By Chris Adams

Think media law is a simple affair of filing a few FOIA requests?

Kevin M. Goldberg, a top attorney in the world of media law, showed exactly how complicated things can be during a session with NPF Paul Miller fellows. The format was a game called “Journalism Law Jeopardy,” and it had categories of questions arranged in a nice grid – just like on the television game show.

Goldberg is an attorney at the Arlington, Virginia, based law firm of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth. He also serves as both counselor to and advocate for several major press organizations, including the American Society of News Editors and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. He is also a past chairman and current member of the NPF board.

Doing his best Alex Trebek, Goldberg led fellows through the categories: “FOIA Falsehoods,” “Defamation Disinformation,” “Correcting Copyright,” “Privacy Prevarications” and “Newsgathering NoNos.”

Through it all, he counseled caution, reminding reporters to talk to an attorney for legal matters. If you don’t have in-house counsel, contact the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press at 800-336-4243 or email

He also reminded the journalists to think strategicially – and not to send off Freedom of Information Act requests haphazardly. “Treat your FOIA requests the way you treat your stories,” he said. “Think about them ahead of time.”

Goldberg covered a range of topics. Here they are, with audio timestamps:

  • FOIA timeliness – and how long it should take for a response. (8:00-10:06)
  • When is it permissible to report on the private facts of a person? (10:26-16:47)
  • Can you get student records, or will the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prevent it? (16:48-19:14)
  • When can you use photos from the internet and not violate copyright laws? What does “public domain” mean? (19:24-23:13)
  • Does fair use allow you to use a photo you see on Facebook? (23:13-28:29)
  • What is the difference between hurtful statements and defamatory ones? (28:39-32:28)
  • When are you allowed to tape a phone conversation without the other person’s knowledge or consent? (32:49-35:33)
  • What is the “reasonable exception of privacy” that people have? (35:33-41:05)
  • Can law enforcement officials restrict you from taking a photo? (41:11-44:08)
  • Does using the word “allegedly” save you? Hint: No. (44:19-46:02)
  • Under FOIA, can you get physical objects that aren’t records? (46:18-47:08)
  • What are the copyright rules for music? What is “fair use?” (58:19-70:10)