Freedom Of Press

     From the moment she stepped foot outside, Princess Diana of Whales had camera
lenses and microphones pushed in her face. She was constantly pursued and for
this reason she sometimes had to hide or disguise herself in order to avoid the
unyielding persistence and constant harassment of the press. Eugene Robinson, a
journalist in England said, "For the tabloids, day in and day out, no story
is bigger than the royal family. All the tabloids employ royal-watching
reporters, some of whom have become celebrities in their own right. The story of

Princess Diana of Whales was the biggest story of all." (Sabjan, 1998)

Princess Diana could not even stay out of the public eye when she was behind the
walls of the royal estate. The press broke the story of her failing marriage,
her intercepted phone conversation with a male friend, and finally her new
relationship. The Princess often complained about the coverage, saying "Any
sane person would have left (Britain) long ago." (Sabjan, 1998) But with an
abundant amount of freelance photographers stalking her every move upon her
leaving Kensington Palace, that idea proved impossible. Pushed almost to the
edge by constant press harassment, Princess Diana was ready to consider making
an attempt to avoid the public altogether. During her last interview, Princess

Diana told writer Richard Kay that she was "Going to complete her
obligations to her charities and then completely withdraw from her formal public
life." (Sabjan, 1998) The public had forced itself into the life of a
celebrity and caused the pressure from the media to become overwhelming.

Princess Diana did stay in England, however, and used the incredible amounts of
media attention to her advantage. Princess Diana had numerous charities and good
causes that were important to her so she used the press to promote them, all the
while helping to shape her own image. Unfortunately, in the case of Princess

Diana, the press and their use of aggressive tactics resulted in a tragedy.

Princess Diana and her friend Dodi Al-Fayed had just left the Ritz Hotel in

Paris, France, late Saturday night, August 30, 1997. Sending a regular chauffeur
and limousine ahead as a decoy, Princess Diana and Al-Fayed left out of a
different hotel entrance and entered a Mercedes S-280 driven by Henri Paul. Some
photographers saw this, and began to follow the Mercedes on motorcycles and
cars. Henri Paul tried to lose the photographers as he increased the car's
speed, but the photographers continued to follow, chasing the car through the
streets. Eyewitnesses saw the motorcycles swarming the Mercedes as it entered a
tunnel traveling over 60 miles per hour. The speed limit in the tunnel was 30
miles per hour. Inside the tunnel, the Mercedes hit a curb, lost control, and
slammed into a concrete barrier post, then flipped several times. Dodi Al-Fayed
and driver Henri Paul were killed at the scene of the accident. Princess Diana
was brought to a hospital where doctors had to open her chest to fix a wound to
a major blood vessel. Princess Diana's heart was directly massaged for 2 hours,
but the doctors were unsuccessful in saving her life. Princess Diana was
pronounced dead at the hospital 4 hours after the accident. (Sabjan, 1998) Soon
after their deaths, seven of the photographers were arrested, declared by police
as manslaughter suspects because they were the reason the car was speeding in
the first place. The Princess' death had a large impact on the United States.

She was a public figure that others could model their lives after and she was
involved in several charities in the United States. The First Amendment to the

United States Constitution grants the press immunity, but several arguments have
risen for some type of further regulation. The press has an extensive history
that must be observed and understood for an accurate analysis of the problems
that face the press today. When the United States Constitution was written in

1787, primary authors James Madison and Alexander Hamilton had to
"sell" it to the American people. The Constitution articles were
written in newspapers throughout the country. These articles are now
collectively known as The Federalist Papers. Without these articles, it is
doubtful that the experiment known as The United States would have ever
happened. Seeing the power of the press, the founding fathers guaranteed its
complete freedom on the first amendment to the Constitution. (Schwartz, 1992,
p.174) The Freedom of the press was designed to act as another independent
outside check system. A check on either the Executive, Legislature, or Judiciary
branch of the government. (Wilson, 1999) Along with this responsibility, the
freedom of the press clause was designed to lead to an informed populace. As

Thomas Jefferson said, "The basis of our government being the opinion of
the people, the very first object should be to keep that right, and were it left
to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or
newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer
the latter." (Schwartz, 1992, p.18) "The Press" is an extremely
broad term and includes all systems that make information available to the
public: newspapers, television, radio, magazines, books, lectures, movies, art,
dance, telephone, cassettes, CDs, video discs, electronic bulletin boards,
computer networks, billboards, and so on. It is generally referred to as
"The Press" because the founding fathers, who wrote the freedom of the
press into the Constitution, knew only of the printing press, at that time the
most popular form of mass communication. Today, because of it's variety, it is
known as "The media." "The media" would continue to present
the public with information that influenced our society in several diverse ways.

