Amanda Reid Joins Media Law Center as New Faculty Co-Director

I’m thrilled to announce that Amanda Reid has joined the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy as faculty co-director of the Center.  Amanda is an associate professor at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media and holds a secondary appointment at the UNC School of Law. She is replacing Tori Ekstrand, who served as the Center’s faculty co-director from 2018-2020. Tori has moved into a new role as the Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Amanda’s research is anchored around the First Amendment. She analyzes the freedoms and limitations imposed on meaning-making processes, including how substantive laws and procedural rules impact—both positively and negatively—our ability to encode and decode meaning.  Her scholarly inquiries range from the free speech implications of copyright regulation of Internet radio to the visual presentation of roadside memorial crosses and the separation of church and state.

Amanda, who earned a Ph.D. and J.D. from the University of Florida, has long contributed to the work of the Center by assisting with our M.A./J.D. and Ph.D./J.D. dual-degree programs in media law. With her training in both journalism and law, Amanda is uniquely well-suited to help grow the dual-degree program and assist in our ongoing work producing interdisciplinary research and scholarship examining how media law and policy can help traditional and new media meet the information needs of all Americans.

“I look forward to working with my brilliant colleagues and terrific students to host important conversations,” Amanda told me. “This is a vital moment to facilitate meaningful discussions about our First Amendment values.”


State Regulation of Election-Related Speech in the U.S.: An Overview and Comparative Analysis

I’m excited to announce that the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy, in partnership with the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP), just published a research report titled State Regulation of Election-Related Speech in the U.S.: An Overview and Comparative Analysis.

The report presents a comprehensive analysis of state efforts to regulate the content of election-related speech and is part of an ongoing multi-method research project focused on how platforms and digital media are changing electoral politics. It extends and builds on a report the Center published with CITAP in September 2020, Regulating the Political Wild West: State Efforts to Disclose Sources of Online Political Advertising, that examined disclosure and recordkeeping regulations for online political advertising.

You might be thinking, given the extent of misinformation associated with the last election, that there are no laws against lying in politics. It turns out that the opposite is true. Although the federal government has largely stayed out of regulating the content of election-related speech, the states have been surprisingly active in passing laws that prohibit false statements associated with elections. By our count, forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have such laws!

For this report, we reviewed more than 125 state statutes that regulate the content of election-related speech. These laws take one of two basic forms: statutes that directly target the content of election-related speech, and generally applicable statutes that indirectly implicate election-related speech by prohibiting intimidation or fraud associated with an election.

What we found is that these election-speech statutes deviate significantly from longstanding theories of liability for false speech. First, the statutes cover a broader range of speech than has traditionally been subject to government restriction: the statutes cover everything from merely derogatory statements about candidates (defamation requires false statements that create a degree of moral opprobrium) to false information about ballot measures, voting procedures, and incumbency. Second, a substantial number of the statutes impose liability regardless of whether the speaker knew the information was false or acted negligently.

Obviously, many of the statutes could be subject to significant First Amendment challenges.  For purposes of this report, however, we have not made any assessment as to whether specific statutes are constitutional. We’ll be doing that examination in a later phase of this project.

To aid in the analysis and comparison of the statutes, we created a multi-level taxonomy of the types of speech the statutes target and cataloged which states have statutes that fall within each category. In the appendix, we provide a summary for each state that outlines the relevant statutory provisions and provides a brief description of the restrictions the statutes impose as well as the types of speakers to which they apply.

Political speech has long been viewed as residing at the core of the First Amendment’s protections for speech. Yet it has become increasingly clear that lies and other forms of misinformation associated with elections are corrosive to democracy. Regardless of whether individual statutes survive First Amendment scrutiny, it is useful to examine the breadth and depth of state efforts to deal with lies, misinformation, intimidation, and fraud in elections. The surprising number of statutes already on the books clearly demonstrate that state legislatures see a problem that needs to be addressed. Moreover, apart from government efforts to impose civil and criminal liability for election-related speech, these statutes (and the taxonomy we describe in this report) can be useful to social media platforms and other intermediaries that facilitate election-related speech. If nothing else, the statutes provide a partial roadmap for identifying the types of speech – and election harms – that may warrant intervention.

The report and associated research is now up on the CITAP Digital Politics site, which includes pages for every state that outlines the relevant statutory provisions and provides a brief description of the restrictions the statutes impose as well as the types of speakers to which they apply (you can also download the report itself from SSRN).


