WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / The Illinois Supreme Court ruled this week that a northern Illinois public official must be told the name of an anonymous poster to a newspaper website who likened the politician to former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, the child sex abuser. The decision means that the anonymous poster cannot dodge a libel suit by hiding behind anonymity. The Illinois high court ruled unanimously in favor of Stephenson County Board Chairman Bill Hadley, who has been demanding to know the identity of the poster for four years. Under the decision, Comcast, which provides the poster with internet service, would be required to turn over the poster’s identity.
By SCOTT LAMBERT / Former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, a Missourian who graduated from Millikin University and Washington University Law School, recently was sentenced to 42 months for violating multiple counts of the Espionage Act. Sterling was convicted as New York Times reporter James Risen’s source in a chapter of the book State Of War, which described a botched CIA attempt to hinder Iran’s nuclear program. For the press, the story was strictly about Risen’s battle with the government and First Amendment issues. The media never questioned Sterling’s guilt or innocence. As a group, the press stayed on the Risen as hero narrative, leaving Sterling alone.
By GEORGE SALAMON / When Islamist gunmen killed 10 journalists and two policemen in January at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine firebombed in 2011 for its irreverent cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, media reaction to the massacre immediately after was best summed up by the headline of an article in Reason magazine: “I’m all for free speech and murder is wrong, but…” In much of the media the “but” trumped admiration and respect for the slain journalists’ insistence that religions, along with other institutions and ideas, can and should be mocked and laughed at. Media might want to ask themselves if the “negative liberty” granted by the First Amendment allows exceptions for legally irrelevant categories such as “bad taste” or “bad judgment.”
By BEN LYONS / “Journalism matters because we have the responsibility to inform readers of the truth of their world, even when they don’t want us to.” That was the message Michel Martin, host of NPR’s “Tell Me More,” and journalist of more than 25 years gave guests at Gateway Journalism Review’s First Amendment Celebration March 19. Drawing journalists and friends of news from around the region, the event took place at the Edward Jones headquarters in Des Peres, Mo. “We are following the story of ourselves as a nation,” Martin said of the media’s Ferguson coverage. Just as we as a people are imperfect, journalism should “hold a mirror to both flaws and beauty,” she said.
By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / Whether viewed from a legal, moral or ethical vantage point, the lifetime ban that NBA commissioner Adam Silver imposed on racist Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was just and correct. After Silver announced the punishment, the Twittersphere exploded with claims that the NBA had violated Sterling’s First Amendment right to free speech. The problem with that argument is the first word of the First Amendment: Congress.
By WILLIAM A. BABCOCK / For anyone spending the past few days in a cave, the person in the eye of the latest media storm is Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. Sterling ignited the race card, and the media suddenly have diverted their eyes from the Ukraine, a missing airplane and a South Korean ferry. Race is America’s trump card. It’s the nation’s third rail: touch it and you die. Sterling’s racist comments recently were recorded by his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, and released by TMZ on Saturday. Three days later, NBA commissioner Adam Silver called for NBA owners to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, banned him for life from any association with the league and fined him $2.5 million. Now Sterling’s remarks were inappropriate, racist, odious, vulgar and hurtful. But they were made in the privacy of his own home, and recorded without his knowledge or consent.
BY SAM ROBINSON / New $25 tickets are now available for the March 29 First Amendment celebration featuring Amy Goodman, award-winning journalist and host of “Democracy Now!” The annual event benefiting Gateway Journalism Review will take place at the Edward Jones Headquarters in Des Peres, Mo. Goodman will speak at 8 p.m. Those who would like to attend the program, but not the full event, can now purchase tickets for just $25.
BY GENELLE I. BELMAS and JASON M. SHEPARD / When Lisa Rosenberg recently traveled to Croatia, the open-government advocate was prepared to debate the appropriateness of campaign-finance disclosure laws in a formerly Communist regime. But she found little need to persuade.