One of the most influential books of the 1800s was Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle

Tom's Cabin. Published in 1852, Stowe portrayed African American slaves as human
beings, rather than animals with petty uses, and their white owner, Simon Legree,
as the novel's villain. The book became extremely successful, selling over

300,000 copies in its first year. (Levy, 1999, p. 91) Of these 300,000, a
countless number were purchased in the South with the sole purpose of burning
it. However, this book swayed popular opinion in the North towards the abolition
of slavery. Without Uncle Tom's Cabin, anti- slavery might never have been a
major cause of the Civil War (Levy, 1999, p.93) In 1906, a book entitled The

Jungle was written by Upton Sinclair. Using groundbreaking techniques in
investigative reporting, Sinclair exposed to the public the deplorable
conditions at a Chicago meat packing industry. Sinclair worked undercover, then
wrote about the conditions he observed in his book. The Jungle changed the way
food products were handled in the United States, when in response to the book,
the government founded the Food and Drug Administration to prevent further
widespread food handling abuse. (McWilliams, 1998) In the late 1930s, American's
were gently prodded into taking sides in World War II by what they heard on the
radio. From Germany, American's heard the incoherent sounds of a ranting lunatic
followed by masses lock-stepping and shouting, "Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!"

From England however, American's heard the warm, gentle, sometimes humorous
voice of Winston Churchill. Surely it would be okay to lend this nice man some
boats and lease him a few airplanes. And so, lend-lease was born, and the United

States was no longer neutral. (Levy, 1999, p.114) The free press was responsible
for major changes in America's society. From the American Revolution, to the
civil war, to the World Wars, the Press of America has shaped the way the public
views and interprets certain events. It is important for Journalists to remember
however, that they are responsible for informing the public in a certain
fashion. Article IV of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE)

Statement of Principals, entitled "Truth and Accuracy," states that
"Good faith with the reader is the foundation of good journalism." (Iggers,

1998, p.39) In order for the press to maintain "Good Faith" with the
reader, they must follow certain guidelines or ethics. The Society of

Professional Journalists gathered in 1996 to revise their previous codes,
established in 1926. The society focused on four primary aspects of
newsgathering and reporting. The first being seeking and reporting the truth. (Iggers,

1998, p. 40) According to the Society, Journalists should take many steps in
assuring themselves that the information they have gathered is truthful and
accurate. In order to do so, the Society suggests that the reporting journalists
should test the accuracy of their information. Journalists should always seek
out the subjects of their reporting and give them the opportunity to respond to
the allegations that are being brought up against them, while identifying their
sources, which should be checked thoroughly for reliability, and never
plagiarized. By following these guidelines, the harm induced on those being
reported is minimized, which is the Society's next aspect in their code of
ethics. (Iggers, 1998, p. 42) To minimize the harm caused to those being
reported, journalists are simply reminded to be sensitive when seeking
interviews or photos of people affected by tragedy or grief, realizing that
private people have a right to control certain amounts of information regarding
themselves. (Iggers, 1998, p. 42) In doing so, journalists become more respected
by the public, and become accountable for their reports, the third aspect of the

Society's code. The Society states that in order for a journalist to be
accountable for their reporting, they must admit any to any mistakes they may
have made, and attempt to correct them immediately. Journalists should clarify
their coverage and invite the public to discuss and voice any grievances against
the news media that they may have, as well as properly exposing unethical
practices of fellow journalists and the news media. (Iggers, 1998, p. 43) In
doing this, journalists will be working independently, the Society's final rule.

