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photo editor: The individual who advises editors on the use of photographs in the newspaper. The photo editor also may supervise the photography department. See also: photo chief. News Reporting & Writing (Eighth Edition) by the Missouri Group. Copyright 2005. Reproduced by permission of Bedford/St. Martins.

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Lesson Plans

Does Freedom of the Press Have the Same Meaning Today as It Did When It Was First Instituted?

Francis Montgomery of Wilkinson County High School in Woodville, Miss.

Francis L. Montgomery
Wilkinson County High School
Woodville, Miss.

Title: Does Freedom of the Press Have the Same Meaning Todayas It Did When It Was First Instituted?

Description of School and Students

Wilkinson County High School is a public school located in a rural district in Woodville, Miss. There are approximately 350 students (grades 9-12). The school is approximately 99% African American, and 100% of the students receive free lunch. The average class size is approximately 23 students. This unit will be taught to the Introduction to Journalism class.

Mississippi State Standards

Mississippi standards may be found at www.mde.k12.ms.us.

Introduction to Journalism

  • Develop an awareness of the history and role of journalism in our society (R, W, S, L, V)
    • Define responsibilities and role of the communications media, identifying the legal and ethical restrictions.
    • Identify the relationship of a free press to a democratic society, tracing the historical development of newspapers and/or other media.

Generative Topics

  • Definition of freedom
  • Freedom of the Press – First Amendment

Generative Objects

  • Various news clips, videos, or other headlines from newspapers or television and a copy of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

Understanding Goals

  • Essential Questions
    • What is freedom?
    • Who defined freedom?
    • How has the definition of freedom evolved?
  • Critical Engagement Questions
    • Does the definition of freedom agree/disagree with your concept of freedom? How so?
    • Is there a difference between African Americans’ ideas about freedom of the press and other’s freedom of the press? Explain.
    • If you believe that freedom of the press has evolved, has it been a positive change or a negative change? How so?
    • What factors threaten the freedom of the press?
    • Does the freedom of the press mean the same thing for Americans as it does for foreign press associations, or do they abide by a different code? Explain your response.

Performances of Understanding, Rationale and Timeline

This lesson challenges students to define, in their own language, what freedom of the press means or implies for the majority and the minority, for Americans and non-Americans. It helps them to gravitate to a centralized understanding of freedom of the press and what it really means to most people compared to what this nation’s forefathers wanted it to mean to Americans. It will help students to diffuse their own misgivings about freedom of the press, which will be very enlightening to them when they compare the historical significance of freedom of the press as it relates to them as future journalists. It also prepares them to understand how freedom of the press has helped to drive the Civil Rights Movement and the Women Rights Movement. After discussion, students will create their own policy by interpreting the freedom of the press as it relates to them. The activities in this lesson should take place in 7-10 days giving students time to pre-write, revise, and modify the final product – the school policy.


Activity 1

  • Show the students a series of controversial video clips of news articles and headlines.
  • Divide the students into groups of five.The overall objective of the group is to determine if they believe the writer/publisher should have been allowed to publish the article. They are to justify their response by defining (in writing) the freedom of the press. Assign group roles:
    • Leader/moderator
    • Recorder
    • Reporter
    • Timekeeper.

Activity 2

  • The reporter from each group will report the group’s findings and read their definition of the freedom of the press to the entire class.
  • The class will discuss the differences and likes of the groups’ definitions. They will decide on a group definition that meets the needs of all groups by taking into account all the scenarios from the video clips.
  • The students will compare their definition of the freedom of the press compared to the U.S. Constitution’s definition of the freedom of the press.

Activity 3

  • The students will rewrite the freedom of the press amendment to address problems with censorship by the principal or other school officials. He or she will have to include at least one paragraph defending his or her proposed revision.

Activity 4

  • The students will use the information assessed in class to develop a policy for the school newspaper to cover controversial topics without censorship.


(Assessments are embedded within each activity. The final product will be graded using a rubrics).

  • Discussion
  • Observation
  • Revised freedom of the press amendment
  • School newspaper policy

Resources Recommended

This lesson plan was published in The Media and Democracy Curriculum Compendium 2003, Barrett and Greysereditors, published by Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

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