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tip: A fragment of information that may lead to a story; also called a lead. News Reporting & Writing (Eighth Edition) by the Missouri Group. Copyright 2005. Reproduced by permission of Bedford/St. Martins.

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How Does the Medium Affect the Message: Comparing Print to Electronic Media

Margaret Hagemeister at Natick High School in Natick, Mass.

Margaret Hagemeister
Natick High School
Natick, Mass.

Title: How Does the Medium Affect the Message: Comparing print to electronic media

Description of School and Students

This unit will be taught to 11th- and 12th-grade students in a college-preparatory level journalism class. The class is comprised of 28 students at Natick High School, a public high school in a middle class suburb 17 miles west of Boston.

Generative Topic

Print vs. electronic media effects on audience perceptions

Generative Object

Printed computer banner of the Marshall McLuhan quote: “The medium is the message.”

Understanding Goals

  1. Essential Question
    • What effect can the medium that conveys the message have on the audience’s perceptions?
  2. Critical Engagement Questions
    1. How can the perceiver’s understanding of ideas, retention of information, and emotional response to the subject change as a result of the medium that presents that information?
    2. What are some of the techniques used by different media in creating and delivering content which affect the responses of the viewer/reader/listener?

Performances of Understanding, Rationale and Time Line

As consumers of “news,” students need to be attuned to the subtleties inherent in the varied media and what effect those subtleties have on how they perceive the news. Students will be exposed to samples of news stories conveyed in different media and analyze the effects of how the story is conveyed on the receiver’s perception of the story. Students will also make inferences on what content, specifically, in each media affects their perceptions. This unit will utilize approximately three 50 minute class periods.

Activity l

Part 1.

Students will be configured in groups and each group will be experience a recent news event presented through a different medium: television, print radio internet. After viewing, listening, or reading the respective stories the group has experienced, the students will respond to the following questions individually, in writing, and then share their responses in a small group discussion:

  1. What are the “5W’s and H” (who, what, when, where, why, how) of the story?
  2. How did the story make you feel (concerned, outraged, amused, etc.)?
  3. What did you learn (i.e. knowledge, content)?

Part 2.

Next, each group will look at the coverage of the story by the medium more closely, viewing, reading, or listening to it again. They will then address the following:

  1. Did all participants of the group essentially agree on the content of the story (i.e. have the same 5W’s and H?)
  2. What, if anything, was missing from the coverage; in other words, was there any idea or issue that needed further development, clarification, explanation?
  3. Did all participants of the group essentially agree on how the story made them feel? Did they all agree on what (the content) they learned?
  4. What, specifically, about the story made you feel the way you did (Think about visuals, word choice, tone of words or voices, structure, facts or ideas were or were not included)?

Each student will take thorough notes on the group’s responses to the above questions since they are sharing them with other students in Activity 2.

Activity 2

The class as a whole will read, listen, and view the event presented in Activity 1 through all the different media. Students will “jigsaw” into new groups comprised of one member each who initially experienced the event in a different form. Each student will encapsulate his/her home group’s discussion and analysis and the jigsaw group will discuss the similarities and differences in their experiences. At the end of their discussion they will be asked to reach a group consensus and draw conclusions to address the question: “How is the perceiver’s understanding of ideas, retention of information and feeling about the subject affected by the medium that presents that information?” Each jigsaw group will orally report its group’s conclusions to the class as a whole.


  1. Oral presentation of jigsaw group described in Activity 2.
  2. Students will write a five paragraph essay addressing the question: “What effect does the medium which conveys the message have on how the message is perceived by the audience?” Students should draw specific evidence and examples from group discussions in which they engaged as well as the group presentations from Activity 2


News coverage of a recent event in each of the following media: television, radio, print, Internet

Margaret Hagemeister’s lesson plan, "How Does the Medium Affect the Message: Comparing Print to Electronic Media " was published in The Media and Democracy Curriculum Compendium 1999, Barrett and Greyser editors, published by Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., p. 97.

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