Public Records Online at


Many of us talk about the importance of public records, but Ryan Thornburg has moved beyond talking. He has found a way to make public records in North Carolina easily accessible to the media and the public. Thornburg, an associate professor in the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has created a project called Open N.C. It is an index of state, county, and local digital public records that are being used by journalists and others. Thornburg explains his project here: Tar Heel Talks — Data-Driven Journalism.

Making a cameo appearance in Thornburg’s video is David Ardia, co-director of the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy.


UNC’s Constitution Day, Featuring David Medine

ConstitutionDayOver the past few years, the UNC School of Law has served as host of UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus-wide Constitution Day celebration. This year the speaker will be David Medine, chairman of the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, who will speak on the topic of “Providing for the Common Defense without Compromising Privacy and Civil Liberties.”   The talk will take place on September 17, 2014 at noon in the law school’s rotunda.

David Medine has served as chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board since May 2013. Previously he was an attorney fellow for the Security and Exchange Commission and a special counsel at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. From 2002 to 2012, he was a partner in the law firm WilmerHale, where his practice focused on privacy and data security, having previously served as a Senior Advisor to the White House National Economic Council from 2000 to 2001. From 1992 to 2000, Mr. Medine was associate director for financial practices at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) where, in addition to enforcing financial privacy laws, he took the lead on Internet privacy, chaired a federal advisory committee on privacy issues, and was part of the team that negotiated a privacy safe harbor agreement with the European Union. Before joining the FTC, he taught at the Indiana University (Bloomington) School of Law and the George Washington University School of Law.

The event is open to the public.  More info is available here.


Student to Publish in Hastings Comm/Ent Law Journal

P. Brooks Fuller, a second-year Ph.D. student and Roy H. Park Fellow in the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has had an article accepted for publication in the Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal (Comm/Ent). The article, “Evaluating Intent in True Threats Cases: The Importance of Context in Analyzing Threatening Internet Messages,” will appear in the Fall issue of Comm/Ent. The journal is published by the University of California’s Hastings College of Law and is among the best-known law reviews specializing in communications law and policy issues. The article is based on a research paper written for one of the J-School’s graduate media law courses. Brooks also presented his research earlier this month at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Montreal, Canada.

Brooks’ article examines federal courts’ treatment of Internet threats in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Virginia v. Black. The full abstract is below.

Following the Supreme Court’s most recent ruling on the true threats doctrine, Virginia v. Black (2003), significant conflict emerged among the federal circuit courts. The primary issue is whether an objective or subjective standard should apply to statutes that criminalize threats. Speakers’ use of social networking websites and Internet forums for the purposes of posting violent and intimidating communications raises significant questions regarding the posture of the true threats doctrine and its application to modern modes of communication. This paper utilizes legal research methods to examine federal courts’ treatment of Internet threats and highlights aspects of Internet speech that are particularly problematic for the doctrine. Ultimately, this paper calls for the Supreme Court to revisit the true threats doctrine in light of significant inconsistency among the circuits regarding the impact of the Internet on recipients of threatening communications.


Are Charter School Studies Giving Us The Full Picture?

deskAccording to a recent study by the University of Arkansas, charter schools are 40% more cost-effective than traditional public schools. But do we really have the full picture? It’s hard to know because charter schools don’t have to disclose the same information as traditional public schools.

The Arkansas study measured effectiveness by comparing students’ scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams with the amount of money spent on teaching particular subjects. The researchers found that for every $1000 invested per pupil, charter schools increased NAEP scores by 16-17 points more than traditional public schools.

Critics argue that the Arkansas study understates per-pupil expenditures because it does not account for district funding that helps pay for school lunches, transportation, special education, and other services. The study also fails to account for charter schools that are in buildings owned by traditional public schools at no or reduced cost. It’s difficult, however, to draw conclusions about the overall efficiency of charter schools without knowing exactly how much they spend.

In North Carolina, there has been a recent push to increase charter school transparency. On August 7, Gov. Pat McCrory signed Senate Bill 793, which requires charter schools to adhere to North Carolina public records and meeting laws. Still, unlike traditional public schools, N.C. charter schools aren’t required to share all spending information with the public. For example, the salaries of top charter school administrators do not have to be disclosed.

Ted Kolderie, a senior associate with education policy non-profit, Education Evolving, says that the Arkansas report falls into the category of advocacy research. There are stakeholders funding the research who have an interest in promoting charter schools. In addition to concerns about funding, he takes issue with the report’s dependence on NAEP scores alone to make determinations about school effectiveness. Bruce Baker, a professor of education policy at Rugers, has criticized The University of Arkansas’s research on charter schools in the past, stating that “it suffers from alarmingly vague documentation.”

As the debate over whether charter schools or public schools perform better continues, the studies that attempt to come up with an answer are being heavily scrutinized. Transparency laws requiring charter schools to disclose more information will help people determine if there is really substance behind the claims in these studies.


Center Co-Director Authors New Media Law Casebook


David Ardia, co-director of the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy, is a co-author of a new edition of Media and the Law, a casebook published by LexisNexis. Congratulations, David!

The book is authored by David Kohler, Lee Levine, Ardia, Dale Cohen and Mary-Rose Papandrea.  Ardia, an assistant professor in the UNC School of Law, is a new author on the book beginning with this edition.

This marketing flyer talks about what is new in the second edition and includes a table of contents.  If you are so inclined, you can order the book here.