Freedom of the press is the right to report news without being censored by the government. Americans are guaranteed this right by the First Amendment, which was adopted in 1791 as a part of the Bill of Rights. Freedom of the press is a right that is often taken for granted in the U.S., but there are many other countries that don’t have freedom of the press. By teaching students about freedom of the press, they will be able to better understand their democratic government, specifically the First Amendment, and the five freedoms it guarantees. In addition, students will realize how important this freedom is to maintaining a democracy, because the press keeps citizens informed about the government’s actions.
There are many resources available online for teaching students about freedom of the press. The lesson plans, articles, and informational sites below will help you to give your students the information they need to understand all they need to about the subject matter.
- The Importance of a Free Press: Facing History and Ourselves offers a lesson plan, which should take approximately two 50-minute class periods, on the importance of a free press. Included in the plan are essential questions, learning objectives, an overview, materials, four brief activities, and an extension activity. First, the lesson calls for students to review the First Amendment, explore how freedom of the press was threatened in Ferguson, consider the challenges facing police, reflect on the need to protect a free press, and review the letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
- Freedom of Speech and of the Press Lesson Plans for the Classroom: Free Speech Week offers a list of lesson plans on freedom of speech and freedom of the press for students in elementary, middle, and high school. There are many great resources offered on this site from the National Constitution Center, Bill of Rights Institute, the National Education Association, the New York Times, and more related to the subject. For educators who are looking to teach their students about free speech along with free press, this resource will be extremely helpful to you!
- Journalists and the Constitution: PBS provides educators with a featured lesson plan teaching about journalists and the Constitution. The lesson contains background information for teachers, lesson objectives, materials (Background Readings Part One, Two, and Three and Questions for Viewing), and a procedure. First, students will be asked to go through the three readings and participate in a class discussion. Next, students will view a film and respond to questions on a handout. Then, students will be provided with various materials to help them in learning about the Josh Wolf Case.
- The Freedom of the Press Is Enshrined in the First Amendment—But What That Means Has Changed: TIME has published an article on the present-day meaning of freedom of the press in a functioning democracy. The author answers a few different questions related to the subject matter, including why we have the First Amendment, what the Framers would think about the relationship between the President of the United States and the press today, how the interpretation of the First Amendment evolved since 1919, and what we should take away from the history of the First Amendment on World Press Freedom Day. For educators who want their students to learn about the history of the First Amendment, having them take a read through this article would be a good idea!
- How Important Is Freedom of the Press?: The New York Times published a student opinion on how important the freedom of the press is in our present-day world. After reading this article, students will be able to form their own opinions about the subject and answer the series of questions at the bottom of the page.
- World Press Freedom Day – May 3: The United Nations provides an abundance of information on World Press Freedom Day, which falls on May 3. The site offers the particulars on the 2020 theme, which is “Journalism without Fear or Favour,” the World Press Freedom Conference 2020, the origin and purpose of World Press Freedom Day, and more. If educators want their students to have knowledge about this year’s World Press Freedom Day, this site is the one for you!
- Freedom of the Press: History.com offers valuable information on the origins of the free press, Cato’s Letters, media freedom and national security, and press freedom around the world. This page would be a good one for students to read to gain background knowledge before participating in a lesson or class discussion!
- A Brief History of Press Freedom: Britannica provides a brief history of press freedom, which will help students understand where the notion that the press should be free originated, how the First Amendment came to be, and how many countries have come to understand freedom of expression as a natural right.
Teaching students about freedom of the press is an important task, as it is necessary for all American citizens to understand all of the freedoms guaranteed to them by the federal government. Helping students learn about freedom of the press may not be easy, but the resources above will help you to do this subject justice!
- Freedom of Speech and the Press in the Information Age: The McCormick Foundation provides educators with a conference report and lesson plans on freedom of speech and the press in the Information Age. This resource offers a multitude of information and various student worksheets and activities which will be very helpful in your classroom!
- Freedom of the Press – Crash Course Government and Politics #26: This CrashCourse video on the freedom of the press will help students to understand that “like an individual’s right to free speech, the press has a right, and arguably responsibility, to tell the public what the government is doing.” By the end of the video, students will understand “the role of the press in informing the public as well as our role as citizens in staying informed.”