In this lesson, students will consider whether presenting news via entertainment or comedy forms might affect the way they receive that information. Specifically, we’ll consider hybrid news/comedy formats such as late night comedy headline segments or celebrity news, and students will use traditional news values to determine whether entertainment or comedy really is news.
- Students will consider how information reception changes when presented in funny or entertaining ways.
- Students will differentiate their own attitude toward information when presented in highly entertaining forms as opposed to more traditional formats.
- Students will use traditional news values to assess whether news and information provided via entertainment formats is as valuable for the average citizen as traditional news content.
Common Core State Standards
|CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1c||Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.|
|CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1d||Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.|
|CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4||Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).|
|CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6||Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.|
Articles: See link suggestions below. One article per pair of students. If you can’t access these links, or they don’t work, collect a sample of articles that represent straight news, entertainment, entertainment news, celebrity gossip, comedy news, sports, etc. The idea is to provide a wide variety so your students can see just how hard it might be to determine what is truly “news” in the traditional sense, especially given the wide variety of audience tastes.
1. Introduce the concept — 10 minutes
Today, we’re going to explore how news and information shared through entertainment and comedy is similar or different to news shared through more traditional forms. Ask students:
Q: How many of you watch late night comedy news shows such as The Colbert Report or Jon Stewart?
Q: Do you watch these shows for the news; do you at least enjoy the comedy headline news portions of these shows?
Q: Do you feel like you learn something about news, or what’s going on in the world, through these comedy news shows?
Q: Why do you watch or consume news in this way? Do you feel like the news is delivered according to a perspective you share?
Research in the last decade has shown that processing news information through comedic or entertaining forms is actually different than processing such information through traditional means. In fact, one study actually showed that humor news triggers our own deeply held beliefs, reinforcing “partisanship.” Ask students if they know what “partisan” news is, and provide a working definition for those who might be unclear. Partisan news is information that promotes a certain political viewpoint or slant. So, people like Colbert and Jon Stewart are often partisan in the ways they present news each night.
This kind of news that is presented as entertainment, or entertainment which has a little bit of information value to it, is often known as “infotainment” (write this term on the board and refer back to examples such as late night news shows). Other examples can include tabloid magazines, celebrity news, etc.
2. Determining newsworthiness — 10 minutes
One of the best ways to determine whether a form of entertainment or comedy is actually news, or whether something portrayed as news is really just entertainment in disguise, is to look for what we call “news values” (write on board). News values are elements of a news story that give those stories particular value, or worth, for the majority of the public. These values are cues for us as readers to stop, read, process, and understand that this information is important enough to be considered “news.”
Here are the most common news values (write on board, then ask students if they can define. Give extended definitions and examples as necessary).
- Timeliness: When did the news occur? Recently? Years ago?
- weather, sports, traffic
- Proximity: Where did the event occur? Close by? Hundreds of miles away?
- Local school closings, local elections
- Prominence: Who was involved? Was it someone well-known?
- When the president gives a speech, when Miley Cyrus is on TV
- Consequence: What was the end result? How important is the outcome?
- Major negative or positive outcomes often have huge consequences. Were people hurt or helped? Natural disasters, political election.
- Conflict: Are there conflicting forces/people/ideas?
- Politics, students versus adults, changes in policy
- Human Interest: Does this story appeal to your emotional sense/tug at your heartstrings
- Tragedy, overcoming odds, stories of success, stories of oddities
A story that is highly newsworthy will have most, if not all, of these elements. A story that has only one or two might still be news, depending on which element is strongest. You can see how, given all these different considerations, it might be difficult to sometimes distinguish news from entertainment or other types of communication.
3. Group activity and presentation — 20 minutes
Now, students will work in pairs to complete an activity that asks them to use the previous news values to determine whether a story is news, entertainment, or “infotainment.”
Give each pair of students an article (be sure to mix up your selection between the links provided or other stories you identify. You’ll want a mix of straight news, sports, entertainment, celebrity gossip, even a transcript of a Jon Stewart headline segment would work).
Each pair should then use the provided analysis worksheet to identify what news values are present in the article and then make a suggestion and argument about whether the article is news, entertainment, or “infotainment.” Once each pair is finished, the groups can briefly summarize their article and present their findings to the class.
3. Journal reflection — 10 minutes
Ask students to spend the last 10 minutes of class thinking about how presenting information in an entertaining way changes their thoughts about that information. They should respond to these questions and explain their ideas (you can write them on the board): Do you think it’s possible to tell news in a funny way and still be accurate and truthful? Do you think it’s good or bad that people sometimes prefer comedy news to real news? Do you think people are more likely to agree with information that presented in a funny way?