The freedom of press in the United States of America is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The aim of this clause was giving the people and the press of America the right to publish information, including confidential documents, that were deemed to impact the country and its people in general. The clause also protects the American press from government interference and censorship with regards to publishing such information. According to Chief Justice Hughes, who presided over the Lovell vs. City of Griffin: ‘The press, in its historic connotation, comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion’.
The Reality of the US Press Today
Back in 1971, The New York Times and The Washington Post had to battle with the government for their right to publish confidential documents from the Pentagon. However, the modern day US press is very well aware of its constitutional rights and has taken on a bold avatar in the face of government censorship. If the growth of news broadcasting channels and networks had taken the voice of the press to millions of Americans, then the internet has exposed it to the world. This is evident from the recent drama that unfolded when WikiLeaks, an internet site designed for exposing top secret government documents, published thousands of documents that revealed shocking details of American involvement in international upheavals and the storm it created in global politics. While the website founders claim their right to freedom of the press, the government’s stand is that the leaks jeopardized national security. The soldier accused of leaking the documents is currently facing charges that could land him life imprisonment.
This case highlights the bi-polar state of modern US journalism and press. While it uses the freedom and protection given to it by the constitution, it often fails to exercise discretion in publishing news. A lot of the irresponsible publishing stems from the fact that 75 % of most of America’s broadcasting corporation’s operating funds come from advertizing and, at the end of the day, most corporations rely on creating sensationalistic news to boost viewership. Journalism has donned the mantle of a business. So long as the motive behind publishing news is profit and not right to information, the American press will keep walking a crooked path towards meaningful journalism.
Lovell vs. City of Griffin. No. 303 U.S. 444 . US Supreme Court. 28 March 1938.
New York Times Co. vs. United States. No. 403 U. S. 713 . US Supreme Court. 30 June 1971.
United press International. www.upi.com. 3 March 2011. 18 April 2011 <http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/03/03/New-charges-filed-in-US-WikiLeaks-case/UPI-19911299155659/>.
United States Information Agency. "An Unfrettered Press." 1994. http://usa.usembassy.de. 18 April 2011 <http://usa.usembassy.de/etexts/media/unfetter/index.htm>.