Freedom of the Press Expanded

The question of who is a journalist has confounded the public and the press for a long time. The U.S. Supreme Court recognized this difficulty in its 1972 decision Branzburg v. Hayes. “The administration of a constitutional newsman’s privilege would present practical and conceptual difficulties of a high order,” wrote Justice Byron White. “Sooner or later, it would be necessary to define those categories of newsmen who qualified for the privilege, a questionable procedure in light of the traditional doctrine that liberty of the press is the right of the lonely pamphleteer who uses carbon paper or a mimeograph just as much as of the large metropolitan publisher who utilizes the latest photocomposition methods.”

White added:

“Freedom of the press is a ‘fundamental personal right’ which ‘is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets. … The press in its historic connotation comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.’ … The informative function asserted by representatives of the organized press in the present cases is also performed by lecturers, political pollsters, novelists, academic researchers, and dramatists.”

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