The new PBS “American Masters” documentary, Floyd Abrams: Speaking Freely, chronicles legendary First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams. It largely focuses on the amazing trajectory of his career in this vital area of constitutional law.
As a young law firm associate on Wall Street, Abrams was a pivotal member of the legal team that successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that the national security concerns advanced by the U.S. Department of Justice did not justify a publication prior restraint of the Pentagon Papers by The New York Times.
Continue reading “The Important Formative Years of a Legendary First Amendment Advocate “
Although the tidal wave of misinformation continues unabated, the New Year already has seen one ray of hope. In early January, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the first-in-the-nation law that requires public schools to teach media literacy at all grade levels – K-12.
Murphy noted in his signing statement: “Our democracy remains under sustained attack through the proliferation of misinformation that is eroding the role of truth in our political and civic discourse. It is our responsibility to ensure our nation’s future leaders are equipped with the tools necessary to identify fact from fiction.”
Continue reading “A Ray of Hope for Media Literacy”
As Americans, we are witnessing the horror that Russia is inflicting on Ukraine with its bloody invasion that is causing massive devastation and death throughout the country. Ironically, the tragic events abroad also can help us gain a greater appreciation for the democratic values that we enjoy at home – values that Ukraine would like to emulate as it struggles to remain a democratic country.
That’s because the proverbial Iron Curtain has been fortified by Vladimir Putin as a barrier against the Russian people. The populace there now is experiencing an unprecedented news and information crackdown by the government, which is shutting off outside news media and social media outlets or causing them to leave the country.
Continue reading “Ukraine War’s Powerful First Amendment Lessons”
NewsGuard is a company created by a team of journalists who assess the credibility and transparency of news and information, including whether a website repeatedly publishes false content.
Recently, it found that 113 websites out of 7,000 reviewed were spreading election misinformation in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 presidential vote and are still active in doing so. Of these, 81% have continued to spread false claims about the election and its aftermath, including about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Continue reading “Consumers May Hold the Key to Confronting Election Misinformation”
Last month, Justice Charles D. Wood of the Westchester County Supreme Court issued a controversial order blocking The New York Times from publishing or seeking various documents related to Project Veritas. The Times had published an article on Nov. 11, 2021 that discussed the group’s journalistic practices, along with an investigation by the Department of Justice concerning the potential theft by Project Veritas of President Biden’s daughter Ashley’s diary. The article also mentioned a separate defamation case against the Times that Project Veritas had initiated in 2020, based on coverage of a video the group had released alleging voter fraud related to the campaign of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn).
Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet commented that “[t]his ruling is unconstitutional and sets a dangerous precedent. When a court silences journalism, it fails its citizens and undermines their right to know. The Supreme Court made that clear in the Pentagon Papers case, a landmark ruling against prior restraint blocking the publication of newsworthy journalism. That principle clearly applies here. We are seeking an immediate review of this decision.”
Continue reading “Fifteen Days in June: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers Case”
Pity the plight of poor Anthony Comstock. The man H.L. Mencken described as “the Copernicus of a quite new art and science,” who literally invented the profession of anti-obscenity crusader in the waning days of the 19th century, ultimately got, as legendary comic Rodney Dangerfield would say, “no respect, no respect at all.”
As head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and special agent for the U.S. Post Office under a law that popularly bore his name, Comstock was, in Mencken’s words, the one “who first capitalized moral endeavor like baseball or the soap business, and made himself the first of its kept professors.”
Continue reading “The Censor’s Dilemma”
Perhaps the most distasteful national omelet we’ve been served during the past four years has been the one that has mixed together an unsavory combination of three ingredients: fake news, misinformation, and disinformation.
While many express growing concerns and look for ways to deal with them, that may be difficult – if not impossible – as long as we use these terms without any agreed-upon definitions that set useful boundaries and are easy to understand among the public at large. The alternative is to continue repeating the mantra “fake news-misinformation- disinformation” so often that it loses meaning, or using the terms interchangeably so that they become permanently blurred in our minds.
Continue reading “Guardrails for Describing Fake News, Misinformation, and Disinformation”
With a start of a new year, some notable public attitudes about critical institutions seem to be on a downward trend. These include traditional media, like newspapers, broadcast stations, and cable networks, which are often thrown together in opinion polls aimed at gaining key insight into their credibility with audiences of readers and viewers.
The Edelman Trust Barometer found only 46 percent of Americans trust traditional media. This is the lowest number recorded since the data was first tracked two decades ago. It found 58 percent of Americans believe that “most news organizations are more concerned with supporting one ideology or political position than with informing the public” and found over half also think that the Fourth Estate is “trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”
Continue reading “Why Distrust of News Needs More Sophisticated Analysis”
Two hundred and thirty-one years ago this week, Congress passed a collection of amendments to the U.S. Constitution, 10 of which would become the Bill of Rights. Foremost in the Bill of Rights is the First Amendment, which allows Americans to worship how they please, speak their minds openly, and have their voices heard by their government.
Our Founding Fathers, in their infinite wisdom, also included in the First Amendment the right to a free press. They understood that our democracy could not survive without the freedom to report the news without fear or favor. The times may have changed; that principle has not.
Continue reading “First Amendment Still Shines During Toughest of Times”
From shifting commercial placements to premature newspaper endorsements, this year’s early balloting procedures are having a massive effect on media operations. Political strategists are figuring out how and more importantly when to place ads in this unprecedented season of extensive early voting.
The Halloween weekend deluge of campaign ads just before Election Day on Nov. 3 may be meaningless if up to half of voters have already cast their ballots. In a related vein, the ripple effect of advertising decisions also affects ad timing for down-ballot races, where voters may need more coaxing.
Continue reading “Early Voting Brings New Media Challenges In Advertising and Editorial Endorsements”