Matt J. Duffy :: Thoughts on Journalism, Culture, and Global Communication

Thoughts On Journalism, Culture, and Global Communication
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About the author

Dr. Matt J. Duffy teaches journalism, media ethics and international communication law. His research focuses on journalism and media laws in the Middle East. Duffy's book "Media Laws of the United Arab Emirates" was published in 2014 by Wolters Kluwer. His academic work has been published in the Journal of Middle East Media, the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, and the Newspaper Research Journal. He received a Ph.D. in Public Communication from Georgia State University in the United States where he studied the use of unnamed sources in journalism. Duffy is board member of the Arab-United States Association for Communication Educators, an organization that aims to improve journalism in the Middle East. He teaches international communication law at Kennesaw State University.


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Media law in a digital world

posted on April 15, 2014 at 9:34 am

Here are the slides for tonight’s media law class entitled: “Law, Ethics, and Social Media: A Primer on Copyright Law, Fair Use, and Defamation in a Digital World.” Updated with some recent rulings.

Great multimedia journalism

posted on April 14, 2014 at 11:10 am

I’m going to continuously update this post when I come across examples of multimedia journalism that I want to share with my students. Here’s three works to start off:

  • NPR’s Borderland – examining illegal immigration from Mexico from a variety of perspectives. 
  • Thomas Lake’s “The Ghost of Speedy Cannon” — about a 40-year old football game that featured a possibly race-inspired viscous hit. 
  • Barry Bearak’s “The Jockey” — focuses on Russell Baze, the winningest horse race jockey in American history. 

And just for fun, here’s a collection of great ledes. And here’s an explanation for why journalists spell “lede” that way.

Final readings/videos for media law class

posted on April 12, 2014 at 8:17 am

The readings address the nature of the free press in the United States and globally. I’ve updated them slightly since last semester.

April 15

April 17

April 22

      • Class video

April 24

    • Read: Reaction to “Innocence of Muslims” video
    • Watch: Hamza Yusuf discussing free speech and the right to offend in aftermath of “Innocense of Muslims.” He references the attack on the Benghazi embassy in Libya, which occurred at the same time.
    • Read: Amartya Sen talking about press freedom and civil society. Sen is a Nobel Prize-winning academic.
    • Questions to answer before coming to class.

April 29

    • Readings:
      • Arab Media Laws
      • US free speech and terrorism
      • Answer these questions before class:
        • What are the five areas where Arab media laws differ most with international norms?
        • How does US approach to terrorism speech compare/contrast with Arab media law
        • How should the US change its approach to free speech?
        • How should the Arab world change its approach?

Automated tracker for anonymous sources

posted on April 7, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Here’s a useful website that automatically tracks the use of anonymous sources in news websites. The link automatically enters the New York Times as a source. Such a website could be useful for any academic thinking about tracking the use or misuse of unnamed sourcing

Worry over Qatar’s cybercrime law and other general updates

posted on March 19, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Here’s a link to my article in Al Monitor on a proposed change to the cybercrime law in Qatar. Al Monitor, by the way, just won the International Press Institute’s Free Media Pioneer Award. The publication has provided some great reporting on the Middle East for the past couple of years. They’ve also just launched the “Gulf Pulse,” which will focus on the Arabian Gulf countries, including semi-regular reports from this correspondent.

GCC media laws lead to timid press

posted on February 17, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Here’s a link to my recent essay published in Mufta on the media laws of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries–Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It’s an update and summation of the my research last year published by the Doha Centre for Media Freedom. Here’s a snippet from the conclusion:

As a result of these various laws and regulations, the press corps in GCC states is far from free or independent. In 2010, one brave editor inside the UAE complained that “there isn’t enough protection provided to journalists and self-censorship is practiced by our newspapers to avoid angering official bodies and to please the government.”

A newspaper in Qatar, the Qatar Peninsula, expressed a similar sentiment. An article entitled “The Crippled Four Estate” detailed the unpleasant experience of receiving a criminal defamation complaint and visit from the police. “The entire process is so harrowing and humiliating for a journalist that he chickens out when it comes to writing critically on issues,” the article stated. Perhaps tellingly, the article no longer appears on the newspaper’s website.

GCC countries regularly receive poor marks from international press freedom organizations such as Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders. Until the press laws and other regulations in these countries are amended, these states will continue to find themselves at the bottom of the rankings.

In some GCC countries, this is perhaps precisely what the leadership intends.

Please read the rest.

Nancy Grace libel case will hinge on whether she knew she was wrong

posted on January 2, 2014 at 7:39 pm

CNN’s Nancy Grace has been sued for defamation by Michael Skakel, a Kennedy relative who’s spent more than a dozen years in prison for murder. Here’s the New York Times article for full background, but suffice it to say that Grace and one of her guests accused Skakel of being tied to the crime with DNA evidence. No such evidence was ever entered in court proceedings so it’s unclear where they got this information.

In order to win a libel case, the plaintiff must prove that the defamatory information was false, disseminated and caused harm. In addition, public figures must prove “actual malice,” that the information was known to be untrue. Private figures need only prove that the journalists acted with negligence of some kind. It’s unclear whether Skakel will be treated as a public or private figure but previous cases have held that people charged with crimes become limited-purpose public figures.

If a public figure, Skakel would need to prove that Grace and her guest knew the DNA evidence was never present and yet said that it was anyway. CNN hasn’t released any details about where Grace got the information but during the discovery process, she will definitely be asked under oath to explain her sourcing. If a private figure, Skakel would need to only prove the Grace and her guest didn’t follow normal newsroom procedures to verify the DNA evidence information.

Either way, Skakel looks to have a good case since the DNA information appears to be definitely untrue.

Another defense will regard Skakel’s tarnished reputation. Some libel cases have been won when the defense proved the plaintiff’s reputation was so bad that it couldn’t be damaged any further. Given that Skakel is out of prison and receiving a new trial, Grace and her co-defendant’s probably won’t be able to make that defense stick.

It’s an interesting case — one that will be fun to follow, as long CNN’s corporate bosses don’t decide to cut their losses and settle.

Is there a Santa Claus?

posted on December 24, 2013 at 12:46 am

From the New York Sun, Sept. 21, 1897:

… Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding…

– Francis Pharcellus Church

Merry Christmas to all… and to all a Good Night!

Readings on nature of free speech in US, globally

posted on November 19, 2013 at 11:37 am

For my final four classes in international communication law at Kennesaw State University, I’m assigning readings and videos for the students. If you’d like to follow along, here are the assignments:

Nov. 19


Nov. 21


Nov. 26


Dec. 2

Laws that suppress press freedom in Arab world

posted on November 13, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Despite Arab uprisings, press freedom still elusive from Matt Duffy

These are my slides from the AUSACE conference I’m attending in Tangier, Morocco. It’s a summary of my Jadiliyya article on the subject.

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