Book Review: ‘The First Amendment in the Trump Era,’ by Timothy Zick

Unique time in First Amendment orthodoxy

Reviewed by Carolyn Schurr Levin

Watching and listening to Donald Trump both at his rallies during the 2016 presidential campaign and then after he became President, Timothy Zick, the John Marshall Professor of Government and Citizenship at William & Mary School of Law, felt that he wanted to chronicle the onslaught of attacks on the First Amendment that he was hearing. Although previous presidents had certainly had terrible relationships with the press, the assaults on journalists as “enemies of the people,” denying reporters access to press briefings because of negative coverage, blocking critics on Twitter, vowing to “take a look at the libel laws,” suggesting that flag burners be jailed, the war on truth, and so much more, felt decidedly different to Zick. He was observing systematic efforts “to undermine the press’ credibility and to turn the public against the media.” And, so Professor Zick set out to chronicle those First Amendment assaults. The result is his recently published, comprehensive and highly readable new book, “The First Amendment in the Trump Era.”

Lest you have tuned out the noise, the book is highly critical of the Trump administration’s approach to the First Amendment. No matter what side of the political spectrum on which you fall, though, this book can truly educate you about this unique time in First Amendment orthodoxy.

Unlike Professor Zick’s three previous books, which primarily targeted an academic audience, this book is pitched to “a wider audience and a broader discourse” about its subject matter. Not only is it intended for those interested in the attacks on freedom of the press in the last several years, but also for those who want to learn more about the history and social benefits of dissent in the United States. Indeed, I found the chapter dedicated to dissent to be the most enlightening.  There are “many serious challenges to protecting dissent and maintaining a culture of dissent” now, Professor Zick writes, and “we need to have a plan of attack to deal with [President Trump’s] anti-dissent agenda and to preserve a culture of dissent moving forward.” Democracy thrives “when there is noise and disagreement, not conformity and consensus,” Zick says, arguing for the “active facilitation and encouragement” of the tolerance for dissent. Rather than feeling compelled to “choose sides,” people “must feel free to speak out” without being labeled “disloyal enemies.” Continue reading “Book Review: ‘The First Amendment in the Trump Era,’ by Timothy Zick”

Book Review: ‘The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, The FBI, The Media, And Richard Jewell,’ by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen

Jewell ‘Caught In The Middle’

Reviewed by Carolyn Schurr Levin

Journalists sometimes get it wrong. When they do, there are clarifications and corrections, new or revised newsroom policies, and a lot of hand wringing. There may also be lawsuits. That was the case when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) named security guard Richard Jewell as the suspect who placed the bomb in Centennial Park in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics. Many other news outlets followed the AJC in naming Jewell as “the suspect.” Jewell was not, in fact, the perpetrator of the crime. But the FBI had identified him as a suspect, and the media willingly and enthusiastically picked up on the storyline. After being cleared of any wrongdoing, Jewell sued the media outlets, settling with some (NBC paid $595,000, CNN paid $350,000) and engaging in protracted litigation with others, including a 15-year court battle with the AJC.

For many years, I have used Richard Jewell’s prodigious litigation to teach about republication liability in libel cases (one who repeats a defamatory falsehood can be held liable to the same extent as the original speaker). In doing so, though, I did not address, or in fact think much about, the human impact of the error – on the wrongfully named individual, on the journalists, or on the source. In “The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle,” authors Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen provide a powerful, in-depth and highly personal account of what happens to a human being when the FBI and subsequently the news media erroneously name him as a suspect in a high profile crime. As Salwen said during a recent phone interview, “whether you are in the FBI, or the media, or the news consuming public,” this book reminds you that “there is a human being on the other side.” Continue reading “Book Review: ‘The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, The FBI, The Media, And Richard Jewell,’ by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen”

Legal analysis: Sarah Palin v. The New York Times Company

A compelling lesson in libel law

By Carolyn Schurr Levin

Sarah Palin’s libel lawsuit against The New York Times is not a new case. It was initially filed on June 26, 2017. But, as the case continues to wind its way through the courts, it offers a compelling lesson in libel law.

