Law Day 2019: Flood Asks for Omaha Legal Community To Help Support Local Reporters, Media

G. Michael Fenner is presented the Robert M. Spire Public Service Award at the annual Law Day Luncheon. Pictured are (from left) OBA Law Day committee member Doug Law, Fenner, OBA President Patrick Cooper and Hon. Robert F. Rossiter Jr., who introduced Fenner. (Photo by Antone Oseka)

Mike Flood, an attorney, former speaker of the Nebraska Legislature and founder of Flood Communications was the keynote speaker at the annual Law Day Luncheon Wednesday, May 1 at the Omaha Marriott in Regency. (Photo by Antone Oseka)
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

More than 200 members of Omaha’s legal community gathered Wednesday for a luncheon marking the annual celebration of Law Day with the presentation of awards and a keynote address on this year’s theme, “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society.”

The Omaha Bar Association recognized several community outreach efforts organized as part of Law Day, including an annual mock trial, classroom visits by lawyers and judges, and essay and poster contests for area students.

“We have one of the best Law Days in the entire nation,” said Doug Law, associate general coun­sel for Black Hills Energy and an OBA Law Day committee member. “Today (Law Day) is a celebra­tion and a presentation of the work that has been done by many, many people.”

Law Day has its roots as a re­sponse to the Soviet Union’s May Day celebration of International Workers’ Day. The American Bar Association sets a theme each year, and the occasion is used as a way to reach out to students and the com­munity to promote legal education and awareness of the importance of the rule of law.

Keynote speaker Mike Flood, an attorney, former speaker of the Nebraska Legislature and founder of Flood Communications, talked about the role the free press plays in relation to the justice system.

Flood praised the transparency of Nebraska courts and the quality of news coverage in the local media. He said journalists help citizens un­derstand the truth about what’s be­ing done in their name.

“I give the (Nebraska) courts credit for granting the media lee­way,” Flood said. “I have never had one of my reporters or heard one of my reporters be in a situation where they had a question and an attorney or a judge wouldn’t answer it.”

Flood added that many report­ers are intimidated by the judicial system, and attorneys can often be reluctant to talk to journalists.

He urged those in the legal pro­fession to offer assistance to local journalists, even if it’s on an off-the-record basis. The news media is being squeezed financially, and it can be mutually beneficial to help inexperienced reporters be oriented so their stories are right 

“The way that media has made its money for a hundred-plus years is going away,” Flood said, noting that people still rely on the news media for information on their community. “We are in the process of not only trying to reinvent our­selves but trying to figure out how we maintain a revenue stream to keep this going.”

Part of the value of a free press, Flood said, is they can help keep politicians and government offi­cials accountable.

“Ethically, good journalism reg­ulates behavior,” Flood said.

G. Michael Fenner, a retiring constitutional law professor at the Creighton University School of Law, was presented the Robert M. Spire Public Service Award. He said he knew Spire and his fam­ily, and he said he looks to Spire’s legacy when he’s weighing how to behave ethically in a situation.

“This is a significant award,” Fenner said. “This is one I will take with me when I move into my new office.”

The Daily Record’s Lynda Henningsen and Lorraine Boyd were both recognized with OBA Public Service Awards for their support of the legal community.

Henningsen has been the pub­lisher of The Daily Record since 2011, following the death of her husband, former publisher Ron Henningsen, who was presented the same award in 1994.

“The leadership of The Daily Record has always worked dili­gently to foster not only strong business ties to the Omaha busi­ness community but also a sincere friendship with the local bench and bar,” said Wayne Mark, an attorney who is of counsel at Fraser Stryker. “Lynda has done a marvelous job of keeping The Daily Record relevant and vibrant while continuing to serve lawyers, judges and citizens in this community.”

Boyd has been The Daily Record’s local news editor as well as the designer of the OBA’s quar­terly newsletter through her Avant Garde Publications business.

“She has been an incredible tell­er of the stories of the Omaha le­gal community and the issues that are important to us,” said Patrick Cooper, this year’s OBA president. “Lorraine’s joy and her energy in seeing and interacting with mem­bers of the legal community re­ally has jumped off the page of The Daily Record in her 29 years of working there.”

Attorney Karisa D. Johnson of Koukol & Johnson was also pre­sented the Alfred G. Ellick Lawyer Referral Service Award.

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