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Houchins v. KQED

The Press Serves The Public

In dissent, joined by Justices Brennan and Powell, Justice Stevens wrote that KQED was entitled to greater access than the public but to some measured degree less than that established by the lower court decisions. He described distinct differences between news media and the public, particularly that the former serves to inform the latter. U.S. society depends heavily on the press. For this reason "the First Amendment speaks separately of freedom of speech and freedom of the press." Stevens also noted the "unique function" prisons "perform in a democratic society [as] . . . an integral component of the criminal justice system." Not only does the public have a right to information regarding a trial, but equally a right in knowing how a convicted person is treated while serving a sentence. For example, Stevens noted the Santa Rita's inmate population is predominantly black and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) largely depends on the news media to keep informed of their treatment. In addition, an inmate does retain "constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment." Therefore, the media should have "a more flexible and frequent basis" of access in order "to keep the public informed." However, access provided by the lower courts findings was too broad. Press access must be more carefully constructed. This concern is particularly relevant for facilities such as Santa Rita where some inmates are detainees awaiting trial and enjoy the same constitutional rights to privacy as common citizens until convicted.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Houchins v. KQED - Significance, Freedom To Gather News, The Press Serves The Public, Impact, Talk Radio In The United States