Undergrad Adventures: Communications Law

I did get to read this really great article (that used this painting by Honore Daumier as its photo) for extra credit for this class. Click through to read it.

I did get to read this really great article (that used this painting by Honore Daumier as its photo) for extra credit for this class. Click through to read it.

Besides Structure of Language, one of the other classes I’m taking is Communications Law. I’m not going to lie to you: It isn’t my favorite class. It’s at 8 a.m. three days a week, and we’re lucky if we have 15 people show up out of 50-something. And unfortunately, the entire class has consisted of lecture, the occasional online quiz and multiple choice tests. However, I have learned a lot about communications law and teaching in general.

There’s a lot more to communications law than the language of the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court of the United States has spent the last 200+ years trying to figure out the scope of the First Amendment, and it’s been really interesting to see what the free speech clause covers and what it doesn’t. You can wear a jacket with obscene language on it or burn a flag, but you can’t burn your draft card.

I’ve yet to read about a court ruling that didn’t seem logical. 

So far, nothing has really surprised me about the court cases I’ve read about. Newsrooms aren’t protected from search warrants, and you can’t appropriate someone’s likeness for your own commercial purposes. I guess it’s a nice affirmation that the higher courts usually rule on the side of common sense for First Amendment issues, which sets the precedent for other like cases.

I’m learning a lot about the importance of classroom dynamics.

The professor who teaches it is very fair and seems to know a lot, but the class dynamic is dull. We don’t debate about the cases or talk in small groups. If I ever have to teach a class like this (after an illustrious career in journalism, of course), I would make it incredibly engaging to get the rest of the class interested. Because he doesn’t take attendance, most people only show up for the tests.

I would also have added stronger writing and research components to the class, so that we would understand how to read legal documents and the specifics of California shield law.

But it’s actually not as dull as it seems. 

I will admit, there have been quite a few times that I’ve wanted to sleep in and go straight to Chaucer at 9:15 a.m. But I haven’t missed a scheduled class this quarter, and I’m glad. In the not-so-distant future, I’ll be working somewhere and a legal issue may come up. Even though most publications have lawyers, it’ll be good to have a working knowledge. I think that makes it worth it.

Any undergrad (or post-grad) adventures to share? Let me know in the comments.

 

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