Actual Malice: Civil Rights and Freedom of the Press in New York Times V. Sullivan


Product Details

University of California Press
Publish Date
6.2 X 9.1 X 1.0 inches | 1.15 pounds

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About the Author

Samantha Barbas is Professor of Law at the University at Buffalo School of Law. She is the author of six books on mass media law and history, including The Rise and Fall of Morris Ernst, Free Speech Renegade and Newsworthy: The Supreme Court Battle over Privacy and Press Freedom.


"A law professor puts forth a detailed examination of New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 Supreme Court decision that defined libel laws and increased protections for journalists, in the context of the civil rights movement."-- "The New York Times Book Review"
"One might think that another book-length history and analysis of New York Times v. Sullivan would be superfluous, given the quality of Lewis's Make No Law and Hall and Urofsky's New York Times v. Sullivan: Civil Rights, Libel Law, and the Free Press. Actual Malice, however, may become the go-to book for combining both perspectives in a single volume and enhancing them with some archival sources that the other two books did not use."
-- "Choice Reviews"
"A new book, Actual Malice, by Samantha Barbas, a law professor and historian, unfurls the story of the case and reminds readers that the triumph of press freedom was an outgrowth of the civil-rights struggle. Versions of the story have been told before, perhaps most famously in Anthony Lewis's "Make No Law" more than three decades ago. Yet Barbas deftly employs archival sources--notably from the Times, from the Martin Luther King, Jr., papers, and from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference--to shed new light. Her book illuminates the effect of libel suits on journalists' ability to cover the movement, the legal strategies used against those suits, and the impact of the case on the civil-rights movement itself. A heroic narrative in which the litigation helped vanquish segregationists serves to underscore what Barbas calls the 'centrality of freedom of speech to democracy.'"-- "The New Yorker"
"Barbas's endorsement of the Sullivan decision is more nuanced than those of [Anthony] Lewis and [Aimee] Edmondson, and more reflective of the current moment. She appreciates the need for libel lawsuits at a time when 'damaging falsehoods can spread online with a click, and reputations [can be] destroyed instantly.' But she recognizes that the protections of Sullivan are needed as much, or more, by individuals as by media companies. The story of Sullivan, and of the precedent's possible demise, reveals as much about our own times as it does the 1960s."--Jeffrey Toobin "The New York Review of Books"
"Actual Malice is concise yet thorough, crisply written, brimming with sharp observations, amply documented, and admirably acknowledges different points of view."-- "Law and Liberty"