2020 Cleary Writing Competition Winners Announced

The UNC Center for Media Law and Policy is thrilled to announce the winners of the third annual James R. Cleary Prize for the best student published scholarly articles on media law and policy.

This year’s first place winner is Scott Memmel, a 2020 graduate of the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, for his article, “Crossing Constitutional Boundaries: Searches and Seizures of Electronic Devices at U.S. Borders,” which was published in Communications Law and Policy.  Memmel’s article examines searches and seizures of electronic devices at U.S. borders and “seeks to chart the legal landscape by (1) providing key background information, (2) discussing the First Amendment angle of warrantless searches of journalists’ devices, and (3) detailing the split among federal circuit and district courts regarding the Fourth Amendment question of whether border agents need reasonable suspicion to conduct forensic searches of electronic devices.”

The second place winner is Jeeyun (Sophia) Baik, a 2021 graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Her article, “Data privacy and political distrust: corporate ‘pro liars,’ ‘gridlocked Congress,’ and the Twitter issue public around the US privacy legislation,” was published in Information, Communication & Society. Baik’s article “explores how emerging US data privacy regulations are discussed at state and federal levels, examining Twitter discourse around Senate public hearings on data privacy and public forums on the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).”

Memmel will receive a $1,000 cash award and Baik will receive $500.

Scott Memmel

Scott Memmel, M.A., Ph.D. is a postdoctoral associate at the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication (HSJMC), where he earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 2020 and his Master of Arts degree in 2017.

Memmel’s research, which focuses on media law, history, and ethics, has appeared in several respected publications, including Communication Law & Policy. His dissertation and upcoming book to be published by the University of Missouri Press focus on the history and law of the press-police relationship in the United States. Memmel’s dissertation, “Pressing the Police and Policing the Press: The History and Law of the Relationship Between the News Media and Law Enforcement in the United States,” was awarded the 2021 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Nafziger-White-Salwen Dissertation Award and the 2020 University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication Ralph D. Casey Dissertation Research Award. Memmel has worked for several years at the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law, where he previously served as editor of the Silha Bulletin, a thrice-yearly publication focusing on current events related to media law and ethics.

Memmel also teaches several courses at the University of Minnesota, including mass communication law and media ethics. Previously, he held several roles at WSUM 91.7 FM while completing his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Wisconsin.

Jeeyun (Sophia) Baik

Jeeyun (Sophia) Baik is an incoming postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity at UC Berkeley School of Information. She earned her doctoral degree from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. Her research explores socio-political implications of media/technology law and policy for those at the margins of society. She particularly examines various stakeholders’ engagement in the governance of media and information technology, covering the issues of privacy/surveillance, content moderation, and mis/disinformation.

Baik’s dissertation closely investigated the “civil right” of data privacy as a regulatory alternative to address discrimination and structural inequities being reinforced in the digital era. Mapping civil society perspectives onto the data-driven political economy and emerging US privacy laws (e.g., California Consumer Privacy Act), she articulated the limitations of traditional privacy regulations and suggested new ways to collectively envision a more just framework.

Baik’s research has been published in Information, Communication & Society, Telematics & Informatics, International Journal of Communication, and Mass Media & Society. Baik also holds a BA in International Relations from Seoul National University in South Korea, and a master’s in Public Diplomacy from the University of Southern California. She produced broadcasting news prior to the doctoral program.

You can read more about the Cleary Prize competition here. Please check the Center’s blog for an announcement of next year’s deadline to apply.

Congratulations to the winners!






2021 Summer Grants for UNC Law and Graduate Students Working in Media Law and Policy

summer-job-pictureAre you interested in pursuing a career in media law or policy?  Are you worried that you won’t be able to take that plum summer job in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, or Washington, because it’s just too expensive to live there?  Or perhaps you’ll be working remotely from Chapel Hill (or elsewhere) and the job doesn’t pay very much?

Well, the Center for Media Law and Policy is here to help.  The Center’s summer grants program provides funds to UNC law and graduate students taking unpaid or low-paying jobs in the fields of media law or media policy. In past years, UNC students have received a summer grant to support their work at a wide range of organizations, including the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade CommissionNational Public Radio, Electronic Frontier FoundationFoundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Future of Privacy Forum, Student Press Law Center, Broadway Video GroupScreen Media VenturesAmerican Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, and Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

Wait, you don’t have a summer job yet?!  Head over to our media law and policy Jobs Center, where you will find dozens of summer (and post-graduate) employment opportunities. You can easily find the perfect job for you by using our advanced search feature to search by location, keyword, or practice area.  Also, try browsing by job type or category for a more expansive look at the jobs listed. Still not sure what you want to do for the summer?  You can read about the summer experiences of your fellow students on the Center’s blog.

