By: Editorial Staff
Jane E. Kirtley, a leading First Amendment advocate, was named Silha Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism, where she will teach and research communications law.
Kirtley, 45, a lawyer and former newspaper reporter, is executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Arlington, Va. She will officially leave her current job July 30. A steering committee has begun a search for her successor. She’s been executive director of the Reporters Committee for the last 14 years and was legal defense coordinator for the press rights organization for one year.
“I’m really sad about leaving the Reporters Committee. It was a very hard decision to make,” says Kirtley, who adds that one of the biggest changes during her tenure has been the failure of many news organizations to fight for their free-press and freedom-of-information rights.
“There are many exceptions to that, but, as a general trend, we get many more calls from reporters, and in talking to lawyers I heard anecdotal stories of ‘We would really like to fight it, but the bean counters won’t let us,'” says Kirtley.
She says when she first started at the Reporters Committee, libel cases were the major concern, but the real threat to the news media are privacy issues, with adverse court rulings, lawsuits, and the use of privacy as “an excuse to close off access to records.”
Kirtley, who will continue to write a monthly column for American Journalism Review, taught media law at American University in Washington for 10 years and also has made several TV appearances.
William Babcock, an associate professor of journalism at Minnesota and director of the Silha Center, says Kirtley was chosen from among top free press experts.
“At a time when the First Amendment is under attack on so many fronts, it’s a pleasure to have a person such as Jane with us as the Silha Center enters the 21st century and continues to examine issues of law, ethics, and media accountability,” he says. Kirtley replaces Donald M. Gillmor, the center’s first Silha Professor, who recently retired. She is only the second Silha professor in the history of the center.
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