Journalists must remain free of associations that could damage their own
personal credibility, which may involve accepting gifts, favors or concealed
fees in exchange for reporting something your that benefits their source,
contradicting the interests of the public. (Iggers, 1998, p.38-47) Journalists
have these guidelines to help them concentrate their efforts to reporting
honestly and accurately. There are some journalists however, that choose not to
follow such guidelines. That is why there are limitations on how journalists
obtain their information, and how that information is reported. The First

Amendment does not list any specific exceptions, but it does not protect all
types of speech and press. The US Government can limit the freedom of the press
when it comes to the invasion of one's privacy. Privacy in a tort concept
embraces four branches of protected interests: protection from unreasonable
intrusion upon one's seclusion, from appropriation of one's name or likeness,
from unreasonable publicity given to one's private life, and from publicity
which unreasonably places one in a false light before the public. (FindLaw

Constitution, 1998) The Sedition Act of 1798 made criminal the malicious
writings which defamed, brought into contempt of disrepute, or excited the
hatred of the people against the Government, the President, or the Congress, or
which stirred people to sedition. (FindLaw Constitution, 1998) The press can be
sued for libel if the reported material involves those who are not public
figures or public officials that do not have the burden of proving that the
publication was done with a reckless disregard of the truth. Libel occurs when a
statement that is false about an identifiable person is published to a third
party, causing injury to the subject's reputation. (Schwartz, 1991, p. 59)

Through million dollar damage settlements, high-profile lawsuits and fraud, the
credibility of the press is continually being questioned. Although the First

Amendment immunizes the press against liability to public figures for most
damages resulting from unfavorable coverage, a majority of the population
believes this freedom has impelled the press to go to far in obtaining news. The

Press greatly affects many people in different negative ways. Possibly the most
often and exclusively covered are those involved in mainstream politics,
especially when the members of the congress or other important positions in the
government do something that contradicts what is acceptable in society today.

One of the most prominent events in this nation's political history occurred
recently when current President Bill Clinton was romantically involved with a
woman other than his wife. In 1995, Monica Lewinsky, a recent graduate of Lewis
and Clark College in Portland, OR, began an internship at the White House in

Washington, D.C. She quickly became close acquaintances with the President, as
she transferred to a job in which she worked very closely to him. (Isikof, 1998)

Linda Tripp, a friend of Monica Lewinsky's, taped several phone conversations
that she had with Ms. Lewinsky in which Ms. Lewinsky talked about giving oral
sex to the President in a private study in the oval office. These tapes were
then turned over to Kenneth Starr. Independent counsel Kenneth Starr led the

Whitewater investigation, which were financial situations that Bill Clinton and
his wife Hilary were involved in previous to Clinton's first term as President,
when he was the Governor of Arkansas. (Isikof, 1998) Starr wrote and sent a

445-page report on President Clinton and his acts of perjury to the House

Judiciary Committee on Sept. 9, 1998. Clinton was accused of lying under oath
regarding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and impeding justice when he
supposedly told Monica to lie about their relationship. The historic report,
which was released to the American public, outlined 11 possible grounds for
impeachment and contained explicit descriptions of Clinton's sexual encounters
with Monica Lewinsky. (isikof, 1998) For months the evening news was dominated
by in depth discussion focusing directly on the President and his physical
relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The Starr report was available to anyone in

America over the internet. Summaries were printed in nearly all newspapers and
magazines, and continued discussion swarmed everywhere on television and radio
programs. Despite the fact that Clinton was accused of committing perjury, the

American public remained on his side. 64%2 of Americans polled said they wanted

Bill Clinton to remain in office. Even after all of the negative publicity that
the President had received, the American public was still behind him, and it was
not because the American public believed that the President was innocent of the
charges. Seventy nine percent of those polled believed he was guilty of perjury.

However, 68% of those polled believed that Clinton was performing his duties as

President extremely well, and that the press was overly invading his personal
life, which the press is often accused of. (Holland, 1998) The press has been
accused of having a profoundly negative impact on the lives of public figures.

In the last 30 years, journalism has changed from reporting only what was of
importance to the public, to focusing on the private events of public figure's
lives. As Jeremy Iggers, author of Good News, Bad News said it, "Network
television news has become a world of UFOs, psychics, daydreams, miracle cures,
cuddly animals, O.J. Simpson1, Jon Benet Ramsey, and from time to time, at least
for a few minutes, actual news." (Iggers, 1998, p. 114) It is extremely
easy to find a case in which the press held the right to privacy in disregard.

