Two Visions of Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the press and the First Amendment generally were woven throughout the news last week. In the post below I try to outline how these debates – spread out over Twitter, blogs, reports and events – represent two important visions of freedom of the press.

Freedom of the Press When Everyone Has a Press

In a recent blog post Mathew Ingram argues “Freedom of the press applies to everyone — yes, even bloggers.” His post outlines the complex and shifting understanding of freedom of the press as it is being negotiated in the streets and in the courts.

Ingram highlights how acts of journalism, from recording police in public to tweeting updates from protests, are being attacked and undermined, even as courts uphold a more expansive view of freedom of the press. The thrust of Ingram’s post can be summed up in a quote he includes from Judge Kermit Lipez:

[C]hanges in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders [and] and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.

The shifting media landscape has challenged traditional, narrow legal notions of freedom of the press, even calling into question what we mean by “press.” When considered as a narrow legal statute, the idea of freedom of the press is a contested terrain. Given that, it is increasingly important for us to remember that freedom of the press is more than just a law, it’s a core value of our democracy. Continue reading