Sentinel Under Siege: The Triumphs and Troubles of America's Free Press

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Westview Press, Jul 3, 1998 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 325 pages
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Sentinel Under Siege traces the evolution of the media in the United States and its capacity to examine and regulate itself, from its earliest colonial roots to the modern explosion of digital technology. Once the Bill of Rights was enacted in 1791, the press became the first and only enterprise explicitly protected by the United States Constitution. This book is concerned with the legal content given to freedom of the press by the Supreme Court, and the fitful attempts of media criticism - both intramural and external - to build a greater sense of responsibility among the practitioners. Stanley Flink is concerned less with the people's right to know than with the people's need to know. Only a competent, responsible press - whatever its means of distribution - can perform the role of watchdog over official abuse of power, business corruption, and political distortions. But the acquisition of so many newspapers, magazines, and broadcasting facilities by corporate conglomerates threatens a new kind of prior restraint on an independent press - the conflicts of interest; the power of advertising; the unspoken self-censorship of reporters and editors, print or electronic, based on the perceived predilections of their employers; and the financial interests of related companies.

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Sentinel under siege: the triumphs and troubles of America's free press

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Early in the 21st century we may be getting most of our news by methods undreamed of only a decade ago. The implications for our democratic society are presented in this scholarly yet accessible book ... Read full review


In Search of a Role
The Press and the Law
Malice Without Wit
Pomp and Provenance
Practicing Freedom
The Limits of Liberty
Crafting a Constitution
Safeguarding Liberty
Turning Away
The News Business
Trash and Flash
The Critics
The Weight of Obligations
Libel and Liability
Training the Watchdogs
Notes v

The Bloodiest War
The Bottom Lines
Selected Bibliography

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Page 213 - 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 a moment to prefer the latter.
Page 138 - But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.
Page 153 - The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press...
Page 102 - A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
Page 123 - My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it ; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it ; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.
Page 138 - Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts or to abolish distinctions based upon physical differences, and the attempt to do so can only result in accentuating the difficulties of the present situation. If the civil and political rights of both races be equal, one cannot be inferior to the other civilly or politically. If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.
Page 30 - ... being the development of which could not have been foreseen completely by the most gifted of its begetters. It was enough for them to realize or to hope that they had created an organism; it has taken a century and has cost their successors much sweat and blood to prove that they created a nation.
Page 22 - Meanwhile, the administration of government has become more complex, the opportunities for malfeasance and corruption have multiplied, crime has grown to most serious proportions, and the danger of its protection by unfaithful officials and of the impairment of the fundamental security of life and property by criminal alliances and official neglect, emphasizes the primary need of a vigilant and courageous press, especially in great cities.
Page 166 - I know, also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.

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About the author (1998)

Stanley E. Flink, former correspondent of Life Magazine and writer/producer at NBC and CBS, is adjunct associate professor of journalism at New York University Graduate School. A graduate of Yale University, he was the founding director of Yale’s Office of Public Information.

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