The Press: Service or Spectacle?

Few theses are so likely to unite U.S. editors and publishers in righteous fervor as the notion that, justice being the public's business, the press has a right to exercise its constitutional freedom in covering court trials.

The sort of freedom for which they have long been arguing was recently extended to newspapers and radio stations in a Mississippi murder trial. The details of the case were particularly spicy: the defendant was a 20-year-old college student accused of killing his 31-year-old married mistress by wrapping a coat hanger around her neck. Given near-complete freedom of the courtroom by the presiding judge,...

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