Within U.S. democracy, journalists take on the responsibility of providing accurate and compelling coverage of our society that helps people make informed decisions about all aspects of their lives. At a time when people are bombarded with numerous information sources and information sources, there’s an unmistakable decline in students’ understanding of how the government works. Recent studies show a decline in requirements for U.S. history, civic and government classes, and some states now don’t require any of those courses in middle school or high schools.
No matter what topics they cover — sports, entertainment, education, national politics, local government — a good journalist explains the context and impact of political decisions, the legislative process and the historical background of the issues they’re reporting on. When journalism students have minimal understanding of civics and government, their lack of preparation presents significant complications for journalism faculty and for media organizations.
A solid foundation in the democratic process is crucial for journalists to fulfill their role as watchdogs and facilitators of informed public discourse. It not only enhances their ability to report accurately but also empowers them to contribute to the health of democracy by promoting transparency, accountability and civic engagement.
Guides & Best Practices
Center for Strategic and International Studies
“Civics for Adults: A Guide for Civics Content Providers”
This guide is focused on fostering greater understanding of the nuts and bolts of a democracy, and how individuals can hold institutions accountable.
Guide to covering state government
Resources and guidelines for journalists new to covering state government.
Center for Cooperative Media
The Democracy Infusion Project
A free set of resources and teaching tips for journalism educators who want to blend democracy and journalism instruction in their classrooms.
William Paterson University
Social Studies Education Resources
This online guide directs educators to essential data, reports and classroom best practices.
PBS Learning Media for Teachers
Civics and government courses include instructional videos, interactive activities and teaching materials related to the democratic process. While the material is labeled for middle and high school students, the topics are appropriate for college students, as well.
The Constitution Center
The First Amendment includes activities, videos and teaching materials for instruction on press freedom and government.
“Teaching civics with ‘All the President’s Men'” is A lesson plan designed to teach students about government and accountability using the iconic journalism film.
Common Sense Education
Civics in Digital Life includes a variety of lesson plans to teach students how social media and the digital world are intertwined with civic literacy.
Analyzing Hollywood movies about the branches of government are lesson plans that help students learn about government, politics and media through three historic films.
Several organizations can provide help to media educators who want to ensure their students have a solid background in how government works.
The Freedom Forum offers guidance for teachers, student scholarships and other support on First Amendment issues.
CivXNow is a coalition working to elevate civic education as a national priority in order to protect and strengthen America’s constitutional democracy.
The National Press Foundation offers training, scholarships and online resources for journalists learning new beats — including politics and government.
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University
“Covering democracy” by Joel Simon
Report, data, video
“U.S. public schools are still teaching about the Declaration of Independence” by Madison Czopek
“History, civics scores dipped amid pandemic” by Cheyanne Mumphrey
Current state policies on civic education