Presentation on theme: "GOVT 2301 The Freedom of the Press and the Media."— Presentation transcript:
GOVT 2301 The Freedom of the Press and the Media
In this section we explore the press and the influence that the media (however organized at any moment in time) has on the general public and the governing process. This will include a look at the constitutional issues associated with what limits may be placed on the press, and how it is regulated, or not regulated, by government.
This is the second of the three sections which outline the nature of the external, political pressures imposed on the governing institutions.
As you should recall from the previous section, the right to speak freely, engage in press activities and organize are all established in the First Amendment.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
A few general links about the freedom of the press: - America.gov. - George Orwell. - Freedom House. - Wikipedia.America.govGeorge OrwellFreedom HouseWikipedia
... and some dueling quotes from a couple of founders:
A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both. - James Madison
To the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression. - James Madison
Whenever the people are well- informed, they can be trusted with their own government. - Thomas Jefferson
Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe. - Thomas Jefferson
A democracy cannot be both ignorant and free. - Thomas Jefferson
Recall that a democratic government is based on the collective preferences of the population. A press of some sort is necessary to send out the information necessary for the population to make sound decisions about policy options.
What do the terms “the press” and “the media” refer to?
The terms are often used interchangeably. A medium (the plural of media) is a carrier of something, in this case information.medium
The Press The term “the press” refers to any method, through print or electronic means, that conveys information. The original printing press wasn’t the most effective was to communicate large amounts of information.the press
A typical printing press could print only a limited amount of material, and its products could only be sent as quickly as the swiftest horse or ship.
Technology has improved steadily since that devise. The nature of the information has expanded as has the speed and scope of its delivery. Here’s a chronological list:
Newspapers The Telegraph Photographs Radio Broadcast Television Cable Television Satellites The Internet Camera Phones, Facebook and Twitter
Each method creates its own unique issues, opportunities and problems. The speed and breadth of communication has increased exponentially. While access to the press has historically been limited, today, anyone with an internet connection can participate.
And here’s a map of the internet:
One critical consequence of the change: The news, which once was available occasionally, is now 24/7. Public officials were once able to conduct business in private – that is now impossible.
The 24 hour news cycleThe 24 hour news cycle. - NPR - What the 24 Hour News Cycle Has Done to Our Nation hour news cycle conveys power to the unworthyNPRWhat the 24 Hour News Cycle Has Done to Our Nation24-hour news cycle conveys power to the unworthy
Long detailed debate has been replaced with the sound bite.sound bite
What impact has that had on governing? Is it possible for long term problems to be solved in a news environment that focuses on the short term?
Next Topic: Defining “press” and “media.”
Now, information can travel instantly to anyone with a computer. Information can now also be sent through the internet by anyone with a connection. The press is a two way communications device.
The Media “The media” is what we use to refer to the various organizations that use “the press” to gather, digest, organize and distribute information. That information can be about political or non-political entities.
“The Media” generally refers to the businesses that profit by collecting and disseminating information. Media and entertainment are a growing part of the American economy.
We often hear people refer to at least three different “types” of media: - The Mainstream Media - The Conservative Media - The Alternative MediaThe Mainstream MediaThe Alternative Media
The term “mainstream media” refers to the largest media outlets, those that tend to set help the political agenda. political agenda
These include: The New York Times The Washington Post USA Today Wall Street Journal The New York Times The Washington Post USA Today Wall Street Journal
Together these organizations tend to determine what items are news worthy and what items are not. This power is referred to as agenda setting.agenda setting
Here’s a rule of thumb about media influence on politics: “The media cannot tell the public what to think, but it can tell it what to think about.”
Both the alternative and conservative media object to the mainstream media’s influence.
The alternative media believes the mainstream media is controlled by corporate interests and is biased in that direction. Ownership can place limits on what types of stories are and are not covered in the press.
The alternative media tends to be to the left of the mainstream media and includes: The Nation Mother Jones Pacifica Radio Network The Nation Mother Jones Pacifica Radio Network
Many mainstream media outlets are owned by large corporations. In recent years fewer companies have come to own more and more of the large media outlets in the U.S.
Who owns the majority of media outlets? The Big Six General Electric – NBC, etc… Walt Disney – ABC, etc… News Corp – Fox, etc… Time Warner – CNN, etc… Viacom – MTV, etc… CBS – CBS, etc… The Big Six
This raises a question: Does the concentration of media create a problems for the types of views that are broadcast?concentration
The Conservative Media includes The National Review The Weekly Standard Fox News The National Review The Weekly Standard Fox News
The conservative media believes the mainstream media has a liberal bias. Proving bias can be a tricky thing though.liberal bias Proving bias
Another distinction worth noting Old Media New Media
Old Media: Newspapers, Broadcast Television, Magazines. New Media: Anything digitized, blogs, social media.
