a hidden life

About the Film:

On May 5, 2005, the residents of Spokane, Wash., awoke to one of the strangest headlines in the town's history: "West Tied to Sex Abuse in '70s, Using Office to Lure Young Men." The popular, socially conservative Republican mayor of Spokane, Jim West, had been outed by the town's newspaper, The Spokesman-Review. The paper told the sordid story of a man living two lives: In public, he had once sponsored legislation forbidding gays from teaching in public schools; while in private, the paper alleged, he was trawling for young men online, offering them the trappings of his office. But as bizarre as the revelations were, so, too, were the newspaper's methods. For months, a middle-aged "forensic computer specialist" had posed as an 18-year-old boy online, engaging the mayor in a relationship that became more and more intimate, ultimately exploding on the front page of the newspaper.

Watching the Film:

Teachers can either assign the film for viewing as homework or show the film in class. Suggested discussion questions are provided. The lessons and activities in this guide can be used in the classroom without having viewed the film.

A Note to Teachers:

For classes in social studies, language arts, current events and media studies; grades 9-12. The film, A Hidden Life, includes several descriptions of sexual situations and requires an audience with maturity. The lesson plan examines the standards of journalists and encourages students to evaluate the ethical gray areas facing the media.

Discussion Questions:

This guide includes a list of questions for students to discuss after viewing A Hidden Life.

Featured Lesson Plan:

Judgment Calls: The Ethical Responsibilities of Reporters and the Media

Lesson Objectives:
Students will:

Additional Lesson Ideas:

Relying on Unnamed Sources
Students will determine guidelines for attributing sources.

Student Press
Students will evaluate the extent to which student publications are protected by the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press.

Additional Resources:

An annotated list of relevant Web sites and articles.

Purchasing the Film:

A Hidden Life can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers: http://teacher.shop.pbs.org/home/index.jsp. Also, teachers and students can watch the program streamed in its entirety on FRONTLINE's Web site:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hiddenlife/


This teacher's guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Debra Plafker Gutt, Stuyvesant High School, New York. Advisers were Ellen Greenblatt, University High School, San Francisco, and Greg Timmons, curriculum writer and educational consultant.