Constitution Day
ATT: Dinah Zeiger
JAMM - University of Idaho
P.O. Box 443178
Moscow, ID 83844-3178

FAX: (208) 885-6450

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Contact & Locations


College of
Letters, Arts & Social Sciences

Physical Address:
Admin. Bldg. 112
phone: (208) 885-6426
fax: (208) 885-8964

Mailing Address:
College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences 
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3154
Moscow, ID 83844-3154

Coeur d'Alene

University of Idaho C'DA‎
1031 N Academic Way
Coeur d'Alene, ID
(208) 667-2588

College of
Letters, Arts & Social Sciences
University of Idaho
Admin. Bldg. 112
P.O. Box 443154
Moscow, ID 83844-3154
phone: (208) 885-6426
fax: (208) 885-8964

I. What is the role of newspapers in a self-governing society?

A. Newspapers didn’t always exist. They had to be invented. Where, how and why did they emerge?

B. For an interesting and readable history of the newspaper, see “The Origin and Development of the Newspaper” by James Westfall Thompson, available under Creative Commons at the Rice Digital Scholarship Archive. 

i. The Origin and Development of the Newspaper (article_RI172141.pdf)

C. If you want students to use colonial newspapers as primary documents:

i. Direct students to “Reading Newspapers: Factual Reporting

D. The National Humanities Center website provides a rich toolbox of primary materials to help students relate the invention of print to the advent of the Internet, and how to see both as revolutions in the communication of ideas.

i. National Humanities Center Toolbox Library: Communication

E. Some points to emphasize:

1. The technology of the printing press permitted the diffusion of ideas quickly and cheaply.

i. One effect is the increase in literacy rates. 
ii. New ideas are tested and accepted or rejected by more people than just an elite. 
iii. People begin to formulate radical ideas about human nature (and the need for freedom of speech in order to develop fully as an individual, capable of one’s own thoughts and ideas). 
iv. People begin to demand a voice in governance. 
v. Newspapers provide a forum, a “public space” where ideas can be heard and debated.

2. The Internet has been called the people’s printing press.

i. If people have access, it provides an audience for a wide range of ideas and points of view that otherwise might have not been heard

Discussion Questions

  1. Questions arise over access to new technology. Does everyone have an opportunity to find and debate ideas online?
  2. How much like a public space is it really? Do people seek out ideas that contradict their own online?
  3. Compare the "public space" of discussion that developed through printing in the 1700s with that of the Internet in our time.

Adapted from the National Humanities Center