Journalists, Public Know Little about Press Freedom; Trust in Media Low, Poll Finds

Article excerpt

Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Many journalists and most of the public don't understand the First Amendment - or each other, according to a poll.

Only 14 percent of the public - and 57 percent of journalists - can name freedom of the press as a right guaranteed by the First Amendment, according to a survey released today by the University of Connecticut.

Written in 1789, the 45 words contained in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protect the freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly, and the freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances.

"Freedom of the press is at the core of American democracy," said poll director Ken Dautrich, who was taken aback at how little the public - and the press - knew about the subject.

"Even more disappointing is the fact that those who use free press rights in their work aren't more knowledgeable about it," he said.

But the press may be a little too free, according to the American public: 43 percent said the press has "too much freedom in our society." Conversely, 3 percent of the journalists polled agreed.

A third of the journalists thought they had "too little freedom."

The public, meanwhile, does not have much trust in the press's accuracy. Only 39 percent said journalists reported their information accurately. Journalists had a different perception of their work: 72 percent said the press does a good job providing accurate coverage.

"This is at the very heart of journalism," Mr. …