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Paul FletcherToday’s #MediaMonday is completely legal!

It’s from Paul Fletcher, publisher and editor-in-chief of Virginia Lawyers Weekly, Virginia Medical Law Report and www.valawyersweekly.com,  where he’s been at the helm for 28 years.

In addition to running the legal publications, Paul is the current national president of the Society of Professional Journalists.  I had the opportunity to meet him when the SPJ leadership was in Phoenix a few weeks ago.

Paul, time to share:

Virginia Lawyers Weekly has been the commonwealth’s top source of legal information for practicing attorneys since 1986, providing a traditional weekly newspaper with innovative Internet benefits, e-mail services and Web-based reporting.

The newspaper reports all decisions issued by the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Virginia Court of Appeals and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Also featured are hundreds of rulings from state Circuit Court judges, U.S. District Court judges, U.S. Bankruptcy Court judges, the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission and other state agencies.

Our news coverage highlights developments in case law, changes to court rules, verdict and settlement reports, bar-discipline notices and all other news vital to Virginia lawyers.

The bi-monthly Virginia Medical Law Report is the only newspaper in the commonwealth covering legal issues specific to the unique concerns and interests of doctors and health care providers. The newspaper presents legal developments that may impact how doctors practice from both a risk-management and a practice-management perspective.

I find a great deal of overlap in the skills that one learns as a lawyer and that one acquires as a journalist. Both groups ask a lot of questions…conducting an interview of a source isn’t that far from questioning or cross-examining a witness.

One thing I always tell lawyer friends who ask me about my switch of careers – the deadlines are worse in journalism. Many cases may take forever to resolve, with depositions and interrogatories and pretrial tactics to consider. You’re working toward a goal and a deadline that seems far away, and you might get right up close to it, then it gets continued.

I run a weekly newspaper, and Thursday, our production day, is unforgiving. That deadline is there every week and the paper has to be finished and sent off to the press. There are no continuances. The positive side of that: On Friday, you walk into the office and the world is all brand new and you get to create a new edition.

One other thing I would add: Lawyers and journalists are both great groups of people to know and socialize with – I count myself fortunate to be able to mix with both!

It has been a real privilege to serve as president of SPJ. I’m halfway through my term and I’ve been able to travel to Texas, New York, DC, Arizona, Cincinnati and New Orleans. I’m going to Seattle in June – I’ve had the chance to meet journalists across the country and talk about their jobs and the profession.  I have been able to learn a lot and share what I know as well.

I am very proud of an effort SPJ led in December – we went to the White House to talk with President Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, about the problem of public information officers at federal agencies.  We had heard many reports form journalists, and SPJ had highlighted a number of studies, that indicate that PIOs have become stonewalling gatekeepers of information that the public has a right to know. Worse than that, in cases in which a reporter would seek to interview an agency employee, the PIO would act as a minder during the interview, directing answers.  We represented 53 journalism groups in that meeting, and we asked for the same approach Canada just adopted: When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected, he said Canadian scientists were free to talk with reporters without restrictions.

My wife and I love to travel, and she has been able to accompany me on a number of the SPJ trips during my three years as an officer.  When the SPJ annual convention was in Anaheim in 2013, for example, we stayed in Southern California for nearly a week, exploring wineries in Santa Barbara County (another one of our favorite things to do). We plan to go to the Pacific Northwest for the week before the meeting I’ll attend in June, and already we’re lining up a winery tour in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

You can follow our publication on Twitter  (@VALW) The handle for SPJ is @SPJ_tweets

Thanks for the opportunity to chat!

Scott Hanson
Scott Hanson
President Scott is president of HMA Public Relations and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. He’s a Phoenix native, husband, father of two and a fan of all sports and a participant in some. Check out Scott's full bio

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