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This lesson examines the recent controversy in the media surrounding charges of government propaganda and irresponsible newsgathering by journalists. Students will also examine media ownership and censorship. Through research, dialogue, role-playing, and viewing an episode from public television's IN THE LIFE series, students will define for themselves what journalism is and how controls on the broadcast, print and online media can shape the stories that are reported. As a culminating activity students will research journalistic guidelines or media control and write a position paper stating their views.

Grade Level:
Grades 9-12

Time Allotment:
Three 45 minute class periods.

Subject Matter:
Civics, English -- Media Literacy, journalistic practices, and language arts.

Students will be able to:

  • Analyze how the media covers news stories.
  • Discuss and debate various viewpoints surrounding current media controversies.
  • Identify what censorship is and when censorship occurs.


Civics Standard 11

Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society
Benchmark: Knows beliefs that are common to American political culture (e.g., belief in equality of opportunity; mistrust of power, as well as high expectations of what elected officials and government should do; the need to admit to faults or shortcomings in the society; the belief that social, economic, or political problems can be alleviated through collective effort)

Civics Standard 13

Understands the character of American political and social conflict and factors that tend to prevent or lower its intensity
Benchmark: Knows why people may agree on values or principles in the abstract but disagree when they are applied to specific issues such as the right to life and capital punishment.

Civics Standard 19

Understands what is meant by "the public agenda," how it is set, and how it is influenced by public opinion and the media
Benchmarks: Understands how political institutions and political parties shape the public agenda; Understands why issues important to some groups and the nation do not become part of the public agenda; Understands the concept of public opinion, and knows alternative views of the proper role of public opinion in a democracy; Understands how public opinion is measured, used in public debate, and how it can be influenced by the government and the media; Understands the influence that public opinion has on public policy and the behavior of public officials; Understands the ways in which television, radio, the press, newsletters, and emerging means of communication influence American politics; and understands the extent to which various traditional forms of political persuasion have been replaced by electronic media; Knows how to use criteria such as logical validity, factual accuracy, emotional appeal, distorted evidence, and appeals to bias or prejudice in order to evaluate various forms of historical and contemporary political communication (e.g., Lincoln's "House Divided," Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?," Chief Joseph's "I Shall Fight No More Forever," Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream," campaign advertisements, political cartoons)

Language Arts Standard 4

Gathers and uses information for research purposes.
Benchmarks: Uses appropriate research methodology; Uses a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information for research topics; Synthesizes information from multiple research studies to draw conclusions that go beyond those found in any of the individual studies; Writes research papers.

This lesson was prepared by: Ellen Lenihan

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