John F. Kennedy Jr. was in the spotlight of the press his entire life, following
in his father's footsteps. He life was followed by millions around the world. He
became a prominent prosecutor in New York, then started a new political and
socially orientated magazine entitled "George." Kennedy Jr. married

Carolyn Bessette in 1996, and life was going well for him. Then in 1999, tragedy
struck. On July 16, 1999, Kennedy Jr., his wife Carolyn, and her sister were
flying over the coast of Massachusetts, when their plane crashed into Martha's

Vineyard. All three were killed, and their ashes were spread not far from where
the plane went down. (Kennedy, 2000) Within minutes of the news breaking that

John Kennedy Jr.'s plane had disappeared, the media went into overdrive. Within
hours, major networks and 24-hour cable news channels had top anchors in place,
keeping up a steady drumbeat of coverage, pounding on the same few facts amid
great speculation, historical reminiscences, and anecdotes. Tom Rosenstiel,
director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism said that, "In 12
hours of coverage, there were only about 10 minutes' worth of actual
facts." Stephen Lacy, acting director of Michigan State University's School
of Journalism in East Lansing said through the coverage of the Kennedy tragedy,
he saw, "a bigger disconnect between the press and the public. It was a bit
of overkill, especially on television." He went on to say that "The
media have not quite realized that overplaying does not help their credibility,
but continues to show examples of the news industry exploiting a tragedy in a
push to stem a 20-year slide in ratings, readers, and credibility." Not
only is the press hurting the public figures by this kind of reporting, it is
also affecting the public. When asked whether or not the Press had too much
freedom in the United States today, 53% of those polled said yes. This
percentage is up from 37% in 1997. (Sabjan, 1999) Paul McMasters of the First

Amendment Center attributes the shift solely on the deeper dissatisfaction that
the public feels towards the media. He believes that the public feels a sense of
being overwhelmed in major stories (like the Kennedy crash) by speculation and
the pervasiveness of news outlets. (Kennedy, 1999) The clash between the public
and the press goes beyond insensitive reporting. The biggest question that faces
the Press in the 90s, is the ongoing confusion regarding what the press' actual
motives in reporting the news are. Many believe that is the demand for high
ratings on television or newspaper that leads journalists down the wrong path
towards tabloid journalism, instead of reporting truthful, accurate and
important information. Walter Cronkite, a broadcast journalist of the 60s and

70s, known for his coverage of the first man to walk on the moon, and the death
of President John F. Kennedy said in 1998, "instead of these TV magazine
programs offering tough documentaries and background on the issues that affect
all of us, they're making them into television copies of 'photoplay' magazine.

Cronkite goes on to say that "News executives know better, but are helpless
when top management demands an increase in ratings for profit protection. (Levy,

1999, p.61-63) The motives behind newsgathering could be considered by many to
be contrary to what their responsibilities are. Changes in the autonomy3 and
accountability of journalists in the past few years has resulted in questioning
whether journalists are more interested in reporting what is important and
necessary for public information, or personal gain in their field. The classic
example of this is the story of Janet Cooke. Janet Cooke was a well respected
journalist who worked for the Washington Post in the late 70s to 1981. In 1981,

Cooke wrote a gripping story entitled, "Jimmy's World."
"Jimmy" was an eight year old African American boy, who had become
addicted to heroin due to the constant harassment and abuse from his mother's
live-in boyfriend. Her story was so well appreciated that it won the Pulitzer