Old media has merged with new media, is there a real distinction between the two anymore?
A traditional role of the press: Promulgation
A press of some sort is also necessary to promulgate laws. Laws once passed, need to be published. People need to know what the law is.promulgate
“Although the United States Constitution does not refer to "promulgation" as such, U.S. laws take effect upon being signed by the President of the United States or upon the overriding of a presidential veto. In United States administrative law, a regulation may be said to be formally promulgated by an administrative agency when it appears in the Federal Register and after the public-comment period concludes.” – wikipedia.United States ConstitutionPresident of the United StatesvetoUnited States administrative lawFederal Register
Until the establishment of the United States Printing Office in 1860, the U.S. government had to contract with newspapers to promulgate laws and regulations. United States Printing Office
This created an opportunity for patronage. Whichever party controlled Congress could favor newspapers affiliated with their party.
Some History The development of a free press.
Before any of this this matters, the idea that the press ought to be free has to be established, and the ability of the press to in fact be free of governmental censorship and pressure has to be gained.
Governments have always attempted to spread information deemed necessary to the general population, but often this was more propaganda than objective news. They have also attempted to censor information.
PropagandaPropaganda: “a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself.”influencing
CensorshipCensorship: The suppression of speech by some group, be it a government or some other body.
Controlling information is key to obtaining and maintaining political power.
Prior to the development of the printing press, few were literate or possessed books. A copy of the Bible was very expensive, as expensive as a house. They were written out by hand. People who did not have one depended on others for its content.
Those who could communicate ideas – those who were literate – had power over those who could not. Since there were few books available, there was little need for the average person to be literate.
1440: Gutenberg developed a printing press with removable type.Gutenberg developed a printing press with removable type.
Gutenberg began printing Bibles, making them affordable for the first time, and individuals were able to them read it for themselves and make their own decisions about what it meant.
There is a current historical debate whether Guttenberg first printed Bibles, or Latin grammars that could be used to learn how to read so that people could then read the Bible (which would not be translated into English for some time).
This promoted literacy, which was suddenly worth obtaining.
Due to the printing press, ideas were free to flow. Books were easier to print and distribute. More people began to read. But some ideas were still suppressed since they could upset the political status quo.
The press provided opportunities for people to challenge orthodox beliefs. Here’s an example: The Trial of Galileo The Trial of Galileo
By printing the results of his scientific inquiries, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, he challenged the Church’s preferred understanding of the relationship between the Earth and the Sun.Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems
And he ended up under house arrest. Notice how the press makes it easier for people to challenge authority. Little wonder authorities try to suppress it.
As with scientific speech, political speech – distributed through the press - is often suppressed if it challenges existing leaders. We covered this also in the previous section on speech. Sedition Seditious Libel Sedition Seditious Libel
Again: What is Sedition? Any spoken or written attempt to: - bring government into hatred or contempt - incites people to change government - promotes discontent among the citizens
Remember from the previous section’s slides: Sedition in its modern meaning first appeared in the Elizabethan Era (c. 1590) as the "notion of inciting by words or writings disaffection towards the state or constituted authority". "Sedition complements treason and martial law: while treason controls primarily the privileged, ecclesiastical opponents, priests, and Jesuits, as well as certain commoners; and martial law frightens commoners, sedition frightens intellectuals.“ - WikipediaElizabethan Era
Governments began to – and continue to in many cases – ban books considered subversive.subversive
Banned writings would be sometimes burned by executioners. Interesting symbolism. Book burnings are still common.burned Book burnings are still common
In 1559, the Vatican began publishing a “List of Prohibited Books.” See a list of banned books here. Another list from the First Amendment Center. This list includes names familiar to us: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill. “the primary criterion for banning books included anticlericalism, blasphemy, heresy.”List of Prohibited Booksa list of banned books herelist from the First Amendment Centeranticlericalismblasphemy heresy
Here’s an account of what may have been the first book burning in Colonial America. The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption, Justification, Etc.... by William Pinchin, Gentleman, in New Englandthe first book burning in Colonial AmericaThe Meritorious Price of Our Redemption, Justification, Etc.... by William Pinchin, Gentleman, in New England
Remember that John Locke’s argument against the Divine Right of Kings in the First Treatise on Government was clearly subversive and seditious. It was published anonymously, in secret, in the Netherlands, following the signing of the British Bill of Rights.
