Lesson Plan #17 - Checklist
Note: We recommend that you print this list
and distribute it to your students.
A Framework for Deconstructing
- THE STORIES.
An itemized list of each story covered on a broadcast or in an
issue of a newspaper. Fascinating when compared to a paper or
broadcast from the same clay. If it is news, why do they not
all cover the same stories, or cover them the same way?
- THE SEQUENCE.
The stories are now listed in terms of the order in which they
appear. This is either the front page, the lead or opening story
etc. Students intuitively know that the most important story
is up front.
- THE SCOPE.
This element concentrates on the running time, the space or column
inches devoted to a story. Students will begin to note that some
stories that do not rank as high in sequence, actually rank quite
high on the scope scale, especially if there is graphic footage
with entertainment values or high levels of conflict.
- THE STRUCTURE.
How is the story structured? What does it consist of? This includes
aspects such as a lead-in by the anchor, live interview in studio
with a key figure in the story; analysis from a reporter or commentator;
news box or graphics behind the anchor's head; on the scene report
from place with high recognition, e.g. House of Commons, House
of Assembly, or the Court Room.
- THE STYLE.
Related to the structure, this now deals with the look and feel
of the piece. This can be described as the aesthetics. It can
include posture and body language of the reporters and anchor
as well as consideration of the camera angle. Students can begin
to look at the framing process and ask not just what is shown
but what is left out, what the camera is not showing. This helps
them to recognize that the camera can lie by showing only a partial
picture. The set in which the anchor is located also is part
of the style. The overall style conveys power upon the anchor
or network and encourages the viewer to surrender to their authority
and point of view.
- THE STATEMENT
and SLANT. This can be presented on a simple scale of
bias running from neutral in the centre to positive or negative.
Students need to evaluate each story in terms of its objectivity.
When bias is detected students have to agree upon the bias, locating
it in terms of visual or verbal cues. We have described this
elsewhere in terms of weighted words, loaded language and prejudiced
pictures. (Visual Messages).
- THE SPONSOR.
Since the news exists because of advertising revenue it should
not be isolated from those who bring it to us. The advertisements
enable us to read the news in terms of who brings it to us, and
more importantly what assumptions they have about us. By reading
the commercials we are in fact reading ourselves. We intuitively
know that Saturday morning cartoons are presented by the makers
of fast food, action toys and high sugar cereals often based
on toy or cartoon characters. Those sponsors are targeting what
they see as the nature and needs of young viewers. If television
news is heavily sponsored by insurance companies, alcohol manufacture's,
headache relief remedies, and ocean cruises, what do we learn
about audience demographics? What age group, what income bracket
and what fears and fantasies does the news and its sponsors target?
How might the content of the news shape the products that it
promotes and vice versa?