First Amendment Freedoms

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[1]

Last semester, I took the class Media Law and Ethics which was mainly focused on the First Amendment and its components. We discussed several different court cases all relating to different aspects of the First Amendment. The First Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. It is the amendment to the constitution that holds our most important rights, and it has five components. They are: freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom to petition.

Freedom of Speech says that people have the right to speak freely without government interference. There are some exceptions to this rule, however, including defamation, fighting words, obscenity and threats. For the most part, citizens have the right to free speech thanks to the First Amendment.

Freedom of the Press gives the media the right to publish news, information and opinions without government interference. Without this, the media as we know it today would be significantly different. It is because of this clause in the amendment that we are able to have things like newspapers, magazines, and the internet.

Freedom of Religion prohibits the government from establishing a religion and allows people to practice whatever religion they choose without government interference. This is one thing that makes our country so unique. In the United States, you are able to practice whatever religion you choose or not practice any religion at all without fear. In my opinion, it is one of the most important of these five freedoms because I believe that everyone should be able to believe in whatever they chose without fear of persecution.

Freedom to Petition says that people have the right to petition the government in favor of or against policies that the feel strongly about. This freedom allows us to challenge the government and keep the system in check. We as a people have a right to stand up for what we believe in.

Freedom of Assembly says that people have the right to gather in public to march, protest and express their views in a nonviolent way. This allows for peaceful protests which is an important part of this amendment. It allows us to have a voice and be able to publicly demonstrate how we feel and stand with others who agree with us.

All of these freedoms should never be taken lightly because many countries around the world do not have these same freedoms that we often take for granted.


Relay For Life 2014

On April 5th around 6pm, hundreds of kids began to fill up the student rec center at the top of campus carrying boxes of baked goods, decorations and balloons. Why you might ask? Relay For Life. Relay For Life is a community fundraising event that raises money for the American Cancer Society whose goal is to put an end to cancer. Relay happens all over the country in schools and communities. Bloomsburg University held their Relay this past weekend from April 5th at 7pm to April 6th at 7am. Twelve hours of continuous walking, fundraising and fighting for a cure.

Relay For Life banner at Bloomsburg University

Relay For Life banner at Bloomsburg University


Relay For Life is a great event to be a part of. Anyone can create a team, but it is especially popular for organizations like Greek life and athletic teams. Once you have your team, you must fundraise! Members of the team fundraise individually leading up to the event, and then at the event, each team has a table or booth set up with different fun games, snacks and prizes to raise money for cancer awareness. The theme of Bloomsburg’s event was Be A Lifesaver, so there was candy and sweets all over the place. Some organizations were extremely creative with their fundraisers. DASL (Developing Ambitious Student Leaders) had a booth where they sold twine and beads, but you could only collect a bead every time you completed a lap. This is an excellent incentive to keep people walking and a way to have something physical that shows your accomplishment. The Board of Governors had a virgin drink bar where they were selling virgin Pina Coladas and Strawberry Daiquiris. The Psychology Association had a whole booth that was cotton candy themed, complete with blue and pink streamers. They sold cotton candy in a variety of flavors and were very popular throughout the evening. Alpha Psi Omega’s booth was dedicated to Reese’s Pieces, and they had a variety of baked goods and Reese’s Puff cereal for sale. Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) went so far as to sell deep fried Oreos. Aside from all the sugary sweets, a few places had real food. The team from Luzerne residence hall sold meatball subs well into the morning hours. Colleges Against Cancer (the club that organizes our Relay) sold Buffalo Chicken Dip which is always a crowd pleaser. Kappa Phi went for a healthier outlook and had a make-your-own-trail-mix table. However, not everyone sold food. The Honors Program set up a soccer goal that was “jail” and for $1, you could put your friends in jail for three minutes. They had a sheriff who would find your friend and take them to jail and take their mugshot. It got lots of laughs as unsuspected Relayers were put in jail throughout the evening.


The Orientation Workshop Leaders sold candy sushi at last nights Relay. You chose either Airhead Xtremes or Fruit by the Foot for the outside, rice krispies on the inside and you got to choose from a variety of toppings like Twizzlers, M&Ms and Swedish Fish for the inside. I spoke to Sibel Rasim, a junior on the OWLs Relay For Life team. They raised almost a thousand dollars for cancer research. When I asked Rasim about her Relay experience she said, “The atmosphere and all the different food stands from all different parts of the university really made Relay For Life an amazing experience not only for volunteers, but also the cancer survivors. It truly touched me how we all came together to support Relay For Life and become a part of the awareness and stopping cancer.”


