How Free Can the Press Be?

Author: Randall P. Bezanson
A stimulating exploration of American freedom of the press
Paper – $28
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 10/01/2007
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About the Book

Randall P. Bezanson explores the contradictions embedded in understanding press freedom in America by discussing nine of the most pivotal and provocative First Amendment cases in US judicial history. Each case resulted in a ruling that refined or reshaped judicial definition of the limits of press freedom.

The cases concerned matters ranging from The New York Times's publication of the Pentagon Papers to Hugo Zacchini's claim that TV broadcasts of his human cannonball act threatened his livelihood. Bezanson also examines the case of politician blackballed by the Miami Herald; the Pittsburgh Press's argument that it had the right to use gender based column headings in its classifieds; and a crime victim suing the Des Moines Register over the paper's publication of intimate details, including the victim's name.

About the Author

Randall P. Bezanson was the David H. Vernon Professor of Law at the University of Iowa. His books include How Free Can Religion Be?

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"Bezanson provides the kind of glimpses into the background of [court] cases that students love. . . . And he asks provocative questions at the end of each chapter which are virtually guaranteed to spark some lively debate in class about what the limits of press freedom ought to be."--Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


"This is an astonishing book. Bezanson approaches conventional cases in unconventional ways. Upon finishing it, one feels privileged to have participated in that rare seminar where the master professor leaves no position unchallenged."--Steven Helle, contributor to Last Rights: Revisiting Four Theories of the Press and numerous law journals, and Freedom Forum National Journalism Teacher of the Year

"Bezanson is one the country's leading First Amendment scholars. In this highly entertaining and well-researched book, he takes us into the gray area where freedom of speech and press collide with other rights and responsibilities. This is a must read for all journalists and for anyone concerned with limits on freedom of speech."--John Soloski, Dean, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia

"Too often the press cries 'First Amendment' as if it gave an absolute answer--as if freedom of the press trumped all other values. Randall Bezanson has found an ingenious and fascinating way to cut through the absolutes, putting provocative questions about leading press cases that make us see that privacy, fairness, and other interests have their claim, too. Reporters, editors, and their lawyers should read this book and reflect on it."--Anthony Lewis, author of The Myth of the Imperial Judiciary: Why the Right Is Wrong About the Courts


Selected by the American Library Association as the Best of the Best from the University Presses, 2004.