A Surprisingly Short History of the 'Right to Know' 

Professor Michael Schudson,Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Co-presented with the Sydney Democracy Network the Department of Media and Communicationsat the University of Sydney and UTS School of Communication

12 March, 2015

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) passed by the US Congress in 1966 was the first modern law of its kind in the world. This lecture by America's most distinguished scholar of media and communications re-examines its Cold War origins and shows why the law has helped in unexpected ways to strengthen a robust culture open to challenging established authorities and institutions. Professor Michael Schudson reconsiders the 21st-century meanings of the 'right to know' and suggests several reasons why a ground-breaking law with local origins and a surprisingly short history is today of global significance.


Professor Michael Schudson

Michael Schudson is Professor of Journalism in the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Sociology. He gained his first degree from Swarthmore College before completing his doctorate in sociology at Harvard.

Michael Schudson has taught at the University of Chicago and the University of California, San Diego and since 2009, has been a full-time member of the prestigious Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. For his pioneering contributions to such fields as the history and future of American news media, advertising, citizenship and popular culture, Schudson has received many honours, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Foundation 'genius' award. In 2014, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Groningen.

He writes regularly for such newspapers as The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the Financial Times. His work also appears in the Columbia Journalism Review, Wilson Quarterly and The American Prospect, and he has published many books. Among the best known are Discovering the News (1978); Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion (1984); and Watergate in American Memory (1992). The Economist urged all Americans to read The Good Citizen: A History of American Civic Life (l998), while the London-based Times Higher Education praised Why Democracies Need an Unlovable Press (2008) as 'eloquent and wise'. He has also co-authored an influential report on the future of news, The Reconstruction of American Journalism (2009).