The University of Baltimore School of Law is taking over an online law journal that explores modern issues such as copyrighting user-generated content, reporters’ privilege laws and defamation on the Internet.
The law school published its first edition of the Journal of Media Law & Ethics this month. The publication, masterminded by law professor Eric Easton, is peer-reviewed with plans to appear online quarterly.
“It’s one of those things you do where there is little money and little recognition,” Easton said. “It’s a labor of love.”
The 204-page review, which contains five essays, is another step by the law school to expand its reputation. The school jumped from a spot at 117 to 113 in this year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings and is building a new $107 million law school building, set to open in January 2013.
“UB’s big problem has always been visibility,” Easton said. “We always do great stuff here, but no one notices.”
F. Michael Higginbotham, the law school’s interim dean, said he saw the journal as an opportunity for students and faculty to get their works published and to bring more attention to the law school.
“People clearly will be reading the journal,” Higginbotham said. “It’s a University of Baltimore-produced product that will be advantageous to the school, providing it’s of high quality.”
The review was originally owned by Marquette Books of Spokane, Wash. Easton has been editing it since 2009, when the first issue was published. The publisher asked Easton if he would like to take over the publication. Easton approached Higginbotham in February about publishing the journal under the law school’s name.
“University of Baltimore will be a good home for it,” said Easton, who has a law degree from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism,
Higginbotham agreed and told Easton he could use his research assistant, a position the university funds, to help him publish it. Easton does the bulk of the work of putting the review together himself. His research assistant helps with legal citations.
“There was very little down side, because it didn’t cost very much,” Higginbotham said.
Easton, who is a member of The Daily Record’s independent editorial advisory board, said he hopes to have the university’s School of Communications Design and the Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics collaborate on the journal in the future.
While the plan is to publish quarterly, Easton said that might not happen this year. He has enough submissions in hand for two issues, is looking for more and hopes the university’s involvement will spread the review’s reputation and increase author interest.
Easton receives submissions for the review or asks people he meets at conferences such as the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication to write a piece for it. Most of the authors are younger professors or doctoral students trying to make a name for themselves in the academic world, he said.
When Easton receives an article, he is the first line of review. Sometimes, he sends it back to author saying the journal can’t publish the piece.
If a piece passes muster, Easton sends it on to three members of the publication’s editorial board — a collection of 21 senior professors at law or media schools across the country — who edit it without knowing the author’s name.
“It’s a really good mix of people,” Easton said. “I enjoy working with them.”
The editing process can take from 30 to 90 days, but usually lasts about two months, Easton said.
The piece then goes back to the author for revisions and a second review by Easton on resubmission before being published.
For now, the journal is available for free on the law school’s website. Easton hopes to find sponsorship for the publication in the future that would allow him to print hard copies. He also plans to launch a website for the review this summer, complete with accompanying materials, such as a blog.
“Visibility is something we are always looking for because we are always doing good things here,” Easton said. “We just have to keep working at it.”