Tuesday, June 05, 2007

firstamendmentcenter.org: Internet expanding scope, meaning of ‘free press’

From the First Amendment Center:

"There’s no specific definition of “press” in the 45 words of the First Amendment. So who might be bound by responsibilities that go along with the role of a free press? Are bloggers and other Web users part of a broadly defined “press” even though they certainly could not have been envisioned by the Colonial-era Founders who wrote the First Amendment? And what of those who aren’t defined by traditional measures of circulation and ratings, but who may well have global audiences?"


"...surely the First Amendment’s provision for a free press counsels practitioners and product to be more than a transcription service."

Comment: The article's author, Gene Policinski, who is the executive director of the First Amendment Center, is referring in the second part of the quote above to the Pasadena Now editor's plan to have journalists in India report on local council meetings. I think he needs to reread the First Amendment. The idea of 'counseling' journalists to do something specific is more akin to censorship, in my opinion, than to press freedom.

On another page from the First Amendment Center's website, I found this quote: "'If the First Amendment protects speech advocating violence, then it must also protect speech that does not advocate violence but still makes it more likely,' the 9th Circuit court said." How can we protect free speech that is (at best) distasteful, but not protect a free press if we don't like how the press is being used?

In fact, as far as I understand it, the First Amendment doesn't protect journalists, but a right to a free press. I can't see how we can dictate that journalists do any reporting, let alone the kind of reporting we consider good journalism. If we don't like it, we don't have to read it -- in fact, we now have a truly free (as in beer) press to which we can publish our own quality journalism. If Policinski doesn't like how Pasadena Now is covering council meetings, maybe he should head out to California and do it himself -- or hire another journalist to do it.