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Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal

Abstract

The Free Press makes possible a fair democracy. It exerts influence on our communities and our consciences, principally in the form of reporting facts through its account of events, endorsing certain viewpoints through editorials, and ultimately producing the “first rough draft of history.” How the public responds to the Free Press speaks to the historic and continued expectation that many different voices should present divergent messages and allow the people to decide which message is the truth. Risks taken by the Free Press in the name of truth enable the theory of our Constitution to endure by facilitating the unbridled flow of ideas for the public to debate.

But what happens when the public’s debate is not based upon fair and honest messages, but on ambiguity or deception? It is not that the purpose of the Free Press—to communicate a clear message and have the public verify its truth through open discourse—supplants the validity of certain opinions held by individuals in the public. Rather, it is that the flow of ideas to the public is now impeded by rogue voices that claim that the truth is not ascertainable. These voices abandon the responsibility of the Press, and, as a result, contaminate the public debate.

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