Here’s what it’s all about: In 2010, former Alaska Governor and Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s political action committee, SarahPAC, published an online map with crosshairs over congressional districts of some Democrats, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. In January 2011, a gunman opened fire at a political event in Tucson, Arizona, killing six and wounding 13, including Giffords. The gunman who shot Giffords pled guilty; there was no evidence that he had seen the SarahPAC map. Several years later, another U.S. Representative was injured when a gunman fired at a congressional baseball practice in Virginia. The night of that attack, which injured U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, the New York Times published an editorial on its website titled “America’s Lethal Politics,” tying the two shootings to the SarahPAC map. The June 14, 2017 New York Times editorial asked:

“Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah

Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs. Continue reading “Legal analysis: Sarah Palin v. The New York Times Company”

Photographers challenge themselves during DC Shoot-out

class favorite
CLASS FAVORITE Mari Woodmansee, California State University Bakersfield (Jennifer Burger), mwoodmansee25@gmail.com. Activist Phillipos Melaku-Bello pretends to be an angry protester hitting someone with his sign. He said, “Activist can be passionate this is a good picture to have.”

College Media Convention showcases student photojournalists

By Bradley Wilson, CMR Managing Editor

I made it. With one minute to spare. I was supposed to be at the opening session for the Photo Shoot-out three hours early. American Airlines had other plans. However, thanks to people like Meredith Taylor, CMA’s executive director, Kevin Kleine of Berry College and Sam Oldenburg of Western Kentucky University, I really didn’t need to be there. It was in good hands.

It’s always fun meeting with the photographers, discussing the assignment and possible interpretations of it and the challenges they’ll face in the next couple days. The reasons for NOT putting metadata in each image they want to submit have gotten down right clever. But, yes, they have to find a way to put the metadata with any image they submit.

So, we showed some past entries when the hotel’s technology cooperated and we sent the ban of some 50 college photojournalists on their merry way.

THE ASSIGNMENT: You need to find a person who lives or works in Washington, D.C. or the area — not a tourist. Tell that person’s story. Have some fun along the way and be prepared to explain what you were thinking at the critique. In the metadata File Info, include the following information in the following format. full name, school (adviser’s name); your e-mail address; caption that includes the names of all identifiable people in the image. Continue reading “Photographers challenge themselves during DC Shoot-out”


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Washington Post editor: Press exists to hold government accountable

‘Important time for journalism in this country’

By Bradley Wilson
CMR Managing Editor

When Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron spoke to a crowd of hundreds of college journalists at the National College Media Convention, sponsored by the College Media Association and Associated Collegiate Press, he was rather unassuming. For a man who has worked for the Miami Herald, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times and who has been portrayed in the movie Spotlight for leadership at the Boston Globe and coverage of the Boston Catholic sexual abuse scandal that earned the Globe a Pulitzer Prize in 2003, he seemed rather quiet.

But that’s just on the surface.

When it comes to standing up to the president of the United States or for the First Amendment, Baron is far from unassuming.

Baron acknowledged from the outset to a crowd of hundreds of college journalists, “This is a really important time for journalism in this country. Obviously our profession has come under assault primarily from this White House down the road, and so we have to be thinking a lot about what our profession is all about and what our role is in a democracy. We find ourselves having to defend ourselves in a way that we haven’t had to do in quite some time.”

Still, he saved his punchline for the end — truth and facts do not depend on someone’s opinion, who holds the most power or what’s the most popular. Continue reading “Washington Post editor: Press exists to hold government accountable”

Same ol’ problems with student’s video?

Student and freelance photographers taking close-ups of the bands at Picnic in the Park in Oslo, Norway.

Learning the craft, speaking the language of video production

By Paul Glover
Henderson State University


  • “Did you use a tripod?”
  • “Did you use a microphone?”
  • “What format is the video in?”

Do these questions sound familiar?

One older definition of convergence refers to a “combination of technologies, products, staffs and geography among the previously distinct provinces of print, television and online media” (Singer, 2004). The idea of newsroom convergence forces many university programs to combine resources in order to develop student reporters into backpack journalists, Multimedia-Skilled Journalists (MSJ) or simply Multimedia Journalists (MMJ).

Whether print or broadcast, students and recent graduates entering their college internship or first real-world job are very often assigned the task of writer, videographer, audio engineer and video editor. Competency in all these skills is required and expected. This article will focus on essential skills for student journalists who are asked to produce videos for television, websites and social media and how students can best develop these skills. Continue reading “Same ol’ problems with student’s video?”

Preview: ACP and CMA annual Fall National College Media Convention

Come to DC: It’s More than the First Amendment

Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 2019 • Grand Hyatt • Washington, D.C. • #collegemedia19

By Carol Terracina Hartman

In partnership with Associated Collegiate Press, College Media Association returns to Washington, D.C. for its annual fall convention this year. Speaker highlights include a slate of keynote speakers: Capital Gazette Editor Rick Hutzell, accompanied by Gazette reporters Danielle Ohl and Alex Mann.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE CONVENTION INFO

Attendees also will welcome Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron of “Spotlight” Fame, NPR’s Nina Totenberg, and CNN’s Abby Phillip.

Convention offerings this year – 275 of them! – include career workshops, tech tips, media management and skills-oriented sessions such as photojournalism and design. Whether digging into data is your gig or jazzing up entertainment reviews is your goal, find it in the conference schedule.

Continue reading “Preview: ACP and CMA annual Fall National College Media Convention”

Graphic approach for introducing journalism to students not farfetched at all

Book Review: A NewsHound’s Guide To Student Journalism, by Katina Paron and Javier Guelfi

Reviewed by Carolyn Schurr Levin

Using a comic book to teach basic journalism principles may initially seem like an unusual, albeit original, idea, but, after  reading “A NewsHound’s Guide To Student Journalism,” the idea does not seem farfetched at all. In fact, you won’t be able to put it down. And, while enjoying the comics, perhaps even without knowing it, you will simultaneously be learning so many important journalism concepts and principles.

Written by Katina Paron, who has worked in different capacities as a student journalism educator, and illustrated by Javier Guelfi, a cartoonist, illustrator and graphic designer, the book is clever and engaging. Although the book is not brand new – it was released in October 2018 – it is worth taking a look at, if you haven’t already done so.

The book includes content routinely included in other basic reporting books, such as interviewing tips, understanding and avoiding conflicts of interest, and using data in news stories. What makes it unique, though, are the comic strip vignettes that introduce each chapter and topic. To begin the chapter on “Deep Throat: Digging into Investigative Journalism,” readers meet Joe Kubble, a high school freshman who “was born to be a reporter.” In each subsequent chapter’s comic, Kubble navigates the perils and pitfalls of journalism, from the importance of verification to crowdsourcing through social media. In doing so, he learns, and teaches us, basic lessons in how to write a lead, how to localize news, and how to stay out of trouble. Continue reading “Graphic approach for introducing journalism to students not farfetched at all”

Legal analysis: Audible captions leads to copyright infringement suit

Where technology and copyright collide

By Carolyn Schurr Levin

There is nothing simple about copyright. The law is complex, with so many nuances. In this first CMR legal column, we analyze a pending copyright dispute involving newly developed technology in an effort to assist students and advisers as similar issues arise.

Audible, the Amazon.com audiobook company that bills itself as “the world’s largest seller and producer of audiobooks and other spoken-word entertainment,” introduced a new feature in July 2019 that displays the text of a book while it is read. The feature, called Audible Captions, allows listeners “to follow along with a few lines of machine-generated text as they listen to the audio performance,” according to Audible’s website. “We developed this technology,” Audible’s website states, “because we believe our culture, particularly in under-resourced environments, is at risk of losing a significant portion of the next generation of book readers. We have heard from so many teachers and educators that they want to find new ways to improve literacy rates and inspire students to pick up a book and read.”

LEGAL ANALYSIS: In this new column, we will choose a recently filed lawsuit against the media and analyze the claims being made, the arguments against those claims, and the implications for college media organizations. --Editor

Book publishing companies, however, were less than pleased with the announcement about the launch of Audible Captions. On August 23, 2019, seven publishers—Chronicle Books, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers Macmillan Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster—filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against Audible alleging that Audible Captions infringes the copyrights in their books. The publishers are seeking a court order to stop the launch of Audible Captions, as well as collecting an award of monetary damages for the alleged infringement Continue reading “Legal analysis: Audible captions leads to copyright infringement suit”

Student media leaders forge relationships with new administrators

‘In with the new…’ Establishing productive work relationships that benefit student media

By Debra Chandler Landis

Ongoing communication between student reporters and the people and programs they cover is key to establishing mutual rapport, trust and respect.

So is communication between editors-in-chief and the top brass of their colleges and universities.

Student editors can help set the stage for ongoing productive working relationships in much the same way executive editors of professional news organizations do when they meet with community leaders, elected officials and others in high-level positions their reporters cover. Continue reading “Student media leaders forge relationships with new administrators”