Prize in 1981. Shortly afterwards however, "Jimmy" was revealed as a
falsity. Never was there a Jimmy, as Cooke later admitted to completely making
up the story. Her Pulitzer was taken away, and Janet Cooke was forced to resign
from journalism. Many refer to her as the new model journalist. Now, Not only
are there journalists lying about their information and their stories, but top
media executive decisions are also affecting whether or not the public receives
information that is relevant. With several corporation mergers and
consolidations, clamping down on costs and budgets, regardless of the effect on
the news coverage, can make a company a more attractive take over target, an
advantage to major shareholders in that corporation. Top executives in media
operations often own even larger amounts of stock options, resulting in more
income than their salary. Because of this, they have a personal interest in
their companies' profit. The more viewers they have, and the more the can
squeeze out of their employees, the richer they will be in the end. (Levy, 1999,
p. 70) This results in focusing on getting ratings rather than truthfulness and
importance. Television programs such as American Journal and Hard Copy are
filled with stories being covered simply for ratings. In the last twenty years,
similar to television and magazines that have strayed toward reporting what will
get ratings rather than good solid news, journalists have done the same. The
goals of more and more journalists have gone from reporting solid and useful
material to whatever will make them the most money. Andrew Kohut, director of
the Pen Research Center for People and the Press says, "The public feels
that journalists are too aggressive in the way they play their watchdog role,
and are doing it not because they are seeking the truth, but to advance their
careers." (Bowes, 1997, p. 124) Whether or not this is the case, the public
cannot deny the fact that without the free press, it would be impossible to
retain an informed populace. That is why many believe the press should be free
to report anything truthful, honest and accurate. Throughout United States
history, the Supreme Court has maintained and guaranteed the right to a free
press. One of the most widely known cases in which this right is secured is in
the case of New York Times Co. v. United States. The Pentagon Papers were
top-secret information. The Papers were a study that detailed government
deceptions about United States policy relating to the Vietnam War. The Papers
were revealed to the New York Times by Daniel Ellsberg, one of the analysts who
helped write and publish the study in 1971. These revealed that the Tonkin Gulf

Resolution, which led to increased U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, had
been formulated months before the corresponding incident took place, and that

President Lyndon Johnson had been committing infantry to Vietnam while telling
the nation that he had no long-range plans for the war. The U.S. government took
the New York Times to court on basis publishing material that challenged
national security. However, the Supreme Court agreed that stopping the
publication violated First Amendment protections. Justice Hugo L. Black
commented on the case saying, "I believe that every moment's continuance of
the injunctions against these newspapers amounts to a flagrant, indefensible,
and continuing violation of the First Amendment. In the 1992 case of Food Lion
v. American Broadcasting Channel Co. (ABC), two producers from the ABC news
magazine show called "Prime Time Live" went under cover and started
working at Food Lion grocery stores. The two ABC reporters used false resumes to
get jobs at a Food Lion store in North and South Carolina, then secretly
videotaped employees for a story on food-handling practices that accused the
grocery chain of selling rat-gnawed cheese and rotting meat. The report alleged
that Food Lion employees ground out-of-date beef along with new beef, bleached
rank meat to remove its odor and redated products not sold before their
expiration date. In 1992, the jury that found ABC guilty of fraud under a state
law awarded the supermarket chain $5.5 million in punitive damages, but that was
cut to $315,000 by a federal judge. (Associated Press, 1999) This past year, the
charges were reversed, and ABC was found not guilty of the charges brought
against them. ABC intended to benefit the consuming public by letting it know
about Food Lion's food handling practices," said the opinion by Judge M.

Blane Michael. "And Moreover, ABC was not competing with Food Lion, as it
did not have any actual or potential business relationship with the grocery
chain." The appeals panel affirmed the jury finding that the two ABC
employees who worked for Food Lion--Lynne Dale and Susan Barnett -- breached
their duty of loyalty to Food Lion and committed trespass. It upheld nominal
damages of $1 each against them. (Associated Press, 1999) "This is a
victory for the American tradition of investigative journalism. In the end,
after Food Lion spent millions of dollars on legal fees and public relations
offensives, the court ordered ABC News to pay only $2 in damages," said

David Westin, ABC News president. (Associated Press, 1999) In the argument of
the press over emphasizing coverage of public figures, several things must come
into consideration. First and foremost, the press has the right to publish
personal information about a public figure. As Supreme Court Justice Douglas
said, "Such privacy as a person normally has ceases when his life has
ceased to be private." (Leahy, 1991, p.31) The First Amendment was intended
for full freedom of expression for the press. For "a right to engage in
rasping, corrosive, and offensive discussion on all topics of public
interest." (Levy, 1999, p.77) Many believe that the blame for the change in
journalism from honest to tabloid journalism can be placed squarely on the
public. The tabloid television shows have always done well in daytime ratings,
as the public most often views television shows that focus on celebrities
involving sex, crimes, or daily life. Joe Saltzman, a columnist for USA Today,
in an article to the public said: "This is the way you want it. When you
stop embracing celebrity journalism, when it is no longer profitable to publish
pictures of every facet of a celebrities' daily life, then all of this will end.

