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Journalism in Action Civic Engagement and Primary Sources Through Key Moments in History

journalism through the years

Journalism in Action allows you to learn about ten key moments in US history through a journalist's lens. In this interactive website designed for middle and high school students, you will analyze primary sources such as newspaper articles, videos, and photography to determine what happened and how such culture-shifting events affected civic life. The goal is to develop critical and creative thinking skills including media literacy by getting an up close and personal look at some famous and rare journalistic documents from American history. Getting started: If you’re completing the assignment for class, click on "Launch Investigation" and register, so that you can download and save your materials, or simply browse the site as a “guest”! If you would like to join NewsHour EXTRA's mailing list to receive updates on ways to use this site, click here.

The American Revolution and Early Republic

Evaluate news stories from the American Revolution and early years of the republic and learn how the press used a variety of techniques to direct public sentiment for or against a particular side.

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The Civil War through the Journalist's Lens

Evaluate how journalists reported on slavery and military conflict during the Civil War. Then create your own front page story about a modern-day issue using the principles of Civil War journalism.

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Covering Mental Health

Uncover the secrets behind investigative journalist Nellie Bly, who exposed conditions inside a New York City psychiatric hospital, and discover Dorothea Dix, whose activism in the mid-1800s revolutionized opinions on how the mentally ill should be treated.

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Campaign for Women’s Suffrage

Critique journalists’ coverage of the women’s suffrage movement, and explore the story of ratification in your own state.

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Investigative Journalists: The Muckrakers

Meet the muckrakers, a group of pioneering investigative journalists like Ida Tarbell and Ida B. Wells who shone a light on corrupt business and government practices as well as societal injustices like racism during the Progressive Era.

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Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and Migrant Workers

Plan your own investigative news segment on the issues that immigrants face today after analyzing the techniques used by journalists covering sweatshop and migrant farm workers in the early to mid-twentieth century.

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Female Journalists of World War II

Analyze the work of World War II correspondents who broke barriers, informed the homefront, and challenged public perception.

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Vietnam: Search for the Truth

Analyze the impact of television journalism during the Vietnam War, and trace the impact of the leaked Pentagon Papers, secret government documents on America’s strategy in Vietnam.

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Covering Watergate

Discover the electrifying impact of journalists on the Watergate investigation as they struggled against White House resistance to inform the public of the truth.

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Gender Equality

From suffrage to equal pay to #MeToo, journalists have played a role in highlighting discrimination against women. With the advent of the Internet and social media in the twenty-first century, members of the public have been able to share more of their own stories of the struggle for gender equality.

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American Rev./Early Republic


Civil War


Mental Health


Women's Suffrage

1840s to 1920



Exploitation: Labor and Immigration

Early to Mid-1900s

World War II






Gender Equality

1850s to Present

Terms and Definitions

Civic Participation

An activity by an individual or group of people that addresses a public concern facing the community. Such engagement plays a key role in democracy and may influence government’s decisions or be nonpolitical in nature.


A form of published writing that gathers, presents, and informs people about events that have taken place. Journalists use different media to present their news stories, including newspapers, magazines, websites, radio, and video or broadcast.

Primary Source

Firsthand accounts of a topic from people who had a direct connection with it. Primary sources come in many forms, including letters, speeches, photos, or newspaper reports by journalists who witnessed an event or interviewed people who did.

Free Press

The principle that communication by the news media should be considered a right to be exercised freely and is guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . .”

Journalism in Action is part of the Teaching with Primary Sources Partner Program.
Supported by a grant from the Library of Congress