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Updated 10:00 AM Sept. 18, 2006
 

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Media symposium to target First Amendment rights
and responsibilties

In several very high-profile occurrences all over the globe, news organizations have published cartoons and opinion columns that were highly offensive to religious, ethnic, racial and other cultural groups.

The resulting tensions raise questions about how far First Amendment rights extend in protecting potentially offensive editorial content. What responsibility, if any, do media organizations have as members of the community, and what standards should be considered when making a decision to publish potentially offensive material?

"Can You Print That?: The Print Media, Minorities, the First Amendment and the Public Good," a half-day symposium at the Michigan League Sept. 25, will examine such complex issues and explore the interface of First Amendment rights in print media and representations of minority populations, as well as religious and other cultural groups.

The event, hosted by the U-M chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, will feature respected journalists and academics from across the country to share insights and take audience questions.

The symposium will begin with a noon keynote luncheon featuring remarks by Ellis Cose, Newsweek contributing editor and columnist, who began his career at the age of 19 working for the Chicago Sun-Times. He was the youngest weekly editorial page columnist ever employed by a major Chicago daily.

In addition to his work at the Chicago Sun-Times as columnist, editor and national correspondent, Cose's other positions include: head of the editorial board and editorial page editor at the New York Daily News; contributor and press critic for Time magazine; president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Journalism Education; chief writer on management and workplace issues for USA Today; and member of the Detroit Free Press editorial board.

The keynote luncheon will be followed by a series of three expert panels, moderated by Susan Douglas, the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor of Communication Studies, and chair of the Department of Communication Studies.

The first panel, "You Can't Print That!" is from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. It will explore through a historical lens the tension between the public good and the First Amendment as applied to major cultural issues such as race, ethnicity, gender and religion. Panelists include: Margarita Bauza, Detroit Free Press business writer and columnist and member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Board of Directors; Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio show host, former Detroit News foreign correspondent and executive national editor; and Catherine Squires, U-M assistant professor of communication studies and of Afroamerican and African Studies.

A second panel from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. will address "Being Offended and Being Free." It will explore the First Amendment and its relationship to hate/controversial speech, specifically when utilized in an editorial format. Panelists include: Cose; Mary Morgan, Ann Arbor News editorial page editor; Len Niehoff, First Amendment scholar, attorney at Butzel Long and U-M Law School adjunct professor; and Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press reporter.

The concluding panel from 4 to 5 p.m., "Editorial Decision-Making on Campus," will consider the previous two panel topics within the context of campus journalism, exploring the particular challenges facing student editors of campus newspapers and the diverse campus communities they serve. Panelists include: Sierra Brown, immediate-past editor-in-chief of AUC magazine, serving Georgia's historically Black colleges and universities; Jodi Cohen, Chicago Tribune reporter, formerly with the Michigan Daily and the Detroit News; Donn Fresard, Michigan Daily editor-in-chief; and Tiffany Hsu, Daily Californian editor-in-chief, University of California, Berkeley.

A public reception will follow the final panel.

The event is co-sponsored by the Office of the President, the Vice President for Communications and the Vice President for Student Affairs; the Ethics in Public Life and Expect Respect initiatives; the Knight-Wallace Fellows Program; the Board of Student Publications; the Michigan Daily; LSA as part of the "The Theory and Practice of Citizenship: From the Local to the Global" theme year; the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies; the Entertainment, Media and Arts Law Students Association; the Students of Color of Rackham; Intellectual Minds Making A Difference; Sister 2 Sister—U-M; the Department of Communication Studies; the Program in American Culture; the Black Student Union; and the Student Academic Multicultural Initiatives Program.

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