Working for a Strong First Amendment
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About Cornerstone

Background / The Program / Media Relations and Promotions
Education / The Media Institute / Conclusion

The Cornerstone Project is a public awareness and education program in celebration of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The goal of the program is to give the American public a renewed appreciation of freedom of speech and of the press.

Background
Our Founding Fathers knew that freedom of expression was the cornerstone of their new democracy. But even the most farsighted among them could never have comprehended how the rights they established would touch undreamed-of marvels like television, radio, motion pictures, video games, and the Internet.

Today's media have evolved from the simple printing presses of colonial days into a plethora of print and electronic information sources. They have become a part of our social fabric, reaching every American home with the unique power to inform, to educate, and to entertain. American media owe their success not only to the 20th century revolution in technology, but to the Founders' guarantee during another time of revolution - a guarantee that it was every citizen's right to speak freely without government interference or censorship.

The First Amendment applies with few exceptions to all types of speech and speakers. The focus of the Cornerstone Project is narrower. The program concentrates on "media speakers," defined as companies that provide news and entertainment content through print, broadcast, cable, satellite, and cyberspace. These media speakers have benefited from a vast array of media that offer diverse choices in news, ideas, and all manner of entertainment.

The First Amendment must be protected. The Founders knew all too well from history, and from their own experience with the British licensing of printing presses that governments have an innate desire to control the flow of information. That desire continues to this day, as Congress and other governmental bodies - in response to dysfunctional aspects of American society - contemplate sweeping controls over the content of the print and electronic media.

While some may view such controls as well intentioned or even desirable, the results would be disastrous, primarily because it is nearly impossible to limit the application of such laws and regulations. Laws to control one type of speech, for example, will inevitably be cited as precedent for laws to control other types of speech.

In short, the American public needs to be reminded of its own stake in the independence of the media and a strong First Amendment. It is time to recall how well the First Amendment has served both media speakers and the public that depends on them. This is the mission of the Cornerstone Project.

The Program
The Cornerstone Project is an ambitious program to reaffirm the First Amendment today. The program is based on the premise that citizens and policymakers throughout the nation need to reconnect with the First Amendment.

The target audience of the program includes Congress and the FCC but also extends well beyond the Beltway. The Cornerstone Project is a major public education program designed to reach citizens nationwide with a simple, succinct message: "Everyone has a stake in the First Amendment." The underlying message: The critical factor for maintaining free speech and media choice is the independence of the American media.

The program consists of projects in three primary categories: media relations and promotion; education and awareness; and public service announcements (PSAs). Ongoing projects include the following:

Media Relations and Promotion
Working with media contacts, we are pursuing various media opportunities. Some of the efforts include:

  • Magazine and journal articles - This includes the Cornerstone Papers, a series of essays published by the Cornerstone Project. These essays, written by First Amendment experts and notable media figures, provide in-depth philosophical discussions of the First Amendment.
  • Speaking engagements
  • Participation at conference and seminar panels
  • Logo promotion and distribution – The Cornerstone Project logo is available for display on Web sites and in print publications. The goal of this promotion is to make the logo a recognizable national icon signifying support for the First Amendment.

Education and Awareness National Symposium Each November, the Cornerstone Project convenes a symposium that features panel discussions and speeches that look at current issues and their effect on the First Amendment and the media. (click here for information on previous symposiums)

Cornerstone Luncheon Series These invitation-only luncheons feature prominent individuals as panelists discussing various aspects of the First Amendment. This element of the Cornerstone Project made its debut in May 2002, and three luncheons were held in the first installment of the series. (click here for details on the individual luncheons)

The First Amendment and the Media This annual publication provides an overview of government actions in the previous year that affected media speakers (click here for the latest version online). A number of scholars, attorneys, and other notable media industry figures contribute chapters that assess federal and state developments and their impacts on freedom of speech and of the press.

National Freedom of Speech Week Freedom of speech is an idea that helped shape our nation over 200 years ago, yet this basic principle of our democracy is not celebrated in this country in any substantial fashion. The Cornerstone Project hopes to change that.

Although still in its preliminary stages, National Freedom of Speech Week would be the most significant program developed under the auspices of the Cornerstone Project. Through the cooperation of the Cornerstone partners and others, the week would feature PSAs, educational programs, conferences, and other elements aimed at enhancing Americans' awareness of this crucial part of the U.S. Constitution.

The Media Institute
The Media Institute is well qualified to run the Cornerstone Project. In existence since 1979, the Institute has been a staunch supporter of First Amendment rights for media and other speakers. The Institute has filed dozens of court briefs and agency comments over the years, and has published numerous books on First Amendment topics. The Institute's First Amendment Advisory Council comprises some of the country's finest constitutional scholars and communications attorneys. The Media Institute is one of the few organizations in America with the mission, the knowledge, the connections, the independence, and the credentials to implement a program like the Cornerstone Project.

Conclusion
The First Amendment has benefited the American people in many ways- especially by fostering a wide array of choices among diverse and independent media. The Cornerstone Project celebrates the First Amendment and the independence of American media. Through this visionary program of public awareness and education, the Cornerstone Project seeks to protect and preserve this cornerstone of democracy now and for generations to come.

If you are interested in becoming a Cornerstone Project sponsor, please click here for more information.


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