More than 50 years ago, the Alabama-Georgia matchup resulted, not in a national championship, but in a legal ruling that expanded the First Amendment protections we now enjoy.
A sidebar on page 452 of the book, Journalism: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How, talks about public opinion toward the First Amendment. The survey cited there, conducted by the First Amendment Center, has been updated.
Most people understand one of the ideas beyond copyright laws, but they do not get the other one.
A flurry of news reports – a good bit of hand-wringing – have appeared in the last couple of days about a new survey that shows that many high school students do not have much knowledge or regard for the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. A third of the students said the First Amendment goes “too far” in granting rights to Americans. Hodding Carter, the head of the Knight Foundation that sponsored the study, called the results “not only disturbing; they are dangerous. Ignorance about the basics of this free society is a danger to our nation’s future.”
The world of online journalism fluttered a bit last week when the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided that the journalists subpoenaed in a federal investigation of the leaking of the name of a CIA agent in 2004 did not have any privilege to shield confidential sources. In a concurring opinion, Judge David Sentelle mentioned web logs and “bloggers” in his discussion of the problem of defining a journalist. That nod to bloggers, which seemed to equate them with journalists, was only incidental. The real question for Sentelle was, “Who is a journalist?” His logic is correct, but his conclusion is wrong.
The University of Alabama, where I taught for 25 years, has sued artist Daniel Moore saying that Moore’s paintings, many of which depicted memorable moments in Crimson Tide football history, violate the University’s trademark protections. Moore has responded with a suit against the University saying it is interferring with his business. Moore also makes a First Amendment claim. He says that what he does — observing a game, executing a painting, making prints and selling them — is no different from what a photojournalist for a newspaper does. The University, he says, does not charge the newspaper with trademark violations when it publishes pictures of the football game and sells its newspapers to the public. So why should it charge him? Why, indeed?
This is a complex case that has been developing for many months. The Poynter Institute has put together a page of resources about this case. It also quotes its ethicist Bob Steele as saying, “I admire her fight on principle. I admire the spirit of journalistic independence. The result may be an additional traction point for the federal shield law cause.”
One of the ideas this web site advocates — in addition to good journalism and good journalistic practices — is expanding the First Amendment. Unfortunately, there are too many people and organizations trying to do just the opposite. A recent example comes from a judge in Washington state who thinks that controlling campaign finances is more important than political advocacy and free speech.
It is sad, frustrating and infuriating when you see people who should know better acting in ways that are just not very intelligent. That was the case this past week with the high school principal and school superintendent in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The principal confiscated copies of the school newspaper before they could be distributed because she objected to the subject of a couple of the articles in the current issue. She did not point to any errors the articles had made. She simply didn’t think her students needed to know about birth control.
Nobody likes “lobbyists” or the amounts of money that go along with their modern activities, but lobbying is what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote a protection in the First Amendment for the right to “petition the government for redress of grievances.”
Once upon a time, a president of the United States — in the face of grave danger to the nation — had this to say about government secrecy:
This past year we saw the Federal Elections Commission “reprimand” a NASCAR driver because he had a “Bush-Cheney” sticker on his car during a race. We can only hope that the FEC continues to make such ridiculous decisions so that people will wake up to how dangerous that agency has become.
It would be a reporter’s dream: Barry Bonds answering questions under oath — with two reporters in the room. That could be one of the outcomes of the suit that San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds has filed against Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who have written a book about Bonds’ use of steriods to make him baseball’s all-time home run king. Chances are it won’t happen because a judge is likely to dismiss the suit sometime soon. Still, it’s nice to dream.