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Lesson Plans

Media Manipulation: Women and Race

Joseph Catalfano of Central Bucks East High School in Doylestown, Pa.

Joseph Catalfano
Central Bucks East High School
Doylestown, Pa.

Title: Media Manipulation: Women and Race

Description of School and Students

This unit will be taught to a mixture of tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade students enrolled in the journalism elective. Class size for the journalism elective averages from 20 to 30 students. The high school is public, suburban, and not culturally diverse. Over 90% of the population is white; the remaining percentage mostly composed of African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

Generative Topics

  • Are the news media biased? If so, in whose favor? Why?

Generative Objects

  • A Barbie doll and various advertisements with pictures of supermodels to reinforce the perception, or stereotyping, of the female. Various articles, news broadcasts, commercials, and advertisements that contain images or phrases reflecting to gender and/or race (articles on Rodney King would be very good to discuss how the media may, in fact, instigate racial acts of violence) .

Understanding Goals

  • Essential or Guiding Questions
    • What is myth?
    • What is stereotype?
    • What is bias?
    • What is news?
    • What is objectivity?
  • Critical Engagement Questions
    • What are the myths and stereotypes of women?
    • Do the media combat or reinforce these myths and stereotypes of women? How? How frequently?
    • What are the myths and stereotypes of various minority groups?
    • Do the media combat or reinforce these myths and stereotypes of minority groups? How? How frequently?
    • How do these myths and stereotypes lead to bias in the news? How can this bias be prevented?

Performances of Understanding, Rationale, and Time Line

In keeping with the Institute’s primary goal of helping students become more critical consumers of the media, this lesson will engage students in exploring the bias that often exists in the depiction of women and race (as well as gender and racial conflict). Not only will the lesson address the bias that exists, but students will also be encouraged to discuss how this rampant problem may be combated. The lesson will also challenge students’ definitions of news and the responsibilities of the media (objectivity).

Because of the lack of racial/cultural diversity (as well as increasing use of racist language) at our school, students need more of an appreciation of racial issues, which is why the second half of this lesson is extremely important. Feminist and multicultural literature are also integral to sophomore, junior, and senior English classes.

Activity 1

  • Divide the class into groups of four. Have students write one-sentence definitions of myth, stereotype, bias, news, and objectivity (all of which are major terms from the above essential questions). Divide the blackboard into five columns. Have one student from each group go to the board and write a definition under each term. Then, as a class, discuss and react to these definitions. Do these terms have positive or negative associations? Are all stereotypes negative (Asians are hard-working and intelligent)?

Activity 2

  • Have students locate and share examples of myth, stereotype, and bias in political coverage in current newspapers and/or magazines. Students should find both visual and textual examples. Many of the examples students choose will most likely reflect a concern for image-building.

Activity 3

  • Have students brainstorm a list of television news reporters and list these names on the blackboard. Have students analyze the gender and racial make-up of the list they generate. Are the majority of these reporters or anchors white? Are minorities equally represented? Males and females?

Activity 4

  • Have each group brainstorm a list of all stereotypes and/or myths of women for 3-5 minutes. Write the word “women” on the board. Have another member of each group go to the board and write a few words that are associated with the popular conception of the female. As a class, discuss:
    • Is there any truth to these stereotypes? How do we know?
    • Where do our conceptions of the female (stereotype) originate? Who is responsible for creating these stereotypes?
    • Where would we go to research if there is any truth to these stereotypes/myths?

Activity 5

  • Have students locate and share examples of both images and text from current newspapers and magazines that reflect any of the stereotypes listed on the board. For the purposes of this exercise, students may also refer to movies about politics, political television talk shows or political commercials that reinforce female stereotypes. The teacher may also desire to pose the questions:
    • What effect do these stereotypes have on women? What effect, if any, do they have on men?
    • Are male stereotypes being reinforced in media messages? Is this a two-way street?”
  • Teachers may also choose to have students create a collage of the above images and text on poster board for display in the classroom.

Activity 6

  • Have students repeat Activities 3 and 4 focusing on various minority groups. This is obviously a sensitive issue, therefore, teachers may desire to have students list stereotypes of the majority group as well. Teachers should also instruct students to avoid racial slurs.

Activity 7

  • Instruct students to watch at least an hour of news broadcasts on a given night, taking note of gender and racial stereotypes that are reflected and thereby reinforced. The teacher may choose to assign groups of students to various news broadcasts for the purpose of small group discussion during the next class meeting.


  • Students write a letter to the editor or the reporter of an article that reinforces gender or racial stereotyping. Students should react to the reinforced stereotype and offer suggestions on how to improve the reflections of gender or racial issues in the future.
  • Does the way the media presents men different from the way it presents women? Have students respond to this question in an essay. Their position must be defended with specific examples discussed during class.
  • If time allows and the teacher desires a more creative (multiple intelligences) approach, students may create a portfolio or video documentary of their research and discoveries within this unit.
  • Students may respond to any of the critical engagement questions in a formal essay of five paragraphs using class research as well as their own personal discoveries as support.


  • Weaver, “Is Television News Biased?” in The Public Interest, number 26, Winter 1972, pp. 57-74.
  • Norris, Pippa, ed. "Women, Media and Politics," (New York: Oxford University Press) 1997.
  • Rivers, Caryl. "Slick Spins and Fractured Facts: How Cultural Myths Distort the News," New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.
  • Entman, Robert. "Manufacturing Discord: Media in the Affirmative Action Debate." Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 1997, 2 (4): pp. 32-51.
  • Reeves, Keith. "Voting Hopes or Fears? White Voters, Black Candidates, and Racial Politics in America." New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 13-24.

Joseph Catalfano’s lesson plan, “The Question of Ethical Journalism” was published in The Media and Democracy Curriculum Compendium 2000, Barrett and Greyser editors, published by Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., p. 202.

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