Students will investigate and compare the effectiveness of the media in accurately reporting the 1934 strike in San Francisco to the effectiveness of today’s media (print, radio, television, Internet) in accurately reporting on a controversial issue like health care reform. Please note that this plan works best if a current but controversial topic is chosen. The procedures are designed to apply to any subject, and Harry Bridges will post a new controversial subject every six months.
Tools Required:Computer, Internet access, printer.
Media bias refers to the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media, in the selection of which events and stories are reported and how they are covered. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to recognize. No self-respecting reporter is going to come right out and say "And this next sentence is biased, so watch out!" Rather, viewers must try to find bias themselves. The most common ways that bias manifests itself in the news are through word choice, omissions, the limiting of debate, framing of the story, and a biased selection and use of sources (adapted from University of Michigan’s website.)
In 1934, when San Francisco faced a crippling strike by dockworkers, many papers ran stories about “communists massing in the foothills.” We now know these stories were untrue. But it does raise questions about the media, and its role in our perception of truth. How well does today’s media present reports on challenging subjects, and are they independent of government or commercial interests?
Lesson Plan Five: Truth in the Media
11th & 12th Grade
2 class periods and 1 homework assignment
CA Reading Standard 2.1: Analyze the features and rhetorical devices of different public documents.
CA Reading Standard 2.3: Verify and clarify facts presented in expository texts.
CA Reading Standard 2.6: Critique the power, validity, and truthfulness of arguments set forth in public documents.
CA Listening Standard 1.2: Analyze the impact of the media on the democratic process at the local, state, and national levels.
Truth in the Media: Day One.
Introductory Activity 5-10 minutes
Pose the following questions to your students: “If you want to find out about a good film or CD or restaurant, do you go to web sites and blogs? Which ones? Do you believe people’s comments and ratings? If you saw a restaurant review on Yelp with 2 comments saying that it was fantastic and a great place to eat, how would you know that the chef and the waiter didn’t post the comments?” Have the students journal their thoughts and share them with a partner.
Mini Lesson 10 minutes
Ask the students where they get their news from and how they have come to pick their sources. Remind them that “news” can include world events, but also fashion, music and film, sports, places to go, etc. Ask them who influences the way the pick their sources – friends, parents, advertisements, etc. – and how do they decide to trust these sources?
Suggest that not everything they hear on the “news” is true, and that especially when dealing with political issues, different sources can present very different stories about the same event.
After discussing their responses, explain that they will be listening to an MP4 file about how the media covered the story of a 1934 strike in San Francisco. Ask them to think about whether they believe the story.
Individual Research 30 minutes
Now have the students download the MP4 file at http://theharrybridgesproject.org/lesson5.html
Have them watch the footage and/or listen to the voices.
Print and hand out Student Worksheet: Truth in the Media (page 3) for students to use in their Individual Research, instructing them to consider the questions using the indicated websites and to make notes that they will use in their homework assignment. Encourage them to be particularly aware of the words used to describe events and people.
Conclusion 5 minutes
Have the students come back together as a group. Ask them what they learned about the media. What similarities or differences did they see between 1934 and today? Ask them how they can tell the difference between different points of view (a part of democracy) and bias (unfairness and prejudice).
Explain to students that they will have the opportunity tonight to write their own opinion on the fairness or bias of today’s media.
Print and hand out Student Homework: Truth in the Media (page 4-5).
For each question, find an answer by visiting the recommended websites; or better yet, find your own websites and share them. Write 3-4 sentences answering each question based off what you read on those sites.
What was “Bloody Thursday” and what was it like?
The San Francisco News covers the 1934 General StrikeOther Voice from the Depression “The Strike.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Did the newspapers report accurately on these events?
George Seldes on San Francisco’s Press and the 1934 General Strike
Statement by Mayor Ole Hanson believed to be made on 2/8/19 ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Identify two strongly opposing viewpoints about healthcare reform from the following sites.
Steele Calls Obama’s Health Plan ‘Socialism ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Has the media over the last 20 years accurately reported on American healthcare? Consider these two reports.
The World Health Organization’s Ranking of the world’s health systems
(click on United States in the list)
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How the Performance of the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally, 2010 Update
If you have time, check out other pages on these sites or find your own sites as well.
If you discover websites that helped in your research, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and say “Lesson Plan Sites” in the subject line. Also let us know if any of the sites that we have supplied have shut down. Include your name and your school’s name and we will add your information to the Education Project!
Write a 250-word paper on media inaccuracies in 1934, comparing them to your perception of media inaccuracies today. Describe how you have come to form your opinion and who you choose to believe when articles give opposite opinions. Give specific references to newspapers, internet articles, radio or television.
Explain that today the students are going to share their papers on media bias with each other in small groups, and then discuss with the class what they have learned from their writing. Ask them whether it was easy or difficult to write their paper, and what helped or hindered them.
Group Activity 20 minutes
Have the students break up into groups of three and read their articles to each other. Choose a student in each group to act as a recorder who will make notes about what each person in their group learned. Then have each recorder read their notes to the class.
Teacher Led Discussion 15-20 minutes
After briefly discussing the results of their small group exercise, lead a discussion about what they have learned, using some of the following questions.
What surprised you the most about your homework?
What where the differences and similarities between media reporting in 1934 and today?
If something is broadcast on the evening news, printed in a newspaper or posted on a website, does this make it true?
What is the best way to find out if something is true?
Would you consider using media sources in other countries to get some of your news?
Has your research helped you define words such as capitalism, socialism, free-market economy, or other words used to support an argument and viewpoint?
Did you find any other useful web sites?
Conclusion 5 minutes
As a concluding exercise, let students write or draw a story where they clearly show a bias in reporting.
TEACHER’S GUIDE: RUBRIC FOR HOMEWORK
Represents Two Sides of a Story
Completed all Three Sections
Use of Language
Grammar and Word Usage
No plausible position is taken on the topic is taken in either news story