• Inside the First Amendment: Public info needs context, interpretation

    By Gene Policinski
    First Amendment Center
    The recently announced move by Encyclopaedia Britannica to end its print editions after 244 years of publishing came by happenstance in the middle of Sunshine Week, an annual campaign nationwide in support of freedom of information.

    The great general reference work for many generations will continue in digital form, like so much of the news, information, literature and art of our age.

  • GUEST OPINION: There’s still good news in journalism

    By Gene Policinski
    First Amendment Center
    The nation’s editors are gathering in Washington, D.C., for the annual convention of the American Society of News Editors — and the good news is the April 2-4 convention once again is being held in hotel meeting rooms, not on the ledges.

    Yes, there are continuing signs of economic trouble for the business of newsgathering and distribution — in particular for newspapers, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

  • GUEST OPINION: Dissenting judge makes sense in case against kid

    First Amendment Center
    Dissenting opinions obviously don’t have the force of law that majority opinions do.

    But that doesn’t mean they aren’t better reasoned. Recall that Justice John Marshall Harlan (the first one) was known as “the Great Dissenter” in part for his solitary dissent in the abhorrent Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), in which the Court sanctioned segregation and the noxious separate-but-equal doctrine.

  • GUEST OPINION: United States walks walk on free speech

    First Amendment Center
    At the height of the controversy over the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act debate, critics of the bills described them as an assault on Internet freedom and the subversion of the First Amendment.

    The advocates had a point. The proposed laws were arguably overbroad, and we should all be very careful before we give government greater latitude in shutting down websites.

    Still, it’s striking to see what a real attack on Internet freedom looks like.

  • Journalists’ work as watchdogs unquestionable

    First Amendment Center
    There’s a running joke among journalists that they went into the news business because they didn’t do well in math.
    As a longtime journalist who struggled with freshman algebra, I can relate.
    Still, even those of us with anxiety about numbers have come to embrace the investigative value of data.
    Number-crunching and access to public records drive some of the news media’s most powerful and important reporting, including these examples from the past year:

  • We can celebrate Sunshine Week every day of year

    Tennessee Coalition for Open Government
    It’s Sunshine Week in America, the one week of the year celebrated by news organizations and open government advocates about keeping government honest.
    Watchdogs of the Fourth Estate have made it their duty to report on the actions taken by local, state and federal government.  And the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, or TCOG, was created to preserve and improve access to public information.

  • GUEST OPINION:Diversity of conscience treasured here

    First Amendment Center
    Award-winning author John M. Barry has done it again.

    In two previous best-selling books, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History and Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, Barry not only told the gripping stories of two critical historical events, but he also helped shape public policy on issues of vital importance to the United States and the world.

  • GUEST OPINION: Care needed when dealing with Occupy camps

    A long winter for the Occupy Wall Street movement has seen a shift in tactics by cities, towns and state legislatures seeking to remove many of the estimated 600 encampments nationwide.

    Some Occupy groups camped on public property have obtained court rulings that permit them to protest anytime in public spaces, but not to keep tents or sleeping bags on the sites. Elsewhere, formal or informal bargains have been struck that allow tents but not the accessories of camping — in effect permitting momentary shelters, not encampments.

  • GUEST OPINION: Tobacco case: Feds’ warnings went too far

    First Amendment Center
    The federal government can require that tobacco companies warn the public about health hazards, but it can’t force them to scare smokers out of the habit.

    That was the finding recently by Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., who struck down a Food and Drug Administration rule as a violation of the First Amendment. Leon had earlier issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the FDA from requiring the new warning labels on cigarette packs.

  • GUEST OPINION:St. Louis case: When is a sign free speech?

    First Amendment Center
    In declining to review a ruling that invalidated a St. Louis sign ordinance, the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand an opinion that both supports freedom of speech and reinforces the core values of the First Amendment.

    In 2007, Jim Roos had a 360-ft.-square mural posted on the side of an apartment building.

    Its message: “End eminent domain abuse.”

    The city of St. Louis said the sign was too large and ordered Roos to take it down, leading to a court battle.