It should come as no surprise that the Internet has radically altered the way journalism is practiced. It has also raised some fundamental questions about the future of traditional news media and about the First Amendment itself. The amendment provides, as we all know, for a free and unencumbered press, but does the Internet fall under its protective umbrella? Recent court decisions have suggested it may not, but the problem is that the First Amendment, despite sounding like a categorical statement, is actually vague and open to interpretation. In this fascinating, well-reasoned book, Bollinger, president of Columbia University, traces the evolution of the First Amendment and discusses what the future might hold in store for the notion of a free press. He asks, for example, whether the American press can maintain integrity and uniqueness in the face of the new “global media.” While the prose is perhaps a bit dry, the ideas under discussion are rich and should spark debate among those who are concerned about the future of journalism and the free press.
This review originally appeared in Booklist, January 2010.