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November 18, 2003


Elizabeth M. Smith
UA Media Relations

Dr. Matt Bunker

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UA Journalism Professor Receives Freedom of Expression Award
Dr. Matthew D. Bunker

Dr. Matthew D. Bunker

TUSCALOOSA, Ala – Dr. Matthew D. Bunker, Reese Phifer Professor of Journalism in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama, recently received the Franklyn S. Haiman Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Freedom of Expression for his book, “Critiquing Free Speech: First Amendment Theory and the Challenge of Interdisciplinarity.”

Bunker will be presented with the award, given by the National Communication Association, on Nov. 22 in Miami.

The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Bunker said there is a great deal of debate right now in many different fields – economics, philosophy, literature - about how much speech the First Amendment should protect. Different disciplines approach the issue of free speech in different ways, but all look at the real and fundamental questions free expression poses. And that is what his book tackles.

“Free speech is not innocuous, and when it is protected, we allow harm to go on,” Bunker said. “However, my personal view is that the value of free speech, on balance, far exceeds any problems it causes.”

Book cover - Critiquing Free Speech: First Amendment Theory and the Challenge of Interdisciplinarity

Dr. Matt Bunker's "Critiquing Free Speech" received the Franklyn S. Haiman Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Freedom of Expression.

Download a high-resolution version

“Critiquing Free Speech” explores the work of contemporary free speech critics but doesn’t always agree with their findings. In fact, Bunker suggests that we should be wary of interdisciplinary approaches to free speech theory, while willing to learn from them. He adds that freedom of speech is one of the most important rights we have in a democracy, and this book specifically explores a variety of scholarship that has grown up around it.

“In general, the public has been less supportive of free speech than the courts,” he said. “In fact, the First Amendment probably would have a hard time passing today. But we have a precious heritage in the First Amendment. It’s always easy to pick and choose what speech we like and don’t like, but a robust marketplace of ideas probably serves us best.”

Bunker was a practicing lawyer and working journalist before he became a professor. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in mass communication law and journalism at UA.

The College of Communication & Information Sciences is among the largest and most prestigious communication colleges in the nation. C&IS has graduated more than 12,000 students and consistently is ranked among the top 10 in number of doctoral degrees awarded and in many of its research programs. C&IS graduates have won four of the six Pulitzer Prizes awarded to University of Alabama alumni, and the forensics and debate squad, housed within the College, has garnered 14 national championships.