I have admired Ashley Judd for years...not because she is from Kentucky, or a UK grad, or a BBN supporter, not even for her good looks and acting talent, but because she came from modest circumstances and has truly made something of herself, while giving back to her home, her country—and even on the international level where she is a activist working to end AIDS and human trafficking for various UN and other agencies.
So, it came as something of a shock when she spoke recently at UK and barred radio & tv stations from covering her address. To my knowledge she had never imposed such a ban in her several previous talks at UK. Why would she now impose such a ban, and why would UK even agree to it???
Several weeks of digging leave me very unsatisfied...but UK says its PR people received this request from her representatives, not Judd herself. Surprisingly, for people in the media relations business, they didn’t ask why? So we don’t know why someone whose career has been promoted by all the media, both at home in Kentucky and around the world, would try to cut out some of the media, especially TV, from covering an important step in her career.
Even more, why would UK agree to such a ban? It can’t help its relations with local media, and, IMHO, it is probably illegal. I have some memories, which at my age should be treated carefully, that there are some court cases that say a PUBLIC institution may not bar any of the media from covering a PUBLIC event, which this was, without violating the First Amendment. I have been googling this, but so far haven’t come up with anything definitive.
Private schools may be different, so are private individuals...but she is not. She is a “public person” as the courts have defined in previous cases.
So I am left puzzled...as I am on other points-- why would UK say it would go along? I think it needs to answer this to Kentuckians, and to local media. Why would Ashley Judd even ask for it? I think she, not her representatives, need to answer this question also.
Even more, why have local media not protested? That includes the Herald-Leader, which as students were, was allowed to record her talk “for note taking purposes only.” What’s the difference from that (which print reporters learned long ago---from broadcasters---was important for getting a better and more accurate story) and letting radio reporters actually cover her talk? BTW, the H-L has a “news partner,” a local TV station, so why not object and uphold the First Amendment? The silence from local media is deafening ...as it has been from the local chapter of the SPJ—the Society of Professional Journalists. Maybe they don’t think her one fall from grace is important. Time magazine would disagree; it named her as one of its “persons” of the year for her work in bringing out sexual harassment claims, and bringing down a group of alleged perpetrators.
Once anyone gets away with such bans, which I do believe violates the First Amendment, other violations become that much easier—and we are all the losers here. Let’s hope, on her next visit to UK, she has a better view of our history—as she works to improve America, and the world.
And let’s hope all the local media live up to their responsibilities to that First Amendment as well.
I'm just sayin'...