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This article explores First Amendment theory and the role of the media in generating police accountability through public understanding of police organizations. We argue that free speech theory can and should look beyond “abridgment” issues and raise questions about the civic responsibility of the press to inform the public about key governmental institutions. The media's concern with crime news, we found, vastly overshadows its coverage of the police us a complex, in-teresting, and expensive governmental agency. Reporting about police institutional patterns and policies contributes more toward fulfilling First Amendment values-not only that of “checking” police excesses, but of facilitating the goal of enlightened citizen participation in local government.
Those who won our independence believed…that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of American government. They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject.