The Climate of Free Speech

PB FirstAmendmentPanel Sep22 19 1

Dr. Craig Smith of the Center for First Amendment Studies addresses the audience at the Protected Speech in an Election Cycle panel.

Panel discusses protected speech in an election cycle

By Jordan Daniels   Opinions Editor, Photos by David Schell   Contributor

As writers, the First Amendment is held close to us because it directly affects us and our careers. It affects our right to free speech and our right to free press.

But what are the limitations to our free speech? How much of it is protected? 

This topic was covered in the panel, “Protected Speech in an Election Cycle,” which included Union Weekly Editor-in-Chief, Alejandro Ramos, The Daily 49er Editor-in-Chief, Micayla Vermeeren, and KBeach Radio’s News and Sports Director, Rebecca Perez. They joined the discussion regarding where lines are drawn and where they blur when speech is covered in media and by media.

With the upcoming presidential election being a focal point to the conversation, there was a lot of talk about how the lines of protected speech are being skewed. Both candidates were critiqued with their usage and control of the media.  

“I found it ironic...that Donald Trump uses this anti-media narrative while he brilliantly uses the media and has for 15, 16 months,” said John Shrader, the moderator of the panel. 

Dr. Craig Smith, the founder and Director Emeritus of the Center For First Amendment Studies, noted that rhetoric and language has changed to the point where, as we’ve seen in many cases especially with Trump, candidates can say what they want and not be held accountable for their words. 

It is true that we live in a world where`our rights to speech are constantly challenged and changed on a case-by-case basis, yet medias are regulated and restricted on what they can and cannot broadcast and report. 

FA Panel2

Union Weekly Editor-in-Chief Alejandro Ramos, left, and Daily 49er Editor-in-Chief Micayla Vermeeren participated as student panelists.

Kevin Johnson, the Director for the Center For First Amendment Studies, delved into a brief analysis of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. 

Johnson brought up observations where Clinton is often noted for casting Russia as an evil entity, which threatens the national security of the United States. 

The student panelists agreed that in many ways, the media has lost the public’s trust with factual reporting. Instead, criticism has grown over redirecting efforts toward sensationalizing to raise the public interest and involvement at the expense of reporting what actually needs to be talked about. 

Bill Dallman, the News Director of CBS Los Angeles said, “Everyone’s a publisher… now, every single claim is subject to, ‘is this right, is this wrong, is this too outrageous?’”

As the panel began to wind down, they shared their struggles of keeping a publication fair, factual and interesting. 

According to Dallman, “you all have to make sure that you have the highest standards of yourself.”


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