Nice work interviewing your fellow students.   I’ve made comments for all of you on your documents (if you uploaded a PDF, I created a googledocs file you can review).  Please finish your revisions soon (at which point I will give you a grade).  See GRADEBOOK link to the right. In general, be sure to provide a captivating title and a good photo or two. Also make sure your introduction brings out key characteristics of your interviewee. I’ve also copy-edited your pieces, so also review and correct any punctuation and sentence errors I highlighted (part of being a good journalist is producing relatively “clean”, catchy copy “on deadline.”)  You will generally have an editor make varied corrections, cuts, and suggestions.  My central suggestion to all of you as journalists is to provide LOTS of KEY details (pertinent to your subject matter) to fully bring your writing to life. 


This week’s topic builds on our conversation of the critical role of the media (or fourth estate) for maintaining a vibrant democracy.  To review, the press needs to

1) offer a wide marketplace of ideas, perspectives, and information to help citizens make informed decisions.

2) inform the public about “what matters” (i.e. what they SHOULD be paying attention to).  What gets covered by the media and what does not is also called “agenda setting.”

3) serve as a “watchdog” of politicians, businesses, and institutions.

4) inform readers about important people, places, and events across the racial and social spectrum and

5) mobilize readers/viewers to “thought” and “action.”  Let’s add one more:


Because of its importance, the right to a free press (and the freedom of speech) is enshrined in our First Amendment from the American Constitution, approved by all the states in 1789:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It’s interesting to note that freedom of speech and of the press are brought together with other related rights: the right to practice one’s religion (whatever it may be), the right to assemble (protest) in the streets, and the right “to complain” about your government.

With the recent, horrific events in Gaza and Israel, the pressure on the right to express one’s views (so long as it doesn’t “cause harm” – like yelling “fire” in movie theater) is really being put to the test.  In this class and in this society, I believe that everyone has the right to (respectfully) express one’s beliefs and thoughts on any issue. 

What I want you to think about this week is how well the First Amendment is (and has been) put into practice.

Do Americans have the legal right to criticize our government (and leaders of other countries)?  The answer is yes. This right was severely tested, however, when Julian Assange created a site called Wikileaks in 2010.  Since its inception, Wikileaks offers a platform to give whistleblowers a platform to expose hidden truths about various governments and institutions around the world.

It’s important to keep in mind that it is not legal for WikiLeaks sources to steal secret documents and submit classified documents to the site. However, thanks to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, it is legal for WikiLeaks to publish these documents and share them with the public. It is also perfectly legal for you to read information found on WikiLeaks

Does the First Amendment allow FAKE NEWS?  Facebook (and Twitter—now X) famously allowed the spread of false information during Donald Trump’s presidency but finally kicked him off their sites for lying about the election results (that Biden didn’t win) and generally riling up his supporters with false assertions (leading to the Capitol riots).  We have also come to learn that for a long time Facebook had allowed false reports about the Covid Vaccine (see Covid Misinformation on Facebook is Killing People).

The Supreme Court is currently considering the limits of free expression on Social Media (and their liability when users “cause harm”). Let’s keep an eye on these decisions.

What one is allowed to say and publish has been under constant scrutiny since our nation was first established.  The same is true with the ever-presence and danger of Fake News.

For this week’s assignment, watch this video on the origins of the First Amendment. It begins with the trial of a printer in New York, named John Peter Zenger, in 1735. His newspaper, The New York Weekly Journal, mercilessly criticized, William Cosby, governor of the colony of New York at the time.

John Peter Zenger Trial 1735

I also ask that you watch a fun video exploring how “Fake News” was an issue even during the American Revolution (1776-1783). Both videos offer a good overview of our first media outlets before CNN, Facebook, and Twitter/X.

Fake News in the Revolutionary War

There is no post assignment due this week. Please finish your student interviews. Please also be sure to sign up to the New York Times free student app ( New York Times account ) and begin following a topic you might want to write about in an opinion piece (OpEd) or your own, which is an upcoming assignment.