Journalists and the Constitution

Background Information for Teachers:

In 2004, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, two University of Connecticut professors, Dr. David Yalof and Dr. Kenneth Dautrich, surveyed more than 100,000 high school students and 8,000 teachers about their attitudes towards the First Amendment. "The Future of the First Amendment" study found that:

In a 2006 follow-up study, the percentage of students who thought that "the First Amendment went too far in the rights it guarantees" increased from 35 percent to 45 percent.

With these survey results as a backdrop, this lesson plan is designed to help students think about the First Amendment, the meaning of "freedom of the press, " and the symbiotic relationship between a free press and democracy.

Prior to doing the activity, preview Parts I and II of News War at www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/newswar/view/. The lesson is based on the story of Josh Wolf, which is approximately five minutes long and contained within segment 15 of Part II.

Lesson Objectives:

Students will learn:


Time Needed:

Three to six class periods, depending on students' prior knowledge and choices about what is assigned as homework or completed in class.


Part One: Background

Distribute "Background Readings" and discuss with students:

Part Two: View the Film

Part Three: The Josh Wolf Case

Part Four: Share and Revise Briefs

Methods of Assessment:

Classroom participation

Review of amicus briefs for writing, comprehension and ability to apply legal concepts related to freedom of the press to current, real-life situations.