First Five Newsletter: December 19, 2019

First Five
Recap of 2019’s First Amendment issues, Americans basic rights under siege, Reporters Without Borders annual round-up and more.

First Five Column

Gene Policinski recaps controversial and multi-faceted First Amendment issues of 2019, from a Black Lives Matter activist lawsuit, the Ukraine-Biden investigation controversy, regulatory threats over political advertising and beyond. Read the column. A plain text version is available for publishers here.


The results of a recent survey reveal that 92 percent of Americans think their basic rights are under siege. “Americans are most concerned that their freedom of speech (48 percent), right to bear arms (47 percent) and right to equal justice (41 percent) are at risk, says the Harris Poll/Purple Project, which surveyed 2,002 people nationwide,” Joshua Bote writes in USA TODAY.


Many of the moderators hired to keep Google and YouTube free of violent extremist content are now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.


What’s the story behind the oft-quoted phrase, “Shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater”? As First Amendment scholar David L. Hudson explains, its origins lie in a case that had nothing to do with fires or theaters.


Reporters Without Borders has released its annual worldwide round-up of journalists killed, detained and held hostage finding that, in 2019, a total of 49 journalists were killed, 389 are currently in prison and 57 are being held hostage. The round-up notes that, “The number of journalists killed this year – 49 – is the lowest since 2003 and represents a spectacular 44 percent fall on last year’s figure. This year’s ‘historically low’ figure, compared with an annual average of 80 journalists killed during the past two decades, is above all the result of a fall in the number of journalists killed in war zones.”


Writing for Nieman Lab, Kathleen Searles notes that there’s a difference between people being exposed to news stories and people paying attention to them. “Focusing on exposure only tells half the story: Without knowing what a person pays attention to, we know only that a person clicked, not that they learned.”

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