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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 8, 2003

Bezanson Book On Freedom Of The Press Generating Good Reviews

A new book by University of Iowa College of Law professor Randall Bezanson about freedom of the press is generating positive reviews among journalists, journalism scholars and legal academics.

Such noted journalists as Anthony Lewis of the New York Times, Steven Helle of the University of Illinois and John Soloski of the University of Georgia have praised "Press Stories: How Free Can A Free Press Be?" as an insightful and entertaining examination of a complex topic.

Bezanson, one of the nation's leading First Amendment and free press scholars, explores the limits of a free press by taking an in-depth look at a number of key judicial decisions. The book examines nine judicial decisions in which courts weighed in on such issues as the press and national security, the line between news and entertainment, the right to exercise news judgment, the right to publish news and the limits of an individual's privacy.

"Too often the press cries "First Amendment," as if it gave an absolute answer -- as if freedom of the press trumped all other values," wrote the Times' Lewis. "Randall Bezanson has found an ingenious and fascinating way to cut through the absolutism, putting provocative questions about leading press cases that make us see that privacy, fairness and other interests have their claim, too. Reporters, editors and their lawyers should read this book and reflect on it."

"In this highly entertaining and well-researched book, (Bezanson) takes us into the gray area where freedom of speech and press collide with other rights and responsibilities," wrote Soloski. "This is a must read for all journalists and for anyone concerned with limits on freedom of the press."

"Bezanson approaches conventional cases in unconventional ways. Upon finishing it, one feels privileged to have participated in that rare seminar where the master professor leaves no position unchallenged," wrote Helle, who called the book "astonishing."

The book has also been applauded by Professor David Anderson, a leading First Amendment scholar at the University of Texas.

Among the cases considered are New York Times v. United States, otherwise known as the Pentagon Papers case; Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, in which the Supreme Court limited a newspapers' commercial speech freedom by determining that newspapers can be held liable if an advertisement promotes something illegal; and Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting, in which a human cannonball performer successfully sued a TV station for broadcasting his entire act on the nightly news, thus robbing him of potential revenue-generating ticket buyers.

The book is the second in a trilogy Bezanson is writing that examine the freedoms of speech, press and religion, the three rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. "Press Stories" is published by the University of Illinois Press. It can be purchased locally at Prairie Lights Bookstore, or online at the University of Illinois Press' web site at, as well as at and

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,