As the authority of government began to be checked internally, opportunities for a free exchange of ideas through the press emerged. After the signing of the British Bill of Rights, and the containment of unchecked monarchic power, it became possible to publish books challenging authority.
But the range of opinions offered as a result led some to propose reestablishing limits on the press. He sought to prevent that from happening.
An early defense of a free press was offered by John Milton in 1644 in Areopagitica He argued against censorship and specifically the LicensingAreopagitica
Example: The Licensing of the Press Act 1662 An Act for Preventing the Frequent Abuses in Printing Seditious Treasonable and Unlicensed Books and Pamphlets and for Regulating Printing and Printing Presses An Act for Preventing the Frequent Abuses in Printing Seditious Treasonable and Unlicensed Books and Pamphlets and for Regulating Printing and Printing Presses
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties” – Milton.
The idea that a free press – as well as free speech – is intertwined with a free society becomes more commonly accepted.
There is still a correlation between press freedoms and the general level of freedom in a given society. Click here for information on the current nature of Press freedoms across the world. Freedom House Freedom House
In the previous section we discussed the ideas contained in Cato’s Letters (1720 – 1723) which were printed, published and circulated. Cato’s Letters
By 1742, David Hume could say the following: “Nothing is more apt to surprise a foreigner than the extreme liberty which we enjoy in this country of communicating whatever we please to the public and of openly censuring every measure entered into by the king or his ministers.”David Hume could say
Once the freedom of the press becomes established, the business opportunities develop. Writing, publishing and bookselling becomes profitable.
The Copyright Act of 1709 (the Statute of Anne) establishes copyright law. Authors have a right to their writings. This create an incentive to publish material for profit.Copyright Act of 1709
Later, one of the delegated powers in the Constitution would allow Congress to grants to authors ownership of their work.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the Colonial Press is evolving.
The First Newspaper in the Colonies Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick - published by Benjamin Harris - image. Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and DomestickBenjamin Harrisimage
Closed after one issue since it did not have a permit. Permitting was an early means of censorship. The crown – or its representatives – had to see work before it was printed and issue a permit if accepted, and after a fee was collected. This was a type of tax.
As in Britain, early conflicts arose over what could be printed. Often this involved defining “sedition.” What did it take to successfully prosecute a printer for sedition?
The Trial of John Peter Zenger The Trial of John Peter Zenger Accused, but later acquitted, of seditious libel. He accused, correctly, the governor of corruption. But truth did not matter according to existing law. The jury disagreed and ruled that one could not be charged with libel if one printed the truth.
ZengerZenger has his defenders.
“The loss of liberty in general would soon follow the suppression of the liberty of the press; for it is an essential branch of liberty, so perhaps it is the best preservative of the whole. Even a restraint of the press would have a fatal influence. No nation ancient or modern has ever lost the liberty of freely speaking, writing or publishing their sentiments, but forthwith lost their liberty in general and became slaves.” , James Alexander, The Weekly Journal, writing in defense of Zenger., James AlexanderThe Weekly Journal
The case not only narrowed the definition of sedition, but reinforced the concept of jury nullification (which we save for 2302).jury nullification
The colonists were voracious consumers of books, especially those that dealt with governmental principles.
Two Key Examples: William Blackstone Commentaries on the Laws of England. William Blackstone Commentaries on the Laws of England
Most books were written and published in Britain, but colonial authors were developing. The most important early figure was Benjamin Franklin.Benjamin Franklin
His accomplishments were very broad, but as a press figure he was: A writer A printer The Postmaster General of the Colonies America’s First media magnate
As a publisher he is best known for Poor Richard’s Almanac Beyond that, he demonstrated the political power that follows from being able to distribute information. Poor Richard’s Almanac
Ironically, one of the events initiating the drive towards revolution was a tax on the press. The Stamp Act of 1765 taxed, among other things, newspapers.Stamp Act of 1765
Debates over revolution were carried out in the press, as were later debates over the ratification of the Constitution. The American Revolution and founding was covered in the press.
Most of the important documents from that era were printed and circulated among the public.
Example: The Dunlap Broadsides These were the printed copies of the Declaration of Independence produced and distributed after it was written. These were sent around the colonies and displayed publicly to announce independence.The Dunlap Broadsides
The Constitution was also printed publicly after it was signed. The debates over the document picked up in newspapers soon after it was published. These happened in newspapers and pamphlets across the country.
Here is a chronology of the publication of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers.chronology
Recall that the writing of the Constitution was not only done in secret, the notes were kept secret for decades. Madison’s note were published 50 years after the document was signed. There’s evidence he changed some of the notes.
This raises a question: How much coverage should be given to the inner workings of government? Does day by day coverage make it more difficult for good decisions to be made?
