Comprehensiveness rating: 3 read less
In reviewing Robson's text, I am comparing primarily to the traditional media law text which I have used in recent semesters, Don R. Pember and Clay Calvert's Media Law. Now in its 19th or 20th edition, Media Law is the most widely used text for undergraduate media law courses and has been for a long time. The Robsonn text is very different from Media Law in two ways: first, Robsonn's text is broader in its scope than a media law textbook, as Robsonn is concerned with First Amendment law and media law falls within only two clauses of that Amendment: speech (or expression) and media. (The Robsonn text has additional sections concerning the religion clause, which obviously would not be included in a media law text.) A reasonable comparison, then, would seem to involve the typical issues covered in a media law course, as they are treated in both books: libel, prior restraint, hate speech, copyright, obscenity, the distinction in First Amendment rights at public and private institutions or employers, etc. There are a few important areas of media law which are NOT addressed in Robson's text: protection of news sources, controversies deriving from the Freedom of Information Act, and issues relating to the Free Press - Fair Trial dichotomy are the most obviousl
A second distinction between Robsonn's book and a tradition media law text is in the manner of presentation to students. Robsonn organizes excerpts from court opinions into subject areas such as legal issues having to do with the "Government as Employer and Educator." Students are reading excerpts of actual case law, and there is very little writing by Robsonn by way of summary or synthesis (occasionally, there are a few sentences of preface). This approach has its advantages: it presents students with more examples of primary texts (the opinions) than they would normally encounter in a media law course, where they might read little actual law. It also allows them familiarity with these cases without the filter of a textbook author who would summarize and analyze these cases (as those such as Pember and Calvert do). But there is a significant disadvantage for undergraduate students, who may find reading original case law difficult and who may need the summarizing and synthesizing role of a more traditional textbook editor. For this reason, Robsonn's text may be more appropriate for first-semester or first-year law students than for undergraduates.
The approach of a tradition textbook is to organize discussion around specific topics in media law. Libel, for example, gets three chapters in Pember and Calvert's text. In Robsonn's text, libel is the subject of cases listed in a section called "Freedom of the Press and Tort Actions." Thus, students who are new to the discussion of media law would probably appreciate the more streamlined table of contents of a text such as Pember and Calvert, wherein chapter headings comprise a handy list of media law issues. In other words, the focus of Robsonn's approach is different and perhaps less transparent to undergraduates.
Traditional media law texts also include an introductory chapter or chapters on the American legal system, with which students often are not sufficiently familiar. With the Robsonn text, this background must be supplemented by the faculty member.
Finally , the Robsonn text does not include an index, which undergraduates (and faculty) find very useful.
Accuracy rating: 4
In general, I have not discovered errors in accuracy, with the exception of the phrasing of the First Amendment in chapter one, where the last clause of the amendment is written as "and to petition the government from redress of grievances." I remembered the wording of that clause differently, and in most versions of the amendment I consulted, the wording of that last phrase is "and to petition the government FOR A redress of grievances." While it seems a fairly egregious error to misquote the First Amendment, there may be some factor here with which I'm unfamiliar.
Generally, accuracy is not a problem, as the text of the book is primarily comprised of excerpts from actual opinions.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 5
Again, as the text is primarily comprised of actual case law (excerpts), these could be easily replaced or extended. Cases included are as recent as 2013, 2014.
Clarity rating: 4
The excerpts from court cases are surprisingly easy to read, for legalese, but it is difficult to comment on clarity as that terms generally applies, when it is mostly NOT the author's writing that would be the subject of this evaluation.
Consistency rating: 5
Because it follows the clauses in the First Amendment, this is strong.
Modularity rating: 5
The chapter divisions are sensible, although some chapters are too long for treatment in one class meeting. However, modules within chapters are also sensible.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4
In overall framework, the book follows the order of clauses in the First Amendment, focusing on speech, media, and religion. Cases concerning the assembly and petition clauses and the so-called "missing" clause, association, are interspersed in the sections on speech and media, as multiple clauses or doctrines often emerge in any individual case.
Interface rating: 5
It is very easy to navigate this book, and I have tested that in iBooks, Kindle, and .pdf.
Grammatical Errors rating: 5
Any errors in a text such as Robsonn's would have to be typos, as her method is to excerpt relevant court opinions. In other words, very little of the text is her original writing: there is little place for error.
Cultural Relevance rating: 5
Again, there is little original writing from Robsonn, and her selections cover a wide range of ethnicities and issues, as she is attempting to reflect varying tests to the First Amendment clauses.
It is important to note that I am using Robsonn's text this semester for the first time, and the class has only studied four chapters to date. My assessment of the remainder and totality of the book is based largely on skimming and selective reading.