As a confluence of economic, cultural, technological and political forces change the news landscape, this project aims to explore in depth what the Constitution, law, and policy can do about identifying and protecting core press functions.
“The Future of Press Freedom: Democracy, Law, and the News in Changing Times,” piloted by the Institute’s 2023-2024 Senior Visiting Research Scholars RonNell Andersen Jones and Sonja R. West, examines the role of a free and protected press in preserving a healthy American democracy, debates the benefits and disadvantages of special doctrinal protection for performers of press functions, considers the place that protection for newsgatherers holds in the Supreme Court’s evolving First Amendment frameworks, and seeks to develop functional doctrines that can protect performers of these roles as new methods for producing and consuming news emerge.
By bringing together scholars from a number of interrelated fields, we hope to answer critically important questions about how to identify performers of the press function for purposes of legal and constitutional protection: How, if at all, can we shape doctrine and legal policies that grant rights to those acting as proxies for the public without privileging the powerful over the weak? How can we distinguish performers of the press function from performers of other communicative functions? And what protections might be constitutional necessities for fulfilling the wider purpose of the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press?
We will examine these questions through a series of public conversations, blog posts, and publications and will culminate in a major symposium—entitled “The Future of Press Freedom: Democracy, Law, and the News in Changing Times,” held May 2-3, 2024, at Columbia University and online—and an edited volume from Cambridge University Press.