Published Date

February 12, 2017

Resource Type

AHA Resource, For the Classroom


Digital Methods

AHA Topics

Research & Publications, Teaching & Learning


United States

This resource is part of the AHA’s Teaching with #DigHist series.


By John Rosinbum

How do we learn about the world around us? What do our information sources tell us about ourselves? What do those used in the past tell us about historical actors? In this assignment you will explore these questions by comparing a media source from 150 years ago with one from today. Follow the steps below to complete the project:

  1. Go to the advanced search function of the Chronicling America project to download a front page from a newspaper published 150 years ago today. Then, do the same to either a front page of today’s newspaper from a region of your choice with the Newseum’s “Today’s Front Pages” or the first page of your favorite news site (BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, or Drudge Report, for example). Try to find media sources that were pitched towards a similar audience (national vs. regional, serious news vs. lighthearted escapism, etc.). Send a pdf of each “front page” to your teacher, and save one for your own use. You might find it helpful to print the images out.
  2. Use the attached table in “Topics” sheet to assign a code to each of the articles from your two printouts. Think critically about why you are assigning each article that specific code. There is an extra space in the table for you to justify your choice. For each “front page” justify at least three of the coded articles.
  3. Write a page-long reflection that analyzes the differences and similarities of the content, style, and tone of the two front pages. What do these differences and similarities tell you about the society in which they were produced? How do the articles and advertisements fit with your perception of that era in American history?
  4. E-mail the topics sheet, “front page” pdf, and reflection to your instructor.

Download topics sheet and rubric.

For insights on using Viral Texts in the classroom, read John Rosinbum’s AHA Today post: “Before BuzzFeed: Going Viral in 19th-Century America.”