In determining the news that’s fit to print, U.S. courts have traditionally declined to second-guess professional journalists. But in an age when news, entertainment, and new media outlets are constantly pushing the envelope of acceptable content, the consensus over press freedoms is eroding. The First Amendment Bubble examines how unbridled media are endangering the constitutional privileges journalists gained in the past century.
For decades, judges have generally affirmed that individual privacy takes a back seat to the public’s right to know. But the growth of the Internet and the resulting market pressures on traditional journalism have made it ever harder to distinguish public from private, news from titillation, journalists from provocateurs. Is a television program that outs criminals or a website that posts salacious videos entitled to First Amendment protections based on newsworthiness? U.S. courts are increasingly inclined to answer no, demonstrating new resolve in protecting individuals from invasive media scrutiny and enforcing their own sense of the proper boundaries of news.
This judicial backlash now extends beyond ethically dubious purveyors of infotainment, to mainstream journalists, who are seeing their ability to investigate crime and corruption curtailed. Yet many—heedless of judicial demands for accountability—continue to push for ever broader constitutional privileges. In so doing, Amy Gajda warns, they may be creating a First Amendment bubble that will rupture in the courts, with disastrous consequences for conventional news.
The difficult question—as always in First Amendment and most constitutional litigation—is where to draw the line. In grappling with that and offering provisional answers…Gajda do[es] a great service.
Provocative and well-researched… Gajda’s book serves as a warning that courts may be losing patience with repeated appeals from media organizations—which may or may not properly be considered journalistic—claiming that their right to broadcast increasingly intrusive and personal material is of newsworthiness, and in the public interest. Her argument is that these profit-driven, sensationalistic efforts to push the limits of the First Amendment will wind up spoiling press freedoms for the professional mainstream press, by setting court precedents that chip away at First Amendment rights for everyone… It’s a timely intervention, and Gajda carries it off convincingly.
An eye-opening, relevant and cautionary book.
Former journalist Gajda’s timely book addresses threats to freedom of the press in the age of blogging and digital news sources… [It] tackles a complex subject in a compelling way.
What can be done to save journalism from growing legal pushbacks and the rise of privacy that threatens First Amendment safeguards? Amy Gajda has written an incredibly timely and detailed book, packed with compelling examples.
The First Amendment Bubble raises very important questions about the future of journalism and concerns that judicial responses to irresponsible reporting could harm our democratic society. The author’s experience as a journalist shines through in this well-researched and engaging book.
- 320 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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