Tuesday, November 21, 2006

First Amendment issues? Hardly...

We can't help but notice the furor over the now-cancelled O.J. Simpson book and interview.

While reading a story on the decision by News Corp. to cancel the television special and the publication of the book If I Did It, we noticed the following quote from Mark Jurkowitz, identified as the associate director for the Project for Excellence In Journalism, a Washington-based research institute affiliated with Columbia University's journalism school:

"I haven't heard anyone yet make the First Amendment argumetn that, hey, this is egregious censorship."

Well, Mr. Jurkowitz, that's because it's NOT censorship.

The First Amendment prohibits the government telling news outlets what they can or cannot publish. No government decision was involved when Rupert Murdoch pulled the plug on the Simpson book and TV special.

What was involved was good taste, and a public outcry.

People always seem to cry "censorship" and "First Amendment" whenever things like this happen, but people are wrong when they do.

Mark Nickolas over at bluegrassreport.org was astounded why the conservative blog network in Kentucky didn't take his side when state government banned access to blogs on the state computer network. Nickolas thinks it's a First Amendment issue; a classic case of government censorship. He even filed a lawsuit making the same claim.

The reason the conservative blogs are on the opposite side of Nickolas' position is because they realize no censorship is involved. State employees are as free as they ever were to read bluegrassreport.org, Kentucky Progress, Conservative Edge and any number of other blogs. However, they must do it on their own time and with their own Internet connections and computers.

Those are matters of government controlling access to its computer network and employee productivity and conduct, not censorship. Since conservatives generally expect government workers to actually work on the government's time, not read and post to blogs, why would they join Nickolas' crusade?

The "censorship" argument is made much too often and most of the time, incorrectly. To hear a supposed expert in the field of journalism make it just confirms the sorry state of that once-noble profession that spends more time coddling the liberals and going for the sensational news story, instead of reporting the facts and letting readers/viewers/listeners make up their own minds.

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