The IWPA is pleased to rejoin the National Federation of Press Women’s (NFPW) First Amendment Network (FAN) by appointing me, Diane Bushemi, as the FAN Contact for the Illinois affiliate.

As FAN Contact, it is my responsibility to keep our members apprised of First Amendment issues. As liaison for this subject, I am also charged with running issues up the flagpole to NFPW as needed.

With IWPA’s esteemed President, Becky Sarwate, I brainstormed ways to uniquely leverage this member service. That is how we came upon the idea for this blog. I titled it FAN-Fair because the First Amendment is built on the premise of fairness.

The First Amendment, with respect to this association’s mission, prohibits “. . . abridging the freedom of speech or infringing on the freedom of the press.”

However, a distinction must be made between our country’s established Constitutional right to protection and non-interference, and the fundamental one—the actual freedom of speech and expression. They are not the same. Let me explain.

That protection does not necessarily afford full freedom. You can say or express almost anything—especially in the Internet age—but someone else can lambaste, threaten, defame, or insult you because they do not agree with what you said. The courts come in after the damage is done. Yes, you may have to go to court to defend and fight against potential consequences for certain things you might say or write. Even if there are no legal consequences to unpopular speech, there can still be social consequences such as ridicule, ostracism, and damage to your professional standing or reputation.

Ergo, freedom of speech and expression are not always guaranteed without repercussions.

The Free Press Clause works similarly. Individual communicators speaking on behalf of entities can be somewhat shielded from persecution by the government, but many a journalist, advertiser, et cetera, could be or has been vulnerable to subsequent attack. Is that true freedom?

Over the next several months, I will be taking pieces of the First Amendment and expounding on it with current events as relevant examples.

FAN-Fair is not designed to exist in a bubble. It wouldn’t be fair if it did! That is where you—IWPA members and other communicators—come in. We want to hear your views, your story.

Have you written about the First Amendment before? Post it here. Do you have your own stories where your freedoms were compromised? Please, share them. What are your views about the First Amendment and associated personal freedoms? We want to know. Would you like to be interviewed? I would love to have a conversation with you.

My guidelines are few but essential. I will do light editing of your article, which includes copyediting and fact checking. Not only do I want you to be presented fairly, my intent is to help your voice be heard truthfully and accurately.

I am mindful of the potential hypocrisy in censoring content in a blog devoted to freedom of speech, expression, and the press. However, I ask that we all be respectful. We don’t want to start a revolution; we want to invite an intelligent, thoughtful discussion. I request that we refrain from extreme partisanship in the form of hyperbole, ad hominems, or otherwise combative language. All that will result is circular arguments that have nowhere to go but down the drain. IWPA is about progress!

If you are interested, please send a pitch to with “FAN” in the subject line.

Without further adieu, we herald the launch of FAN-Fair. Because your voice does matter.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Brian Turner