Freedom of the press is protected under the First Amendment, and a landmark 1964 U.S. Supreme Court ruling extended such protections. (Illustration credit: Shutterstock.com)
Florida lawmakers have recently pushed legislation to make it easier to sue media outlets for alleged defamation — a threat to press freedoms that could have national implications. Journalists are legally protected in publishing critical comments about public officials due to the First Amendment and precedent set by a 1964 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. If the Sullivan case is challenged and overturned, public figures could “use libel law to shut down their critics in the press,” legal historian Samantha Barbas said in an interview.
Discuss: How does the Sullivan ruling protect journalists today? How does it affect public figures? What is defamation? Why do you think the 1964 ruling is being challenged by some public officials today?
Idea: Watch this three-minute video from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. How does FIRE define libel and “actual malice”? What two reasons are cited for why the Sullivan case was an important decision?
Dig deeper: Use this think sheet to take notes on the implications of the Sullivan case.
Two years after a gunman killed six women of Asian descent at Atlanta area spas, the executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association noted that equitable news coverage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders “continues to be elusive.” Disclosing staff diversity data is an important step for newsrooms in improving AAPI coverage, Naomi Tacuyan Underwood writes. “Good journalism, by newsrooms that are representative of their communities, is essential to the multicultural democracy we’re committed to building in the United States.”
Discuss: How has journalism contributed to racism experienced by Asians in America? Why is newsroom diversity important? How can having journalists with diverse perspectives and backgrounds help improve a newsroom’s coverage? Why is it important for newsrooms to reflect the diversity of communities they cover? How could a lack of newsroom diversity impact coverage in your community?
Idea: Use NLP’s Newsroom to Classroom program to connect with a journalist and discuss diversity, equity, inclusion and trust in news media.
NO: As of March 20, Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, who has claimed that whistleblowers contacted him about politicization within the Department of Justice, has not made any announcements that Ray Epps is “flipping” and will testify against the FBI. YES: Epps, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, has been the subject of a wide range of conspiratorial claims based on his role in the violence, including that he was a federal informant who helped start the riot.
NewsLit takeaway: A social media post that strongly aligns with one’s political beliefs or desires — in this case, a message perpetuating the conspiratorial and untrue claim that the attack on the Capitol was organized by the government — can easily gain traction online as confirmation bias leads people to like and share the post. But a quick evaluation of these tweets often reveals red flags indicating these messages may not be worth engaging with.
NO: An arrest warrant for Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was not issued in the Philippines for “premeditated murder” in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. YES: This rumor stems from a conspiratorial website with a penchant for pushing false claims. NO: The Heinous Crimes Court that allegedly issued this warrant does not exist. YES: Baseless conspiratorial fantasies about public figures being arrested for serious crimes are common on conspiracy theory websites.
NewsLit takeaway: Sensational and false claims often gain traction on social media because they appeal to what their audience wants or feels to be true. Social media users can protect themselves from these kinds of conspiratorial fantasy claims by seeking out more information about their source and checking to see if any reliable, standards-based sources are reporting the same thing. A search for NewsPunch, the conspiratorial website where this claim originated, finds several fact-check articles debunking this particular claim, along with dozens of additional articles addressing other false claims it has published.
“How to talk about conspiracy theories without getting fired” was the title of a recent talk by one social studies teacher who successfully integrated media literacy in his classroom. He’s part of a growing movement of researchers and educators who support internet literacy to combat misinformation — a life skill for the 21st century.
After nearly 15 years “down the rabbit hole,” one former conspiracy theorist is now fighting misinformation. What changed his mind? It started with Infowars host Alex Jones’ false narrative about the Sandy Hook school shooting.
At least 27 rural counties in Texas have no local newspaper. Here’s the story of how one newspaper in the panhandle recently ended its run after 130 years.
Newspapers are growing in a place you may not expect: prison. There are now two dozen prison-based newspapers — with at least four of those papers launched within the last year, according to the Prison Journalism Project.
A new bill in Washington state would provide legal safeguards against “deepfakes” in political ads — or manipulated media that can look or sound like a real person.
The unstable and challenging media landscape in Venezuela hasn’t stopped independent news outlets there from flourishing online. As one professor said: “The hope is in digital.”
ICYMI: In case you missed it, the most clicked story link in the last issue of The Sift was about how ChatGPT could be integrated into media literacy lessons.
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