Journalists and the Constitution

Lesson Duration


News War, a four-part FRONTLINE investigation, examines the political, cultural, legal, and economic forces challenging the news media today and how the press has reacted in turn. Watch the full program online in high-quality video. Interviews with more than 50 journalists and public officials, a primer on freedom of the press, and background readings and links are included.
The featured lesson plan is based on the second film of the series, Secrets, Sources & Spin, Part II. The lesson focuses on the story (a 5 minute video clip in segment 15) of Josh Wolf, who was jailed for refusing to turn over a videotape of a San Francisco protest to the FBI. Students are assigned the task of developing a one-to three-page mock amicus brief supporting either the government’s or Wolf’s position. In so doing, students examine the relationship of a free press to democracy, the concept of news media as “watchdog,” the impact of government restrictions on the press, and articulate reasons for and against granting journalists the right to keep sources confidential. Background reading and discussion questions are included.

Lesson: Journalists and the Constitution


FRONTLINE: PBS’s flagship public affairs series