OR NOT TO REPORT?
Time: This lesson should take 30 to 60 minutes. You may want to assign students to read Handouts #1, #2, #3, and #4 for homework ahead of time.
students to write for five minutes in their notebooks reflecting on the
tone, nature, and intent of the Eason Jordan Op-ed piece "The News
We Kept to Ourselves." Assign students to address some of the following
questions in their writing:
3. Allow students to share their initial reactions to the Op-ed piece. Ensure that all students understand the gist of the piece; answer any questions. What are their reactions to the criticisms set forth from other professionals, as are articulated in Handout #2 (Today's Newshour article) and Handout #4 ("Newshour Interview with Eason Jordan")? Do they agree or disagree with them right now?
4. Discuss as a class and list on the blackboard the different ethics that are put forth in Handout #3 that students feel have been violated by CNN's decisions. Write out students' supporting reasons for each. Ask students if there are any basic ethical principles that CNN has violated, in their opinion, that are not listed on the handout. List those on the board also, along with any supporting reasons. Have students copy these into their notebooks as they are listed on the board.
5. Now, ask students to list the reasons that CNN might cite for justifying their decision not to report on these specific atrocities that they knew about. What arguments does Jordan make? Can students think of some other reasons that aren't mentioned here? Write these reasons for supporting the decision on the blackboard and have students copy them in their notebooks. Some supporting reasons might include: CNN didn't want to cause additional deaths, much of the world already knew atrocities like these were already occurring, they would lose their reporting privileges in Iraq, etc.
6. After discussing and listing both sides on the board, take a poll of your students by asking them how many of them would have published news of the specific atrocities at the time they were committed and how many would not have published them.
7. Allow students five minutes to brainstorm in their notebooks on the following question: Are there situations in your school that you know about that you would choose not to report on as a student reporter? You might want to prod their reactions by mentioning some typical (or not so typical) high school newspaper topics: teenage pregnancy in the school, cheating instances, underaged drinking, steroid use among athletes, substance abuse, hacking into school records, abuse at home, etc. Do any of these ideas strike students as possibilities for similar decisions such as the one that Eason Jordan made? Why or why not? After students have generated some reactions and thoughts in their notebooks, have them share their thoughts with the class and whether or not they think that a publication should have an ethical guideline in place for each topic to help students make their decisions.
8. For homework, assign students to write a one-page reaction to one of the following quotes from a New York Times article titled "CNN's Silence About Torture is Criticized" and the NewsHour Extra story titled "CNN's Decision Sparks Media Debate." Assign students to cite their interpretation of the basic journalistic ethics from Handout #2 that apply to the quote in their written reaction. Do they agree with the quote in this situation or not? Explain their position.
Assign students to write an ethical position statement for their school newspaper that will combine their study of professional journalist ethics and the CNN situation with their speculation on possible high school newspaper coverage of ethical situations. The statement can be a group effort, and should address or include many of the professional ethical guidelines set forth in Handout #2, but should be tailored to the high school environment. Use Handout #5 for background information.
Journalism lesson plans will follow the guidelines set forth in the book Applying NCTE/IRA Standards in Classroom Journalism Projects -- Activities and Scenarios
Introduction: "Journalism teachers have long recognized their courses and the often extracurricular media they produce as excellent ways to teach a vast range of high school, junior high/middle school, and even elementary school content. Their courses support teaching standards for various curricula and indeed could -- and probably should-- be allowed to support an entire set of standards uniquely their own. However, because that is not an option in most states, and because journalism courses are most often part of English departments, with instructors who also have English or integrated language arts education backgrounds, it is only natural to create a book to strengthen this link."
Twelve NCTE/IRA (International Reading Association) Standards that the Journalism Education Association adheres to.
Standard 1: Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information, to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
Standard 7: Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purposes and audience.
Standard 11: Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
Standard 12: Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Applying NCTE/IRA Standards in Classroom Journalism Projects -- Activities and Scenarios, Candace Perkins Bowen and Susan Hathaway Tantillo. NCTE. copyright 2002.
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