Honors Program Marks Constitution Day with Illustration of the First Amendment by Reporter Ed Hammond
A few weeks ago, to mark Constitution Day on campus, the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program hosted reporter Ed Hammond of The Financial Times and Bloomberg LP to present to students on the topic of “How Reporters Protect Informants and Information.” This topic is of special interest on this day, as the First Amendment of the Constitution includes freedom of the press, making it a basic freedom in the United States of America. However, informants can often be placed in jeopardy by other sources who would prefer that the information being shared not get out.
For example, a great deal of Mr. Hammond’s speech focused on a certain businessman who was threatening reporters with hurting them for releasing bad material about him, and how this was—and could, legally, be— combatted. However, those trying to keep the information from reaching the public can also use legal weapons, as did this man. This was a great financial blow to Mr. Hammond’s paper.
Later in the talk, Mr. Hammond spoke about the trial of a different billionaire who was being prosecuted on what only the press knew to be extremely shaky claims. His paper was facing a serious dilemma: should it release the material and risk contempt of court, or keep the material, an obvious injustice to the taxpayers who funded the prosecuting agencies? The paper did decide to take the risk and protect the businessman, who eventually countersued, and won. This story was very exemplary of the dilemma of freedom of the press; on the one hand, the press should ideally have the right to report anything, as long as it is true, but on the other hand, information becoming public can also be dangerous in many ways and can potentially even lead to a miscarriage of justice.
The talk was very stimulating for those attending, which included Professor Gabriel Cwilich, the director of the Honors Program, and Ms. Dina Chelst, the director of pre-law advising. The attenders were especially intrigued by the everyday dilemmas of reporters and newspapers, and asked Mr. Hammond to elaborate on many of these. However, the interest did not end there; many also wanted to know about everyday life as a reporter, what it entailed, and the benefits. Although, as Mr. Hammond stated, many reporters, himself included, do not cover exactly what they had intended to cover when they started reporting, being a reporter always has interesting questions and aspects one may not have anticipated upon going in either.
Although Professor Cwilich could not be reached for comment, there seemed to be a consensus among the audience that this Honors Program event was very popular and a large success, and all look forward to similar events in the future.