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Media, Politics, and Government. Freedom of the Press. “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom… of the press…”. Origins of freedom of the press:. Influence of the printing press Ideals of the Enlightenment Pamphlets and papers during the American Revolution.

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freedom of the press
Freedom of the Press

“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom…of the press…”

Origins of freedom of the press:

  • Influence of the printing press
  • Ideals of the Enlightenment
  • Pamphlets and papers during the American Revolution

Colonial-era printing press

what is the press
What Is the Press?

Non-traditional forms:

Traditional forms:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Pamphlets
  • Posters
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Internet
free press essential to democracy
Free Press: Essential to Democracy
  • The media as the “fourth branch” of government
  • Important benefits of a free press:
  • Open expression of ideas
  • Advances collective knowledge and understanding
  • Communication with government representatives
  • Allows for peaceful social change
  • Protects individual rights
freedom of the press history
Freedom of the Press: History
  • Original intent of the First Amendment was to protect political discussion
  • Limitations on freedom of the press:
  • Alien and Sedition Acts (1798)
  • Courts defined the scope of freedom of the press
  • Identifying a “clear and present danger” and clarifying libel
  • Protection against prior restraint

Original text of the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798)

confidentiality of reporters sources
Confidentiality of Reporters’ Sources
  • Reporters do not have the same legal protections as doctors or lawyers when it comes to sources
  • “Shield laws”
  • Reporters sometimes face contempt-of-court charges if they refuse to reveal a source
freedom of the press key court cases
Freedom of the Press: Key Court Cases
  • John Peter Zenger (1735)
  • Near v. Minnesota (1931)

Minute sheet from the trial of John Peter Zenger

freedom of the press key court cases continued
Freedom of the Press: Key Court Cases (continued)
  • New York Times v. Sullivan (1964)
  • New York Times v. U.S. (1971): “Pentagon Papers”
  • Sheppard v. Maxwell (1966)
freedom of the press confidentiality of sources
Freedom of the Press: Confidentiality of Sources
  • Reporters hold source confidentiality as essential to the existence of a free press
  • Sources more likely to come forward if kept anonymous

Supreme Court cases:

  • Branzburg v. Hayes (1972)
  • Recent cases involving reporter/source confidentiality (2005)
discussion questions
Discussion Questions
  • Discuss how the printing press revolutionized the spread of information. What kinds of changes did it make in how people learned and what they could do with information?
  • Describe how the media serves as a “fourth branch” of government and review the benefits of a free press.