The Layers Behind Free Speech

I personally believe that the First Amendment should shield journalists and reporters no different than all of us. Despite wanting to of course go into the reporting field, I don’t see many reasons why journalists should have extra freedoms when it comes to speech. I feel as though journalists are already able to push their limits sometimes when it comes to the questions they ask or their proximity to places and situations that normal civilians are not allowed to be in. However, extra freedoms and protection can lead to too much power and comfortability where reporters can cross lines with topics or people of prominence and not face the same consequences as someone like I would face. While of course there will always be great journalists who are accurate and unbiased, there is bound to be times where a story comes out too quick and is wrong, or someone is being slandered and it could lead to even bigger problems with the law and reporting. Plus, the First Amendment should already be a big enough shield for everyone because there is not a whole lot that is punishable besides direct threats at someone or in a situation that can cause panic.

I would argue that the weaponized defamation lawsuit against the media can be very concerning. However, there is likely many times in which it is necessary. I feel like this is a necessary right for people and especially those in the public eye, in order to have the opportunity and ability to defend their name. The only issue is that it is very difficult to win against the media in these situations. This is due to the protections that are granted in the media that include: The Substantial Truth Doctrine, Fair Report Privilege, Statute of Limitations Defense, Wire Service Defense, Opinion and Fair Comment Privilege, Newsworthiness Defense to Invasion of Privacy Claims, and finally Arrests and Criminal Charges. However, it is not impossible to do so as there have been multiple examples of people successfully suing the media for defamation. For one of course, the plaintiff has to be able to prove that what was said is false. This already can be difficult enough to do with things like The Substantial Truth Doctrine, which means if the truth does not change public opinion/reaction as much as the false statement does, it is said to be “substantially true”. The plaintiff would also want to try and prove that there was actual harm caused. For example, celebrities in Hollywood might be able to win a case in this situation if they can prove they were removed from a movie role due to false claims that were released.

Anti-SLAPP statutes most definitely help us out. Without these, it is very likely that we would have seen many more cases of journalists being arrested, fired, or sued by these figures. This is an easy conclusion to come up with especially after reading through many cases that involved Anti-SLAPP laws protecting people. All the way from journalist Nancy Chapman being sued after writing a story on Marc D’Amelio who was running for Senate in Connecticut, to a family being sued for $1 million for just leaving a negative Yelp review. Surprisingly, only 31 out of the 50 states have Anti-SLAPP laws with Colorado becoming the latest. But there are talks of a federal Anti-SLAPP law in the works which may be able to provide help to those in the 19 remaining states or perhaps just influence these states to finally create their own.

Overall, there are lots of complications and grey areas when it comes to The First Amendment and reporters/media. However, with the protections in place and the ones that are soon to be developed, hopefully there will be a more clear-cut set of regulations and understandings amongst what is and is not fully protected by The First Amendment.

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