Washington Law Review


Anthony Lewis


Under the First Amendment, as it has come to be understood, the American press has more freedom than the press of any other country. I want to explore the question of what our press does with that great freedom. Does it show a matching responsibility? How well does it perform the role that the framers of the Constitution thought justified the protection they were giving us, the role of holding government accountable to the people? James Madison put it that in the United States "the people, not the government, possess the absolute sovereignty." That was "altogether different" from Britain, he said, and it followed that the press must have "a different degree of freedom" in order to inform the people what the government was doing. And so, Madison concluded, the American press must be free when "canvassing the merits and measures of public men

First Page