Reflections on New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 50 Years Later

25 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2014 Last revised: 10 Jun 2014

Date Written: June 6, 2014


The Supreme Court's ruling in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan depends crucially on the concept of statements being "true" or "false" and one's knowledge thereof. This principle, however, fails to account for the wide range of statements people make or intentions people have when making a statement. This article explores the concept of journalism; the various theories justifying First Amendment protection; how those theories relate to the Court's decision in Sullivan; the strengths and weakness of various theories and the Sullivan decision in protecting journalism as an activity; and the practical impact that Sullivan has had on the practice of journalism and protection for speech. It concludes that Sullivan certainly had an impact on media organizations, but the legal principles that have flowed from the ruling are not always consistent with the needs or interests of excellent journalism. This paper was part of UNC's First Amendment Law Review's Symposium on the 50th Anniversary of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan.

Suggested Citation

Messenger, Ashley, Reflections on New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 50 Years Later (June 6, 2014). First Amendment Law Review, Vol. 12, p. 423, 2014. Available at SSRN:

Ashley Messenger (Contact Author)

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics