Media - Social Studies - Connect

Analyzing Rhetoric in the Media
  1. To begin the unit, it’s important to provide students with an example of how one incident may be reported in two distinct ways. As a whole group, examine and discuss "Dennis Rodman and the Art of the (Metaphoric) Screen." The American Rhetoric website provides an example of the use of language to depict an interaction between Rodman (basketball player) and a referee in two very different ways. American Rhetoric uses the term, “Terministic Goggles,” because in many ways we have to view much of what we see and hear on TV or the internet with “goggles” on.
  2. After reading the articles, discuss the varying choices in diction in each and how the tone changes. Ask the students to think about:
      • Which version of the story do you think is most true and why?
      • What if we were only provided one version of the Dennis Rodman story?
      • How might we ensure that the news we read or watch on TV is unbiased, or that it represents a fair and balanced perspective?
  3. To engage students in critical viewing and writing about the media, assign the following projects and follow-up presentations. Assign one project weekly, culminating in a final writing or multi-media project; or assign concurrently to multiple groups of four students to research and present their information to the entire class.
  4. Project One: Studying Behavior on Television News and News Talk-Shows

      • Students select various roles on news shows (such as news anchor, guest commentator, news reporter, panel moderator, call-in guest, etc.), observe the subjects intently, and then compare their notes with their group’s findings. This process assists students in developing a more critical eye regarding the messages being delivered.
      • Hand out the Studying New Shows Worksheet to assist students with note taking and analysis.

    Project Two: Study of Sunday News Interview Shows

      • Using a similar study completed by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR, a nonprofit national media watch group), students monitor the guest lists and topics of such shows as NBC’s Meet the Press, ABC’s This Week, FOX’s News Sunday, CBS’s Face the Nation, PBS’s The McLaughlin Group, and CNN’s State of the Union. (For more information on the study, read related article on FAIR website--What's Not Talked About on Sunday Morning?
      • Hand out the Study of Sunday News Interview Shows Worksheet to assist in students’ note taking and analysis.

    Project Three: Study of News Programming

      • Students watch any weekly or nightly national news program and record how the programming is segmented by the minute and second.
      • Hand out the Study of News Programming Worksheet to assist students’ with note taking and analysis.
  5. Students may present their discoveries and conclusions to the whole class in a general discussion format or the information may be used in a class debate. Such debate or discussion questions might include:
      • Does our mass media provide us with adequate sources of information?
      • Does our national media coverage bias our perceptions of the world around us?
      • What is the importance of mass media in a democracy?
  6. Students may continue working in small groups of four to develop their own one-minute news story segment.
      • Choose current local, national, or international stories and divide the stories among the groups making sure that every story is given to two different groups.
      • Then assign the groups with the same stories either a strong liberal or conservative bias. Students write scripts and create visuals to coincide with the segment.
      • The news segments may be recorded as a one-minute slot for an evening news program.
      • After viewing the stories told with different biases, students should provide feedback and criticism on the tone, emphasis.
      • This could expand to students creating and recording their own news talk show.