Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan #17 - Checklist

Note: We recommend that you print this list and distribute it to your students.

A Framework for Deconstructing News

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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?



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