Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Freedom of Speech and the Press in the Information Age

By Shawn Healy
I was pleased to present the Freedom Museum's latest conference report at separate conferences devoted to social studies teachers the past two weeks. Titled Freedom of Speech and the Press in the Information Age, the report tackles four First Amendment issues with Digital Age implications: press challenges in the Internet era, the potential revival of the Fairness Doctrine, the tenuous relationship between the military and the media during wartime, and campaign finance reform. Each are addressed in chapter-length features, and are followed by lesson plans designed for high school-age students.

The report is an outgrowth of a conference we hosted last summer in partnership with the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation. Staged at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, we convened more than 130 social studies teachers from across the country to tackle these emerging topics alongside a team of content experts ranging from American University's Jane Hall to NBC's Pete Williams to Thomas Mann of the Brooking Institution. The featured speakers addressed the selected issues from diverse viewpoints and entertained the questions of the teachers in attendance. The teachers, in turn, brainstormed lesson plan ideas, and these lie at the heart of the lesson plans embedded in the report.

On November 7, I presented this report and associated lessons to local teachers at the Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago's annual state conference, and again last Saturday at the National Council for the Social Studies' national conference in Houston. Additionally, a handful of James Madison Fellows introduced the same lessons in a poster session conducted at the same conference. Our initial response to the compilation has been remarkably positive. Teachers from across the country have promised to use these lessons in their classroom this year and found the content a perfect match for their heavily "wired" students.

If you are interested in reading the report or using the lessons, please click here to download the document. Also, feel free to contact me should you desire a hard copy of the report, as we will happily send one your way. Finally, we are hosting a free teacher seminar on site on Tuesday December 2 where I will address the Digital Age challenges to a free press and the Fairness Doctrine in more detail. I will be joined by Vivian Vahlberg of the Media Management Center at Northwestern University who will review her August 2008 report From 'Too Much' to 'Just Right': Engaging Millennials in Election News on the Web that I previously reviewed on this blog. Additionally, Tom Bevan, the co-founder of Real Clear Politics, will offer his insights on the future of media coverage of politics. To find out more about the seminar or to register, please click here.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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