New York Times Co. vs. Sullivan

In 1963 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the case of New York Times v. Sullivan came about which established the term, actual malice. According to Wikipedia, actual malice is “a condition required to establish libel against public officials or public figures and is defined as “knowledge that the information was false” or that it was published “with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not” (Actual Malice).

I found an interesting and informative video on Youtube that describes the NYT v. Sullivan case.

***Video courtesy of ThinkwellVids***



Jayson Blair

I’m sure many of you have never heard the name “Jayson Blair” before. The first time I heard about him, I was a junior in my spring semester here at BU. The due date for the first installment of my research paper was coming up, and my Social Foundations of the Mass Media professor, Dr. Magolis, was talking about citing sources and how to avoid plagiarism. The name Jayson Blair came up, and most of the class didn’t know who he was. I think Dr. Magolis was a little bit surprised that we had never heard of the man who committed one of the most serious and famous cases of plagiarism the journalism world had ever seen.

In 1996, Jayson Blair started out as a journalist, later to become the editor-in-chief, of the school newspaper, The Diamondback, at the University of Maryland, College Park. During his time as editor-in-chief, Blair’s integrity was questioned when a report that four serious errors were made in reporting (Jayson Blair). In November of 1999, Blair became a reporter at The New York Times.

In April of 2003, just three years after Blair started working the the Times, Jim Roberts, national editor of the Times, called Blair questioning him about similarities in a story he wrote and one written by Macarena Hernandez of the San Antonio Express-News (Jayson Blair). This lead to the an in-depth investigation into the 27-year-old Times reporter. According to, “In the initial investigation into Blair, an incredible 36 of the 73 national news stories he had written since the previous October were found to be suspect. When the investigation was widened to the approximately 600 articles he had written over four years for The Times, yet more problems were encountered.”

Not only was the integrity of Blair compromised, the integrity of the New York Times was also in question. Blair was forced to resign from the paper.

In the aftermath of the fallout, Blair wrote a memoir entitled, “Burning Down My Master’s House” as well spoke at numerous conferences to discuss the incident. Even after all the wrong that he did, Blair was still getting paid for the book and the speeches.

Jayson Blair is a prime example of why you shouldn’t plagiarize. What started out as simply adding a false quote turned into something much much more. Plagiarizing is never worth it.

The Pentagon Papers- Courtesy of Newseum

When I first heard about the Pentagon Papers, I was taking a Media Law & Ethics class. The class dealt with the First Amendment which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (US Constitution Bill of Rights).

During the late 60s and early 70s when much of the United States was protesting being involved in the Vietnam War, President Nixon was telling the country his plan to get out of Vietnam. However, when Daniel Ellsberg discovered the Pentagon Papers, officially called the Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, he believed the Nixon administration was not to be trusted and the public must know the truth (Pentagon Papers). In 1971, Ellsberg released the confidential government documents to the New York Times who published the papers on the front page. The President ordered for a restraining order to be issued to stop further publications of the New York Times. After a judge agreed, Ellsberg gave the papers to the Washington Post. The same thing happened again. The most read newspapers in the country went to court saying the restraining orders went against their First Amendment rights of freedom from government abridging the press. The supreme court overturned the ruling and ruled 6:3 in favor of the press (The Pentagon Papers).

This was the first time in history that anyone, including the government, tried to halt the printing of the press. The case about the Pentagon Papers shows how important freedom of the press is. Daniel Ellsberg felt that the public needed to know what was going on regardless of the fact the papers were classified. This case forever changed the press.

Video courtesy of Newseum.