And all media will look for something else that you want. To complain about the
way things are, is simply to add more hypocrisy to the stench already
surrounding us." (Hamill, 1998, p.175) In order for the media and the
public to coexist on better terms, certain things must occur. Journalists must
try to follow codes of ethics that have been implied on them. By personally
following the ethics that the American Society of Newspaper Editors have
written, the public will once again begin to trust the press as truth seeking
and honest. Journalists must also remain focused on the important issues that
effect the American people. Issues involving political issues and votes in
congress, not just what a political figure did on the weekend. Journalists
should shy away from reporting consensual crimes. Consensual crimes corrupt our
free press. Because committing a consensual crime is breaking the law, and since
breaking the law is news, reporters are often sent out looking for drug busts,
hookers, or stories on who is sleeping with whom and whether or not they're
married to someone else. (McWilliams, 1999) As George Bernard Shaw, winner of
the Nobel prize for literature commented, "You'd think America was
populated solely by naked women and cinema stars." (McWilliams, 1999) The
press not only cheapens itself by playing tattletale and reporting the
consensual exploits of others; it also "eats it's young" by reporting
on the consensual activities of its own. An example of this involves an
attractive female "reporter" who invited Larry King up to her hotel
room, which happened to have a barrage of hidden cameras. Time went on and on,

Mr. King did not make a single improper move. But, as dull and unimportant as it
was, they aired the tape anyway. (McWilliams, 1999) News like this benefits no
one, and should have no place in journalism. The public, just like the press,
has to adapt and change as well if the press is expected to change the way they
report information, and what kind of information they report. The public can no
longer maintain such a high appreciation for obtaining information regarding the
personal lives of those with very public lives. If this occurs, horrible
tragedies like the death of Princess Diana could possibly be avoided in the
future. The press will always report events that occur in the lives of public
figures, but if the public as a whole loses its insatiable curiosity regarding
these public figures, the press will begin to look elsewhere for stories that
hold the public's interest. Over the course of the 20th century the Supreme

Court has breathed life into the text of the First Amendment by upholding the
right of the press to pursue its mission, no matter how detestable that might
seem to those in power. The courts have imposed some limits on liberty, and some
questions remain as to how far this liberty will extend to new media and to some
of the more aggressive efforts employed by journalists to obtain the news.

Still, as Justice Stewart wrote in the Pentagon Papers case, "without an
informed and free press there cannot be an enlightened people." The U.S.

Supreme Court has yet to address many of the important issues raised by
surreptitious newsgathering. And the issue at hand may be much larger than the
pure legality of journalistic methods and behavior. The face of journalism
itself is changing to accommodate new technology, global events, and the
complicated needs and interests of the viewer. In the case of Food Lion, many
argue that "the prime time magazines are under enormous pressure to tell
clear, simple stories, with victims and villains, preferably illustrated with
eye-catching video," (Gunther, 1998) The challenge facing the courts then,
is to ensure that investigative journalism can continue to produce hard-hitting
stories that expose wrongdoing, while avoiding the litigation that redirects
blame to the journalists. Like most legal issues, the balance is unstable, but
the public can only be best served once the question of the media and
constitutional protection have been put to rest. The freedom of the press will
remain as one of the most important freedoms in our country. So as a country, it
should be of utmost importance to hold on to that freedom, with the press and
public attempting to work together to maintain liberty. Andrew Hamilton said it
best in a speech he gave on August 4, 1735: Power may justly be compared to a
great river; while keeping its bounds, it is both beautiful and useful, but when
it overflows its banks, it is then too impetuous to be stemmed; it bears down
all before it, and brings destruction and desolation wherever it comes. If,
then, this be the nature of power, let us at least do our duty as a country, and
like wise men who value freedom, use our utmost care to support liberty, the
only bulwark against lawless power, which, in all ages has sacrificed the blood
of the best men that ever lived.

Bibliography

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February 18, 2000. This article, and this case in general was extremely helpful,
containing valueable information regarding a case that strongly supported the
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