Past Event

Café Society: The First Amendment & Media: How Free is the Press?

The press in the United States is subjected to constant scrutiny by the public, watchdogs and the government. This persistant criticism, while undeniably necessary to maintain standards of honesty and objectivity, is often used to undercut the media’s credability and dilute its message by those that may be unhappy by the coverage the’ve received or seeking to push an alternative agenda.

As an institution, the media is often considered the “fourth branch of government”. In this role, it acts as part of the checks and balances on government and as a voice of the people. Emblamatic of the importance that founding fathers placed on the role of the media is the protections afforded it in the Constitution, put in place to prevent government efforts to regulate the media and control the message and information being broadcast to the American people.

Some, both outside and within government today claim that the current adminsitration is attempting to undercut the media and its historic role through the use of partisan “journalists” of questionable objectivity and credentials, denial of access to mainstream news sources that are less likely to present the government’s message in the way they desire, and the distribution of pre-packaged soundbytes that mascarade as legitimate journalism.

Many critics claim that the standards to which the media is held have eroded, however. In the days after the release of the verdict in the Michael Jackson case, newspapers and television stations were flooded with expressions of disgust at the amount of coverage devoted to this sensational, but in many people’s view, trivial matter. When many Americans look at the media today, they see an institution that is focused on the bottom line, willing to risk credibility in the pursuit of sensationalism, and dangerously out of touch with what an average citizen needs and wants. In our current democracy, is the press fulfilling its role? Does the press truly have the freedoms granted to it under the first amendment? If not, what are the barriers? Under the current administration, can journalists fairly report on power? As the public, do we feel like the media accurately represents our voice?

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For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.