On November 8-9, the First Amendment Law Review was joined by the Center for Media Law and Policy and the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP) to present a symposium and workshop focused on fostering an informed society. This two-day event at the UNC School of Law and UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media examined the role of the First Amendment in creating an informed society. Specifically, it explored the legal and policy interventions that support the creation and dissemination of information that meets the needs of American democracy. This interdisciplinary event brought together a wide range of media professionals and scholars, including experts on the First Amendment, media business models, antitrust law, FCC’s media ownership rules, net neutrality, intellectual property, and journalism.
Day one was hosted by the First Amendment Law Review and took place at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center at the University of North Carolina. The symposium was free and open to the public, and it was streamed live on Zoom. There was an option to purchase lunch or receive CLE credit (online or in person).
The second day consisted of an invitation-only workshop/summit at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. It focused on potential legal and policy responses to the decline of local news reporting, the growth of news deserts, and the rise of mis/disinformation online.
Day One – November 8, 2019
During the first day we examined the role of the First Amendment in creating an informed society, including whether the First Amendment places affirmative obligations on the government to ensure that American citizens are informed about their world and what can be done, commensurate with the First Amendment, to ensure that public discourse is robust and informed.
Our keynote was a conversation between Leonard Downie Jr., Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Cronkite School at Arizona State University and former executive editor and vice president of The Washington Post, and Robert Kaiser, former managing editor at The Post and author of eight books. They discussed the challenges facing American journalism.
Downie and Kaiser co-wrote “The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril” in 2002 and are working on a follow-up to that important, but sobering, examination of journalism at the turn of the century. Downie is also the author, along with Michael Schudson, of a major report on the state of the news media, “The Reconstruction of American Journalism,” published by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2009.
Panel 1: The First Amendment’s Structural Role in Our Democracy
This panel discussed whether the First Amendment places affirmative obligations on the government to ensure that American citizens are informed about their government and the world. Spurred in part by Jerome Barron’s classic article on First Amendment rights of access to the press, scholars have debated whether the First Amendment merely provides a shield against the government or whether it requires the government to pursue policies that further an informed electorate.
- David Ardia, Reef C. Ivey II Excellence Fund Term Professor of Law & Co-Director of the Center for Media Law and Policy, University of North Carolina School of Law
- Jerome Barron, Harold H. Greene Professor of Law Emeritus, George Washington University School of Law
- Amy Gajda, Class of 1937 Professor of Law, Tulane University School of Law
- Gregory Magarian, Thomas and Karole Green Professor of Law, Washington University in St. Louis School of Law
Panel 2: The First Amendment and the Declining Fourth Estate
This panel examined whether the First Amendment is indifferent to journalism as a means of informing society and to the broader changes in the institutional landscape of free expression, including the proliferation of private platforms that facilitate and moderate public debate. Panelists also discussed what government, private parties — and individuals themselves — can do to ensure that public discourse is informed.
- Dawn Nunziato, William Wallace Kirkpatrick Research Professor, George Washington University School of Law
- Jonathan Peters, Assistant Professor of Journalism, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of Georgia
- Jared Schroeder, Assistant Professor, Southern Methodist University
- Chris Meazell, Professor of Practice, Wake Forest University School of Law
Panel 3: The First Amendment, Antitrust, and Competition Policy
This panel considered whether the First Amendment limits government’s ability to regulate the media and communications industries and assess whether government should use antitrust and competition policy to foster a robust and informed public sphere. Unprecedented consolidation has swept the media industries. At the same time, court rulings have severely hampered the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) ability to impose net neutrality and to limit corporate control of radio, television, and newspapers. This panel discussed whether the government can and should use antitrust and competition policy to foster a robust public sphere.
- Maurice Stucke, Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law
- Adam Candeub, Professor of Law & Director of the Intellectual Property, Information & Communications Law Program, Michigan State University College of Law
- Andrew Gavil, Professor of Law, Howard University School of Law
- Robert Picard, Senior Research Fellow, Reuters Institute at University of Oxford
Day Two – November 9, 2019
This invitation-only workshop/summit entitled “Thwarting the Growth of News Deserts: Strengthening Local News and Democracy” addressed the potential legal and policy responses to the decline of local news reporting, the growth of news deserts, and the rise of mis/disinformation online. This second day was a partnership between the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy; UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media; and Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP).