Skip Discover Education Main Navigation
Skip Discover Education Main Navigation

9-12 > U.S. History
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: U.S. History Duration: Two class periods
Objectives | Materials | Procedures | Adaptations | Discussion Questions | Evaluation | Extensions | Suggested Readings | Links | Vocabulary | Academic Standards | Credit
print this lesson plan


lesson plan support

Find a video description, video clip, and discussion questions.
The Cronkite Report: Headlines and Sound Bites

Students will understand the following:
1. Many media are involved in reporting news.
2. Media covering news vary in extent of coverage, bias, timeliness, and other qualities.

For this lesson, you will need:
Access for students to local and national commercial TV and radio news
Access for students to local and national public TV and radio news
Access for students to a variety of daily and weekly printed news
Access for students to online news services
Access to photocopier

1. Select a breaking or ongoing news event of national importance. Explain that for a one-week period you and the class will closely monitor media coverage of the event.
2. Assign students to groups, according to type of news source, as listed below. Each group will need enough students to read, listen to, or watch all the coverage of the assigned news event by the following news sources for a one-week period:
  • Regularly scheduled local commercial TV news show (broadcast or cable)
  • Regularly scheduled national commercial TV news show (broadcast or cable)
  • Regularly scheduled local commercial radio news show
  • Regularly scheduled national commercial radio news show
  • Regularly scheduled national public TV or radio news show
  • Specially prepared programming
  • Local print newspaper
  • National print newspaper (such as theNew York Timesor theWall Street Journal)
  • Online version of local newspaper
  • Online version of national newspaper
  • Once-a-week print newsmagazine
  • Once-a-week televised newsmagazine (such as60 Minutesor20-20)
  • Online newsmagazine
  • Political commentary TV show (such asMeet the Press)
To keep groups small, you will probably want each student to cover two or more of the preceding sources.
3. Work with the class as a whole to devise an observation chart on which students will record facts about the coverage they read, listen to, or watch in the course of the week. The chart should have room for students to note information such as the following:
  • Length of coverage (in minutes or approximate number of words)
  • Content summary
  • Presentation format (straight news story, editorial or column, letter to the editor, news anchor only, anchor and reporters, interview, panel discussion or roundtable, etc.)
  • Importance given to event (compared with other events reported on the same show or in the same article)
Add other categories that students suggest.
4. Work with the class to figure out how the observation chart can accommodate individuals’ opinions about, or evaluations of, what they read, listen to, and watch regarding the event. The observation chart should have room for students to comment on why they think the source is
  • accurate or inaccurate;
  • complete or incomplete; and
  • fair-minded or biased.
5. Distribute a copy of the observation chart to all students. At the end of the week, give students in each group time to meet and exchange photocopies of their observation charts. Students should discuss whether they all got the same story and, if not, what the differences were.
6. Now that everyone in a group has copies of the observation charts kept by all the members, everyone should write an essay summarizing how the media varied in their coverage of the event and commenting on the implications of this study.
Back to Top

Cut the list of news sources in half. Limit the written reports to summaries; that is, do not ask for statements of implications of the study.
Back to Top
Discussion Questions

1. Explore possible negative long-term and short-term effects of inadequate journalism.
2. Debate whether the increasing popularity of television news broadcasts has strengthened or harmed print media.
3. How have tabloid news programs influenced the public perception of all media? Explain.
4. Today the public has access to more information than ever. Discuss the pros and cons of being privy to this wealth of information.
5. Discuss how the public can best be educated to be well-informed readers and viewers.
6. Discuss the role of a free press in a democracy.
Back to Top

You can evaluate your students on their written work using the following three-point rubric:
Three points:well-written summary of how the media differed in their reports of the news event; comprehensive statement of the implications of the study; error-free grammar, usage, and mechanics
Two points:adequate summary of how the media differed in their reports of the news event; acceptable statement of the implications of the study; some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
One point:inadequate summary of how the media differed in their reports of the news event; weak statement of the implications of the study; many errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
Back to Top

Public Opinion
What are the perceptions of the media by people in your classroom, school, and community? In the Discovery videotape, Walter Cronkite refers to a survey of media perception administered by theLos Angeles Times MirrorCenter for the People and the Press. Using some of the same questions asked in that survey, have your students poll people they know. Then ask students to work together to compile data to see how their respondents’ opinions compare or contrast with the opinions of the national sample mentioned in the video. Ask students what might account for similarities and differences. Conclude this project by asking students to speculate on how news reporting will differ in 5, 10, and 20 years.

Community Reader or Leader?
Public journalism—reporters taking community-activist roles—is becoming increasingly popular and increasingly controversial. Ask students to research any public journalism programs in your area. Ask them to find out, for example, if a television station is promoting, say, volunteer opportunities or if newspapers are asking businesses to take an active role in, say, education. Then raise the question of whether your own school newspaper promotes causes as well as reports on them. To conclude this project, ask students to write a letter to an editor or a station manager about the positive or negative effects of the media’s taking stands rather than simply reporting news.

Back to Top
Suggested Readings

Sensational TV: Trash or Journalism?
Nancy Day, Enslow, 1996
This new book for young adults covers all of the formats of television news, including talk shows, magazine format television programs, and reality simulation TV programs, to uncover the extent of sensationlism versus truth.

