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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Phone: 208-885-6111
Toll-free: 88-88-UIDAHO
Fax: 208-885-9119
Student Union Building
875 Perimeter Drive MS 4264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264


Phone: 208-334-2999
Fax: 208-364-4035
322 E. Front Street
Boise, ID 83702

Coeur d'Alene

Phone: 208-667-2588
Toll-free: 888-208-2268
Fax: 208-664-1272
1031 N. Academic Way,
Suite 242
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814

Idaho Falls

Phone: 208-282-7900
Fax: 208-282-7929
1776 Science Center Drive, Suite 306
Idaho Falls, ID 83402

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