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Chapter 15




Test questions & PDF



This concluding chapter talks about how storytelling connects to larger, amorphous forces, such as the audience, culture and society.  It leaves students with a reminder that their ultimate goal is to fulfill their duty to the public.


The Interactive Workbook includes exercises that ask students to,


  • articulate what opinions, attitudes and beliefs influence their reading of the photo in Box 15-1

  • put into their own words their understanding of the relative power of the sender and the receiver in the communications process

  • articulate what opinions, attitudes and beliefs influence their determining the newsworthiness of a story

  • ferret out larger forces under the surface of a story


1.  A quote containing a questionable assertion 


In California, a legislator wanted to ban sales of violent video games to children without a parent present.  Suppose a legislator in your state introduces a similar bill.  You cover the story, and the legislator says, “Video games can be good, if they teach healthy lessons, but if your game trains a kid to shoot people, well, that’s just going to lead to more school shootings.”


Ask students what the legislator is assuming about the connection between games and their users.  See if they can identify the legislator’s assertion that games lead to school shootings, and that this assumes a very powerful sender and weak receiver.  How would students handle the quote?


2.  People in power


The first activity in the Instructor’s Manual for Chapter 6 asks students to research the boards of directors for CBS and other media companies.  You can build on that activity here by returning to look more closely at who are the powerful people at the helm of media (and other) companies. 


a.  Ask students to select a board member, do some research and make a list of the other boards the person sits on. 


b.  Have students research those boards, identifying the directors that sit on each.


c.  Then have students do some research on those directors. 


d.  Ask students to write a summary of the types of people the original director does business with.  They might group them by occupation, charitable interests and demographic information, for example.


e.  Once students have shared their findings, what observations can they make regarding the collective pool of people in power?


(You can add iterations of steps b and c, which can really illustrate for students the critique of interlocking directorates.)


The Columbia Journalism Review’s helpful Who Owns What is a good resource for finding major media companies to investigate.  It’s also a good resource to show students what people mean when they talk about media conglomerates.


3.  Radiolab (Exercise W15-4 in the Interactive Workbook is a corresponding assignment.)


The final exercise in the online workbook returns to ideas presented early in the book that say news stories can be entertaining and fun, even transcendent, at the same time that they are substantive.  We want to leave students with a hopeful outlook on their future: they can report the news in a way that leaves the audience informed, with a deeper understanding of the world, and with some sense of agency. 


For example, this Radiolab segment, in a story about the 10th anniversary of this Ansari X Prize, also invites listeners to think about issues such as,


government vs. private funding of space travel

the government’s recalibrating away from occupied spacecraft because citizens respond in horror when astronauts die

the government’s reticence to engage in space travel because the liability is too great

whether it’s moral to offer a prize that asks people to potentially risk their lives

how to characterize Ansari’s strategy for getting the prize money together with other people’s money


The segment begins at about 46:00.


Here’s Ansari’s website.  Here’s some history by NASA.

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