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University of Iowa News Release

Release: Feb. 6, 2003

UI Law Professor Examines Freedom Of The Press In New Book

A forthcoming book by UI College of Law professor Randall Bezanson will explore the meaning and limits of press freedom by taking an in-depth look at a number of key judicial decisions about the First Amendment freedom.

"Press Stories: How Free Can the Press Be?" examines nine judicial decisions in which courts weighed in on such issues as the press and national security, the line between news and entertainment, the right to exercise news judgment, the right to publish news, the limits of an individual's privacy, and newsgathering tactics that violate the law. Seven of the cases were decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and two by lower courts.

Bezanson said he selected the cases because they explore the meaning of the press's freedom and prompt readers to consider what, if any, limits should legally be placed on that freedom. He analyzes the arguments of all sides in each case based on the facts giving rise to the controversies and, often, the oral arguments before the Supreme Court. The books treatment of the issues takes the form of a Socratic dialogue accessible to lawyers, students and a general readership.

"The point is not to provide answers," he said. "It is instead to reveal the various ways of thinking about the questions and the
competing arguments that can be made. The answers to be found in the cases are always interesting and often confounding, but never obvious."

Among the cases considered are New York Times v. United States, otherwise known as the Pentagon Papers case; Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, involving a newspaper's claimed right to use gender-designated headings on help-wanted ads; Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting, in which a human cannonball
performer successfully sued a TV station for broadcasting his entire act on the nightly news, thus robbing him of potential
revenue-generating ticket buyers; and Food Lion v. ABC, involving the use of trespass and deceit in the gathering of information for a Prime Time Live story about food safety.

"The number of judicial decisions that attempt to define press freedom is relatively small," he said. "This is likely because
Americans share a common understanding of the press and its need for freedom, or 'breathing room,' as the Court puts it. It may also reflect the fact that the press is a very powerful force to be challenged only with trepidation and great, great care."

The book is the second in a trilogy Bezanson is writing that examine the freedoms of speech, press and religion, the three rights
guaranteed by the First Amendment. The first book, "Speech Stories: How Free Can Speech Be?" was published in 1998 by New York University Press.

"Press Stories" will be published by the University of Illinois Press in late 2003 or early 2004.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.