“From Justice Kennedy, a Lesson in Journalism”


Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Photo by The Supreme Court Historical Society

In a recent NY Times’ article, From Justice Kennedy, a Lesson in Journalism, debate centers on the issue of censorship after a Supreme Court justice gave high school students a lesson they did not anticipate.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had provided the school newspaper at Dalton, a private school in Manhattan, with a lesson about journalistic independence. Though Kennedy is widely regarded as one of the court’s most vigilant defenders of First Amendment values, his office had insisted on approving articles about the talk he gave to the Dalton high school students in late October.

According to the article, “Kathleen Arberg, the court’s public information officer, said Justice Kennedy’s office had made the request to make sure the quotations attributed to him were accurate.”

After receiving a draft of the article, the justice’s office returned it with a “‘a couple of minor tweaks,’ Ms. Arberg said. Quotations were “tidied up” to better reflect the meaning the justice had intended to convey, she said.”

This request sent the wrong message. Frank D. LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center, thinks …“it’s a request that shouldn’t have been made,” he said. “That’s not the teaching of journalism. That’s an exercise in image control.”

And I have to agree. We just discussed this issue in class and were taught that you do not let the subjects of your stories read your stories prepublication for this very reason – they will want to make changes and edits in their favor. For the Supreme Court justice to demand to do so can only be wrong as fact checking does not include editing by the subject of the story.

For many readers, the justices demand can only be viewed as hypocritical and a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of a free press. But for a few others, the action could be justified as pre-approval is considered to be preferred.

Can the justices demand be justified? What lesson did he actually provide? That United States lawmakers do not have to obey the law they themselves make?

What do you think?

About sweetsaltd

Hi! I am currently a senior at the University of Oregon majoring in the Journalism fields of Electronic Media and Magazine. Though I have never had a blog of my own, I have a passion for writing and can see this medium of communication as being right down my alley.
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