I spoke to junior Alex Ruth who is the president of PRSSA and was the team captain for PRSSA’s team, the PRSSA Pop Rocks. Everything they sold was pop-rock themed. They had a game where you had to finish the lyrics to a pop song with pop rocks in your mouth, they sold Kool-Aid in cups with a pop-rock rim, and cake pops, chocolate covered pretzels and chocolate covered strawberries all dipped in pop rocks. As a team captain, Ruth was responsible for getting the team together and focusing on their plan for how to have a successful fundraiser at Relay. He attended team captain meetings every other Tuesday for months in advance and reported important information to his team. After the theme was chosen and everything was decided, it was his job to raise morale and get his members excited about Relay. It was PRSSA’s first year participating in Relay For Life and Ruth’s first year as team captain. When I asked him what his first Relay experience was like, he said “Getting to see what other teams brought to Relay gave us a better idea of what we need to bring next year. It also helped us figure out some things we need to do differently for next year. Overall, I think we were successful with our first Relay experience.” The PRSSA Pop Rocks raised $948 for the American Cancer Society.

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Colleges Against Cancer

Students put a ton of time and effort into this event, especially Colleges Against Cancer who put together the whole thing.They hold fundraisers on campus before the event, hold the biweekly team captain meetings, organize all the teams the night of the event, and come up with creative ideas to keep all 12 hours interesting like a 4am Pancake Bar and a pajama themed lap. They also coordinate all the activities that go on the night of the event like dodgeball, kickball, and live music.


Relay For Life is a wonderful event that gives people hope and honors those who have lost their battle to cancer. It is amazing to see how many people this disease has affected and how many are committed to putting it to a stop. Before the event even started, Bloomsburg University had raised over $37,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Before Relay officially beings, all the cancer survivors in attendance do a Survivor Lap. Watch Bloomsburg’s Survivor Lap here:


By: Jenna Smith

Learn more about Jenna.

Viral Videos

With the increasing popularity of the internet in recent years, a new fad of viral videos has swept the nation. Viral videos are videos that become popularity at alarming speeds via the internet. Viral videos can gain millions of views in as little as a day. Viral videos can cause massive amounts of (sometimes unwanted) attention. In March of 2011, a girl named Rebecca Black released a music video titled “Friday” that went viral. It was a song that people loved to hate for its annoying lyrics and stuck-in-your-head tune, but mostly people loved to hate on the 13-year-old’s voice. It was removed from YouTube three months later, but it already had over 167 million views. It is the 22nd most watched video of all time on YouTube. The video was posted again in September of 2011.

More recently, viral videos have become “fads.” In July 2012, Korean pop singer Psy released his first single off his sixth album entitled “Gangnam Style” and he had no idea what would become of his song or his career. Psy has had 18 singles prior to Gangnam Style, but after that song, everyone in the world knew his name. The music video for this song went viral and became the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion views in December of 2012. As of March 2014, it was been viewed over 1.9 billion times and is the most watched video on YouTube. The dance that is depicted in the video has become a popular dance that millions have recreated all over the world.

The next fad to sweep the nation was the Harlem Shake. The Harlem Shake videos are only 30 seconds long and consist of a group of people usually just standing around and when the beat drops, the same people are all in crazy outfits and dancing wildly for the remainder of the video. After this video went viral last February, thousands of Harlem Shake parodies were being uploaded to YouTube by the day. Bloomsburg University was no different and created our very own Harlem Shake video.

The internet has allowed for these viral videos to exist. People share them on all forms of social media which peaks peoples curiosity and simply adds to the view count of these videos. I remember watching “Friday” for the first time because I just had to know what all the buzz was about, and the same went for “Gangnam Style.” When there is one topic that everyone is talking about, no one wants to be out of the loop. There is a website that will keep you updated on all viral videos that you can find here.

Freedom’s Journal

Freedom’s Journal was the first African American owned and operated newspaper in the United States. It was first published on September 14, 1827. Peter Williams Jr. and other free African Americans in New York City founded the newspaper and their goal was to appeal to the other 300,000 African Americans in the Northern United States. The last slaves were not freed until 1827 which is when the paper was first published. Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm were selected as the junior and senior editors of this publication by the founders. Left: Samuel Cornish, Right: John B. Russwurm
Left: Samuel Cornish, Right: John B. Russwurm

It was important for these men to strengthen the common identity of African Americans in society with their new-found freedom. It provided the people with international, national and regional information regarding current events. The editorials opposed slavery and other injustices that African Americans regularly experienced. It was a great source of information for African Americans. It published biographies of prominent African Americans in society and listed their births, deaths and marriages. This helped to celebrate their achievements and allowed them to feel more like people instead of simply slaves who’s lives did not matter. In addition to the 11 states it reached, the newspaper also circulated to the District of Columbia, Haiti, Europe and Canada. In addition to celebrating the achievements of African Americans, it also employed 14-44 subscription agents.

This paper reflects the impact that news and media can have on a society, even as early as the 1800s. This publication allowed African Americans to have a sense of purpose after discovering their freedom. It allowed them to have an outlet to express their thoughts and feelings and celebrate each other as a community of free individuals. Read archives from this paper here.


