a hidden life


A Balancing Act

Lesson Objectives:

Students will:

Materials Needed:

Time Needed:


Part One: "A Reporter's Checklist"

  1. Divide the class into seven different groups and distribute a different quotation to each group. (If you prefer to use fewer groups, choose one quote per group.)
  2. Instruct the students to follow the directions on their strip of paper and to record the group's discussion in each of their notebooks.
  3. Distribute copies of "Guidelines on Journalistic Standards and Practices" (WGBH/FRONTLINE Guidelines Excerpted). Students will follow the directions on the handout. They will discuss these standards and compare them to their quotations.
  4. Reconvene as a class. Lead the students through a brief discussion of what they believe are the most important standards for a journalist. Encourage students to evaluate whether their group quotation adheres to these standards. Take notes on the board and instruct students to do the same in their notebooks.

Part Two: "Scruples: A Game of Journalists' Dilemmas"

  1. Explain the rules of the game, "Scruples: A Game of Journalists' Dilemmas."
    Students, in the role of reporters, will have to decide whether or not to pursue the reporting or publishing of particular stories. Using their checklist from the preceding activity, they will decide if reporting on these "gray" areas is ethically appropriate. Each student will draw a card, or point to a box, read it out loud and offer a decision. The students will then go around the small group and compare their views.
  2. Divide the class into groups of four. (It is not necessary to keep the same groups from Part One.) Distribute "Scruples: A Game of Journalists' Dilemmas" to each group as either a game sheet or eight separate cards.

Part Three: "Framing the Story"

  1. With the teacher acting as "editor," assign each student a dilemma from "Scruples: A Game of Journalists' Dilemmas" for further exploration.
  2. Students will spend time thinking about how and where to tell this story. They will produce a "mock-up" for this story, which must include:
    • a description of the medium (TV or print)
    • (if print) an actual headline and lead paragraph
    • (if print) an explanation of where in the newspaper to print the story
    • (if TV) an actual preview announcement (like a teaser advertising the upcoming story) and the anchor's text
    • (if TV) appropriate visual(s) and explanation about how much time to dedicate to the story out of a 23-minute news broadcast

    Methods of Assessment:

    • Completion of note-taking assignments
    • Participation in small group and class discussions
    • Completion and quality of framing news stories