Cover image for How free can the press be?
How free can the press be?
Bezanson, Randall P.
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Publication Information:
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
258 pages ; 24 cm.
The purpose of press freedom -- Editorial judgment -- News -- Privacy and responsibility -- Newsgathering and press conduct -- How free can the press be?
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KF4770.A7 B49 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In How Free Can the Press Be? Randall P. Bezanson explores contradictions embedded in understanding press freedom in America by discussing nine of the most pivotal and provocative First Amendment cases in U.S. judicial history.

Author Notes

Randall P. Bezanson is the Charles E. Floete Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Iowa. How Free Can Religion Be? is among his many books.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Does the First Amendment protect broadcasters from prosecution when their reporters have broken the law in gathering their stories? When can the courts prohibit the publication of material that might expose American soldiers to danger? Such questions swirl about the controversial cases Bezanson brings together to challenge the dogmatism that often blinds Americans to social interests requiring restraints on the media. Some of the cases (such as that involving publication of the Pentagon papers) have created national furor, while others (such as that involving an Ohio television station's broadcast of the entire act of a human cannonball) come out of obscurity. But all of them force readers to weigh arguments advanced on both sides and to assess the decisions actually handed down to resolve the disputes. Though some might have preferred less reliance on courtroom transcripts, such transcripts do convey the real-life complexities usually left out of simplifying summaries. Because of the broad public interest in First Amendment issues, this book will attract readers beyond the legal professionals who form its natural core audience. --Bryce Christensen Copyright 2003 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Legal scholar Bezanson (Univ. of Iowa) ponders the contradictions of a free press in this study of nine historical court cases involving free speech. He critically explores the thorny issues surrounding freedom of the press and the press's use of First Amendment protections. Drawing on selected Supreme Court and lower court cases to illustrate his argument, Bezanson articulates important legal questions pertaining to First Amendment rights. Does the First Amendment always give the press the freedom to publish whatever it wants? Is the press above the law when it comes to news gathering? What about the conflicting rights of individual privacy vs. the public interest? Bezanson does not have all the answers to these questions but instead takes the reader through an analysis of each case and scrutinizes the arguments presented in court. What results is an intelligent discussion of real constitutional issues affecting the press and journalism in the United States. Highly recommended for undergraduate academic collections in law or journalism.-Katherine E. Merrill, SUNY at Geneseo Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The first amendment established that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press. Bezanson (law, Univ. of Iowa) points out, however, that no does not mean no. Lying, or spreading information that threatens the country's security, are but two areas in which protections of the press are less than absolute. But drawing the precise line between protected and prohibited is a vexing task. Thus, there are ongoing questions about the parameters of freedom of the press. This book seeks to highlight those central questions rather than to answer them. Structured around significant Supreme Court cases on freedom of the press, the book emphasizes the case rather than the decision. For example, in discussing the famous fight when the Nixon administration attempted to legally enjoin newspapers from publishing the Pentagon Papers, the book discusses the facts of the case and relies heavily on the oral arguments made before the Court but barely touches on the Court's resulting decision. The presentation will be of interest especially to journalism students as they contemplate the lengths and limits of their profession's status under the law. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers, undergraduates, and professionals/practitioners. D. Niven Florida Atlantic University