Twitter updates

Twitter made an announcement on Wednesday about updates coming to the app specifically regarding their photo sharing. Twitter users always had the ability to share photos, but now you will be able to tag people in photos that you share and make collages directly on Twitter. In the past if you wanted other users to see a photo you shared on Twitter, you had to tag them in the tweet, taking up several of the precious 140 characters. Now, you will be able to tag up to 10 people in a single photo without taking up characters. It was only a matter of time before Twitter added this feature. Facebook has allowed photo tagging options for years, and Instagram recently added this feature as well. Tagged images will show up on the interactions page of Twitter just like regular Twitter mentions.

Another new update coming to Twitter is a collage option. Now you will be able to share up to four photos at once without using another app. Photo collages have become increasingly popular on all social media sites, especially Instagram. Twitter has made it easier for its users to create these collages by giving them the ability to create one without leaving Twitter. Normally, social media users would outsource to an app like PicStitch to make an up which then allows you to upload it to a social media site.

I think that both of these updates will make Twitter users very happy, even though they are relatively minor. It is important for Twitter to continue to adapt to what their consumers want.

New York Times Co vs. Sullivan

New York Times Co vs. Sullivan is a landmark Supreme Court case that occurred in 1964. This case established the actual malice standard which says that the plaintiff in a defamation or libel case must prove that the publisher of the statement in question knew that the statement was false, or disregarded its truth or falsity. This puts an extremely high burden of proof on the plaintiff and makes it difficult to prove the defendant’s knowledge. Because of the high burden of proof, cases like this (especially those involving public figures) rarely win.

In 1960, the New York Times ran a full page advertisement speaking out against an Alabama perjury indictment and in favor of Martin Luther King Jr. The advertisement also listed inaccurate criticism of the Alabama police. Montgomery Public Safety commissioner L.B. Sullivan considered these statements to be defamatory even though he was not specifically named in the advertisement. He sued the Times for libel and won $500,000 in an Alabama court. However when the case got to the Supreme Court, it ruled in favor of the Times 9-0 and said that the newspaper had the freedom of the press and said that there was no proof of actual malice.

This case is so important because it upholds our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and press. The court ruling said that “the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice (with knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity).”

The 50th anniversary of this case occurred just a few weeks ago. March 9th, 1964 was the day that the decision of New York Times Co vs. Sullivan was reached. It is amazing that such a case occurred 50 years ago and it is still relevant to our judicial system today. In my Media Law and Ethics course last semester, we went over this case thoroughly in regards to its importance to the rights in the First Amendment. This shows that although it is 50 years old this year, this landmark case is still as important as ever. The Times released an article about the case on the anniversary which you can read here.

Mike Feeley Presentation

Tonight in Online Journalism, we were lucky enough to hear a presentation by Mike Feeley of The Patriot News and a Pulitzer Prize winner. He is a graduate of Bloomsburg University and it is always an inspiring experience when we get to meet graduates of this program who have had success in their fields. When Mr. Feeley first came to Bloomsburg in 1983, he immediately went to the Press Enterprise and asked for a job in the sports department. During college, he had three internships before he graduated. After he graduated, there were no jobs in the journalism field so he worked for his brother’s underwater construction company before eventually getting a full time position back at the Press Enterprise and moving to the Patriot News two years later.

In December 2012, The Patriot News made a shift from publishing 7 days a week to only 3 days a week and has shifted its focus to a digital format. The Patriot News has realized that the newspaper industry is changing fast. Mr. Feeley talked a lot about how newspaper companies need to give the people the news when they want it. They have realized that switching to digital gives them more freedom for when they can provide the news whereas a print publication always came out every morning. Online, people can access the news whenever and wherever they choose. Their website can get up to a million page views per day. 50% of their viewers are on mobile devices and they have seen a 40% growth in viewers so far this year. This is an important shift to make because the news business is very reliant on the internet. We have so much access and we no longer have to wait for news sources to update, the internet is almost automatic.

The Patriot News won their Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. They released a story about the allegations against Sandusky in March of 2011 and nothing happened afterwards. Months later, the attorney general announced they would be having a press conference and posted the allegations against Sandusky online, not realizing that they were public. The Patriot News was able to print the information that was posted before the attorney general removed it. After the information spread, the attorney general was forced to put it back online and the story broke. They worked diligently for months with no days off to get all the information that was unfolding during this scandal. Mr. Feeley believes that the most interesting part of this whole story is the cover up and the fact that high-up university officials tried to hide the scandal from the world and slip it under the rug. In order to do their best work and be sensitive to the situation, Patriot reporters spoke to attorneys and sexual abuse counselors before interviewing victims.

Getting to hear Mr. Feeley talk about his job was awesome. I learned a lot about the field and how much technology and media is changing the industry. It is important to keep up with the evolving world or you will get left behind. I think the Patriot News is doing great with acknowledging this shift and are keeping up with what their consumers want.