Requirements and Information on How to Apply for a Summer Grant

You must be a UNC law student or graduate student to apply. You will need to download the application form and send it directly to us at medialaw [at] along with the other supporting material described below. Please put “Summer Grant Application” in the subject. The deadline for applying for a summer grant is April 23, 2021.

Law students who applied through the law school’s Summer Public Interest Grant Program are also eligible for a Center grant. You do not need to apply to the Center separately. Simply check the box on the general application for “Media Law or Policy” under the heading “Substantive Areas Your Summer Employment Will Involve” and you will be automatically considered for Center funds in addition to the law school grant.

Applications will be evaluated based on (a) your demonstrated commitment to working in the areas of media law or policy and (b) the quality of your essays (each essay should not be more than 500 words).

Required documents include:

  1. Resume (without grade information)
  2. Offer letter from your employer
  3. Essays (no more than 500 words each) *

* Essay questions:

  • Essay #1: Describe your work responsibilities and how they relate to media law or media policy.
  • Essay #2: Describe your commitment to public service. How have your past interests and work experiences contributed to your proposed summer internship responsibilities?
  • Essay #3: How do you see this summer work experience contributing to your long-term career goals?

Be sure to check out these Tips for Writing a Strong Grant Application. You will be notified of a decision by the end of April.


The James R. Cleary Prize for Student Media Law and Policy Research in 2020

The UNC Center for Media Law and Policy is now accepting submissions for the James R. Cleary Prize for student media law and policy research published in 2020. The annual award competition, which highlights the best student-authored scholarly articles on media law and policy related topics, honors the legacy of James R. Cleary, an attorney who practiced for 56 years in Huntsville, Ala.  He was particularly interested in the communications field and media law issues.  Cleary’s daughter, Johanna Cleary, is a 2004 Ph.D. graduate of the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

You can read about last year’s winners, Elias Wright, from Fordham University School of Law; Sarah Koslov, from Georgetown Law; and David Fischer, from Columbia Law School, here.

The prize competition is open to all college and university students. Up to three winners will be selected, with a first prize of $1,000, a second prize of $500, and a third prize of $250. The prizes will be awarded to the authors of published papers that most creatively and convincingly propose solutions to significant problems in the field of media law and policy, including First Amendment speech and press issues. All methodologies are welcome.

The deadline for submission is April 15, 2021.


  1. The author of the submitted publication must have been enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate degree-granting program in the United States at the time the article was accepted for publication. This includes, but is not limited to, students enrolled in M.A. and Ph.D. programs, law school (including J.D., LL.M., and J.S.D. candidates), and other professional schools (including M.B.A. candidates).
  2. The submitted paper must have been published in a law review or peer-reviewed journal during the 2020 calendar year.
  3. Each student may submit only one entry.
  4. Jointly authored papers are eligible, provided all authors meet the eligibility requirements for the competition. If a winning paper has more than one author, the prize will be split equally among the co-authors. No work with a faculty co-author will be considered.
  5. Each entry must be the original work of the listed author(s). The author(s) must perform all of the key tasks of identifying the topic, researching it, analyzing it, formulating positions and arguments, and writing and revising the paper.
  6. Papers will be evaluated based on a number of factors, including thoroughness of research and analysis, relevance to the competition topic, relevance to current legal and/ or public policy debates, originality of thought, and clarity of expression.
  7. The prize will be monetary. Winners will be required to submit a completed W-9, affidavit of eligibility, tax acknowledgment and liability release for tax purposes as a condition of receiving the cash prize.
  8. In the unlikely event that entries are of insufficient quality to merit an award, the Center for Media Law and Policy reserves the right not to award some or all of the prizes.

Submission Process

  • All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on April 15, 2021.
  • Entries must be sent via email to medialaw[at] with the following in the subject line: “James R. Cleary Prize Submission: [Name of Author]”
  • Papers should be submitted in Portable Document Format (.pdf).
  • Entries MUST include a signed cover sheet that may be downloaded from the Center for Media Law Policy’s website here.

A review committee comprised of faculty and affiliates from the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy will review the submissions and determine the winning paper(s). The decisions of the committee are final. Winners will be notified and final results will appear on the Center’s website in late spring. Due to the large number of expected entries, the Center cannot contact all non-winning entrants.

For more information, please visit our Cleary Competition page.