Apr 20, 2017
The Newseum Institute’s First-Quarter Report Card Shows Room for Improvement
The report card, titled “The First Amendment in the Age of Trump,” aims to provide a credible and systematic assessment of our core freedoms based on grades provided by a panel of the nation’s leading constitutional experts. The panel assigned the grades as such: religion (C+); speech (C+); press (C); assembly (B-); petition (B-). The grades average a C+.
The right to a free press received the lowest grade point average of all five freedoms. Panelists pointed to the following factors: President Trump’s campaign promise to open up libel laws in order to more easily sue media outlets; certain media outlets being blocked from attending White House briefings; the “fake news” phenomenon, coupled with the president using the “fake news” label to attack the media; and the president’s general enmity for the press.
Assembly and petition received the highest grades, with panelists noting that recent protests and political marches were classic demonstrations of both freedoms, and that the government took no action to hamper them or the resulting media coverage.
“Rarely in our lifetimes has there been more controversy about the state of our First Amendment freedoms,” said Lata Nott, executive director of the First Amendment Center. “It is critically important for our nation to have serious discussions about the threats and opportunities we face in maintaining and trying to enhance our democracy.”
The grading was performed by 15 panelists from across the political spectrum, each of whom have committed to providing quarterly updates of their grades for one year. Panelists were advised to consider the following four elements in their evaluations: legislation, executive orders, judicial decisions and public opinion; and also to consider long-term trends and actions.
The Newseum Institute is the education and outreach partner of the Freedom Forum and the Newseum. The Institute includes the First Amendment Center, NewseumED and the Religious Freedom Center. The Newseum Institute’s affiliate organizations include the Al Neuharth Media Center at the University of South Dakota; the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi; and the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University. The Newseum Institute is a 501(c)(3) public charity funded by generous individuals, corporations and foundations, including its principal funder, the Freedom Forum.
The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center is a forum for the study and exploration of issues related to free expression, religious freedom, and press freedom, and an authoritative source of information, news, and analysis of these issues. The Center provides education, information and entertainment to educators, students, policy makers, legal experts, and the general public. The Center is nonpartisan and does not lobby, litigate or provide legal advice.