Freeing the Presses
The First Amendment in Action
Most Americans consider a free press essential to democratic society—either as an independent watchdog against governmental abuse of power or as a wide-open marketplace of ideas. But few understand that far-reaching public policies have shaped the news citizens receive. In an age when mass communication ranges from independent cable channels to the Internet, it is essential to assess these policies and their effects if we want the media to continue fulfilling its role. Freeing the Presses offers a path-breaking inquiry into the theory and practice of freedom of the press at a critical time in the growing overlap between modern media and political discussion.
Six political communication scholars draw upon history, sociology, political science, legal philosophy, and journalism to investigate whether the freedoms and privileges given to the news media and to reporters actually produce the results we expect. Their discussion covers past, present, and future media performance and engages a wide range of provocative questions: What understanding did the founders of the Constitution have of the press? Does the legal protection given to the press actually produce more free-wheeling news? Just how independent are the news media from political and other power centers? Must we accept a scurrilous, "unlovable" press if we are to have such independence? How will freedom of the press be changed by the new heady mix of mass-, middle-, and micro-media, and of citizen news-producers? Answers to these questions receive added perspective in an introductory essay by Timothy E. Cook and commentaries by four First Amendment experts.
A book that will be welcomed by scholars, students, and anyone who relies on the freedom of the press in practice, Freeing the Presses addresses the important question of how best to pursue a media system that fulfills the demands of a democratic polity.
TIMOTHY E. COOK (1954-2006) was the author of Governing with the News: The News Media as a Political Institution, which won the Doris A. Graber Best Book Award of the American Political Science Association. He was a coauthor of Crosstalk: Citizens, Candidates, and the Media in a Presidential Campaign, which won the Doris Graber Prize of the American Political Science Association.
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