"A Bad Case of the Blues"
David Whitman, U.S. News and World Report, March 4, 1996
Does the news always have to be bad? How can we know otherwise? This article explores indicators to contradict the sorry social conditions frequently portrayed by television news programming.

On the Air: Behind the Scenes at a TV Newscast
Esther Hautzig, Manmillan, 1991
The planning, presentation, and compilation of a typical television news program is explained and illustrated for younger readers in this book.

How TV Changed America's Mind
Edward Wakin, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1996
The author, a professor of communications at Fordham University (New York) and a business communications consultant, offers a learned expose of the impact of television news broadcasting on the collective American mind.

Back to Top

Television News Archive at Vanderbilt University
This site houses a database of abstracts from every national nightly news broadcast since 1968.

Minorities and Women in Television News
Provides research information about the participation and involvement of women and minorities in television news media.

Newsmedia Contents page
Teachers wanting to know how important a topic the news media is to their students should check out "Children's Exposure to News Media: A Survey" found here.

Back to Top

Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    cataclysm
Definition:A momentous and violent event marked by overwhelming upheaval and demolition.
Context:This technological earthquake changed the information landscape cataclysmically.

speaker    monopolistic
Definition:Likened to one who has exclusive possession or control.
Context:We have a diminishing and monopolistic print medium on one hand.

speaker    cynicism
Definition:An attitude of distrust of human nature and motives.
Context:Peoples' doubt that they are getting the truth can turn to cynicism.

speaker    delinquent
Definition:Offending by neglect or violation of duty.
Context:Most of it, it seems to me, is terribly delinquent in covering the important news of the community.

speaker    salacious
Context:The tabloids . . . salacious and sensational; in my opinion, of little redeeming social value.

speaker    insidious
Definition:Working or spreading harmfully in a subtle or stealthy manner.
Context:They must be considered for their insidious impact upon the mainstream media.

speaker    pander
Definition:To provide gratification for others' desires.
Context:The idea that everybody in the news business has to now pander to the lowest common denominator is a very unhealthy development.

speaker    egregious
Definition:Conspicuously bad.
Context:When you get to the egregious stuff that's now on the air, particularly these talk shows, which really are the modern equivalent of bear baiting or cock fighting...

speaker    visceral
Definition:Not intellectual; dealing with crude or elemental emotions.
Context:Talk shows on television. Talk shows on radio. They're very easy to listen to, and they get people stirred up, and it is a visceral thrill, but it's not informative; it's not enlightening.

speaker    panoply
Definition:A magnificent or impressive array.
Context:The difficulty of being a citizen in the United States of America is that there is such a vast panoply of information out there.

speaker    invidious
Definition:Tending to cause discontent, animosity, or envy.
Context:Pressure on the news room to meet economic goals is consistent, persistent, and invidious.

speaker    pejorative
Definition:Having negative connotations; tending to disparage or belittle.
Context:We now find more frequently pejorative adjectives.

speaker    catalyst
Definition:An agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action.
Context:We see ourselves as a catalyst, or the connecting mechanism, in a community.

speaker    demagogue
Definition:A leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.
Context:Thus will the public be armed against the demagogues who use distortion and misinformation to twist democracy to their own profit.

speaker    autocracy
Definition:Government in which one person possesses unlimited power.
Context:Democracy is a mockery if it is left only to an autocracy of the informed.

Back to Top

This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:9-12
Subject area:language arts
Effectively gathers and uses information for research purposes.
Makes in-depth analyses of the validity and reliability of primary source information and uses information accordingly in reporting on a research topic. Uses a variety of news sources to gather information for research purposes (e.g., newspapers, news magazines, TV, radio, videotapes, artifacts).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:language arts
Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for reading information.
Reorganizes the concepts and details in informational texts in new ways and describes the advantages and disadvantages of the new organization.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:language arts
Demonstrates competence in applying the reading process to specific types of informational texts.
Understands the defining features and structure of news stories at this developmental level.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:language arts
Demonstrates an understanding of the nature and function of the English language.
Compares form, meaning, and value of different kinds of language.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:civics
Understands the importance of political leadership, public service, and a knowledgeable citizenry in American constitutional democracy.
Understands why becoming knowledgeable about public affairs and the values and principles of American constitutional democracy, and communicating that knowledge to others are important forms of participation, and understands the argument that constitutional democracy requires the participation of an attentive, knowledgeable, and competent citizenry.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:the arts
Understands how informal and formal theatre, film, television, and electronic media productions create and communicate meaning.
Knows how social meanings (aural, oral, and visual symbols with personal and/or social significance) communicated in informal productions, formal productions, and personal performances of different cultures and historical periods can relate to current personal, national and international issues. Knows how varying collaborative efforts and artistic choices can affect the performance of informal and formal productions.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:the arts
Understands the context in which theatre, film, television, and electronic media are performed today as well as in the past.
Understands ways in which personal and cultural experiences can affect an artist's presentation.

Back to Top

Ilene Berman, English teacher, Sidwell Friends School, Washington, D.C.
Back to Top