Home > Free Speech > Bloggers, Journalists, the Press, and the First Amendment

Bloggers, Journalists, the Press, and the First Amendment

June 6, 2013

AP_Documents_BillofRightsLooking at the differences between bloggers and journalists is nothing new. This issue has once again come to the forefront. In talking about a media shield law Senator Lindsey Graham said the following:

“Who is a journalist is a question we need to ask ourselves,” he said. “Is any blogger out there saying anything—do they deserve First Amendment protection? These are the issues of our times.”

Really Senator Graham? Do bloggers deserve First Amendment protection? Before I answer that I’ll post Senator Graham’s tweet meant to clarify his earlier statement (word of advice, twitter is not the place for clarifying statements):

I suppose Senator Graham thinks this settles everything. Right? Well, when put in context, Senator Graham was asking if bloggers deserved the same freedom of press safeguards that “the press” receives from the First Amendment. Before looking at whether Senator Graham saved himself with the clarifying tweet it is time to look at the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There are two sections at question here. First there would be a statement that goes “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech”. Senator Graham is referencing this protection when he tried to save face in his tweet. The natural-born right of free speech is Constitutionally protected for all citizens. Included in this ‘all citizens’ is bloggers and journalists. There is no distinction making a journalists free speech more protected than a bloggers free speech. And rightfully so. It is this part of the First Amendment that allows bloggers, journalists, know-it-all’s, jabber-mouth’s, and dumbass Senators to speak their mind without fear of governmental repercussions.

But, what about the second section that is in question here. The second statement goes “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press”. Here is where Senator Graham is actually making a mistake. He seems to believe that ‘freedom of the press’ is extra protections for journalists. Wrong! Freedom of the press is referring to the natural right of American Citizens to use technology as a means to distribute their free speech. At the time the Bill of Rights was created the printing press was the technology used to spread information. Since the First Amendment was originally ratified the Supreme Court has included other technologies in the category of ‘the press’. Books, movies, and video games have all been found to be part of ‘the press’. Since bloggers and journalists use the same technologies to exercise their free speech, there is no difference between the two groups from a ‘freedom of press’ perspective.

Having reviewed both relevant sections of the First Amendment one thing is quite clear: from a Constitutionally protected standpoint there is no difference between a blogger and a journalist. Senator Graham implying that journalists should get extra protections from a ‘media shield law’ would arbitrarily try to create different ‘classes’ of free speech based upon occupation. That is a very unconstitutional concept.

Perhaps Senator Graham and every elected official in DC should take some time to read the Constitution and all of its amendments. Hopefully they will realize a ‘media shield law’ is unnecessary.  Instead of a new law those working in DC must learn to work within the governmental restraints already built into the Constitution.

PS. For the media shield law I believe DC should study both the First and Fourth Amendments very carefully. Their answers are found there and not in a new law.

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