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Since the advent of journalism schools in the college academy, student publications have taken their place as a vital component of campus life. As counterparts to the Fourth Estate in the society at large, college journalists act as watchdogs on student government, ensuring that student money is wisely spent and student justice equitably administered. As an outpost of the Fourth Estate, college journalism serves all the public by monitoring the administration of higher education. In September 1999, a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit threatened to radically distort the face of college journalism by rendering student writers, editors, and producers impotent and bound by the will of government. The court applied to adult, college journalists the same lenient standard for government censorship that applies to minors in secondary schools. College media across the country, along with academics, alumni, professional journalists, and others sympathetic to student publications, breathed a sigh of relief on January 5, 2001 when the Sixth Circuit ruled en banc that, in 1999, the divided, three-judge panel had erred. This Article reviews the history of high school and college journalism before Kincaid v. Gibson. The Article presents the background and holdings of Kincaid itself, then sketches, by analogy to the effect of Hazelwood in secondary schools, the detrimental impact Kincaid could have had on college journalism had the ultimate decision by the Court of Appeals not been favorable to the students. The Article then turns, still by analogy to Hazelwood, to consider how, in light of the ultimate decision in Kincaid, college journalism advocates can avert future threats to free expression on campus.


This article was published originally at 68 Tenn. L. Rev. 481 (2001) and appears here by permission of the Tennessee Law Review Association, Inc.