Syracuse law expert to discuss free speech during SUNY Cortland lecture

Roy Gutterman (YouTube)

By Hannah Bistocchi
SUNY Cortland Communications Office

Professor and communications law expert Roy Gutterman is very concerned about the future of the American free press during a time when public rhetoric is commonly used to silence critics simply because other people do not like what they have to say.

“I think in our current state of affairs, politically, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are more important than they have been in recent years,” said Gutterman, an associate professor of communications law and journalism at Syracuse University. “I think it’s really troubling from a democratic standpoint. Politicians aren’t supposed to like the press. They’re supposed to have that adversarial relationship.”

Gutterman will address “Freedom in the Balance: Free Speech Rights and the Current Global Context,” on Wednesday, March 21, at SUNY Cortland.

His lecture begins at 4:30 p.m. in Moffett Center, Room 2125. A reception will precede the talk at 4 p.m. in the Rozanne M. Brooks Museum, Moffett Center, Room 2126.

The talk continues the 2017-18 Rozanne M. Brooks Lecture Series, which this year takes on the theme of “The Culture of Human Rights and Realities.”

The series is free and open to the public.

Although Gutterman found rewarding careers as both a journalist and an attorney, he said there was something about teaching that was always calling to him.

Before joining Syracuse University, Gutterman was a newspaper reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in Ohio. Leaving the world of journalism behind to pursue a career in law, Gutterman found he was still missing something in his life.

At Syracuse University, Gutterman established himself in the field of communications law focused on the rights protected under the First Amendment: free speech and free press. He has been honored with the university’s Meredith Teaching Recognition Award.

Due to rapidly evolving societal views on the press and freedom of speech, Gutterman believes it is as important as ever to discuss with students the constant every-day struggle of balancing First Amendment rights with other rights in today’s society.

He asserts that recent attacks on the press and the legal repercussions and challenges that have come with trying to silence people have tarnished the modern-day press.

“I don’t see First Amendment values as a partisan issue in the first place,” Gutterman said. “I believe in opposing viewpoints, political diversity, but we need to be able to have some critical discussions about public issues without things devolving into the criticism leveled against the press.”

The concern is there might be efforts to erode the American right to a free press.

“The chipping away at the institution I worry about: investigations rooting out sources, high profile libel suits, invasion of privacy suits aimed at protecting rights, instead of punishing a critic or silencing a voice.”

Gutterman’s talk has relevance to all American citizens, including the younger generation who may wish to become more politically involved.

“I hope people can walk away with a little bit of an understanding of the important role the First Amendment plays in our lives and a little bit of appreciation for it, and that the press should be revered.”

One remaining Brooks talk also will be held in Moffett Center, Room 2125 at 4:30 p.m. on April 11. A reception precedes the event at 4 p.m. in the Rozanne M. Brooks Museum.

Hannah Britton, who leads the Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Initiative at the University Kansas, will discuss “Moving Upstream: Preventing Human Trafficking and Exploitation.” A reception will precede the event at 4 p.m. in the Rozanne M. Brooks Museum.

The Brooks Lecture Series honors the late Rozanne Marie Brooks, a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor and SUNY Cortland professor of sociology and anthropology. Brooks was a SUNY Cortland faculty member for 36 years; she passed away in 1997.

Contact Professor of Sociology/Anthropology Sharon Steadman at 607-753-2308 for more information.