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Press Freedom Essay

From the moment she stepped foot outside, Princess Diana of Whales had camera lenses and microphones pushed in her face. She was constantly pursued and for this reason she sometimes had to hide or disguise herself in order to avoid the unyielding persistence and constant harassment of the press. Eugene Robinson, a journalist in England said, “For the tabloids, day in and day out, no story is bigger than the royal family. All the tabloids employ royal-watching reporters, some of whom have become celebrities in their own right.

The story of Princess Diana of Whales was the biggest story of all. Sabjan, 1998) Princess Diana could not even stay out of the public eye when she was behind the walls of the royal estate. The press broke the story of her failing marriage, her intercepted phone conversation with a male friend, and finally her new relationship. The Princess often complained about the coverage, saying “Any sane person would have left (Britain) long ago. ” (Sabjan, 1998) But with an abundant amount of freelance photographers stalking her every move upon her leaving Kensington Palace, that idea proved impossible.

Pushed almost to the edge by constant press harassment, Princess Diana was ready to consider making an attempt to avoid the public altogether. During her last interview, Princess Diana told writer Richard Kay that she was “Going to complete her obligations to her charities and then completely withdraw from her formal public life. ” (Sabjan, 1998) The public had forced itself into the life of a celebrity and caused the pressure from the media to become overwhelming. Princess Diana did stay in England, however, and used the incredible amounts of media attention to her advantage.

Princess Diana had numerous charities and good causes that were important to her so she used the press to promote them, all the while helping to shape her own image. Unfortunately, in the case of Princess Diana, the press and their use of aggressive tactics resulted in a tragedy. Princess Diana and her friend Dodi Al-Fayed had just left the Ritz Hotel in Paris, France, late Saturday night, August 30, 1997. Sending a regular chauffeur and limousine ahead as a decoy, Princess Diana and Al-Fayed left out of a different hotel entrance and entered a Mercedes S-280 driven by Henri Paul.

Some photographers saw this, and began to follow the Mercedes on motorcycles and cars. Henri Paul tried to lose the photographers as he increased the car’s speed, but the photographers continued to follow, chasing the car through the streets. Eyewitnesses saw the motorcycles swarming the Mercedes as it entered a tunnel traveling over 60 miles per hour. The speed limit in the tunnel was 30 miles per hour. Inside the tunnel, the Mercedes hit a curb, lost control, and slammed into a concrete barrier post, then flipped several times. Dodi Al-Fayed and driver Henri Paul were killed at the scene of the accident.

Princess Diana was brought to a hospital where doctors had to open her chest to fix a wound to a major blood vessel. Princess Diana’s heart was directly massaged for 2 hours, but the doctors were unsuccessful in saving her life. Princess Diana was pronounced dead at the hospital 4 hours after the accident. (Sabjan, 1998) Soon after their deaths, seven of the photographers were arrested, declared by police as manslaughter suspects because they were the reason the car was speeding in the first place. The Princess’ death had a large impact on the United States.

She was a public figure that others could model their lives after and she was involved in several charities in the United States. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution grants the press immunity, but several arguments have risen for some type of further regulation. The press has an extensive history that must be observed and understood for an accurate analysis of the problems that face the press today. When the United States Constitution was written in 1787, primary authors James Madison and Alexander Hamilton had to “sell” it to the American people.

The Constitution articles were written in newspapers throughout the country. These articles are now collectively known as The Federalist Papers. Without these articles, it is doubtful that the experiment known as The United States would have ever happened. Seeing the power of the press, the founding fathers guaranteed its complete freedom on the first amendment to the Constitution. (Schwartz, 1992, p. 174) The Freedom of the press was designed to act as another independent outside check system.

A check on either the Executive, Legislature, or Judiciary branch of the government. (Wilson, 1999) Along with this responsibility, the freedom of the press clause was designed to lead to an informed populace. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right, and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter. Schwartz, 1992, p. 18)

“The Press” is an extremely broad term and includes all systems that make information available to the public: newspapers, television, radio, magazines, books, lectures, movies, art, dance, telephone, cassettes, CDs, video discs, electronic bulletin boards, computer networks, billboards, and so on. It is generally referred to as “The Press” because the founding fathers, who wrote the freedom of the press into the Constitution, knew only of the printing press, at that time the most popular form of mass communication.

Today, because of it’s variety, it is known as “The media. ” “The media” would continue to present the public with information that influenced our society in several diverse ways. One of the most influential books of the 1800s was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Published in 1852, Stowe portrayed African American slaves as human beings, rather than animals with petty uses, and their white owner, Simon Legree, as the novel’s villain. The book became extremely successful, selling over 300,000 copies in its first year. (Levy, 1999, p. )

Of these 300,000, a countless number were purchased in the South with the sole purpose of burning it. However, this book swayed popular opinion in the North towards the abolition of slavery. Without Uncle Tom’s Cabin, anti- slavery might never have been a major cause of the Civil War (Levy, 1999, p. 93) In 1906, a book entitled The Jungle was written by Upton Sinclair. Using groundbreaking techniques in investigative reporting, Sinclair exposed to the public the deplorable conditions at a Chicago meat packing industry. Sinclair worked undercover, then wrote about the conditions he observed in his book.

The Jungle changed the way food products were handled in the United States, when in response to the book, the government founded the Food and Drug Administration to prevent further widespread food handling abuse. (McWilliams, 1998) In the late 1930s, American’s were gently prodded into taking sides in World War II by what they heard on the radio. From Germany, American’s heard the incoherent sounds of a ranting lunatic followed by masses lock-stepping and shouting, “Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! ” From England however, American’s heard the warm, gentle, sometimes humorous voice of Winston Churchill.

Surely it would be okay to lend this nice man some boats and lease him a few airplanes. And so, lend-lease was born, and the United States was no longer neutral. (Levy, 1999, p. 114) The free press was responsible for major changes in America’s society. From the American Revolution, to the civil war, to the World Wars, the Press of America has shaped the way the public views and interprets certain events. It is important for Journalists to remember however, that they are responsible for informing the public in a certain fashion.

Article IV of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) Statement of Principals, entitled “Truth and Accuracy,” states that “Good faith with the reader is the foundation of good journalism. ” (Iggers, 1998, p. 39) In order for the press to maintain “Good Faith” with the reader, they must follow certain guidelines or ethics. The Society of Professional Journalists gathered in 1996 to revise their previous codes, established in 1926. The society focused on four primary aspects of newsgathering and reporting. The first being seeking and reporting the truth.

According to the Society, Journalists should take many steps in assuring themselves that the information they have gathered is truthful and accurate. In order to do so, the Society suggests that the reporting journalists should test the accuracy of their information. Journalists should always seek out the subjects of their reporting and give them the opportunity to respond to the allegations that are being brought up against them, while identifying their sources, which should be checked thoroughly for reliability, and never plagiarized.

By following these guidelines, the harm induced on those being reported is minimized, which is the Society’s next aspect in their code of ethics. (Iggers, 1998, p. 42) To minimize the harm caused to those being reported, journalists are simply reminded to be sensitive when seeking interviews or photos of people affected by tragedy or grief, realizing that private people have a right to control certain amounts of information regarding themselves. (Iggers, 1998, p. 42) In doing so, journalists become more respected by the public, and become accountable for their reports, the third aspect of the Society’s code.

The Society states that in order for a journalist to be accountable for their reporting, they must admit any to any mistakes they may have made, and attempt to correct them immediately. Journalists should clarify their coverage and invite the public to discuss and voice any grievances against the news media that they may have, as well as properly exposing unethical practices of fellow journalists and the news media. (Iggers, 1998, p. 43) In doing this, journalists will be working independently, the Society’s final rule.

Journalists must remain free of associations that could damage their own personal credibility, which may involve accepting gifts, favors or concealed fees in exchange for reporting something your that benefits their source, contradicting the interests of the public. (Iggers, 1998, p. 38-47) Journalists have these guidelines to help them concentrate their efforts to reporting honestly and accurately. There are some journalists however, that choose not to follow such guidelines. That is why there are limitations on how journalists obtain their information, and how that information is reported.

The First Amendment does not list any specific exceptions, but it does not protect all types of speech and press. The US Government can limit the freedom of the press when it comes to the invasion of one’s privacy. Privacy in a tort concept embraces four branches of protected interests: protection from unreasonable intrusion upon one’s seclusion, from appropriation of one’s name or likeness, from unreasonable publicity given to one’s private life, and from publicity which unreasonably places one in a false light before the public.

The Sedition Act of 1798 made criminal the malicious writings which defamed, brought into contempt of disrepute, or excited the hatred of the people against the Government, the President, or the Congress, or which stirred people to sedition. (FindLaw Constitution, 1998) The press can be sued for libel if the reported material involves those who are not public figures or public officials that do not have the burden of proving that the publication was done with a reckless disregard of the truth.

Libel occurs when a statement that is false about an identifiable person is published to a third party, causing injury to the subject’s reputation. (Schwartz, 1991, p. 59) Through million dollar damage settlements, high-profile lawsuits and fraud, the credibility of the press is continually being questioned. Although the First Amendment immunizes the press against liability to public figures for most damages resulting from unfavorable coverage, a majority of the population believes this freedom has impelled the press to go to far in obtaining news.

The Press greatly affects many people in different negative ways. Possibly the most often and exclusively covered are those involved in mainstream politics, especially when the members of the congress or other important positions in the government do something that contradicts what is acceptable in society today. One of the most prominent events in this nation’s political history occurred recently when current President Bill Clinton was romantically involved with a woman other than his wife.

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