Miami Herald Publishing Company v. Tornillo 418 U.S. 241 (1974)

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It may be argued that freedom of speech is meaningless unless it includes access to the mass media so that the speech will be heard. Here the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Florida statute requiring a newspaper to provide a political candidate free space to reply to its attacks on his personal character. Noting that the statute infringed upon "editorial control and judgment," the Court held that "any [governmental] compulsion to publish that which 'reason' tells … [the editors] … should not be published is unconstitutional."

Tornillo was a major blow to proponents of a right of access. When compared to red lion broadcasting company v. federal communications commission (1969), it raises the question whether the first amendment provides greater protection for the press than for the electronic media. In light of the large number of one-newspaper towns, the scarcity rationale for allowing government to compel access to broadcast channels would seem to apply even more strongly to the print media. Ultimately the distinction may be between the public ownership of the channels and the private ownership of the print media. If so, the Court has not explained or defended this linking of speech rights to property rights.

Martin Shapiro

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Miami Herald Publishing Company v. Tornillo 418 U.S. 241 (1974)

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