John Morrison

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John Morrison published a local tabloid newspaper that covered the seamier side of Duluth society during the period right after WWI and during the early years of Prohibition. Few cities have such a detailed record of the illegal activities of bootleggers, politicians, prostitutes and other criminals. When he was short of news, he also published stories of significant events that occurred when he worked for a different paper in the 1890s in Duluth.

Morrison unintentionally made a major contribution to U.S. legal history with a story charging that a prominent individual was ill with syphilis. This story led to the passage of a law in Minnesota that authorized the government to prohibit the publication of newspaper articles that it felt shouldn't be published.

Ultimately, the law was used against a Twin Cities paper and the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court as Near v. Minnesota. The Supreme Court's decision, declaring the Minnesota law unconstitutional, was their first decision applying the freedom of the press in the First Amendment to the Constitution to newspapers, and of course, it has been applied to other media since then. We can thank John Morrison for one of our basic American freedoms.
~Ray Marshall, Minneapolis, MN


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