McNae’s: still essential, 21 editions later – Judith Townend

A journalist with no formal legal training gave his name to the industry’s media law “bible”.

Leonard McNae, 1902-1996, wrote the firstEssential Law for Journalists for the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), which was published as a book in 1954, replacing the NUJ’s The Pressman and the Law by G.F.L. Bridgman of the Middle Temple.

Its latest edition written by Mike Dodd, legal advisor to the Press Association, and Mark Hanna, senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield, launched on 30 March at The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, London.

Among the lawyers, academics and journalists attending the launch on Friday were Dodd and Hanna’s predecessors, Tom Welsh and Walter Greenwood.

Lord Hunt, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, gave the keynote speech which outlined some of his experiences at the self-regulatory body so far, as it moves into its transition phase. Against any form of statutory regulation, he has drawn up a draft for a regulatory system [PDF] but is steering clear of a name for the new body at this time.

As he told Lord Justice Leveson at the Inquiry in January,

“I rely on “The Essential Law for Journalists” to point out all the statutory provisions that apply and restrict freedom of the press. I’m not just talking about defamation or the Data Protection Act or the Freedom of Information Act. The list is endless. It’s a massive textbook.”

McNae’s has become “an institution in its own right“, Lord Hunt said on Friday.

Judith Townend is a freelance journalist and PhD researcher examining legal restraints on the media, who runs the Meeja Law blog. She is@jtownend on Twitter.

(Images courtesy of the NCTJ & Inforrm’s Blog, The International Forum for Responsible Media Blog)