Academic Skills, Pedagogy, Presentations, Research, teaching, Technology

New Assignment Alert!!!: The Presidency and the Media – A Comparative Analysis

Daguerrotype of the south front of the White House

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Just when I think I’ve got things in order and I’m happy with the trajectory of a unit, I end up dreaming up some new assignment that occupies my evening. Sigh.

Tonight’s antagonist (though not an unwelcome one) is an assignment I developed for my government classes that get them to compare different media portrayal of the same event from White House news sources and from two other newspapers of their choosing. We read about how the White House use of the media evolved over the 20th century, and I thought this would be a nice assignment to get students to examine the nature and extent (or presence at all, perhaps) of media bias, and juxtapose that with official White House portrayals of those events. Moreover, I hope it yields some insights into how the modern presidency uses media — both traditional and social — in a way that is quite distinct from some of its historical predecessors.

For your collective edification, I’ve shared the assignment below:

The Presidency and the Media – A Comparative Analysis

Purpose:

Building off the reading about the media from our text, the goal of this assignment is to explore and analyze the different portrayals of particular topics, events, issues, and the like, from the perspective of the White House press secretary and other official media, and two other newspapers.

As a result of the comparison, you should be able to analyze and dissect the different portrayals of the same issue from the varied sources and then offer an assessment of the significance of those differences in terms of impact on the public and reliability of reporting.

Process:

  1. Select a topic that official White House media and other newspapers address. Once you’ve found a topic, post it to either the A Period TodaysMeet discussion group or the B Period TodaysMeet discussion group. Your topic should be clear and specific, and if it isn’t, then I’ll give you that feedback so you can properly refine it before doing further research and analysis of the presentation of that issue.
    1. The TodaysMeet discussion rooms are a venue to ask questions, share resources, get insights from classmates, etc. Please use proper decorum and a scholarly tone in this forum.
  2. Once your topic has been approved, you can then explore that topic on official White House news sources and on TWO other news sources.
    1. White House Briefing Room
    2. Google News — a launching point to find other newspapers; not an end in itself.
  3. Try to find at least two different articles on each subject from the different papers. The goal of this requirement is to get a wider sample that will be more representative of the way each news outlet presents its view of the particular issue, event, topic, etc.
  4. Closely read the article to identify the different perspectives on the topic and consider what interpretation you have about the significance of the difference (or lack thereof) amongst the various sources on the same topic. Work to develop ~3 key points of significance that you can illustrate and support with specific pieces of evidence from the different sources.
  5. Using a Screencast website (Screenr, Screencast-o-Matic, or another), record a narrative of your explanation/argument about these different sources and the significance of their presentations of this topic.
    1. Make sure that you are clear about your sources and their authorship. Remember, this is as vital (if not a more vital) element of a source than the source’s content.
    2. You should use the screencast features to visually highlight particular pieces of evidence, sequence of evidence, etc. and share that with the viewers.
  6. The screencasts can be a maximum of FIVE minutes. Once you’re done with your screencast, which conveys your argument verbally and illustrates it visually, then embed it into your class group on Edmodo (see these instructions for Screenr).

Learning Standards for Evaluation:

  • Student used research and prep time in class effectively and in a focused way.
  • Student developed a clear topic of investigation and got approval for it on the TodaysMeet discussion forum.
  • Student found appropriate and adequate newspaper articles and White House releases from reputable newspapers and from the official White House news outlet.
  • Student developed a clear argument and conveyed it persuasively via the narration on the screencast. The student presented this argument in five minutes or less on the screencast.
  • Student recorded a clear screencast the mentioned the specific details of the sources with the audience via the screencast. Student used the screencast’s visual elements to highlight particular pieces of evidence that supported his or her argument.
  • The student properly embedded his or her screencast to the appropriate class page on Edmodo.

Please share any thoughts or feedback you might have about the design, goals, implementation, missing resources, etc. I haven’t rolled this assignment out yet, so there’s still time to crowdsource this thing up to MacArthur Genius Grant level!

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