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Copyright (c) 2006 Marquette Law Review
Marquette Law Review

ARTICLE: JOURNALISM POLICE

Summer, 2006

89 Marq. L. Rev. 739

Author

Gerald G. Ashdown*

Excerpt



The title of this piece is its own refutation - there are no journalism police, of any sort. Both the national and state governments have structural checks and balances. Public officials can be censored, impeached, and voted out of office. Service people, professionals, and businesses, as well as private individuals, are liable for their misdeeds. But due to New York Times Co. v. Sullivan 1 and the matrix of Supreme Court decisions that followed, the press is largely immune from any kind of accountability. There are no structural controls, review boards, elections, impeachments, or effective system of private litigation to serve as a check on media behavior. The New York Times line of decisions effectively eliminated the libel and privacy actions 2 as a form of media control. Because of media overreaching and this lack of responsibility, I suggested in a rather modest article in 1994 that the actual malice standard of New York Times be replaced with one based on negligence for all libel plaintiffs. 3 Since this also has been obliquely suggested by another prominent commentator in the defamation/free speech area, 4 it is worth reexamining.

I.
 
"Or of the Press"
 
The Press Clause in the First Amendment 5 serves a function beyond freedom of speech. Individual free expression has a communicative goal, but it also fosters personal autonomy and the self-fulfillment of the speaker. In contemporary America, however, individual speakers, unless they have developed a pulpit through financial independence or media attention, ...
 
 
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