Friday, July 2, 2021

Martha Minow's "Saving the News"

Martha Minow is Professor of Law and former Dean of Harvard Law School. She is the author of In Brown's Wake (2010).

Minow applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Saving the News: Why the Constitution Calls for Government Action to Preserve Freedom of Speech, and reported the following:
Page 99 actually serves as the bridge between the “problem statement” and the solutions offered in this book. Early chapters lay out the diminishing scope of the news business in the United States, examine causes and effects, and contrast these developments with historic and longstanding government involvement in and subsidy for news gathering and distribution and media technologies. Page 99 is the penultimate page of a chapter connecting past and present issues with the law and specifically with the United States Constitution. Anticipating concerns that government action to save the news industry would contravene the First Amendment’s prohibition on any governmental action “abridging the freedom of speech…or of the press,” the chapter shows how the First Amendment has coexisted with governmental subsidies for media, regulation of the economics and structure of media, and laws protecting individuals from libel, defamation, and fraud. That chapter also identifies and criticisms some recent judicial interpretations of the First Amendment that show hostility to any governmental regulation and emphasizes that freedom of speech must coexist with other values, such as the democratic system itself; the Constitution is not a suicide pact. The topics on page 99: news deserts, troubling behaviors of digital platform companies, and varieties of governmental actions both consistent with and advancing Constitutional values undergird the book’s entire analysis.

I hope that page 99 whets the reader’s appetite for the remainder of the book. There I lay out more than a dozen reforms that could help “save the news” while remaining consistent with the Constitution and suggest an affirmative constitutional duty for all who care about democracy, accountable government, and safety from exploitation and violence to fight for changes in the current ecosystem of news. There is only one private industry mentioned in the U.S. Constitution—the press—and it is expressly protected. U.S. democratic processes and communities are in jeopardy if the press, news-gathering, and accountability journalism collapse. Hence, the Constitution calls for government action. I could say more here—or better yet, extend hope for discussion once you read the whole book!
Learn more about Saving the News at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue