“That’s it: 45 words setting forth the basis for a free press in the U.S. It’s deceptively simple, for no other constitutional amendment has generated as much controversy or as many cornerstone judicial opinions giving meaning to its provisions.”
Chapter 21, titled “Media Law,” opened with the statement of the First Amendment and this quote from The Missouri Group on page 443. I don’t think there is a better way to sum up the chapter than the way this quote did. Although the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, journalism has tremendously grown over the years, and it has to be interpreted time after time for different situations. If I learned anything from this chapter, I definitely know that journalists have to be careful about what they write.
Libel is something that I learned about in both my journalism and law classes in high school. I remember learning that in order to convict someone, the statement has to be defamatory, false, and published with the knowledge that it’s false. However, libel can become a really tricky thing in certain situations. I never knew that public officials have absolute privilege when they are in office. Although reporters have the qualified privilege to report what they say, it can be difficult since the officials might be lying. I also found it interesting that public figures are better protected than public officials when it comes to the Actual Malice Test.
I thought the section about invasion of privacy was interesting, especially since this is becoming a more prominent issue with the advancement of technology. I think some people forget that anything we do, especially online, can be viewed by anyone, even if it’s “private.” In today’s world, journalists can view public social media pages and quote from them, but some people might not like that. I’m sure journalists face a lot of criticism from people, but I respect them for having to make the right decisions about online information while dealing with the backlash that could come from this. I also greatly respect journalists because many of them are willing to face jail time rather than give up the names of their sources. This profession takes true dedication, and I don’t think a lot of people realize that.
Although journalists are guaranteed freedom of the press under the First Amendment, there are still many situations in which they have to be cautious with their work. I believe the best way to avoid controversial situations is to always write the truth and make sure it is the truth. Sometimes writing about controversial stories is necessary, but being truthful is the best thing a journalist can do in those situations. Every story must be approached in a different way, but all stories should be written truthfully.