Media Links

“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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

  • First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, contained in the Bill of Rights, ratified December 15, 1791

The average American spends about eight hours a day with the print and electronic media – at home, at work, and traveling by car. This includes watching television, listening to radio, and reading the newspaper.

The central role of information in American society harks back to a fundamental belief held by the framers of the U.S. Constitution: that a well-informed people is the strongest guardian of its own liberties. The framers embodied that in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which provides in part that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.” Thus, the press plays a vital role as a guardian of U.S. democracy, functioning as a watchdog over government actions and calling attention to official misdeeds and violations of individual rights.

The U.S. media today is frequently known as the Fourth Estate, suggesting that the press shares equal stature with the three branches of government created by the Constitution (the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches).

U.S. media have come a long way since the first newspaper was published in Boston, Massachusetts in 1690. Within 50 years, magazines began appearing in several major American cities. The advent of commercial radio at the beginning of the 20th century ended print’s monopoly in America, giving nationwide and, later, global audiences unprecedented access to live audio programs. Television, an even more powerful medium, entered the scene shortly after World War II. Defying predictions of their decline, the other media have diversified to confront television’s dominant appeal. Satellite technology has allowed U.S. television networks (notably cable) to reach overseas audiences around the globe. Fueled by the advance of digital technology and the growing convergence of the computer, telephone and cable television, interactive media represent the principal trend at the beginning of the 21st century .

The print and electronic media in the United States offer many news and entertainment options, and are a pervasive element in American society. According to a recent survey by Mediamark Research, 98% of Americans have a television, 84% percent listen to radio regularly, and 79% percent are newspaper readers. Meanwhile, 45% of the American population has access to the Internet, while for certain demographic groups that percentage is close to 70%. That means that Americans have a vast array of information sources, none of them controlled by the government.

Economics plays a major role in shaping the information served up to the U.S. public in newspapers, on radio and television, and now on the Internet. While nonprofit and advocacy organizations have significant voices, most of the public’s primary sources of information — major urban newspapers, weekly news magazines, and the broadcast and cable networks — are in business to make money. Media and communications (with revenues of over $242 billion), are one of America’s largest business groups. In 2000, adult consumers of media information and amusement products spent over $675 a person. Advertisers spent an additional $215 billion to bring their products to the attention of the American public. The media are a great economic engine in American society, providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of technicians, writers, artists, performers, and intellectuals. It wields enormous influence as it shapes attitudes and beliefs.

(Abridged from U.S. State Department IIP publications and other U.S. government materials.)

The following useful links are provided for the user’s convenience. The inclusion of non-U.S. government sites should not be construed as endorsing the views contained therein.

Press Freedom Links

  • The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide by defending the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.
  • The Freedom Forum, based in Washington, is a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people. It funds the Newseum, an interactive museum on the history of the news media.
  • Freedom House, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, works to advance the political and economic freedom worldwide. It issues an annual report on the state of press freedom.
  • Human Rights Watch, an independent organization supported by private contributions, seeks to advance human rights worldwide. Its Web site has a special section devoted to press freedom.
  • The International Center for Journalists promotes quality journalism worldwide, with a focus on training journalists to promote effective, independent news media.
  • Internews is an international media development organization that seeks to empower people worldwide with information, the ability to connect, and the means to make their voices heard.
  • The PEN American Center works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship.
  • Reporters Without Borders defends journalists imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job and fights against censorship and laws that undermine press freedom.
  • The World Press Freedom Committee, an umbrella organization for 45 journalistic groups, aims to create a global environment in which the news media can be free and independent.

Journalism Resources

Membership Groups

Reporting and Editing

  • is a resource site that focuses on how the Internet, convergence (see note), and new technologies are changing the media. The site offers tips, news, and commentary about online journalism, citizen’s media, digital storytelling, converged news operations, and using the Internet as a reporting tool.
    Note: Convergence in the media refers to cross-platform reporting. For example: newspaper reporters file stories for the newspaper, the paper’s Web site, and even a TV or radio station owned by the newspaper.
  • NewsLab
    Resources, story background, and training for television and radio journalists.
  • Project for Excellence in Journalism
    U.S. non-profit organization has resources and research.

Specialized Journalism

Most of these groups are membership organizations that offer training at regularly scheduled conferences and resources on their Web sites.

Journalism Training

Freedom of Expression

Ethics Codes