Monday, April 25, 2016

Editors say lack of funds, legal issues in technology hamstring news industry's First Amendment battles

Nearly two-thirds of editors in a survey said economic concerns have weakened the news industry's ability to pursue legal action concerning First Amendment issues.

The survey was conducted for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Of the 66 respondents, 65 percent said the industry is weaker than it was 10 years ago in pursuing First Amendment legal action and 53 percent agreed that “News organizations are no longer prepared to go to court to preserve First Amendment freedoms.” When asked for the main reason for diminished capability, 89 percent cited money.

Legal issues about technology were also a concern, Jonathan Peters reports for Columbia Journalism Review. "An overwhelming majority of the editors (88 percent) agreed with the statement, 'In the digital age, there are many unsettled legal questions about the scope of free expression.' Meanwhile, 71 percent agreed with the statement, 'First Amendment law has not kept up with technological developments.' And 59 percent disagreed with the statement, 'First Amendment law is largely settled.'”

The Knight Foundation last week announced "$200,000 in new support to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which will expand their work in providing legal assistance to journalists and shaping a new path for free-speech law," Anusha Alikhan wrote in a news release. "Since 1970, the Reporters Committee has provided free legal assistance, research and guidance to reporters and news organizations. The organization will use the new funding and two previous endowments to expand the Knight Litigation Project, an effort to help journalists and news organizations pursue First Amendment cases that have the potential to explore new legal territory."

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