Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century

Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century

Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century

Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century


Lee Bollinger is one of our foremost experts on the First Amendment--both an erudite scholar and elegant advocate. In this sweeping account, he explores the troubled history of a free press in America and looks toward the challenges ahead.

The first amendment guaranteed freedom of the press in seemingly clear terms. However, over the course of American history, Bollinger notes, the idea of press freedom has evolved, in response to social, political, technological, and legal changes. It was not until the twentieth century that freedom of the press came to be understood as guaranteeing an "uninhibited, robust and wide-open" public discourse. But even during the twentieth century, government continually tried to erect barriers: the sedition laws of World War One, the use of libel law, the Pentagon Papers case, and efforts to limit press access to information.

Bollinger utilizes this history to explore the meaning of freedom of the press in our globalized, internet-dominated era. As he shows, we have now entered uncharted territory. What does press freedom mean when our news outlets can instantaneously disseminate information throughout the world? When foreign media have immediate access to the American market? Bollinger stresses that even though the law will surely evolve in the coming years, we must maintain our commitment to a press that is "uninhibited, robust, and wide-open," not only in America but everywhere. Given the new ability of foreign media to reach the United States via the Internet and vice versa, it is in America's national interest for press freedoms to expand overseas. While protecting the freedom of the press at home remains a crucial task, the next challenge is to help create a global public forum suitable for an increasingly interconnected world. Part of Oxford's landmark Inalienable Rights series, this book will set the agenda for how we think about the press in the twenty-first century.


The American press, sheltered from censorship by an elaborate body of case law under the First Amendment and sometimes prodded by public regulations to serve the public interest, is one of the greatest achievements of the United States. Wherever you go in the world, journalists envy it. Every year in April, as president of Columbia University, I sit for two days with distinguished journalists to decide which newspapers and reporters will win the Pulitzer prizes in journalism. If you could be there and witness the deliberations (and the painstaking labors of the juries that sift through the nominees and recommend the finalists for each category), you would be struck by the professional standards manifest in the entries and used to select the winners. You would be impressed by the sense of mission that infuses journalists, moved by the dangers they overcome to get their stories, and thankful for the good they accomplish.

Part of what is amazing about journalism in America is that, despite the fact that it operated for most of the twentieth century as a business, it differed from the typical business model in important . . .

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