What does the First Amendment and its guaranteed freedoms mean to you?

The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees all Americans five important freedoms: • Freedom of Religion • Freedom of Speech • Freedom of the Press • Freedom to Peaceably Assemble • Freedom to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances Yet very few Americans have a clear understanding of what this means. A few years ago, the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University surveyed Americans and discovered that while 61 percent knew that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, only 18 percent knew that it guarantees freedom of the press. In the same survey, 25 percent of Americans said the First Amendment “goes too far” in protecting speech and press. That’s one out of four of the American people standing around you. Indeed, in a more recent poll (Links to an external site.), 26 percent of Americans agreed with the statement that “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” The figure is even higher (43 percent) among Americans who identify themselves as registered Republicans. James Madison (above), the fourth president of the United States, the man who actually wrote the First Amendment and one of the original Republicans, would be shaking his head in amazement at such ignorance in the nation he helped found. Back in 1787 when Madison was explaining to his countrymen why America needed the First Amendment, he wrote that, “A free press is that right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.” In other words, a free press was so important to Madison that all the other freedoms listed in the First Amendment hinged on it. You don’t have any of those freedoms if a free press isn’t there to keep watch and protect them from those in power who would threaten or abuse them. That’s why a free press is so important to sustaining our democratic republic. So with that in mind, here’s your assignment that will help broaden your understanding and appreciation of this crucial document and this essential liberty, freedom of the press. To successfully complete this assignment, you must do all of the following: 1. create a Word document and write an essay (400-450 words, 12-point text, single-spaced) that thoroughly addresses both of the following two questions: • Question 1: What does the First Amendment and its guaranteed freedoms mean to you? Cite a personal, specific, concrete example in your life of how you benefited from one of the freedoms afforded by the First Amendment. Points will be deducted for vague examples. • Question 2: Provide and discuss a specific, recent example (“recent” is defined during the past six months) where a journalistic news organization (the “free press”) reported a story that guarded, protected or supported one or more of the other four freedoms listed in the First Amendment (see the list above). You may select an example from a national news organization (i.e. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN, ABC News, NPR News, Fox News, etc.) or a local news organization (the Orlando Sentinel, your hometown newspaper or a local TV or radio station). Your essay must provide the name of the publication or news broadcast, the date of publication or broadcast and the headline on the story. Provide a link if available. You must be specific, not vague. You must cite and document what you are discussing. A “journalistic news organization” means an organization that employs journalists to report news (see the examples listed above). The “internet” or “Twitter” or “Facebook” or “Google” are not news organizations. Those are merely delivery platforms. The internet, Twitter, Facebook and Google do not employ reporters. Also, advocacy organizations, such as Greenpeace or the ACLU or PETA, do not count. They are advocacy organizations run by lawyers or activists — not journalists. There’s a difference. Make sure you understand that difference and are presenting an example from a journalistic news organization. If you have questions about this, ask the professor in advance. Note: Remember, the First Amendment is part of the U.S. Constitution. While the human rights provided in the First Amendment should apply to all countries — and other countries besides the United States do in fact enjoy freedom of the press — in reality many do not. So, by definition, your example for the second part of your essay should be of an American press organization defending freedom of speech, religion, assembly and petitioning the government for redress of grievances — somewhere in America. The First Amendment does not apply to other countries, which have their own laws and may or may not enjoy the degree of press freedom we enjoy here. And since the First Amendment is the focus of this assignment, it is required to be the focus of your essay.