Federal Communications Law Journal

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Publication Date


Publication Citation

60 Federal Communications Law Journal 183 (2008)


Media corporations and their professional and trade associations, as well as organizations such as Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Civil Liberties Union, regularly monitor litigation that implicates First Amendment values and decide whether, when, and how to intervene. But that was not always the case. While media companies have always lobbied and litigated in support of their business interests-antitrust, copyright, postal rates, taxes-litigation by the institutional press to create or avoid doctrinal precedent under the First Amendment began only in the late 1920s. Once the United States Supreme Court recognized the incorporation of the First Amendment through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to protect the rights of the press from abridgment by state law, the way was clear for the press to engage in strategic litigation to support the collection and reporting of news. But it was not until Col. Robert R. McCormick of the Chicago Tribune took charge of the historic case of Near v. Minnesota that the institutional press mobilized to take advantage of the opportunity the Court provided. Through extensive use of the Tribune Archives and its day-to-day coverage of the Near case, this Article shows how McCormick's personal and financial commitment to freedom of the press in general, and the Near case in particular, ultimately persuaded the institutional press to pursue doctrinal litigation not only in their narrow commercial interests but also in pursuit of their most fundamental rights to gather and publish the news.