NEW YORK–The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University announced today that RonNell Andersen Jones, Lee E. Teitelbaum Professor of Law at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, and Sonja R. West, Otis Brumby Professor in First Amendment Law at the University of Georgia School of Law, will join the Institute later this year as visiting senior research scholars. Their joint project will explore how law and policy can better protect journalism and core press functions in the United States. Over the course of a year, they will engage scholars and practitioners in law, media studies, technology, history, and political science in a series of regional workshops and blog posts, leading up to a major symposium in the spring of 2024 at Columbia University.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Professors Andersen Jones and West to the Institute, and we’re very much looking forward to working with them on this ambitious project focused on the press’s role in our changing society,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute.

Andersen Jones and West will begin their term as visiting scholars at the start of the 2023-2024 academic year. Over the course of the year, they will build on their extensive body of academic research on the intersection of the press, the public, and the legal system. They will consider a range of issues, including the role of a free press in a healthy democracy, the challenge of identifying the press function in the modern communications landscape, the future of free press protections in the U.S. Supreme Court’s evolving First Amendment jurisprudence, and the benefits and disadvantages of recognizing additional press rights and protections. With the Knight Institute, they will explore these questions through several regional workshops with scholars and journalists, as well as through academic scholarship and public commentary. The year will culminate in a major symposium exploring the contours and future of press freedom.

“We’re excited about the breadth and depth of expertise these legal scholars bring to the table in considering the forces bearing down on press freedom today,” said Katy Glenn Bass, the Knight Institute’s research director. “In particular, we’re looking forward to working with Professors Andersen Jones and West to engage with scholars and practitioners across the country.”

“This is a unique opportunity to focus on identifying, preserving, and reimagining the press function,” said Andersen Jones. “Caught inside a perfect storm of economic, cultural, technological, and political forces, journalism in America faces a perilous moment.”

“The decline of a trusted press poses risks to democracy, and we need to consider structural, legal, and policy solutions,” said West. “In light of the rapidly changing media landscape and the challenges facing traditional news organizations, it is unclear how we can best preserve the public’s need for vibrant debate, the robust flow of information, and effective checks on the government and the powerful.”

The Institute’s current visiting scholars are Arvind Narayanan, a professor of computer science at Princeton University, and J. Nathan Matias, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University. Previous visiting scholars include Genevieve Lakier, a professor of law at the University of Chicago; Ethan Zuckerman, associate professor of public policy, information, and communication at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and director of the Institute for Digital Public Infrastructure; Amy Kapczynski, professor of law at Yale Law School and faculty co-director of the Law and Political Economy Project; Jamal Greene, Dwight Professor of Law at Columbia Law School; and David Pozen, Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. More information about their projects is available here.

Learn more about the Knight Institute’s Visiting Research Scholars program here.

For more information, contact Adriana Lamirande:  [email protected]