Links for Learners
by Lynn and Bob
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Links for Learning
Connections for High School Teachers and Students
Links for Learners will support high school curriculum
Finding Links for
Discussion Group Leaders and Participants
journalism; media ethics; communication skills
of speech; Constitutional rights
Look for connections
for use in programs outside the classroom, such as:
- Parish sacramental
preparation programs and CCD classes; young adult discussion
programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
- Parents will
also find this material useful in initiating discussion around
the dinner table, in home study, at family activities.
Terms in This Months Article
Look for the key words
and terms below as you read the article. Definitions or explanations
can be researched from the article itself or from the resource materials
cited throughout the Links for Learners. You
can also find a list of terms on the glossary
page of AmericanCatholic
Freedom of Speech
Role of the News
How has the immediacy
of news changed the way news anchors deal with the news? With today's
technology, such as videotape, microwave relay, satellite transmission
and the Internet, news delivery of an event can be immediate. We
the audience see what the reporters see at the same moment. Haven't
we all watched a local news story, perhaps a fire or a high-speed
chase, where the news anchors and reporters commentate (or speculate),
even when they know no more about the event than we do?
Some believe that
the immediacy of technology has brought a decline in journalistic
values. Av Westin, executive producer of ABC News' 20th Century
Project, said several years ago that networks have lost "editorial
thinking power," with a resulting loss of quality. News producers
do not have the luxury of time to ponder ethical issues or even
consult legal counsel before airing an event. Mistakes happen. Errors
in judgment occur.
News anchors like
CNN's Bill Hemmer are in the hot seat every day. They are the faces
of the network news, the voices that audiences trust for news and
truth. In this election year 2000, both presidential candidates
turned to the trusted PBS's Jim Lehrer to moderate their debates.
No doubt many also
remember the live broadcast of the opening of gangster Al Capone's
safe. Journalism or sensationalism?
Have many of television's
news anchors become talk show hosts in effect? How do their roles
differ? Do their responsibilities differ? Who has more influence:
Dan Rather, Jim Lehrer and Bill Moyer or Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O'Donnell
and MTV's Carson Daly?
of Professional Journalists supports personal and network ethics
in journalism. The Society offers these broad guidelines as a code
of ethics for journalists:
Role of the Broadcast
In America we celebrate
free speech as one of our Constitutional rights. News bureaus, broadcast
networks and individual journalists report on the truth as they
see it and find it, with no fear of government reprisal or monitoring.
In contrast, according
to a report
from the Columbia Journalism Review,
50 journalists have been killed in the South American country of
Colombia in the last 10 years alone. Countless others have faced
enjoys unparalleled freedom. But with that freedom comes enormous
responsibility. How accurately do our journalists report the truth?
How faithful to broadcast standards and ethics are our broadcast
On September 20, 2000,
Howard Rosenberg, television critic for the Los
Angeles Times, wrote a column on a recent book written by Av
Westin, former executive producer for ABC's evening newscast. Rosenberg's
point was that a respected former insider to broadcast journalism
sees such an erosion of television news standards that perhaps nothing
can turn it around. When Westin researched his book, Best Practices
for Television Journalists, written for the Freedom
Forum, he came to realize just how bad the situation has become.
In talking to reporters
and producers, Westin was stunned to hear about rampant "closet
racism, pandering for ratings and management compromises." Westin's
ultimate fear is that as journalism standards erode, so will public
support for press freedoms under the First Amendment.
Fair. Accurate. Balanced.
This is what we expect from a broadcast network. Standards of good
journalism do exist. The Columbia University-affiliated Project
for Excellence in Journalism rates network news broadcasts on
such criteria as:
Covering a wide range of topics
Containing balanced stories
Focusing on significant issues and ideas
Quoting authoritative people
cover journalistic standards:
A school or organization
with even a small budget for research can conduct a comparison of
present news coverage with television footage from history. The
Television News Archive at Vanderbilt
University in Tennessee will provide file footage from its archives,
sending it to you on videotape. You can select and order coverage
of a specific event from a specific source and date, or ask them
to compile edited footage for you. Fees vary. Your class or group
could compare, for example, how the networks covered World War II,
the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. What effect has current technology
had on the way we see the news? How much information did each period
provide on-air? Can you see differences in researched background?
To see just how television
ratings affect local news coverage, videotape and compare several
news broadcasts during television's "sweeps" months (November, February
and May) with broadcasts from other months. Do you see more emphasis
in sweeps months on sensationalism, sex and violence? A local news
anchor recently said on-air: "Coming up, see acupuncture done
Apply journalism standards
to a sweeps broadcast. What do you find: a chase for commercial
success or a dedication to journalistic truth?
to this Topic
Life: Our Century
in Pictures for Young People, Little Brown, 2000. This resource
draws from Life magazine and other photographic collections
to capture the social progress, politics, science, technology and
arts of the 20th century. Essays by notable children's authors,
such as Katherine Paterson, Gary Paulsen, Avi and Lois Lowry, accompany
each section of the book.
some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however,
that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained
within the site’s archives.
- Access site to a number of online news publications