The James R. Cleary Prize for Student Media Law and Policy Research in 2023

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 2022. 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 winner, Isabela M. Palmieri, 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.  We define this subject matter broadly, including copyright, trademark, social media regulation, and First Amendment speech and press issues. All methodologies are welcome.

The deadline for submission is May 15, 2023.


  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 2022 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 May 15, 2023.
  • 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.


Exciting Summer 2023 Job Opportunities for Students on the Media Law Jobs Board!

The UNC Center for Media Law and Policy offers many resources to law students, including the Media Law Jobs Board. The jobs board is updated regularly with full-time jobs, fellowships, post-docs, and seasonal internships in media law and a variety of related fields such as journalism, privacy, intellectual property, technology, and business affairs. 

There are a number of great summer media law opportunities for law students interested in litigation, digital civil rights, First Amendment issues, and other exciting areas of media law! If you’ve already nailed down your summer plans, this list may help you decide where to apply next summer or after graduation.

Students who accept unpaid or low-paying summer internships in the fields of media law or media policy may be eligible for a summer grant from the Center—check back soon for information about how to apply for summer funding.

Below are some of the highlights of the summer jobs listed on the jobs board. Please remember that you will need to contact these employers directly; we simply post the jobs and are not responsible for hiring

  • First Amendment Internship at the Center for Investigative Reporting: The Center for Investigative Reporting is currently accepting applications for a First Amendment Intern in CIR’s legal department. The intern will work closely with in house and outside counsel to assist with: researching discrete issues for freedom-of-information and court-access cases; drafting, reviewing, and editing appeal letters for public records requests; providing feedback on amicus briefs; researching intellectual property issues and assisting with relevant client letters; and researching for a law review article involving First Amendment issues and the right of access.  
  • Cyberlaw Clinic Intern at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society: Harvard Law School‘s Cyberlaw Clinic, based at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, provides high-quality, pro-bono legal services. Summer legal interns work on all aspects of the Cyberlaw Clinic’s caseload and, like Fall and Spring semester students, take the lead on the projects they join, supported by the Clinic staff. Although Clinic projects vary from summer to summer, they often include substantive law related to the First Amendment, computer security, digital privacy, intellectual property, civic innovation, emerging technologies such as AI, human rights, reproductive justice and media and the arts.
  • Summer Legal Intern–Media and Free Speech at Dow Jones: Dow Jones & Company, Inc. is soliciting applications for its Media Law and First Amendment Internship. The position is hybrid and the intern will join Dow Jones’s legal department in its New York City offices for a few days each week, for ten weeks in the summer of 2023. Working primarily with Dow Jones’s litigation and press attorneys, the intern will focus on matters affecting publication, access to information, newsgathering, and domestic and international free-speech laws.
  • Media Freedom and Information Access Fellow at Yale Law School: The Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic is a law student clinic dedicated to increasing government transparency, defending the essential work of news gatherers, and protecting freedom of expression. It provides pro bono legal services to journalists and news organizations, pursues impact litigation, and develops policy initiatives in support of the Clinic’s mission. The Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic invites applications for summer fellow positions. The summer fellows will assist in all aspects of the Clinic’s ongoing litigation and other activities.

And, of course, current law students should also reach out to their school’s career offices. UNC students can contact the Career Development Office through My Carolina Law.

Don’t forget to check the board regularly for new summer and post-grad opportunities!


First Amendment Limits on State Laws Targeting Election Misinformation

At long last, the article Evan Ringel and I wrote on First Amendment Limits on State Laws Targeting Election Misinformation has finally been published in the First Amendment Law Review.  The piece expands on a whitepaper we wrote in 2021 that cataloged state efforts to regulate election-related speech (available on SSRN).

I’ve pasted the abstract below, but if you want to read it in bite size chunks, I will be posting a series of excerpts at the Volokh Conspiracy this week.  The first post just went up today!

Here is the abstract:

The last two presidential election cycles have brought increased attention to the extent of misinformation – and outright lies – peddled by political candidates, their surrogates, and others who seek to influence election outcomes. Given the ubiquity of this speech, especially online, one might assume 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.

Prompted by concern about the impact of misinformation on the American electorate, we set out to assess the extent to which existing state and federal laws limit election misinformation and the prospect that these laws will survive First Amendment scrutiny. In doing so, we reviewed more than 125 state statutes that regulate the content of election-related speech, ranging from statutes that prohibit false and misleading factual statements about candidates to laws that indirectly regulate election-related speech by prohibiting fraud and intimidation concerning elections.

What we found is that state statutes regulating election misinformation vary widely in the types of speech they target and the level of fault they require, with many statutes suffering from serious constitutional deficiencies. Statutes that target defamatory speech or speech that harms the election process, is fraudulent, or that intimidates voters are likely to be permissible, while statutes that target other types of speech that have not traditionally been subject to government restriction, such as statutes that target merely derogatory speech, will face an uphill battle in demonstrating that they are constitutional. Furthermore, statutes that impose liability without regard to the speaker’s knowledge of falsity or intent to interfere with an election are especially problematic.

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. The challenge, of course, is in developing regulatory regimes that advance the interest in free and fair elections while at the same time ensuring that debate on public issues remains uninhibited, robust, and wide-open. This is no easy task. Regardless of whether individual statutes survive First Amendment scrutiny, it is useful to understand the breadth and depth of state attempts to deal with lies, misinformation, intimidation, and fraud in elections. As we point out, any legislative approach to combatting election misinformation must be part of a broader societal effort to reduce the prevalence of misinformation generally and to mitigate the harms that such speech creates.

