Archive for the ‘First Amendment’ Category

Real World Graduation #50: The Media

RealWorldGraduation_Question_50_The_Media   <– PDF

Suppose a famous nationally-distributed newspaper publishes a news article. This particular story is about a series of arsons and burglaries committed by specific persons, who are named in the story.  It is based on information provided to the newspaper by the local police department.  This information was provided to the newspaper editors because he is on friendly terms with officials at the police department.     Because this newspaper is regarded as the standard for integrity, its’ story is picked up by other newspapers, and then by various radio and television stations.  The broadcast and cable television networks accurately repeat the story in their broadcasts, with full audio and video “dramatic re-creations” of the events described in the story.

A few days later, the truth came out. The police officers who provided the information to the newspaper had lied under orders from their superiors in the police department.  The officers knew that the subjects in the story were innocent, but obeyed the chief’s order to relay the information to the newspaper.   The persons named in the story were in fact completely innocent; the upper echelon of the police department held a personal grudge against them because they were frequent critics of the department.  The newspaper editors did not know the people in the story were innocent, but did not investigate to verify the information.  They were happy to go ahead and publish it although unverified because the subjects in the story held political views contrary to those of the official position of the newspaper.  This story was also widely distributed on the internet, including all of the “social networking” sites.  The subjects of the article were libeled, slandered, and publicly vilified until they were completely exonerated by the court.  Unfortunately, they experienced considerable loss of income and legal expenses.  The Police Chief who created the false allegations, and the officers who carried out the politically-motivated orders were subsequently fired.  The editors at the newspaper were all subsequently given raises and promotions.  But the public was misled and misinformed all along, and some still believe the people mentioned were guilty, since the initiating newspaper never was required to issue a formal retraction or apology.  What should be done to prevent this kind of attack upon innocent people and the spreading of false information to the public?

a) Implement qualification controls to prevent inaccurate reporting, such as:

1) All journalists, editors, and commentators shall require a journalism license, to be renewed annually;

2) Persons who are not licensed journalists shall be prohibited from publishing in any format (except for works clearly labeled as fiction).

b) Implement reasonable content controls to prevent political bias, such as:

1) All newspaper, magazine, and printed publications shall be reviewed for news relevance and censored if appropriate, including a prohibition on “editorial opinion”;

2) Radio and TV broadcasts shall be subject to the same controls, except for live sporting events (without play-by-play).

c) Implement technological controls in order to reduce the occasions under which this type of crime could occur, such as:

1) Manufacture and possession of high-speed printing presses (above a certain number of pages per hour) shall be prohibited;

2) Manufacture and possession of broadcast equipment, including cameras, microphones, and lighting systems for studios shall be controlled by suitable authorities, to be released to users when required.

3) Social networking sites shall be prohibited from linking to news articles;

4) The internet shall be regulated as a public utility.

d) Implement capacity controls in order to reduce the magnitude of crimes when they do occur, such as:

1) Newspapers shall be restricted to publishing once per month, with a maximum page count based on community population;

2) Magazines shall be published once per year with a page count limit proportional to the number of paid subscribers;

3) Radio and television broadcast talk show hosts shall be restricted to one five-minute segment per month, to make room for greater diversity in broadcasting.

e) Some combination of the above actions.

(The answer is on p. 3 of the PDF.)

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Posted in critical thinking, First Amendment, government powers, Real World Graduation, U. S. Constitution | No Comments »

Real World Graduation: Question 39

RealWorldGraduation_Question_39   <– PDF

Media outlets such as newspapers, magazines, radio, and television are important sources of news and information to the voters. Because the success of a democratic republic requires voters to be well-informed, it is important for the media to report on issues in a truthful manner.  The First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”.   This means that the government is bound in principle, and the officers of the government are bound by oath, to recognize the pre-existing right of the media to be immune to governmental interference; that is, the media themselves are free to develop their own standards for accuracy in their reporting.  Because there is no formal system or standardization imposed by the government, what standard have the media imposed on themselves?  This question does not apply to the internet.

a) Media outlets are prohibited from reporting facts, even in news stories.

b) Media outlets are prohibited from expressing any opinions or biases by reporters, management, or editors. The only opinions that are allowed are those of readers in “Letters to the Editor” or by viewer emails in the case of radio and television.

c) When reporting “news”, the media reports only the facts. The media outlet may be biased in their opinions, but those opinions are reserved solely to portions of articles or broadcast segments clearly labeled as “Opinion” or “Editorial”.

d) Opinions of reporters and editors reflecting their personal biases are allowed within news stories, but are segregated in their own section, and clearly labeled as “opinion”.

e) Although the exact practice varies from state to state, and from market to market, nearly every media outlet has adopted either c) or d) as an informal standard.

(The answer is on p. 2 of the pdf.)

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Posted in Bill of Rights, critical thinking, First Amendment, Real World Graduation, U. S. Constitution | No Comments »

Real World Graduation: Question 30

RealWorldGraduation_Question_30   <– PDF

Why do journalists publish articles using information from “anonymous sources”?

a) To protect the identity of people who secretly provided vital information to the public, although it may not have been legal or ethical to do so

b) To protect the First Amendment rights of people who may be afraid of publishing or speaking out on their own.

c) Because the media serves as the watchdog of a free society, and the people have a right to know about all the available information

d) Information from anonymous sources is generally more accurate than from open sources.

e) Primarily due to a combination of a), c), and d), although situations like b) do occur occasionally.

(The answer is on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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Real World Graduation: Question 29

RealWorldGraduation_Question_29   <– PDF

Article 2, Section 1 of the U. S. Constitution requires the President to take the following oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States”.

An integral part of preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution is preserving the rights of the people. The rights of individuals specifically called out in the Constitution and its first ten amendments are:

1) Habeas corpus (right to challenge detainment)

2) Freedom of speech

3) Freedom of the press

4) Freedom of religion

5) Freedom to keep and bear arms

6) Freedom from bearing the expense of quartering soldiers

7) Freedom from arbitrary search and seizure (searches require warrants signed by a judge, with testimony under oath by the officials seeking the warrant)

8) Federal indictment only by grand jury

9) No double jeopardy (a person can only be tried once for the same crime)

10) Immunity from self-incrimination

11) Due process of law

12) Compensation for property allocated for public use

13) Speedy and public trial

14) Cross-examination of witnesses in criminal trials

15) Counsel for defense in criminal trials

16) Trial by jury

17) Facts found by a jury not reviewable by a court

18) Prohibition of excessive bail

19) Prohibition of excessive fines

20) Prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments.

Also, rights not specifically mentioned are reserved to the people (individuals) or to the states. Based on your understanding of American history, which three would you rate as the worst Presidents with regard to preserving the rights of the people?  The letter after their name indicates their part affiliation (F refers to Federalist, R indicates Republican, N indicates None, D indicates Democrat, D-R indicates Democrat-Republican, which later became the Democratic Party in the 1820’s).

a) Alexander Hamilton (F), Aaron Burr (F), and Benjamin Franklin (F)

b) Richard M. Nixon (R), Gerald R. Ford (R), and George Washington (N)

c) George H. W. Bush (41) (R), James E. Carter (D), and Thomas Jefferson (D-R)

d) Walter Mondale (D), Barry Goldwater (R), and Alf Landon (R)

e) Three among those listed in groups b) and c)

(The answer is on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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Posted in Benjamin Franklin, Bill of Rights, critical thinking, fifth amendment, First Amendment, fourth amendment, government powers, habeas corpus, Real World Graduation, Second Amendment, sixth amendment, U. S. Constitution | No Comments »