says Goodman, co-director of the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy and Law. “Unfortunately, many of these digital journalists lack access to legal guidance. They are running into tough and cutting edge questions about privacy, access, user-generated content, etc. As researchers, we can’t provide legal advice, but we can offer general guidance on how the law is evolving in these areas.”

The grant comes from the Dodge Foundation’s journalism sustainability project, with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Working with Rutgers students, Goodman will be conducting research on the frequently asked questions of New Jersey digital journalists with respect to their legal rights and responsibilities in the newsgathering process, addressing issues such as defamation, privacy, social media, access to government records, and the use of new technologies like drones. The FAQ project will produce general written guidance on these questions that will serve as a much-needed community resource. FAQ partners will include the NJ News Commons and the Local News Lab.

Goodman, who specializes in information policy law, served in 2013-14 as a senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics. Previously, she was a distinguished visiting scholar at the FCC and helped in the production of a pathbreaking report titled “The Information Needs of Communities.” A Ford Foundation grantee conducting research on media policy principles for a networked age, Goodman has served as an expert before the National Academies of Science and Technology, the Brookings Institution, and the Aspen Institute.

“At Rutgers Law, we are uniquely positioned to do this for journalists in New Jersey. We expect to build a model that can be scaled up and applied elsewhere for identifying and answering frequently asked questions. Hopefully, by training students to research in this area, we will also help to develop the field for the future,” says the Rutgers–Camden legal scholar.

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