All this week I am going to be publishing examples of legal dilemmas that a journalism student might face (Read my previous post on students being publishers, and the responsibilities that come with that for the background). I’ll be using the hashtag #ojblaw throughout and live tweeting a discussion on Friday 10-12 UK time.
I hope you can comment on what a student publisher might do – and why.
Here’s the first:
Case 1: major fast food outlet selling food it should have binned
It is 4am and you are sat with a friend in a fast food chain outlet. This is a well known, global brand – you can choose either McDonalds or Burger King, because these things matter.
Your friend works for the same company, in another city. She turns to you and says:
“That food should have been thrown away two hours ago.”
She knows because she can see the timestamps on the food packaging behind the counter.
The next day you prepare to write up a news article about this.
You find some useful background: the company has published its own policy on how long food should be kept out, for example. You also have the Food Standards Agency report for the outlet (it was satisfactory).
Your headline reports just what your friend said: that the particular outlet was serving food that was hours old, and breaking its own guidelines in the process.
You have a quote from your friend, who is named, and her position as an employee of the fast food chain is mentioned. She is fine with this.
You seek a reaction from both the outlet and the fast food chain’s central office. Both refuse to comment, and you have included that in your article.
- What are the legal issues here – and what tests need to be met for them to be an issue?
- What defence could you mount?
- How likely is it that legal action would result?
- Would you publish – and why?
‘Answers’ and discussion in the comments