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History of American Journalism

History of American Journalism

History of American Journalism Primary Sources

Historical documents. What clues can you gather about the time, place, players, and culture?

The First Amendment

Full text and analysis of the Constitution's fundamental statement of the principles of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.

Sedition Act of 1798

Congress's first major restriction on First Amendment rights to freedom of the press. Repealed in 1801.

Sedition Act of 1918

World War I era clampdown on press freedom in time of war.

Smith Act of 1940

Criminalized speech made in favor of "overthrowing or destroying the government... by force or violence." Used to prosecute American Communists during the Cold War era.

Schenck v. United States

Landmark 1919 Supreme Court case ruled that speech that presented a "clear and present danger" to national security was not protected by the First Amendment.

New York Times v. Sullivan

1964 Supreme Court decision made it harder to sue for libel, requiring evidence of "actual malice" in publishing information with "reckless disregard for the truth" to establish liability in libel cases involving public figures.

Roth v. United States

1957 Supreme Court case made it more difficult to suppress publications on the basis of obscenity in their content. Established that material could only be deemed obscene if "the dominant theme of the material, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest."

Miller v. California

1972 Supreme Court case granted state and local governments the authority to regulate objectionable publications according to their own "community standards" of decency.

Tinker v. Des Moines

1969 Supreme Court decision ruled that public school students do have First Amendment rights to freedom of expression in school.

Bethel v. Fraser

1986 Supreme Court decision upheld the authority of schools to restrict students' ability to make "offensively lewd and indecent" speech disruptive to the educational mission.


2007 Supreme Court descision in Morse v. Frederick affirmed that school officials had a right to punish a student who displayed an offensive banner—"BONG HiTS 4 JESUS"—just off school grounds during a school-sponsored activity.

Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

Controversial 1988 Supreme Court decision established that most high-school newspapers do not have full rights to freedom of the press under the First Amendment.

Hosty v. Carter

2007 decision of the Seventh Circuit Court ruled, for the first time, that college newspapers could be subjected to the same restrictions on freedom of the press as high schools under the Hazelwood standard. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, meaning that Hosty applies to student journalists in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, but not elsewhere in the country.

Current Trends in Print Media

A Carnegie Corporation report summarizing trends within consumer news preferences is available here.

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