The First Amendment and Photojournalism

“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.” – The United States Constitution

As a collegiate photojournalism student, the First Amendment is applied to every day life. It is impossible to live life as a journalism student without using the First Amendment every single day on the job. It is important to live and learn by it to protect your work and yourself in the line of duty. Often times, you can find yourself questioning the law and your knowledge of press freedoms. When it comes to journalism, the First Amendment goes hand in hand with the foundations of ethical decision-making.

To any student, history can seem as if it is boring, but it is important to be interested in it especially when you are a journalism student. More specifically, it is important to know your history when you are a photojournalism student. This is important because a photojournalist needs to make sure that they are within their boundaries as a journalist when shooting. The First Amendment states that all are free to peacefully assemble, petition the government, press, and speech. These all correlate with one another when you are a journalist. The press is a checks and balance to the government so situations can get difficult with the law.

Moving forward, as a photojournalist when making tough decisions and questioning your press freedoms, it is important to know the foundations of ethical decision-making. There are three including Utilitarian, Absolutist, and The Golden Rule. According to “Photojournalism: The Professional’s Approach” by Kenneth Kobre, “The Utilitarian position recognizes that photojournalism provides information critical to a democratic society.” An Absolutist is described as the belief that people have the right to privacy. Finally, the Golden Rule believes in the saying, “Do unto others as you would have have them do unto you,” as stated in the book.

Personally, my way foundation of choice is the Golden Rule. This rule has served to me all of my life and has carried to my career. It works for myself because it allows me to put myself into that individual’s shoes and see from their point of view. To do unto others as you would have them do unto you helps justify your decision making.

Visit to challenge yourself on your knowledge of press rights.



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