Archive | First Amendment

A UNC Student’s Summer Experience at the Student Press Law Center

From Lindsie Trego, a fourth-year dual degree student at UNC pursuing a JD and an MA in Mass Communication, who interned at the Student Press Law Center

I had the amazing opportunity to work as a law clerk at the Student Press Law Center this last summer. I first visited the SPLC office back in January of 2013 on a college trip, before I had decided that law school was for me, and before I had even fully realized that a career in media law was a possibility. I remember the SPLC (and the Reporters Committee, with which SPLC was then sharing an office) sparking my interest, and I remember telling my professor that I thought it might be fun to work there someday. Working with the SPLC this summer felt like coming full circle on that experience.

The SPLC is a hectic (and windowless) office: With a small team of lawyers, non-legal staff, and interns, the organization helps thousands of student journalists each year with issues ranging from administrative censorship to public records requests. Because it’s such a small organization with such a big mission, there isn’t much hand-holding for interns, which meant I had the opportunity to be a true self-starter and work on a variety of projects.

My biggest project was writing an amicus brief for a First Amendment case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Koala v. Khosla. The case began when University of California-San Diego revoked funding for five student media publications after one of those outlets published a satirical column calling for “unsafe spaces,” and it questions whether UCSD can skirt First Amendment prohibitions on censorship by cutting funding for a group of publications rather than just one publication. In the SPLC amicus brief, which was joined by seven other press freedom organizations, I pointed out the unique role of the student press in a democratic society, the historical vulnerability of the student press to censorship, and the way that expanding legal loopholes increase this vulnerability.

Other projects included subjects such as press access to college campuses, access to court records, and defamation. Another highlight of my summer was teaching media law workshops for high school journalists on behalf of the SPLC, both in D.C. and back here in Chapel Hill.

I would definitely recommend a summer with the SPLC to go-getter law students interested in media law and First Amendment issues! I owe a big thank-you to the SPLC staff for the amazing experience, and to the Center for Media Law for providing a grant to help make the experience possible.

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Center Co-Director’s First Amendment Day Remarks Published in the News and Observer

One of the highlights of First Amendment Day this year was the morning keynote address by Center for Media Law and Policy Co-Director Cathy Packer. Dr. Packer set the tone for the day, reminding us all of the importance of free expression and how vital it is that we continue to protect it. Today, The News & Observer published her remarks as an op-ed. You may find the article at http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article175888201.html.

“Carolina still is a wonderful and exciting place where young people see, hear, read and say things they’ve never before encountered or even imagined. This helps them to create their own views and values.

Of course, because we have a more diverse student body and faculty than ever before, we have more diversity of opinion on campus – and more disagreements. In that way, we’re no different than the rest of the country.

But in other ways we are different from the rest of the nation – or at least we should be. We should celebrate our diversity and learn from it. That’s what we’re here for – to learn. And the free exchange of ideas still is the best way to learn.”

-Dr. Cathy Packer, UNC First Amendment Day 2017

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UNC First Amendment Day is Tuesday!

It’s almost time for what we at the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy think is the best day of the year! On Tuesday, Sept. 26, UNC will celebrate its ninth-annual First Amendment Day! This day of events is one of the highlights of the year at the Center, and we are thrilled to share it with our wonderful campus.

We have an exciting schedule for our day-long event this year.  From public readings of banned books to panels on the state of campus speech, this year’s First Amendment Day is sure to foster meaningful discussion about the state of the First Amendment as well as the University’s unique role in the marketplace of ideas.

This year’s Opening Ceremony will kick-off the day at 9:30 a.m with great speakers, including Center Co-Directors Dr. Cathy Packer and Professor David Ardia. In addition, we will hear from School of Media and Journalism Dean Susan King and UNC student body president Elizabeth Adkins. Next will be a student debate on Ethics and the First Amendment at 11:00 a.m. The debate will cover two issues: offensive speech in comedy performances and limitations on religious freedoms in the U.S. military. Following the debate, the Law School will host a panel on the Future of Free Expression, which will include a discussion of the state’s recent Campus Free Speech Act. Panelists include N. C. Rep. Jonathan Jordan and Professor Mary-Rose Papandrea, UNC Law’s Dean of Academic Affairs.

Starting at noon, members of the Coalition of Youth Librarians (COYL) and others from the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), including SILS Dean Gary Marchionini, will participate in a reading of books that have been banned from school and public libraries. The readings will continue until 2:30 p.m.

