Why did I send testimony opposing Colorado HB19-1110 on media literacy? It violates the US Constitution

As a career media professional and registered Independent, I appreciate the State’s concerns over the proliferation of Citizen (social) media — and its influences and outcomes — over the past decade. My profession felt almost nationalized as everyone became instant publishers; no experience, no accountability required. I get it, believe me.

However, it is precisely because of, not in spite of, those experiences, knowledge gained, and lessons learned that I so readily caught the First Amendment violation in Colorado House Bill 19-1110 “Concerning implementing media literacy in elementary and secondary education, and, in connection therewith, making an appropriation.”

Knowing that the US Supreme Court and the US Constitution have never distinguished between “journalists” and everyone else under First Amendment protection, I paused.

Essentially, the bill was proposed and passed by the House because of concerns over all the misinformation on the internet. Understandable, who isn’t concerned?

The bill seeks to appoint a 13-member “Committee” of school district members and a member from the Colorado State Press Association and another from “broadcast media” to study and recommend a media literacy curriculum for “elementary and secondary education.”

I only ran across the bill a few days ago while doing research for the podcast I’ve been working on for the past eight months (launching this fall) and was stopped in my tracks. I’ve never testified to oppose or support anything beyond the local level, and only twice there, but just couldn’t let this one go, as the language of the US Constitution’s First Amendment played over and over in my mind.

Amendmentone
The language of the US Constitution’s First Amendment is clear.

As I wrote in my testimony opposing the media literacy bill, “the Rule of Law is all we have to protect us from, as well as to celebrate, our cultural biases.”

An Intellectual Property Law professor told me a few months ago, simply because we don’t like an outcome, if it passes the legal smell test, then we either accept it and adjust or try to change the law.

I’m super thankful to CDE elected member Joyce Rankin (R) for agreeing to hand carry my testimony to the Committee for today’s hearing in Denver. I was willing to make the 5 hour drive over the hill if I had to, but Ms. Rankin said she would be there anyway and was happy to deliver and read it for me. (I really like her. She has focus, she’s confident, and walks her talk; that’s huge to me! Confident people intimidate the beans outta me, but she was respectful, engaging, committed, and was gracious in her time to take my call. As an Independent, we often get ignored by both parties, so its nice when they notice! And she was so awesome!)

I listened to the hearing via the State’s website hoping someone would respond to my testimony, but no one said anything after it was read. I was told by several people to expect them to ignore it because the Senate Democratic majority is pushing a lot of bills right now and not open to considering opposition, even from us Independents. I was so disappointed to hear that, but kept an open mind that maybe they would. Nope. No one even made a comment after it was read. The bill passed the first reading 3/2 and is moving to the next step. It was kind of cool hearing it read though!

Members of the Colorado State Press Association testified in support of the bill right before my opposition testimony. I don’t know if they stayed to hear my testimony’s reading as I was not shy about pointing to the newspaper lobby’s influence on the bill.

I’m learning so much and it was exciting! Felt good to write and submit it even though I knew going in they were going to approve the bill to the next level no matter what any opposition said, but you don’t know if you don’t try! Eager to see what happens next!

Here’s the testimony I sent for today’s Colorado Senate Education Committee hearing:


4-25-19 Testimony to OPPOSE HB19-1110

The US Constitution and US Supreme Court have never distinguished “journalists” from any other citizens under First Amendment freedom and protection.

This very point is at the heart of the Julian Assange Wikileaks indictment today, which has “professional” journalism itself on trial.

Citizen media elected Obama and Trump — both non-traditional non-institutional candidates. A Democrat. A Republican. Citizen media, just as the First Amendment set out and the framers intended, is a genie that is not going back into the bottle.

If our public school curriculum is not encouraging and fostering critical thinking skills in math, literature, writing, science, art, sports … then what are they teaching in K-12? Do students blindly accept everything that is in their textbooks without question? Why wouldn’t they approach media — social or otherwise — the same way they approach any other information?

All politics are local, but all culture begins at home.

The Rule of Law is all we have to protect us from, as well as to allow us to celebrate, our culture biases. Surely on this point we can all — Democrats, Republicans, Independents — agree.

Is the State of Colorado prepared to open the door to implementing a burden of proof journalism approach to all information, including faith-based media (the Bible, religious television programming, church tweets, etc) as part of its Committee-approved media literacy curriculum?

The State, with this bill, is determining what is and is not “appropriate” or “responsible” “behavior” when students exercise their rights to free speech engagement on Citizen (social) media. I’m concerned this is an attempt to legislate morality a la Soviet era transition tactics.

For all the important good work professional media has done and continues to do, anyone who think that it is some bastion of holier-than-thou fair-and-balanced demi-gods has never been bullied, threatened, coerced or traumatized by a newspaper publisher in a position of public trust.

Media organizations are businesses, like any other business — whether they choose to care about the rights of ALL their stakeholders, is a branding decision, not a legislative one.

HB19-1110 specifies print (must be press association member) and broadcast media members for the Committee. Colorado’s continued preferential support of the newspaper lobby (despite the First Amendment that gives them no more publishing rights than anyone else) is frankly bizarre in the internet age.

  • Requiring legal notices be posted in “newspapers” even though many states have already done away with this newspaper subsidy precisely because the notices can be published or posted on municipal websites. Guaranteed State-required steady income for those newspaper businesses.
  • Requiring that magazines pay sales tax on subscriptions, but exempting newspapers from the same tax, thereby burdening magazine publishers with additional programming and administrative costs not imposed on its First Amendment equal.

Again, the US Supreme Court and the US Constitution do not distinguish journalists — professional or otherwise — from anyone else. All have the same rights and protections under the First Amendment. Yet, too many of us have had to subjugate our rights under the law over State and cultural bias that favors one media segment over all others.

Our children deserve to determine their own future with all the First Amendment freedoms to which they’re entitled.

Thank you for your consideration.

Krystyn Hartman


The bottom line is, whether we like it or not, Citizen (social) media meets the mission of the First Amendment. We simply accepted the idea of a “free press” as the only voice because for a long time, newspapers were the only option.

But then came telegraph, telephone, radio, film, television, and now the internet. Newspapers have enjoyed centuries of unelected power to manipulate politics and commerce. The internet means we don’t have to put up with their largess — and message control — any more. Hence everyone’s shock at the election of Obama, then shocked again at the election of Trump. Neither are institutional candidates any more than the flood of diverse representatives resulting from the 2018 mid-term elections. All of these are the result of Citizen media, the First Amendment in all its glory.

The Julian Assange case is going to gut traditional media because there is no legal mechanism for protecting sources. None. So, if he is charged with criminal conspiracy for not revealing sources because journalists are no different than citizens under the First Amendment, that means … yep. And big media’s hall pass is about to get called out. Not because its bad or anything, but because its the law and Citizen media has caught up.

Lady Justice against the Supreme Court of U.S. background

This isn’t a small issue; this is a game changer. Will be so interesting to watch the newspaper lobbies across the nation as they grapple with their business needs versus the First Amendment.

We’re about to find out what it is big media really stands for.

Ours is a new age that the framers of the First Amendment knew would one day come where all citizens have a voice. Sure, its scary; its unprecedented in all known history. But now that we’re here, as I wrote in my testimony, the genie is NOT going back into the institutional media bottle. We’ll work through this crazy stage, just as they did during and following the Gutenberg Press Revolution (invention of the printing press). The Holy See predicted the end of civilization should the people have access to “dangerous” ideas. History proved otherwise.

Oh yes, I’m staying on this one!

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