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Habits of Mind Unit 3




Test questions & PDF



This section introduces the ideas of gatekeeping and citizen journalism.  It also briefly looks at how the Internet was created to help students become more aware of its built-in limitations and biases.


1.  Gatekeeping (This exercise builds on Exercise WH3-2, and also includes questions similar to those asked about a very different example in Exercise WH3-1in the Interactive Workbook.)


a.  Have students read this Columbia Journalism Review essay by Trevor Bach that discusses whether the news media should censor information like that about the journalists Danniel Pearl or James Foley when they originally went missing, in order to save a life. Then ask students the following questions:


  • When is it okay to censor news to save a life?


  • How much should victims’ or their families’ interests be taken into account, as opposed to those of the greater community?


  • Are there ways that this can be done more fairly?


b.  Now, show students a few of the kinds of comments that often get posted to news sites: This piece from The Daily Beast has some representative examples.


c.  The New York Times has a story about research that indicates such comments can have negative effects for the community.


d.  The Washington Post has a story about some of the ways in which news organizations are responding.


e.  Ask students the following questions:


  • When is it okay to censor user comments?  How much would you filter comments from your audience, and why?


  • How would you deal with filtering comments on your blog?  How much time would you be willing to spend moderating?


  • You’ve now looked at two of the more extreme ways in which news organizations act as gatekeepers.  List some of the more mundane ways that a news organization acts as a filter or gatekeeper.  What are some conscious ways?  What are some less conscious ways?  Which ones do you think are helpful to news audiences?  Which ones are less helpful?


2.  Internet history and citizen participation


We are asking students to problematize the media through which they communicate and research, to help them learn to be discriminating in their use of those media. Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropology professor, takes an accessible, interesting approach as he analyzes how people are affected by their online lives.


a.  Start by showing Wesch’s short video, “The Machine is Us/ing Us,” a celebration of Web 2.0 that now acts as a very brief history lesson (approximately 4 minutes).  Then ask students the following questions:


  • In what ways does the Internet allows people to participate in the media that they once could not do?


  • What are some of the implications of those changes?


b.  Then, show “An anthropological introduction to YouTube” (55 minutes).  Ask students the following questions:


  • What did you find most striking about Wesch’s messages?


  • In what ways does YouTube allow people to deceive others?  What were some of the responses to those deceptions?


  • In what ways do you think the medium is changing how people relate?


  • In the case of the meanspirited comments from anonymous users, people seemed to be engaging in thoughtless and negative ways.  The opposite seemed true when the man in the Guy Fawkes mask asked people to write messages on their hands.  What do you think are some of the factors that led to such different responses?


  • In what ways is YouTube a less-filtered medium than most news media?  In what ways does the video show this to be an advantage?  A disadvantage?


  • Wesch talks about the playfulness that wide participation seems to have encouraged on YouTube.  In what ways might news media allow for playfulness, while still fulfilling audiences’ need for true and accurate information?


3.  Citizen journalism and gatekeeping


Show students some of your favorites from CNN's iReport award winners from 2012.  You might also show them the iReport “About” page, and the iReport guidelines, especially the “What isn’t welcome” section.  Then ask students the following questions:


  • In what ways does iReport allow more people, people whose voices or issues might otherwise not have been heard, to have access to the news?


  • What kinds of gatekeeping are still in effect for iReport?  In what ways does this gatekeeping serve news audiences?  In what ways might it not serve audiences?  In what ways is it limiting for citizen journalists?


  • Contrast with a medium that has fewer filters and less gatekeeping—like YouTube, for instance.  What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each?

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