Mason Author Series: Free Speech and Unfree News

Join the University Libraries for our next Mason Author Series event, featuring a discussion with Sam Lebovic, Assistant Professor of History, about his recent book, Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America. The reading and discussion will take place at 3pm on Thursday, October 5 in the Fenwick Library’s Main Reading Room (Room 2001).

About Free Speech and Unfree News: Does America have a free press? Many who answer yes appeal to First Amendment protections that shield the press from government censorship. But in this comprehensive history of American press freedom as it has existed in theory, law, and practice, Sam Lebovic shows that, on its own, the right of free speech has been insufficient to guarantee a free press.

Lebovic recovers a vision of press freedom, prevalent in the mid-twentieth century, based on the idea of unfettered public access to accurate information. This “right to the news” responded to persistent worries about the quality and diversity of the information circulating in the nation’s news. Yet as the meaning of press freedom was contested in various arenas—Supreme Court cases on government censorship, efforts to regulate the corporate newspaper industry, the drafting of state secrecy and freedom of information laws, the unionization of journalists, and the rise of the New Journalism—Americans chose to define freedom of the press as nothing more than the right to publish without government censorship. The idea of a public right to all the news and information was abandoned, and is today largely forgotten.

Free Speech and Unfree News compels us to reexamine assumptions about what freedom of the press means in a democratic society—and helps us make better sense of the crises that beset the press in an age of aggressive corporate consolidation in media industries, an increasingly secretive national security state, and the daily newspaper’s continued decline.

About the Author: Sam Lebovic is Assistant Professor of History at George Mason University, where he directs the PhD program in History and serves as associate editor of the Journal of Social History. He is the author of Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America (Harvard, 2016), which was awarded the 2017 Ellis W. Hawley Prize by the Organization of American Historians, and was a finalist for the 2016 Frank Luther Mott award. His research focuses on the history of American politics, culture, and media, and has been supported by fellowships from the American Society for Legal History, the NYU Center for the Cold War and the US, the Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers, the Truman Library Institute, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Lebovic’s essays and articles have been published in Diplomatic History, the Journal of Social History, the Journal of American Studies, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Boston GlobePolitico, and other journals and edited volumes.  He teaches courses on a wide range of subjects in modern American and global history, and is currently researching the mid-century history of cultural globalization.

About the Mason Author Series: The University Libraries’ Mason Author Series features Mason faculty and alumni authors throughout the year, and is generously sponsored by the University Bookstore. For more information about the Mason Author Series, please contact John Warren, Head, Mason Publishing, jwarre13@gmu.edu, or Jessica Clark, Development & Communications Officer, jclarkw@gmu.edu.

Join the Libraries Book Club!

Enjoy meeting new people? Like exchanging ideas and insights? Love reading books? Join the Mason Libraries Book Club!

Mason Libraries Book Club meets monthly to discuss the group’s selected book. An informal club, you don’t need a background in literary criticism to attend! The book club is open to the whole Mason community, everyone is welcome.

Our first meeting of the academic year will be Wednesday, September 13 at 2pm in Fenwick 1009. At this meeting, we’ll discuss our theme for our first read of the year (Banned Books), select a book, and set future meeting dates. We look forward to seeing you there!

Looking for ideas on Banned Books? Banned Books Week takes place September 24-27 this year, and their website highlights banned books that shaped America. The American Library Association also tracks the most frequently challenged books from the past few decades. The World Library has a selected list of books banned by various governments around the world.

Questions? Contact one of the club’s organizers: Sarah Hudson at shudson7@gmu.edu or Anna Murphy-Lang at amurph2@gmu.edu. Information and announcements about the book club will be posted at library.gmu.edu/bookclub.

Workshops Galore!

Mason Libraries are offering a plethora of workshops this semester. From research skills to productivity tools, we are covering the waterfront to help you succeed. Take a look at our whole schedule – and take a class. Bring a laptop – bring a friend!

Specialized Areas

New Exhibition: Our Comics, Ourselves

Fenwick Gallery is pleased to host Our Comics, Ourselves, an exhibition highlighting themes of identity, expression, and representation in comic books and graphic novels. The exhibition runs August 21, 2017 through October 6, 2017, with an opening reception and curator’s talk on Friday, September 15.

Our Comics, Ourselves features comic books, graphic novels, DIY comics, and various comics paraphernalia primarily from the United States, from 1945 to present. The works range from autobiographical to sheer fantasy, and explore feminism, abortion, racism, cultural identity, social activism, labor unions, veterans of war, sexual abuse, student debt, immigration, public health, civil rights, gender and sexual identity, and more. Our Comics, Ourselves presents the graphic stories that describe the complexity and diversity of our collective experience, and examines the social and historical contexts within which they emerged.

Our Comics, Ourselves is on display in Fenwick Gallery and the Special Collections Research Center in Fenwick Library. In conjunction with this exhibition, Fenwick Library and various Mason departments Mason are hosting a series of presentations, workshops, and readings to further the discussion about the exhibition and its associated themes. More information will be available on the Fenwick Gallery website as events are scheduled.

This exhibition is organized and made possible by Jan Descartes and Monica McKelvey Johnson of Interference Archive in NYC, and supported by many Mason faculty partners and departments, including Stephanie Grimm, Art and Art History Librarian, University Libraries; Christopher Kardambikis, Assistant Professor of Printmaking, School of Art; Angela Hattery, Professor and Director, Women & Gender Studies; Mika’il Petin, Professor, African and African American Studies.