As the challenge to the Children's Internet Protection Act was unfolding in court last month (see p. 18-19), news reports about the case were fast and plentiful. Many followed a particular pattern: They started out by using the words "pornography" and "children" in the same sentence as often as possible, then ended with a bang that went something like "Librarians approve."
A classic example aired April 4 on ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings:
"In Philadelphia today, closing arguments in a case which challenges a law designed to protect children from pornography. The American Library Association is suing the government and it says that freedom of speech is the issue."
Cut to librarian Laura Morgan of the Chicago Public Library who announces that while helping patrons with architectural research she is subjected to a person on a computer "about eight feet away" "accessing triple-X porn, even things like bestiality, and child pornography."
Cut to ABC reporter Erin Hayes and librarian Sue Wynn, reading to children. "Sure enough, there was a young man over there looking at pornographic Internet Web sites," says Wynn. To which Hayes adds, "Right where her children could see it."
"But many libraries staunchly defend the right of patrons to view pornography, saying that to filter it out would be censorship," Hayes adds. Then Hayes says ALA and the ACLU have joined forces "in opposing filters on library computers, even when used to keep children from seeing pornography. What children view in a library, they say, is not the librarian's responsibility."
How to explain CIPA to your friends
The congregation of the Sweet Holy Spirit Church in Chicago got the media message, prompting some members to picket in front of ALA Headquarters April 7. Their understanding, as conveyed on local television news, was that …