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Who owns the news?


In this lesson, students will research and define key terms related to the business of media. Then, they will learn about the major media conglomerates in the United States and their media holdings. Students will research who owns the media they consume most often and will learn about the basic business structures of today’s media organizations.


  • Students will identify the major media corporations in the United States.
  • Students will evaluate the diversity of perspectives and businesses in the media they regularly consume.
  • Students will consider what conflicts of interest might exist within media companies based on their holdings.
  • Students will explore the basic structures of today’s media organizations and how digital technologies have fueled changes in the business model.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9–10 texts and topics.


2 50-minute class periods


Class set: Media chart-No names

Class set: Media chart-Names (or project onto screen)

Computer access

Class set: Vocabulary

Vocabulary key

Slideshow: The business of news

Lesson step-by-step


1. Introductory Activity — 10 minutes

Pass out the class set of media charts that DOES NOT list the major media names at the top. Ask students to take at least five minutes to read over the chart and circle or highlight what media they watch, read, or listen to on a regular basis. Instruct them to tally how many circles or highlights are in each column and to put a total tally at the bottom of each column. Once they are finished, they should spend the next 3-5 minutes comparing their findings with their neighbor and discussing.

Once everyone has finished their tally and has a chance to exchange thoughts with a neighbor, project the second chart WITH media companies names on a class projector or smartboard. Tell students that each column represents some of the media companies that these giant media businesses own. Ask them to write the names of the major media businesses on their worksheets, over the appropriate columns. Inform them that today, they are going to learn more about how media works as a business, and who owns what kind of media in our country.

2. Background concepts and vocabulary — 20 minutes

Because this lesson and the rest of the topic we will cover this week requires us to use some specific terms, inform students that they will spend some time researching terms to understand how they might relate and to help us understand more about how the media operates as a business.  Pass out the blank vocabulary sheet, and instruct students to use the computers to research these vocabulary terms. They should find the BEST possible definition, as it relates specifically to media, and provide a definition and example on the worksheet. Remind them that they should be using their literacy skills as they search for the best source of this information, and they must give you the source for each definition/example.

3. Group share 15 minutes

Once students have finished their vocabulary research, place them in groups of three to share their examples of each key concepts. Students should be able to explain their example of each term and why it is a relevant example. This will give you the chance to walk the room and see whether students found appropriate examples and definitions.

4. Class debrief — 5 minutes

After the group share, ask for volunteers to give one example of each definition. If students did not find the best examples, use the vocabulary sheet key to provide examples that best fit. Collect the worksheets for grading. Each item (definition, example, and source) is worth two points, for a total of 30 points.


1. Refresher — 10 minutes

Today, pass out their graded vocabulary worksheets and go over the key vocabulary, providing information/definitions from the key as needed (especially if there was confusion over a term). Explain that all of these terms help us to better understand exactly how the media operate as a business.

2.  Class lecture — 30 minutes

There’s no great way to explain all the changes that have happened to media as a business without doing a little bit of “lecturing,” so use the accompanying slideshow to walk students through the basic structure of the media as a business. In this slideshow, you’ll also explain to students how changes in technology have helped to drive some of these organizational changes. They should keep their vocab sheets out so that when you hit on a key phrase, they can add extra notes or thoughts. This lecture is designed to introduce students to the current trends of the media business. In the next lesson, they’ll see how these realities have affected the type and quality of news/information they are receiving.

3. Questions — 10 minutes

Because this is likely a new and potentially confusing topic for most students in the class, spend the last 10 minutes of class fielding questions from students about the slideshow. For a few minutes you can take questions directly, but then ask students to spend some silent time writing 3-4 questions related to this topic that they don’t yet understand, want to know about, or need more clarification on. Have them turn these questions in at the end of the class, and use them to revisit any topics at the start of the next lesson.