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You Make the Call: Shape the Front Page (and Public Discourse?)

Gordon Bynum of Providence Day School in Charlotte, N.C.

Gordon Bynum
Providence Day School
Charlotte, N.C.

Title: You Makethe Call: Shape the Front Page (and Public Discourse?)

Description of School and Students

Providence Day School is an independent, coeducational college preparatory school in southeast Charlotte, North Carolina. The school has 1,450 students enrolled in TK – 12 grades. In the upper school, the average class size is 17 students. Approximately 10% of the students are minorities (primarily African-American and Asian).

North Carolina State standards

  • Economics, Legal & Political Systems
    • Competency goal 9.5 – Analyze role of individual citizens, political parties, the media, and other interest groups in public policy decisions, dispute resolution, and government action.
      • Skill I – The learner will acquire information from a variety of sources.

Generative topics

  • Rights, roles and responsibilities of the press
  • Editorial decisions
  • “Hard” news vs. “soft” news

Generative objects

  • Photo of 1980 Olympic Hockey Team
  • Photo of Vietnamese girl and napalm
  • Dorothea Lange migrant mother and children photo (1936)
  • Photo of Truman holding Dewey defeats Truman headline
  • Objects used to promote idea that images and articles (and headlines) that appear in the news media can both arouse emotions and spark discussion/debates about national & international issues.

Understanding Goals

  • Essential questions
    • What is “news” or considered “newsworthy”?
    • What are the rights, roles, and responsibilities of the press?
    • What are the key factors that contribute to editorial decisions within the news media?
  • Related questions
    • In what ways do the press shape public opinion, debate, and policy?
    • What is the difference between “soft news” and “hard news”?

Performances of understanding, rationale and time line

DayOne

Activity 1

  • Introduce the generative objects. Briefly discuss the role of headlines, articles, and photographs in the news media and the impact on society and public policy.

Activity 2

  • Briefly point out a typical layout of a front page section of the newspaper.

Activity 3

  • Divide the class into 6 groups. Each group is to act as the editorial staff of a newspaper, determining the articles, pictures, and layout for the front page of a daily newspaper. Each group will need the following materials:
    • 11” x 17” sheet of paper
    • Newspaper description sheet
    • List of 31 story options and 24 photo options
    • Ruler/pencils
  • Give each group the necessary materials. Each group should spend time Selecting articles and photos from the list provided by the teacher, as well as recording the rationale for choosing the items that they Selected (in preparation to debate and defend why those items were Selected and why others were rejected). Each group should also determine the exact layout of the front page with article size, arrangement, headlines and pictures. Each group will use the 11” x 17” paper to draw the layout.
  • Newspaper descriptions (Actual paper appears in brackets beneath description, BUT students will not learn identity of their paper until after the activity is completed):
    • A national daily paper. An average of 3 lead stories (usually each with photos) on the front page. Approximately 10 sub-headings preview stories that appear later in section A or in other sections of the paper (only some of these have photos). In a 2002 certified survey of circulation, your paper ranked No. 1 with a daily circulation of 2,136,068. You have both local and national newspaper competition. [USA Today]
      • Choose a combination of 3 stories and 10 sub-headings, with no more than
        a total of 9 pictures. If your group has an idea for a picture/image not listed, you may ask the Associated Press wire service (the teacher), if that picture/image could be used.
    • A national daily paper. An average of 6 lead stories (only some with photos) on the front page. Approximately 6 sub-headings preview stories that appear later in section A or in other sections of the paper (only some of these have photos). In a 2002 certified survey of circulation, your paper ranked No. 3 with a daily circulation of 1,113,000. You have both local and national newspaper competition. [The New York Times]
      • Choose a combination of 6 stories and 6 sub-headings, with no more than
        a total of 4 pictures. If your group has an idea for a picture/image not listed, you may ask the AP wire service (the teacher), if that picture/image could be used.
    • A large city daily paper, read by many throughout the country. An average of 6 lead stories (only some with photos) on the front page. Approximately 6 sub-headings preview stories that appear later in section A or in other sections of the paper (only some of these have photos). In a 2002 certified survey of circulation, your paper ranked No. 5 with a daily circulation of 746,724. You have both local and national newspaper competition.
      [The Washington Post]
      • Choose a combination of 6 stories and 6 sub-headings, with no more than
        a total of 4 pictures. If your group has an idea for a picture/image not listed, you may ask the AP wire service (the teacher), if that picture/image could be used.
    • A large city daily paper, read by many throughout the country. An average of 6 lead stories (only some with photos) on the front page. Approximately 3 sub-headings preview stories that appear later in section A or in other sections of the paper (only some of these have photos). In a 2002 certified survey of circulation, your paper ranked No. 14 with a daily circulation of 467,745. You have both local and national newspaper competition.
      [The Boston Globe]
      • Choose a combination of 6 stories and 3 sub-headings, with no more than
        a total of 5 pictures. If your group has an idea for a picture/image not listed, you may ask the AP wire service (the teacher), if that picture/image could be used.
    • A midsize city daily paper. An average of 5 lead stories (only some with photos) on the front page. Approximately 3 sub-headings preview stories that appear later in section A or in other sections of the paper (only some of these have photos). In a 2002 certified survey of circulation, your paper ranked No. 44 with a daily circulation of 235,759. You have no local newspaper competition, but believe that you compete with several national newspapers. [The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer]
      • Choose a combination of 5 stories and 3 sub-headings, with no more than
        a total of 4 pictures. If your group has an idea for a picture/image not listed, you may ask the AP wire service (the teacher), if that picture/image could be used.
    • A free daily paper in a large city. Most of your newspaper boxes are located next to the city’s numerous subway stations. An average of 2 lead stories (only some with photos) on the front page. Approximately 6 sub-headings preview stories that appear later in section A or in other sections of the paper (only some of these have photos). Although not listed in the 2002 certified survey of circulation, your paper has a daily circulation of 166,298, which would have ranked approximately No. 70 in a national comparison of newspaper circulations. You have both local and national newspaper competition. [Metro, Boston]
      • Choose a combination of 2 stories and 6 sub-headings, with no more than
        a total of 5 pictures. If your group has an idea for a picture/image not listed, you may ask the AP wire service (the teacher), if that picture/image could be used
  • Story options (31 options)
    • 3 US Soldiers die in Iraq
    • Escalating competition between 2 local supermarket chains
    • Pet chiropractors
    • 9/11 report shows failures by US intelligence agencies
    • Health care premiums are going up
    • "Seabiscuit" movie opens this weekend
    • "Tomb Raider" movie opens this weekend
    • "Spy Kids 3D" opens this weekend
    • Red Sox vs. Yankees series starts this weekend
    • Lance Armstrong may win his 5th consecutive Tour de France title this weekend
    • U.S. success at World Swimming Championships in Barcelona
    • City Council member in New York is shot and killed
    • New information for D.C. sniper case
    • Quasay and Uday Hussein killed in Iraq
    • Governor refuses to approve bill passed by state legislature that would have raised police pay
    • Boeing vs. Lockheed, possible corporate corruption
    • New memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. at steps of Lincoln Memorial
    • Liberian rebels continue to advance on Monrovia
    • California recall of governor is scheduled
    • Local transit system ridership increases
    • Some believe image on hospital window is Virgin Mary
    • Toy monkey serves as mom for baby monkey
    • Washington Wizards (NBA team) will open basketball season vs. Knicks in an exhibition in Lithuania
    • Will the [local pro sports team] have success this year?
    • Textile corporation closes, over 5,000 local workers lose jobs
    • New exhibit at science museum
    • Fast food restaurants losing business
    • Highway construction continues, expected completion date extended due to rains
    • Bus catches fire on highway, causes traffic delays
    • Blind man joins local scout troop for 10 day, 50 mile hike
    • Democratic hopefuls continue to raise funds for 2004 campaign
  • Photo options (24 options)
    • Line of children in Liberia
    • Saddam Hussein
    • Death photos of Uday and Quasay Hussein
    • Death photo of New York city councilman
    • Donald Rumsfeld
    • President Bush
    • Vice PresidentDick Cheney
    • Gov. Gray Davis
    • Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • Sen. Bob Graham
    • Howard Dean
    • Sen. Joe Lieberman
    • Sen. John Edwards
    • Sen. John Kerry
    • U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt
    • Arnold Schwarzenegger
    • Lara Croft/Angelina Jolie
    • "Seabiscuit" jockey/Tobey Maguire
    • Professional athlete of local/national significance
    • Lance Armstrong
    • D.C. Sniper suspect, John Malvo
    • Photo of bus destroyed by fire
    • Angry workers outside of textile mill that has closed
    • Dancing robot from new exhibit at science museum
    • If your group has an idea for a picture/image not listed here, you may ask the AP wire service (the teacher), if that picture/image could be used.

Activity 4

  • Homework – Each group member writes a brief analysis of why they Selected (and omitted) specific articles and images. As a part of the analysis, each student should also address what they believe to be the appropriate role for the press as well as the key rights and responsibilities of the news media.

Day 2

Activity 1

  • Each group briefly (no longer than 5 minutes) presents which articles and images they Selected and why. As a part of their presentation, they should address the rights, role, and responsibilities of the press. Immediately following each group’s presentation, the teacher presents the actual newspaper from July 25, 2003 to compare the actual article/pictures Selected by that paper’s editors.

Activity 2: Discussion

  • Differences between student papers and actual papers
  • Differences between actual papers
  • “Soft news” vs. “Hard news”
  • Excerpt from T. Patterson paper (see resources)
    • Market considerations and the 24/7 news cycle
  • Excerpt from Marvin Kalb paper (see resources)
    • Impact of editorial decisions on public discourse
  • Rights, roles, and responsibilities of press (particularly with regards to graphic
    photos such as the death photos of Uday and Quasay Hussein)

Activity 3: Homework

  • Each student writes a brief essay responding to the following statement:
    • “Assuming that two of the key roles of the news media are to objectively inform the consumers of their news as well as seeking to maximize profitability, compare the differences between print media news, radio news, and TV news.”

Assessment

  • Essay analyzing student’s editorial decisions as well as the rights, roles, and responsibilities of the print news media (see Day 1- Activity 4).
  • Essay analyzing differences in print news media, radio news media, and TV news media (see Day 2- Activity 3).

Resources

[Other papers from different dates could be used for the lesson, but the lesson would work best when certain controversial images are used by several, but not all papers].

  • July 25, 2003 edition of The Boston Globe
  • July 25, 2003 edition of Metro, Boston
  • July 25, 2003 edition of USA Today
  • July 25, 2003 edition of The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer
  • July 25, 2003 edition of The New York Times
  • July 25, 2003 edition of The Washington Post
  • http://www.infoplease.com/ipea/A0004420.html
    • Newspaper circulation data (as of Sept. 2002)
  • “Doing Well and Doing Good: How Soft News and Critical Journalism Are Shrinking the News Audience” by Thomas Patterson, 2000.
  • “The Rise of the ‘New News’: A Case Study of Two Root Causes of the Modern Scandal Coverage” by Marvin Kalb, 1998.

This lesson plan was published in The Media and Democracy Curriculum Compendium 2003, Barrett andGreyser editors, published by Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.



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