Everyone in the media — and indeed everyone who cares about the First Amendment — is mourning the loss of Dick Goehler, a leading attorney at Cincinnati's Frost Brown Todd law firm who passed away yesterday after battling leukemia. Dick's practice focused on media law and represented media clients in all aspects of First Amendment and newsroom-related matters, including CityBeat.
For years Dick published a monthly newsletter reviewing the status of interesting First Amendment lawsuits and discussing new developments in media law, and I read it faithfully. He and several of his associates came to CityBeat's offices at least twice, at his insistence, to tell our editorial staff about the latest interpretations of libel and trademark law, especially with regards to the internet.
I worked closely with Dick several years ago when Frost Brown Todd represented CityBeat in a lawsuit filed against us by a West Side club that claimed we'd harmed them with a writeup in our bar guide. As aggravating as the legal process was, I enjoyed my interactions with Dick and his staff. He got a kick out of arguing over the meaning and intention of our use of the words "skanks" and "thugs" — he often said our case was a pleasant departure from his usual super-serious legal work. And we ultimately prevailed.
Shortly after that case wrapped up, CityBeat was threatened by Citizens for Community Values, local government officials and others over the adult services ads in our classified advertising section. Dick called me the very next day to express his concern about government leaders and CCV trying to intimidate a media organization into not publishing certain material, and he offered his assistance. Even though he didn't represent CityBeat in our subsequent legal battle, Dick always stayed in touch and encouraged us. And he celebrated when we ultimately prevailed there, too.
I saw Dick last fall at the local Society of Professional Journalists awards dinner, and he'd lost his hair and was pretty thin. I didn't know that he'd been battling leukemia, and of course he was upbeat about his situation and excited to be among local journalists celebrating good efforts and important work.
In reading various mentions of his passing, I came across this heart-felt note from the Student Press Law Center. Even though he was sick, Dick ran for and was recently named chairman of the board of the national organization that advocates for free-press rights for high school and college journalists. He'd been involved with the group for almost 20 years.
I never really knew Dick personally, just as an attorney and a true believer in journalism and the First Amendment, but I feel like I've lost a friend with his passing. I think we all have.