Photojournalism and the First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”


This week in my photojournalism class, we’ve been learning about how the First Amendment applies to the visual aspects of journalism, and how student press laws work. Above is the text to the First Amendment, a very special key that allows journalists to operate in the United States without government censorship.

 In chapter 15 of our textbook, Kenneth Kobré’s “Photojournalism: The Professionals’ Approach,” three different foundations of decision-making — utilitarian, absolutist and the golden rule — are discussed. These foundations are intertwined with how and why morally challenging photos are taken by photojournalists.

The utilitarian approach is to take the picture, despite it being an emotionally difficult task. Photographers must remember that the photo can serve a bigger purpose to the audience, be it temporary or something that sticks with them.

The golden rule approach is one that I feel fits the best with photojournalists. It has a “treat others how you want to be treated” mentality that many people can understand. The best case is to listen to your instincts.

 A healthy balance between a utilitarian and golden rule is ideal — getting the shot and deciding later to not print gives you the choice. The alternative is to want the photo but not have it.

An approach that is not fitting for journalists in general is the absolutist approach. It allow all people to have their privacy, no matter what. You aren’t able to get the story — or as a photojournalist, the shot — using this foundation.

While I believe more so in taking the golden rule approach for photos, I’ve learned that using a good balance of the utilitarian approach will give my photos a larger balance and purpose.

Along with this assignment, I was tasked with taking this quiz on student press law. The quiz itself highlights a lot of questions that surrounds student run newspapers, and decisions that grant them the ability to operate without censorship. The Hazelwood and Tinker court cases, something I had learned in prior classes, are key in a lot of the freedom that student papers get.

Below is my score from twitter!