You can read the full version of the article here.


UNC Community is Invited to First Amendment Day 2022!

First Amendment Day is back on campus September 21st! After two years of hosting the event in virtual format, the Center for Media Law and Policy is excited to invite the Carolina community to engage in person with renowned scholars, journalists, and litigators.



The faculty co-chairs of the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy—David Ardia, Reef C. Ivey II Excellence Fund Term Professor of Law at UNC School of Law, and Amanda Reid, Associate Professor at UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media—have assembled a diverse group of speakers to discuss contemporary First Amendment issues like social media regulation, weaponization of First Amendment rhetoric, and speech in public schools (from cheerleaders to football coaches!). Other special events will include a banned book reading and a virtual First Amendment trivia contest with fun prizes and the return of the fan-favorite trivia category: First Amendment haikus.

The day will kick off at 10:30 a.m. in Carroll Hall with a student debate about timely ethical issues related to freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Then, the community is invited to the law school to hear legal scholars from UNC and the University of Helsinki discuss U.S. and European approaches to regulating social media platforms. Next, practicing journalists and lawyers will share guidance on how to stay within the bounds of the First Amendment (and out of court) when posting content online. Interdisciplinary speakers from the UNC Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life will then discuss the weaponization of the First Amendment rhetoric and how movements use the rhetoric of free speech as strategic social, political, and cultural tools. The day will culminate with a keynote address from University of Florida Professor Clay Calvert, the man who literally wrote the book on media law: Mass Media Law, 22nd Edition (with UNC Hussman graduates Dan Kozlowski ’06 (Ph.D.) and Derigan Silver ’09 (Ph.D.). Calvert will give a  thought-provoking speech titled “Free Speech and Public School Students — Lessons From a Cursing Cheerleader and South Park.”

After the day’s formal events conclude, Hussman Ph.D. student Evan Ringel will host a virtual First Amendment trivia event (Zoom link here or access at allowing community members to put their knowledge to the test through a series of First Amendment-related questions. Gift certificates from Chapel Hill bookstores Epilogue Books and Flyleaf Books are offered as prizes.

First Amendment Day has been a UNC tradition since 2009, and it is always observed during National Banned Books Week. The day is designed to celebrate the First Amendment and explore its role in the lives of UNC students—from social media use to political involvement. First Amendment day gives UNC community members the opportunity to discuss the public university’s special role as a marketplace of ideas and the need to be tolerant when others exercise their rights.

First Amendment Day is organized by the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy and is one of the highlights of the year for the UNC community. See the full schedule of events at, and follow the festivities on Twitter via #UNCFree. 


Beyond the Marketplace of Ideas: Bridging Theory and Doctrine to Promote Self-Governance

I am thrilled to announce that my article on First Amendment theory, “Beyond the Marketplace of Ideas: Bridging Theory and Doctrine to Promote Self-Governance,” recently came out in the Harvard Law & Policy Review.  Here is the abstract:

No theory dominates both public and judicial understanding of the First Amendment quite like the “marketplace of ideas.” While faith in free competition among ideas holds tremendous appeal, as an organizing theory for the formulation of First Amendment doctrine it has proven to be deeply problematic. The theory rests on an overly simplified account of public discourse, treating speech as a commodity that can be allocated through market-style transactions, and it has come to embody an extreme version of libertarian economic thinking that is undermining the very democratic processes the First Amendment was intended to serve and strengthen.

The belief that public discourse takes place within a self-regulating market that needs only the presence of more speech to produce “truth” has not held up to empirical scrutiny. Indeed, social scientists who study the impact of the Internet, social media, and other forms of digital information sharing on our public sphere paint a disturbing picture of the health of American democracy. Our current media ecosystem produces too little high-quality information; we tend to be attracted to information that confirms our existing biases about the world and to share this information with little regard for its veracity; and there are an increasing number of actors who seek to leverage these vulnerabilities to distort public discourse and undermine democratic decision-making.

This article applies the insights of constitutional structuralism to argue that the First Amendment was intended to play a vital role in the American constitutional system: facilitating self-governance by ensuring that citizens are capable of participating in the deliberative processes that are essential to a representative democracy. With self-governance as the touchstone, it lays out three principles that should guide the development of First Amendment doctrines. First, we need to move beyond the idea that the First Amendment’s only function is to enshrine free market ideology. Second, the First Amendment does not bar the government from addressing market failures in the actual markets in which communication takes place, especially when those failures undermine the public’s capacity for self-governance. Third, the capacity for self-governance turns, at least in part, on whether the public has the information it needs to effectively evaluate issues of public policy.

This article proposes a number of ways to bridge theory and doctrine to promote self-governance, including using antitrust law to address concentrated economic power in communication markets, expanding and enforcing privacy and consumer protection laws to create more competition among speech platforms, and initiating programs that support journalism and other knowledge institutions within society. It also argues that as an influential participant in public discourse, the government should have an obligation to wield its influence in ways that support self-governance, not undermine it by misleading its citizens or starving them of the information they need. I therefore propose two new rights that should be recognized under the First Amendment: a right not to be lied to by the government when it undermines the public’s capacity for self-governance and a right to information in the government’s possession that can assist the public in its efforts to understand and evaluate issues of government policy.

You can download the full paper on SSRN.

This article lays the groundwork for a series of articles I plan to write examining various First Amendment doctrines from the perspective of whether they advance or hinder self-governance. The first of these follow-up articles argues for an expanded right of access to government information. I’ll be sending that out to law reviews later this fall.