Monday, February 21, 2011

Cari Elliott-Summary of Case Study: What are the constraints on free speech & the First Amendment for the news industry?

On Wednesday’s class, (February 23rd) I will be presenting a case study over the Supreme Court Case, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. This was a landmark case in 1988 which ultimately resulted in giving school districts the power to censor their school newspapers. I will begin with a background of the First Amendment as well as touch on the evolution of the First Amendment (specifically in regards to free speech and free press in the newspaper industry). I will then introduce the case of Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, explain the background of the case, the decision of the Supreme Court, and talk about some issues raised since the Supreme Court’s ruling. I will also try to answer some questions that have become major issues since the ruling of this case. These questions involve Public Forum and constraints on other newspaper industries besides school newspapers. Finally, I will finish my presentation with a summary of my findings as well as the main conclusion I have come to regarding “Free Speech and the First Amendment in the news industry.”

As you can probably infer through my summary, my main argument of this presentation is to prove (through my research of this case) that protection from the First Amendment in the news industry is not equal for all different types of newspapers. Through our discussion questions, we will converse about whether this non-universal protection of the First Amendment is fair or unfair. (Most of our opinions probably being that it is unfair, which I agree with.). Lastly, I hope to have by the end of this presentation, successfully answered the weekly question of “What are the constraints on free speech and the First Amendment for the news industry?” I feel as if there is no way to answer that question without understanding the Supreme Court case of Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier since this case now sets the standard for newspaper censoring in most states. Those reasons and many more whcih you will hear about on Wednesday, are why I have chosen to present a case study specifically over this Supreme Court case.

1 comment:

Cari Elliott said...

My main discussion question I posed to the class was "Do you think it is fair for High School newspapers to be less protected by the First Amendment than other types/levels of newspapers?" I was actually surprised that most of the class agreed that is fair for High Shcool newspapers to not be classified as public forum, and for their newspapers to be allowed to be censored by school officials. In class, Zach pointed out that being a legal adult by age has a lot to do with our constitutional rights, and I had never even taken specific age into consideration when reflecting on the decision of this case. But Zach is right in the fact that at 18 years old, one is an adult in every aspect of the word, and since not all high shcool students are of 18 years of age, it makes sense for them not to have fully vested constitutional rights, including protection from the First Amendment. Therefore it seems fair that school officials (adults) should have the authority to censor what material an under the age of 18 journalist prints in their newspapers.

Another aspect of this case that we discussed in class had to do with the ownership of the newspaper. So since the high shcool technically owns or would hopefully at least partially own their newspaper, that means that their tale is on the line when it comes to what's published. It is their reputation that is at stake if there are any controversial articles printed. And since the High School owns the newspaper, it also seems fair that they should have final say so in what is printed. In other words, the High School's public image is valued slightly higher than the journalist's (who is a minor of age) protection of free speech.

I hope that I helped the class understand why it is important to discuss Supreme Court cases (as Chris and I both chose to do) in order to fully comprehend the consraints on free speech and the First Amendment for the news industry. I feel that the consraints on free speech have to do a lot witht the type/level of newspaper we are dealing with as well as who owns that newspaper and who's reputation is on the line. However, after hearing Chris's case stduy I also now understand how difficult it is to win a lible case (another constraint on free speech in the news industry). This illustrated a differnt side of the news industry, basically saying that our reign of free speech is a lot broader than most people think. I also agree with what Chris said at the end of class, something like, "free speech means that people can say what they want to say, but they also have to understand that there may be consequences involved."

Here are some links related to the Hazelwood case if anyone is interested.