Take-home quiz on free press/fair trial

For our second quiz of the semester, I want you to write an op-ed column — that is, a piece of opinion journalism that combines facts, analysis and your views — on the constitutional clash between the First and the Sixth Amendments.

Please analyze the steps taken by the U.S. Supreme Court to clamp down on the news media in Sheppard v. Maxwell, and the solution at which the Court finally arrived several years later in Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart (highlights of Nebraska are in the Zelezny casebook).

What are the most important points the Court made in the two cases? In your opinion, did the Court get it right in Nebraska? Or do you support the greater restrictions against the press envisioned in the Sheppard decision? Be as detailed and specific as you can without exceeding the length.

Your piece should be between 650 and 800 words, printed out in 12-point Times or Times New Roman type, double-spaced or one-and-a-half. Do not fiddle with the margins. Deadline is the beginning of class this Friday, Oct. 9.

If you are unable to attend class, you may e-mail me your quiz as a Microsoft Word file. Your deadline will be Friday at 9:30 a.m. This option is available by pre-arrangement only: you must get in touch with me ahead of time if you’re not going to hand me your commentary in person.

Please double-check your work. If there are any misspelled proper names in your op-ed, then the highest grade you will be able to earn is a B-plus (and that is only for A-level work). Follow standard journalistic rules of attribution and AP style. Do not use footnotes — picture your piece being published in your hometown newspaper.

You will be graded on the detail you provide (but, again, do not exceed the specified length), the quality of your analysis and how well you write. You most definitely will not be graded on the opinion you express. There is no right or wrong way to view this vexing dilemma, which Chief Justice Burger wrote was “almost as old as the Republic.”

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