Note: You can download a pdf of this lesson here.
After completing the lesson, have students share their thoughts about the media via social media! Using the Twitter #DecodingMediaBias, answer the following question: In what ways do you think the media shows bias?
U.S. History, U.S. Government, Civics, social studies, ELA, English
One to two 50-minute class periods
In what ways does the news media show bias?
To examine where people in the U.S. get their news, how news selection amplifies one’s political views, and how media organizations decide to cover stories.
Students will view the We The Voters film “MediOcracy,” and then examine current news stories and how they’re covered by the three main cable news outlets. They will conclude by examining news stories for bias/point of view.
- We The Voters film, “MediOcracy”
- Copies of Student Handout #1: Media Website Examination
Warm Up: Ask students: Where do you go to read the news? [If students state social media, where specifically? Whom do they follow? If students state TV, which programs?] Why do you go there? What other options do you have?
Film Viewing: Have students view the We The Voters film “MediOcracy.” Discuss how their responses during the warm-up discussion may have aligned with the idea of “incestuous amplification” (selecting news sources to reinforce our own views) as defined in the film.
Media Website Examination: Have students complete Handout #1: Media Website Examination. Students will go to three cable news outlets and examine the top three home page and politics page news stories, including original and aggregated pieces, focusing on headlines. Next, students will choose a topic addressed on all three networks and read a story from each network to examine for point of view. Have students look for a top-of-the-page topic that addresses politics or public policy. Discuss students’ findings when finished. What facts were included in all three stories? Was there one news source that contained facts the other two did not? Why might that be? What did you notice about the language/word choice? Was there leading or subjective language to favor one point of view over another?
Share over Social Media: After completing the handout, have students share their thoughts about the media via social media! Using the Twitter #DecodingMediaBias, answer the following question: In what ways do you think the media shows bias?
- News organizations have great power—deciding which topics are important enough to cover and where to position those topics within their newspaper, TV program, or website. People can also exercise power through the news stories they choose to engage with. Have students go to Newsmap and examine the trending news stories. The larger the news story box, the more people are reading about the story. You can also choose specific topics by selecting the topic check boxes on the bottom. Discuss what this says about the informed status of the electorate.
- Another option is to have students go to All Sides to introduce them to news topics written in three distinct viewpoints: left, center, right. Discuss this as a tool to recognize bias. The site also serves as a resource that people can go to read something that may challenge their assumptions, and with which they may disagree, as suggested in the We The Voters film “MediOcracy.”
Common Core State Standards
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
Originally published in 2016, by Liz Ramos, history teacher, Alta Loma High School, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.