During the Civil Rights Movement advocates used a combination of lawsuits, sit ins, protest marches, and boycotts, to fight institutional racism. Newspaper reporting of these protests played an important role in changing public opinion, which in turn forced institutions to change.
Lawsuits combined with protests, reported by the media, continue to be effective means of fighting discrimination. Making the public aware of evidence of discrimination produced during lawsuits puts pressure on defendants to stop discriminating, encourages other victims and witnesses to come forward, and helps to protect plaintiffs and witnesses from retaliation. It also informs government prosecutors and agencies charged with enforcing civil rights laws of areas which may require attention.
Defendants in discrimination cases routinely seek court protective orders, prohibiting plaintiffs from sharing with the media any evidence the defendant marks "confidential."
The New York Athletic Club tried something similar, in a sexual harassment case brought by an employee, but the Court refused. The plaintiff took the deposition of one former and one current employee of the New York Athletic Club, who testified under oath that Club members made racially and sexually offensive comments to Club employees, and one member called a guest of a member the N word.
After their testimony, the Athletic Club sought a protective order, noting correctly that "the New York Post has already found . . . this action to be newsworthy," and that plaintiff's counsel "intends to offer the material to the media." Plaintiff countered that the Athletic Club was going to mark almost everything confidential so that virtually nothing could be shared with the press, and that media attention would help protect witnesses from potential retaliation.
The Court rejected the Athletic Club's attempt at secrecy, and noted that "Defendants contends that because plaintiff stated that this case may be 'newsworthy,' defendants have grounds for seeking the within relief in order to restrict dissemination of 'sensitive document concerning [defendants] employees and customer, would result in undue prejudice and disadvantage, and a violation of New York State law.'" The Court held that "defendants have not set forth entitlement to the within relief sought." Following the decision, the NY Post published the article above. Joshua Friedman, the attorney for Ms Ballenilla, said "We are pleased that the court rejected the Athletic Club's attempt to keep this secret. If there are other victims, this will help them."