“The fact. . .that this individual has been described as someone dressed up in a black top, black jeans—what does that say, if anything, about a possible motive, or whatever? Can we begin to draw any initial conclusions? And I want to alert our viewers, sometimes these initial conclusions can obviously be very, very wrong.” -- CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer, speaking about the Washington, DC Naval Yard shooting of September 16, 2013.
News commentary of this kind raises some serious questions. What is the difference between “initial conclusions” and pure speculation? And why would a respected correspondent like Blitzer be so anxious to offer them? In this MediaLit Moment, your middle school and early high school students will have a chance to tackle such questions about breaking news stories, and they’ll receive resources to help them keep asking relevant questions about what they see and hear.
Ask students to consider the reasons why broadcasters convey inaccurate or unverified information about breaking news stories.
AHA!: Breaking news reports can be really, really wrong!
Grade Level: 8-10
Key Question #5: Why is this message being sent?
Core Concept #5: Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.
Key Question #2: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
Core Concept #2: Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.
Materials: computer with high speed internet access; speakers to amplify volume of podcast file; handout to accompany lesson
Activity: NPR’s On the Media website features a TLDR [“Too Long Didn’t Read”] blog that posts original stories on contemporary media issues. Point your browser to this TLDR blog entry: “The Breaking News Story Handbook,” from September 20th, 2013. Currently, the blog post is archived here: http://www.onthemedia.org/story/breaking-news-consumers-handbook-pdf/?utm_source=local&utm_media=treatment&utm_campaign=carousel&utm_content=item5
In the text of the blog post, you’ll find a link for a “handy, printable PDF” which offers tips for “sorting good information from bad” about breaking news stories.
Select an excerpt from the podcast story which accompanies the blog post, and play it for your students.
Ask students, why are breaking news stories often inaccurate? Why would news outlets broadcast them if they’re not sure of their accuracy? Direct students’ attention to Key Question #2 (about news gathering techniques) and Key Question #5 (motivations for early reporting).
Share and discuss the breaking news tip sheet with students.
Extended Activity: Use the podcast, handout and Key Questions to help students practice their skills with a current breaking news story.
The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework. Used with permission, © 2002-2014, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com