Field Trip: newsroom
You can incorporate many field trips or extension trips for your students to enrich the conceptual learning experience. I know it is a legal hassle, but it is worth it! Day and local trips, even those after school hours, will afford you the least problems of legality, money, and cutting into other course meeting time. One easy way to access this reality is through local writers and specifically newsrooms.
No matter where you live, you will be able to find a local newsroom. Though it is a busy place, many reporters or editors will be eager to share their experiences with local youth. You might already know a journalist or media representative in your area. If not, reach out to fellow teachers or contact the agencies directly. Consider the language of the medium if your language of instructions is different from that of the local language. You might either find agencies operating in English (if that is your course language) or consider a multilingual learning experience that is more focused on the concept of news media rather than the actual written text.
Once you find your willing body, plan your event(s). You probably have a lot of ideas about how to best utilise this experience. I think it’s important to have some sort of focus related to your curriculum in addition to a general tour and Q&A that might get kids excited about this profession. Here are five focus ideas that work, and I would love to hear about more you try out with your students:
The journalist or media professional can help your students consider the ways media can be biased or not. What do different text types tell us inherently about biases? If we call these ‘perspectives’ do they become more acceptable? Some, of course, are meant to be unbiased while others are allowed certain biases. How might a journalistic author also include different opinions in the text? Together, you might analyse different articles or types of media or discuss a difficult situation when a reporter has strong feelings about a topic they have to cover. Politics are a great place to start here! Papers typically endorse candidates at times of election but are meant to cover all candidates in an unbiased fashion. You can look at how the media might accomplish this task…or fail.
2. Image content
There is no doubt that we are now in an increasingly image rich society. Together, consider how images (still or moving) impact the way we digest news. These might be portraits, photos or videos of events, cartoons, images of natural phenomenon, and more. How do journalists and other media find the images they use? How do they ensure it is not doctored? How does cutting parts of images change the way we view it? What is the impact of images vs. words in today’s media? The professional might have strong opinions about the way images are used online. You might also consider citizen journalists here and the way their content can be picked up by media corporations. How do our phones act as witnesses to events? Is it a good thing to have so much witness available? What might be the downsides?
3. The biz!
Consider the angle of the media as a business. If you have many business students, this will be especially interesting. Consider how news sells. What headlines create the most hits? How do agencies decide on their content and where to place it? What do images have to do with sales or hits? All of this can lead to discussions of text types: how is the news written most effectively and how does the layout on the page enhance the readership? Students might then create their own news reports that “sell”; they can annotate or orally explain the way their articles are able to make money. They might also consider ethical debates about printing what sells vs. what is important. The journalist will no doubt have some examples of this conundrum.
4. Where does information come from?
This is a great TOK connection if we consider where our knowledge and version of the truth comes from. There have always been different versions of reality represented through media, but now there is open discourse about the validity or censorship or ‘fakeness’ of it. Journalists can help your students to find out where exactly they find their information. They can together consider the relative values of information from witnesses, police reports, government documents, Twitter feeds, and more. How do they comb through this information to arrive at their published material? How do images add to this information? What are they careful of? Your students might look at a particular emerging story with them to understand this idea more fully.
5. Whom can you trust?
The ideas above lead right into this question: when we digest our news, how do we know if we can trust it? Consider the language of “post-truth” and “fake news”: what to do these imply about our media today? Also consider censorship and its role in the media. How does the move of news from print to online both allow for more truth and fact checking as well as more opportunity for ‘fakeness’? The journalist might present students with a story covered in two entirely different ways and attempt to analyse where the truth lies. Or, they might be given tools to attempt to read truthful accounts everyday. No doubt your contact will have some ideas here!
Additionally, you may choose to have follow up sessions in house if the journalist is interested in doing more. Your students might work on creating a type of media themselves that the professional can follow up on. S/he won’t necessarily make and comment on work specifically, but could lead a discussion of how to go through the editing process or consider the impact of the language they have chosen (and its potential biases). It is more effective with the media professional, but you will also learn more skills to help your students when it is just you in the classroom.
London, April 2019