- 50th Anniversary
- Online Edition
- Print Edition
- Donahue Lecture Series
[I]t is of the utmost consequence that the people should discuss the character and qualifications of candidates for their suffrages. The importance to the state and to society of such discussions is so vast and the advantages derived are so great that they more than counterbalance the inconvenience of private persons whose conduct may be involved, and occasional injury to the reputations of individuals must yield to the public welfare, although at times such injury may be great. The public benefit from publicity is so great and the chance of injury to private character so small that such discussion must be privileged.
The words of Coleman v. MacLennan, penned over one hundred years ago, ring as true today as they did when written. Of course, since Coleman was decided, the way people and publications express themselves have changed in a number of ways. For example, print media has largely been replaced by electronic media. Many publications have online versions or publish exclusively in electronic form, and individuals can broadcast their opinions to large segments of the population via a growing number of social media platforms. Despite such changes, the proposition that individuals should be able to freely express their thoughts on candidates for office remains a bedrock principle of our democracy.