State of the First Amendment Address talks Nixon era, changes in the press

By Kayla Williams

The First Amendment gives Americans protection to freely report information and read information; it provides a platform where truth can compete with falsity.

Mark Feldstein is and has been an investigative journalist for over 20 years. Feldstein was this year’s speaker for the State of the First Amendment Address.

Feldstein’s book, “Poisoning the Press,” has been critically acclaimed and looks at the events that happened between Jack Anderson and Richard Nixon and how it influenced the relationship the press and politics have today.

“For better or for worse, we still live in this world that these two men, a generation ago helped pioneered. All of it protected by the First Amendment, for good and for ill, the good stories and the bad stories,” he said.

The title of his book is a metaphor he uses to describe the relationship of the press and politics.

“Journalists back then didn’t view themselves as watchdogs, they were more of a lapdog, sitting in the lap of power,” Feldstein said.

He said journalists would only cover what the people in power were comfortable with them reporting.

The relationship between Anderson and Nixon changed that, he said, by showing journalists can excise their First Amendment rights to uncover the truth and sidestep censorship.

While it is not always comfortable to read the reveling stories about political members it is something that needs to be shared and protected, he said.

“It’s easy to protect speech that we like, harder to protect speech that is obnoxious and toxic,” Feldstein said, whether or not the politicians want the information given to the public it is protected by the First Amendment.

“I thought the speech was really interesting,” Beth Barnes, director of the UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications said, “It gets us thinking about what our relationship should be between politics and press, to report on things the public needs to know whether or not the people in power like it or not.”

Judy Clabes, the said she enjoyed hearing about the history of the relationship and the history of the Nixon presidential history.

The event was sponsored by Scripps Howard First Amendment Center and UK School of Journalism and Telecommunication.