Communications & First Amendment Law

We provide an array of legal services to our media clients. Our nationally-recognized medial attorneys regularly handle cases involving access to open meetings, public records and courtrooms in North Carolina; defend against libel claims and prior restraints; and oppose reporter’s subpoenas.

Through the North Carolina Press Association’s Legal Hotline, we provide advice daily to North Carolina reporters, editors and advertising managers. The firm responds to dozens of inquiries each week on topics ranging from public records to advertising regulations.

Our experience in communications and first amendment law is unrivaled in North Carolina. SMVT partner Hugh Stevens served as general counsel to the North Carolina Press Association from 1979 until 2003. Hugh served as counsel to media entities in the following notable cases:

  • Renwick v. News and Observer Publishing Company, in which the North Carolina Supreme Court declined to recognize the invasion of privacy tort known as “false light”
  • Hall v. Post, where the North Carolina Supreme Court made clear the state does not recognize claims for “publication of private facts”
  • McKinney v. Avery Journal, in which the state’s appellate courts recognized the “wire service” defense to libel claims
  • Food Lion Inc. v. Capital Cities/ABC, et al, a “tortious newsgathering” case that arose out of a PrimeTime Live hidden camera investigation of a supermarket chain
  • News and Observer v. Poole, where the newspaper gained access to records investigating academic irregularities in North Carolina State University’s basketball program

Hugh, and Professor Cathy Packer of the University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication serve as co-editors of the North Carolina Media Law Handbook.

Our media clients include the North Carolina Press Association and its subsidiary, North Carolina Press Services; the North Carolina Press Foundation; ABC NewsWRAL and other television stations owned by Capitol Broadcasting Co.; The News and Observer and other North Carolina newspapers owned by The McClatchy CompanyMedia General’s North Carolina newspapers and television stations, including the Winston-Salem Journal and WNCT-TV; The Salisbury Post; The Alamance News; and The Daily Tar Heel.

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Mike Tadych


Hugh Stevens
Of Counsel

Karen Rabenau

Karen Rabenau
Of Counsel