American Bar Association
Forum on Communications Law


As the century draws to a close, it is virtually impossible to read a newspaper or watch a television program without seeing a "retrospective," often dealing with the communications revolution. Certainly there are times when each of us must long for simpler times, when a response to an inquiry could be made by mail because that was the fastest means of communicating, and going out of town on vacation meant that you were realistically unreachable. Now, even fax machines and telephones cannot keep up with the demand for instant communications; instead, everyone must be able to receive and send e-mail responses at a moment's notice and carry pagers for those rare times when they do not have access to a modem.

Yet the positive effects from the remarkable advances in communications technology-politically, socially, and economically-cannot be discounted. Remote locations, traditionally isolated from advancements in medicine, can obtain information about the latest surgical techniques. Students have the ability to research information about any conceivable topic. And despots who seek to stifle the dissemination of information about their reigns of terror are increasingly stymied by the ease with which dogged journalists can transmit information over satellites via the Internet. The impact on society is truly immeasurable, and it is still in its infancy. There is still much to be learned and innumerable questions to be answered about these new innovations and the legal framework within which they must fit. It is an exciting time to be a communications lawyer.

I hope you will make plans to join us at the Forum's Fifth Annual Meeting, which will be held February 17-19, 2000, at Rancho Bernardo, California. The program includes a preview of the next century, with a plenary panel focusing on how the communications revolution will change First Amendment law; a plenary session on media liability for the crimes of readers and viewers; and a panel discussion on the media's portrayal of media and legal issues. The Forum program also has retained its traditional small group workshops, which will include new workshops on hot issues in ethics and in access/subpoenas. And, of course, there is ample time built into the program for socializing and enjoying the facilities at Rancho Bernardo, including a private reception at nearby Sea World.

We also will be electing new Governing Board members at the business part of the Annual Meeting. The 1999 Nominating Committee, comprised of Tom Kelley of Faegre & Benson in Denver, Steve Bookshester of NAB in Washington, D.C., and Guylyn Cummins of Gray Cary in San Diego, has proposed the following candidates for the Governing Board: Andrea Hartman of NBC in Los Angeles; Elizabeth Koch of Levine, Sullivan & Koch in Washington, D.C.; Maria Arias Chapleau of AT&T in Denver; and Jonathan Hart, from Dow, Lohnes' Washington, D.C., office. It is an impressive group, and one that will provide diverse geographical and practice area representation for the board. My heartfelt thanks to the Nominating Committee for its hard work in selecting this terrific slate of candidates. I look forward to seeing you in February.

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