How might the Constitution have been affected if it was written out publicly? Would it have been as good a document?
This is an ongoing controversy: Should some things be done in secret? Think of controversies over The State Secrets Privilege. Can the President keep certain internal matters secret, or does that allow for corrpution? The State Secrets Privilege
This was a matter of debate in the 1980s when C-Span wanted to televise floor proceedings in the House of Representatives and the Senate. - Here’s a recent controversy over televising health care negotiations.recent controversy
A similar controversy exists over whether Supreme Court proceedings should be televised – are at least recorded for later broadcast.televised
Critics argue that once debates were televised, members of Congress were no longer debating among themselves, but were rather playing to their constituents.
New Media technology and the need to constantly obtain content has made members of Congress far more subject to the press than they have previously.
Question: Has the 24 hour news cycle made governing more difficult than it has been in the past?
Perhaps things have no changed as much as we think. The founders were also concerned about the excesses of the press. John Jay Included criticisms of the press in Federalist #2
“It is not yet forgotten, that well grounded apprehensions of imminent danger induced the people of America to form the Memorable Congress of That Body recommended certain measures to their Constituents, and the event proved their wisdom; yet it is fresh in our memories how soon the Press began to teem with Pamphlets and weekly Papers against those very measures. “Memorable Congress of 1774
A free press has always been controversial.
As we know already, the freedom of the press was added onto the Constitution in the First Amendment as part of the packet of amendments we collectively know as the Bill of Rights.
We also know that the restrictions on Congress established in the First Amendment are not absolute. They can be overcome if a “greater interest of society” justifies it. Example: Is some information better kept secret? How do we know?
The Supreme Court has struggled over the nature of press freedoms, especially in the 20 th Century. The story is very similar to that of Free speech
What limits can be placed on press freedoms? What justifies them?
Constitutional Issues Supreme Court decisions - a list from oyez. For an overview of the topic go to the First Amendment Centera list from oyezFirst Amendment Center
Here are few specific areas of controversy:
Libel and Defamation Libel and Defamation ”The communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image. It is usually a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed.” – Wikipedia.individualbusinessproduct groupgovernmentnation Wikipedia
Prior Restraint Prior Restraint “... a form of censorship in which one is prevented, in advance, from communicating certain material, rather than made answerable afterwards.... Prior restraint often takes the form of an injunction or other governmental order prohibiting the publication of a specific document or subject.” – Wikipedia.censorship injunctionWikipedia
Shield Laws Shield Laws A shield law or reporters' privilege is legislation designed to provide a news reporter with the right to refuse to testify as to information and/or sources of information obtained during the news gathering and dissemination process. – Wikipedia.reporters' privilege Wikipedia
Gag Orders Gag Orders “an order, sometimes a legal order by a court or government, other times a private order by an employer or other institution, restricting information or comment from being made public.” – Wikipedia.court Wikipedia
Journalist Access Journalist Access ”The First Amendment bars Congress from making any law abridging freedom of speech or of the press. These rights generally involve the dissemination of information, not the collection of it. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court said in Branzburg v. Hayes (1972) that the right to free press “could be eviscerated” if there were no corollary right to gather news. The news media serve as surrogates for the public, reporting information that individuals would want to know if they could witness it themselves.”Branzburg v. Hayes
Privacy and Newsgathering Privacy and Newsgathering “ Perhaps the greatest clash involving freedom speech has been the continuing collision between freedom of the press and the right to privacy. Many First Amendment advocates view this clash as the greatest threat to First Amendment freedoms. The press has been targeted for its intrusive newsgathering techniques and for publishing information about people’s private lives.” First Amendment Center
Blogging Blogging For years the Internet has been hailed as a First Amendment fantasyland where freedom of expression could reach its zenith. U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell wrote in ACLU v. Reno, a leading Internet free-speech case that later reached the U.S. Supreme Court and dealt with the regulation of online pornography, that the Internet was “the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed” and “a far more speech-enhancing medium than print.”ACLU v. Reno,
Eras of the Press The press in the US is argued to have gone through several distinct eras. See: History of American Newspapers.History of American Newspapers
The Revolutionary Press The Partisan Press The Yellow Press The Objective Press The Adversarial Press
The Revolutionary Press Described above. The press was used to argue about revolution.
Arguments about the decision to revolt from Britain and to ratify a new Constitution were carried out in colonial newspapers.
The Partisan Press As parties developed in the early years of the Republic, party run newspapers were used to promote candidates and platforms.
