Views on the News: From Analysis to Advocacy

At the World Summit in Karlstad, Sweden, I was able to share our current work analyzing different approaches to teaching about the news to urban children ages 7 - 11 at this afternoon's research presentation, which was sponsored by NORDICOM, the  Nordic Information Center for Media Communication and Research. I developed this project with Media Education Lab colleagues John Landis and Henry Cohn-Geltner. Here's a summary:

Politics, crime, the representation of gender, race and social class are constructed each day through news and current events.  

Media literacy offers tools and opportunities for children to not only use and analyze but also to respond actively to news messages. Previous research shows that news media production activities may support the development of communication skills but not lead to progression in critical thinking about news media for children under age 13. To explore this issue, this article presents three examples of lessons and activities used in urban elementary school where news analysis and production activities were used with children. In one case, Grade 3 students produced an original newscast as a means to understand the conventions and production processes in television news.  See the newscast they created. With a group of fourth graders,entertainment news coverage pop star Chris Brown's domestic violence trial wasused to focus on the informative and persuasive content of news and the meaning of celebrity. See a video of the students' mock-trial in action.  In Grade 5, children share their suspicion and distrust of television news by directly advocating for change in the media by addressing mainstream news producers with a student-authored list of grievances. See the video students made to record their written letter. Watch them read aloud their advocacy letter, which they hand-delivered to the local news channel in Philadelpia.

These three case studies of classroom practice are used to present an expanded model of medialiteracy competencies for elementary-level children using the concept of empowerment and including the practices of engaging, locating, comprehending, analyzing,evaluating, communicating and taking action. We noticed that none of these lessons included a focus on locating information, which raises questions about the need to include more careful attention to search and retrieval activities with children using the news media. However this research reveals that through a structured sequence of learning activities, children strengthened comprehension of events in their community and the world around them, developed a vocabulary for critical analysis, analyzed the content and ethical issues presented in media, and engaged inreal-world advocacy efforts to “talk back” to newsmakers and others involved inthe construction of news.

Look for our scholarly article on this project coming soon in an upcoming Nordicom publication!