In my past article I spoke about how to obtain and grant media permissions for video and other media. As I continue this series on media permissions and ethics, it is important that we focus our attention on some fundamental elements that we can communicate to our students, teachers and administrators.
Never before in the history of human existence has the power of media been so great. Technology and instantaneous broadcast ability has armed every one of us with the most powerful tools (or weapons) we could possibly possess.
Think about it. Media is so powerful that it can influence a voter’s perspective. The right news at the right time can help to catch a criminal or perhaps save a life.
Speaking from personal experience, I witnessed the ever-increasing power of media last summer in full force when the news sources began reporting on he death of Michael Jackson. The stories about his life, family, problems and his award-winning career were dominating the airwaves. My mother-in-law who is now in her 80’s (and not really a big fan of music) actually became a big Michael Jackson fan during the media frenzy. She was even insistent on owning the new Michael Jackson video released after his death! The news media turning my mother-in-law into a Jackson fan was as big of a feat as ending world hunger.
Now think about this. Our reporters sit in our classrooms every day. These students have the ability to shape our future. Have they fully embraced the power of media? Do they understand their individual role and purpose when using media as a tool? Regardless of their age, it is up to us as creators, educators and parents to give them a new perspective and a purpose when producing, editing and publishing their videos.
As we wind down another school year that we will soon place into history, I would like to challenge you to instill two things in your students as you plan for the upcoming school year:
1) Media Disposition, which is defined as perspective.
2) Media Direction, which is defined as purpose.
The disposition of the critical thinker
Helping students to gain a perspective of how they are personally affected by media is important. Many adults view news programs or other forms of media and take it as the truth. The critical thinker takes into consideration the intentions of the producers, advertisers and others involved in the production. To help your students become critical thinkers, here are a couple of media analysis exercises you can try:
For older students, have them watch some mainstream media news broadcasts. This can be local, national or global news. Then, have them note the following:
• Who are the targeted viewers?
• What is the age range of the viewers?
• Where are the viewers located?
• At what time of the day is the broadcast?
• Who are the sponsors and advertisers of the broadcast?
Considering the source
Have your students look up any cross-references you can find whether they be online or in print. As an example, if I hear a news report about Israel on a particular topic on CNN or Fox News, I like to go to Arutz Sheva, Israel news to gain a new perspective on the same topic. This will teach your students the importance of perspective that may be based on a preconceived notion.
Another exercise you can try with older students is doing a media analysis of advertisements. You can have them view TV advertisements or video advertisements online. Then, they can answer these types of questions:
• Who are the targeted buyers?
• What are their ages?
• Where do they live?
• Who are the advertisers and sponsors listed on the web pages?
For younger students, have them do a media analysis of a movie with which they are familiar. You may want to use a licensed approved video that is available at your school. In some cases, I have seen some school’s use Disney’s “Aladdin” as an approved media source for analysis by younger students.
In watching a brief clip of the movie, ask the students questions such as:
• What are the creators portraying about the Middle East?
• What do certain characters indicate about the middle-eastern culture?
• How does the background music in a particular scene make you feel?
These exercises will help students to not only have a clear perspective when viewing media, but will also aid them in their direction when writing, producing, directing and publishing their projects and presentations.
The Purpose Driven Student Has Direction
Not every student’s video is meant to change the world, start wars, stop wars or fix the economy, but in some cases, it just might. Whether they are doing a documentary video on teen suicide or videoing a chemistry experiment, their perspective will give them new direction and purpose.
Here is a great example of New York City students who have a Brooklyn-based news show called “Teen Talk”, where they tackle tough topics in a real-world environment while making a difference in their community.
On the lighter side of the news, Dr. N.H. Jones Elementary in Ocala, Florida has been running a morning news show since the late 1990’s. In this broadcast from their early days, this video is a timeless piece of a news show with excellent direction based on their purpose.
Jeff Rowe’s articles on News Judgment and Reporting are also a great resource to help give your students direction as they define what is “good news judgment”.
Media ethics is a very broad topic. Don’t worry; we are going to tackle it by bringing you up-to-date information and resources with each article in this series. Just like any other tough subject, starting with the fundamentals can help; defining and demonstrating perspective and purpose for your students is a great beginning.
And lastly, I promise that if I can get a video of my mother-in-law doing the “Thriller” dance, I will publish it for viewing (with her permission of course).