George Washington and the American Aurora the American Aurora
Two principal early figures John Fenno – Supporter of the Federalist Party Philip Freneau – Supporter of the Democrat-Republican Party John Fenno Philip Freneau
Fenno edited the Gazette of the United States which supported the policies of the Federalists and often featured the writings of Alexander Hamilton.Gazette of the United States
Freneau edited the National Gazette which did the same for the Democrat Republicans.the National Gazette
Tocqueville commented on the unruliness of the press during this period of time. “Liberty of the Press in the United States”Liberty of the Press in the United States
Many early newspapers were directly tied into local party machines.early newspapers
The idea that the press is biased towards certain policies and candidates is not new.
Two useful reads: The Effect of the Partisan Press on U.S. House Elections, The Rise of the New Partisan Press: Forward into the Past. The Effect of the Partisan Press on U.S. House Elections, The Rise of the New Partisan Press: Forward into the Past
The Yellow Press As newsprint became cheaper, and printing presses more efficient, newspapers became very profitable. Lurid, sensational stories, not necessarily true, helped sell newspapers.sensationalsell newspapers
Key Figures William Randolph Hearst Joseph Pulitzer William Randolph Hearst Joseph Pulitzer
Their propaganda has been argued to have been responsible for the Spanish - American War. Spanish - American War
"Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war.“ Hearst to Frederick Remington (allegedly) who was hired to illustrate articles about the war and noted that everything seemed calm.
Objective As a consequence of the yellow press, attempts were made to professionalize journalism and the news in order to provide objective information about current events to the electorate.
Joseph Pulitzer funded the prizes that would be named after him as penance for the sensationalism he once promoted. He also provided the money that would establish the Columbia School of Journalism.prizesColumbia School of Journalism
The effort was to inform, rather than take sides. As a way of obtaining information, close relationships developed between members of the press and government officials. Perhaps too close.
The press that covered FDR agreed to not discuss his paralysis. There were understanding about what to report and what not to report. - FDR’s Press Conferences.not discuss his paralysisFDR’s Press Conferences
This relationship lasted as long as it seemed mutually beneficial. Things changed in the 60s.
The Adversarial Press As hostility towards the Johnson and Nixon Administration grew due to the Vietnam War and Watergate, members of the press learned that they could advance their careers by taking an adversarial stance towards government
Example: Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation of Watergate furthered their careers. Watergate
Woodward and Bernstein
Redford and Hoffman
Robert Redford plays you in the movies. Think about it.
Not everyone is convinced that the relationship between the press and government officials is at all adversarial. Glenn Greenwald. Glenn Greenwald
Where are we now?
The Impact of Technology on the collection and dissemination of information.
Newspapers Books Radio Television The Internet
Speed Breadth nature of info two way communication
Technological development driven by need for faster and more comprehensive information Finance Military
Printing From a press to a revolving drum Cheaper newsprint
Telegraphs Instantaneous communications over long distances.
Photography Stories are accompanied with – sometimes gory – images.
Radio The Voice can be heard FDR’s Fireside Chats Helped increase presidential powerFireside Chats
Television Visual Information Nixon – Kennedy Debates Nixon – Kennedy Debates
Click here for debate video
Satellites Vietnam Cable CNN Fox
Digital Communication The Internet Decentralized Two way Easily Networked
Recent changes 24 hour news cycle the bloggosphere
Perhaps most important: This is the Golden Age of Information Almost every major book, or idea ever published is available, free. Almost any news event can be followed.
Any classic book or document can be found online The Avalon Project Online Library of Liberty Thomas Google Books Wikileaks
But is it too much? How to sift through the wealth of information? Is it stiffling?
Irony: As more information is available, the coverage of events seems to becoming more superficial and mean spirited.
Manipulating the Press
Government and Political organizations are not neutral towards the press. They actively attempt to ensure that the press covers news in a manner that is favorable to them.
Every organization contains an office which handles press relations. The most famous is the White House Press Secretary.White House Press Secretary
The current press secretary is Jay Carney. He began as a reporter and in 1993 covered the Clinton White House. Until 2008 he was Washington Bureau Chief for Time Magazine. Someone with this background presumably has familiarity with White House reporters and knows how they think.Jay Carney
This demonstrates that a revolving door exists between the news media, public relations and communications firms, and communications offices in the executive and legislative branches.
Do political leaders even have to face the press anymore? Sarah Palin has never given a press conference.
The relationship between the press and the branches of government.
Both antagonistic and opportunistic
John Fenno Richard Freneau
Regulations Federal Communications Commisson
Important, subtle, turning point: The creation of the Government Printing Office. site, wikipedia sitewikipedia
With its own printing press, the government no longer had to contract with newspapers to promulgate laws.