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Journalism & Communication Research

COM 340: Media Law and Ethics




This landing page is provided to supplemental information for the COM 340: Media Law and Ethics course. Use this information to guide your research.


For this class, you will need to be able to locate Supreme Court Case decisions as well as cases impacted since the decision. In addition, you will want to be able to locate scholarly discussion of the case. 

Understanding the case (pre-research)

Are you a legal scholar that is used to reading case law? Me neither. it's okay, that doesn't mean you can't do it, but it might help to gather some background information before you dig into the decision. Do not hesitate to look at secondary sources to inform your understanding of the case (this includes Wikipedia). These will not be sources in your projects but instead will help you as a scholar figure out which cases to look up.

When searching in a reference database like Credo Reference, please take special note of not only the title of the entry, but the specific Encyclopedia which published it. The closer you stick to your subject of media and law, the more helpful this gathering will be.

screenshot of a Near v. Minnesota search in Credo

Again these articles aren't to be cited but do inform my future searching by giving me

  • the name William Blackstone
  • the phrase "prior restraint."
  • referencing the future case New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964)

which gives me a place to continue my research!

Locating Supreme Court decisions

Locate the Supreme Court opinion.

Wartburg subscribes to Nexis Uni that among other things provides Supreme Court decisions from 1790 to the present. 

When searching in Nexis Uni, the Guided Search will allow you to narrow your search to "Cases." While having the legal Blue Book citation is helpful, Nexis Uni also allows searching by keywords or subjects. 

sample case search for Near v. Minnesota in Nexis Uni

Identify the parts

When reading a U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Nexis Uni you will see one or more, or all of the following parts: Case Summary, Headnotes, Syllabus, Opinion(s), Dissent(s), and Footnotes. The case itself is the opinion of the justice writing on behalf of the majority. 

Use of the law as precedent

Off to the right side of the screen are clickable icons that will link you to other cases that cite this case as precedent. Be warned, you will need to narrow your search using the limiters on the side to be sure you can locate cases that are citing the legal topic/issue that is important to your analysis. 

Prior history of similar cases

When reading your case, there are references to prior cases that informed the decisions in this case. Sometimes there is an explicit discussion on how this case has changed prior precedent. Those hyperlinks are invaluable! Trace these down. Don't think you need to read them all, however. Trace the ones that relate most to the issue you're examining.

Locating commentary on the Supreme Court decision

This research will be more like the searching you've done for other research at Wartburg, although the topic matter might be a bit different. Not only do you want to examine the actual decision, you want to find relevant law journal articles that show the relevance of your topic today. For Near v. Minnesota that specific topis is prior restraint. You will want to relay on date limiters to narrow down your search results.

Don't suffer alone

My contact information is to the left, do not hesitate to reach out if you are having a tough time. I'm here to help! 

giant tree branch being held up by a wooden carved hand sculpture


Vogel Library, Wartburg College   |   100 Wartburg Blvd, Waverly, IA, 50677 |   Phone: 319-352-8500   | Email: