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Perking up the First Amendment

Posted by Jan Freeman, keep until April  September 5, 2006 11:52 PM

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I haven’t logged enough Katie Couric hours (or minutes) to rate her CBS News debut on the perkometer, so I’ll wait for the judges’ decision on whether her anchoring was sufficiently sober. But for me, the only cringe-inducing moment was the unveiling of the logo for the show’s personal essay segment: It’s "freeSpeech."

Not just freeSpeech, though that’s bad enough, free speech smushed into a sort of trendy trademark. No, this logo is "freeSpeech," furnished with its own irony-scented quotation marks. What are they for? It’s not a consistent style for the broadcast – the logo on the following segment was SNAPSHOTS, all caps, no quotes. Could it be that someone thought, "It’s a first-person essay, so we’ll put it in quotes to signal that someone’s speaking"?

Then again, Couric introduced the segment as a showcase for "civil discourse" – which, desirable though it is, is not quite the same thing as free speech. Maybe "freeSpeech" is exactly the right label, after all.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

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Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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