To kick off the afternoon, retired Marine Corps sergeant and investigative journalist Thomas Brennan will speak at the at the Reese News Lab in Carroll Hall at 1:00 p.m., discussing how his work led to Congressional investigations and reform earlier this year. Next, we will tackle the state of campus speech at UNC directly with the panel titled, “Who Can Speak at Carolina?” The panel will include speakers from across campus, including Gabbie Johnson, a recent UNC Law grad and participant in the Silent Sam sit-in; Carolina Review and Daily Tar Heel contributors; and the Center’s own Research Fellow, Rachael Jones. Then, at 3:30 p.m., UNC student journalists from The Daily Tar Heel, Carolina Week, and other student publications will discuss how their work is affected by negative public opinion about the press, social media, and more. 

Leading up to our keynote address, the Carolina Ukulele Ensemble will celebrate the right to make music in Carroll Hall starting at 6:30 p.m. Finally, our keynote speaker, Professor Bill Adair, will discuss the future of the free press. Professor Adair is the creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning website Politifact. He is the director of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy and the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University.

To wrap up our free-speech-filled day, we are hosting a First Amendment Trivia night at Linda’s Bar and Grill! The questions start at 8:00 p.m. You can compete to test your knowledge of the First Amendment rights or simply sit back and enjoy the fun. Either way, it will be a fun (and competitive) end to a great day.

We hope to see everyone at our many events this year! For more information on the schedule, events, speakers, and history of First Amendment Day, visit our webpage. Don’t forget to share your photos and thoughts from the day with us by using the hashtag #uncfree! If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Center.

See you Tuesday!

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UNC Media Law Students Graduating and Launching Careers

Two UNC media law students are graduating this spring and summer and moving on to great jobs in their fields. Both of them defended important research projects to earn their degrees.

Brooks Fuller earned a Ph.D. from the UNC School of Media and Journalism in May and will begin work as an assistant professor in the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University this fall.

Chanda Marlowe, a student in the dual-degree program administered by the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy,  earned both a master’s degree from the School of Media and Journalism and a J.D. from the UNC School of Law. In August, Chanda will head to Washington, D.C., to begin work at the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) as the Christopher Wolf Fellow. Her work at FPF will focus on consumer and commercial privacy issues, including projects involving privacy and non-discrimination.

Brooks’s dissertation used legal analysis and ethnographic field methods to better understand the role context plays in both courts’ and protest participants’ determinations of when speech causes harms during high-conflict political protests. The dissertation is titled “Words, Wounds, and Relationships: A Mixed-Method Study of Free Speech and Harm in High-Conflict Environments.”

According to Brooks, abortion clinic protests are quintessential high-conflict speech environments where the limits of free expression are continuously tested by protestors, making such protests ideal places to study free expression and to test long-held assumptions about how speech causes harm. Over an 18-month period, Brooks spent more than 500 hours observing protests at a North Carolina abortion clinic. Brooks also conducted dozens of in-depth interviews with pro-choice and anti-abortion advocates, police, and abortion clinic volunteers, and analyzed the social media and YouTube posts of various individual advocates and organizations.

Brooks’s key finding was that the harms that stem from speech have little to do with protest language. Instead, harms depend largely on the social relationships between the speaker and the listener and whether the speakers adhere to social norms that have developed in their particular protest environment. Brooks found that the world of abortion clinic protesting is carefully choreographed and routine. Through day-to-day routines, protestors develop social bonds with their adversaries that lessen the sting of the harsh rhetoric that characterizes abortion clinic protests. Brooks suggested that these findings reinforce the importance of understanding social relationships in order to better understand speech-related harms.

Brooks’s dissertation also points toward opportunities to advance the understanding of the First Amendment in American society through interdisciplinary scholarship. It is perhaps the first project of its kind to address traditional doctrinal First Amendment questions through a blend of legal and sociological research methods.

Chanda successfully defended a thesis that provides a full landscape of the legal issues surrounding the video surveillance of students in public schools and on public school buses. Her thesis explicated legislation and court decisions regarding the rights of students to challenge school video surveillance and the rights of others to access school surveillance videos once they have been recorded.  It concluded with a set of best practices to help schools strike the proper balance between protecting students’ privacy and keeping schools safe.

Congratulations, Tar Heel graduates!

 

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Video Available for “Freedom of the Press and the Trump Administration”

The video from the Center’s discussion of “Freedom of the Press and the Trump Administration” is now available on Vimeo.  The March 21 event was headlined by George Freeman, executive director of the Media Law Resource Center and former assistant general counsel of the New York Times Co., who discussed the challenges to press freedom that are likely to arise (and have already arisen) under the Trump administration. Mr. Freeman provided opening remarks on this subject and then sat down with Professor Mary-Rose Papandrea, a noted First Amendment expert, for an open-ended conversation that explored the administration’s positions on executive branch transparency, journalists’ access to government officials, whistleblower protections, the scope of defamation law, and respect for journalists, among other topics.

You can view the video here:

 

Freedom of the Press and the Trump Administration from Center for Media Law and Policy on Vimeo.

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