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The Power of Words Making History Through the Media

August 15, 2013

The Power of Words—A lesson on the published word making history through the media

Author:  Christi Thomas             7/8 Journalism & American History

                                                        Aurora Jr. High


Objective:  Students will gain an appreciation for the First Amendment--Freedom of Speech and Press and the responsibility that comes along with it.  Students will analyze various bloopers published by the media and quotes made by prominent Americans and discuss the feelings evoked by these words.


  • Off the Wall:  The Newseum’s Most Memorable Quotes   Newseum, Washington, D.C.
  • Newseum Official Guide  Beckon Books
  • Correct Me If I’m Wrong: Press Bloopers as Seen in the Newseum     Columbia Journalism

         Review and Gloria Cooper, 2008.

  • Newseum Book of Cartoons     New Yorker Magazine, 2007.
  • Copy of the U.S. Bill of Rights
  • Dictionary



  1.  Journalism
  2.  Journalist
  3.  Press
  4.  Publishing
  5.  Media
  6.  Bloopers
  7.  Ambiguity
  8.  Author’s Purpose
  9.  Reader’s perception
  10.  Misinformation
  11.  Propaganda
  12.  Slander
  13.  Libel



  1.  Discuss with students that history is being made every day and the job of journalists is to report on the news that inform us about this history.  Some good, some bad, some holding little importance, and some having greater significance on the people in the world.  Some entertain and some bring tears.  No matter what the reason, journalism is how we learn about what is going on in our world.
  2. Have students focus on “the written/spoken word” when looking up definitions and deciding on what definition to use for the vocabulary.  After students are finished, discuss their findings—give examples of, in their own words…, their feelings, etc.
  3. Introduce to them the Newseum in Washington, D.C.  Read to them the story on the front cover of the Newseum Official Guide.  Dedicated to showcasing history through the eyes of the media.  Show some of the pics and pass the book around for students to view.

            --Why is journalism important to keep track of for future generations?

  1. Analyzing Quotes
  • Ahead of time, select a few quotes out of Off the Wall:  The Newseum’s Most

                       Memorable Quotes to discuss as a class.  Explain to them that these were displayed

                       all over the Newseum.  Analyze each quote as a class--What does it mean?  Do you

                       agree?  Ongoing theme noted?

  • Divide up into groups of three or four and distribute three quotes not previously  

       discussed to each group.  Each group is to analyze each quote.   After ample time

       is given, have each group share its quotes with the other groups.

  • Discuss which quote(s) they find the most profound and why.
  1. Bloopers
  • Ahead of time, select three or four bloopers out of the Correct Me If I’m Wrong: Press Bloopers as Seen in the Newseum.  Point out that these were displayed in the restrooms in the Newseum.  (No wasted space!)  Discuss each of these bloopers.  What is the problem?  What idea would the reader get?  Can bloopers cause problems?  Ridicule, embarrassment, misleading, etc.
  • Divide up into groups of three or four and distribute three or more bloopers not

       previously discussed to each group.  Each group is to analyze each blooper.   After

       ample time is given, have each group share its bloopers with the other groups.

  • Relate the necessity of proofreading in both journalism and their own published (turned in) work.   Spelling, grammar, clear thoughts, etc.
  1.  Cartoons
  • As a class, discuss many of the cartoons in Newseum Book of Cartoons    

              --Is there any truth to them?

              --satire, serious, humorous, etc.?

  • Discuss how cartoons have been used in history.


         --societal ills


  1. Photographs
  • A type of journalism—ask student how?

     --depicts the human experience

                --emotions—happy, sad, anger, sympathy, violence, love, etc.


  1. Read the First Amendment

     --Ask the students to reflect on the importance of freedom of speech and the press

     --Discuss the responsibility that goes along with these freedoms

     --Can these freedoms be used to sway opinions?  Discuss and give examples.

     --What would life be like if we did not have these freedoms?


  1. Careers involving “Words”

       --Have students brainstorm a list of careers involving the “written/spoken” word


                    --speech writers

                    --proofreaders—textbooks, etc.

                    --book editors

                    --newspaper/magazine editors




           6.  Esteemed awards involving the written word

                               --Discuss the Pulitzer Prize--U.S. award regarded as the highest national honor 

                                  for outstanding achievement in print journalism, literature, and music


                               --given every April

                               --many categories

                               --established by Joseph Pulitzer, journalist and newspaper


                                                       --for more info visit http://pulitzerprize.org/

Assessment:   Write a paper on the importance of journalism.  Be sure to include:

                                                 --an explanation of what journalism is

                                                 --three or four examples of journalism and what each does

                                                 --pros and cons of journalism as related to the responsibility of the


                                                 --one type of journalism that impresses you the most and tell why

                          You are to write a well=organized paper explaining all of your thoughts and be

                          sure to PROOFREAD—no bloopers allowed!



End with a discussion on how the field of journalism is changing today.  Predictions for the future?  Peruse the Newseum website with students at www.newseum.org.  Pointing out that it might assist them in future research projects.

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