Definition of Documentaries
A documentary is a work such as a film or
television program that presents political, social or
historical subject matter in a factual and informative
manner and often consists of actual news films or
interviews accompanied by narration.
Documentaries can also be real interpretations
of news or events in a person's life. In analyzing or
evaluating a documentary, look at how the information
Examining documentaries is a good way to
have students reflect on how documentaries such as
My Journey Home or any of Ken Burns's documentaries
such as The Civil War, Baseball or JAZZ can make an
enormously positive impact on viewers who want
- How is language used?
- Does the documentary contain loaded terms?
- Who is interviewed? Who isn't?
- How are statistics used? What is their source?
- How does the narrator sound? What is his or
her tone of voice?
- What visual techniques are used, e.g., lighting,
- How is music or other sound used?
- What is the documentary maker's point of
view? Is there an attempt to achieve balance?
Media outlets are also businesses and like all
businesses they have to make money to keep going.
Audiences today can get news and information from
many different sources. This increased competition is
putting pressure on media outlets to attract advertising
dollars to keep them running. This is especially true
for privately owned media, but it's also a concern for
publicly-owned media (such as PBS) that need to
attract audiences and ad revenues to survive.
The job of advertisements and spots is to convince,
coerce or persuade viewers to buy products in order to
keep the media companies in business. This is called
Social Studies standards note that "young learners
begin by differentiating between wants and needs."
In this culture of "conspicuous consumption," young
people often confuse wants and needs.
With the slick pitches of the advertising industry
and with the constant encouragement to "Super-size
it," the persuasion techniques are hard to turn down.
It is often difficult to discern wants and needs.
Let's look at how much is spent on advertising in the
different media. The media are supported by advertising.
In order to induce us to buy, a variety of techniques are
used that may manipulate our thoughts and emotions.
| ||Television (including cable)
| ||Outdoor (signs & billboards)
| ||($ in millions)|| |
Ads and Spots
The basic types of ads are:
- Product ads
- Political ads
- Promotional ads (e.g., for other programs or
services of the TV station)
- Public service announcements, or PSAs (e.g.,
volunteer opportunities, a benefit event)
these ads are run free-of-charge.
Let's think about persuasion techniques used by
advertisers to see how they work.
- Have students watch a TV commercial.
Determine together what persuasion techniques
are being used?
- Now, watch the commercial again and analyze
the commercial's technical elements. Discuss
how do the technical elements support the