Sam Lebovic, assistant professor in the Department of History and Art History, has won a prestigious book prize from the Organization of American Historians. Lebovic published Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America with Harvard University Press in March 2016. The OAH awarded Lebovic the 2017 Ellis W. Hawley Prize, which is given annually for the best book-length historical study of the political economy, politics, or institutions of the United States, in its domestic or international affairs, from the Civil War to the present. The prize was presented on April 8 by OAH’s 2016–17 President Nancy F. Cott and 2017–18 President Edward L. Ayers.
In awarding the prize, the OAH used this citation:
Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America (Harvard University Press) is a highly original, elegantly constructed exploration of competing interpretations of press freedom over the course of the twentieth century. Through innovative primary research and analysis, Lebovic demonstrates that while press freedom came to be understood primarily as the legal protection from censorship, alternative visions in the Progressive Era and the 1930s emphasized the public’s positive right to information, ideally through a variety of news sources. Lebovic reveals the far-reaching implications of these shifting ideas and their implementation, from New Deal attempts at press regulation to postwar corporate consolidation to the secrecy and scandals of the Nixon presidency to our current chaos of shuttered newsrooms, partisan echo chambers, and fake news. Throughout, Lebovic skillfully combines the legal and political dimensions of the history of the First Amendment with the study of how information worked in practice, inflected by technology, labor, and capital. The result is a compelling work: ambitious, beautifully written, and timely.
April 11, 2017