Beyond Broadcast


Activity 2: Role of the Media

Learning Outcome
Students will analyze and understand the unique role of the media in the Gulf War from the perspectives of civilians, the military, and the press.

Video Segments
Program One. Excerpt length: 1:30 minutes. Begins approximately 93:00 minutes from start. In cue: "Many of the military commanders..." Out cue: "...were willing to trust me."

Watching the entire series will provide students with numerous opportunities to analyze the impact of media reporting in war situations.


Part One
  1. Lead a brainstorming discussion to let students identify their ideas about the role of the media during a war. Some suggested questions are:
    • Does the First Amendment provide the right to publish, or does it also provide the right to go anywhere? Does the media always have to act on its right to publish? Why or why not?
    • Is censorship ever appropriate?
    • What happens when censorship leads to coverups or distortions?
    • What are the rights and responsibilities of press representatives in a war zone?
    • What are the military establishment's responsibilities toward the press?
    • What is the relationship between the press, the public, and the military?

  2. List all of the ideas generated on a chalkboard where they can remain visible to everyone during this activity.

  3. Divide the class into four groups: broadcast media, print media, the military establishment, and civilians.

  4. Give groups the remainder of the period to discuss and to list the rights and responsibilities of their group as it pertains to media coverage during a war. Have each group record their ideas for use in the next part of the lesson.

Part Two
  1. After reviewing the previous lesson, identify a particular segment of the war for this part of the activity. For example, you could choose to focus on the Scud missile attacks on Israel, the decision to end the war, or the "Highway of Death."

  2. In their small groups, students should apply the rights and responsibilities identified earlier to this specific topic.

  3. Have the group representing the military hold a mock press briefing where they present the chosen topic as they want it reported to the public. The media groups should prepare questions and be ready to discuss any reporting dilemmas they may have.

  4. Based on the briefing, the media groups should present the issues to the rest of the class in either a two-minute "broadcast" or a news article of 500 words or less. The military and civilian groups should be prepared to discuss concerns from their perspectives.

  5. Come together as a class to discuss what each group learned from this experience. Ask students to analyze the interrelationships between the various groups. Discuss ways in which the role of the media has changed with the advancement of technology and identify additional responsibilities that the media, military, or public bear with these advancements.

Lesson Length
This lesson can be taught in two to three class periods.

Extension Lesson
Ask students to analyze selected program footage, identifying why decisions were made to portray particular war scenes and what the benefits and drawbacks were to having these images presented to the public through the media?



web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation
FRONTLINE / WGBH Educational Foundation