War Reporting

War Reporting


How Media Shapes Public Perception During War 

Unit Overview

After a two day introduction of the men who raised the flag and the photographers who shot the pictures, students read the book, Flags of Our Fathers, on their own. In class, students read Bomb by Steve Sheinkin.  The focus of this in depth study of the race to build the atomic bomb is characterization of the heroes and the villians in the story. After reading both books, students consider the events from a journalist’s perspective by investigating the role of the media in shaping public opinion and what role the government has on controlling the media especially in times of war.  Concepts include the four main media effects that largely shape a citizen’s viewpoint:

  1. Filtering: journalist’s’ and editors’ decisions about what information to report
  2. Slant: giving favorable coverage to one candidate or policy without providing a balanced perspective
  3. Priming: the altering of the public’s image of a candidate caused by negative or positive coverage of the candidate
  4. Framing: influence as a result of the way a story is presented, including or excluding details, explanations, or context

Essential Questions

  • How do journalists shape public perception during wartime reporting?
  • What legal and ethical considerations affect what journalists publish during times of war?
  • How does humor shape public opinion?


  • Students will blog throughout the unit in response to prompts or class activities.
  • Students will work in collaborative groups to present information and discuss ideas.
  • Students will create short multi-media projects, debate a controversial topic, create a political cartoon, and complete viewing guides.
  • Students will compose two versions of a feature article on one of the characters in Bomb which characterizes the subject both positively and negatively.  The product can be either images and text, or a video, and will include a reflection the process.





Flags of Our Fathers  by James Bradley PBS Documentary Reporting America at War Episode 1:  “Romance of War” “Raising the Flag” collection
Bomb by Steve Sheinkin Selected vidoes from PBS Teacher Resource page Life Magazine “Photos We Remember” 
Censorship by Susan Lang War Stories by Newseum Front pages Neseum collection
Harry Truman’s address Dramatic Readings of a poem  



Newseum Exhibits

G-Men and Journalists (on display through Jan 4. 2015)

G-Men and JournalistsThe FBI’s efforts to fight crime and protect national security are examined in an exhibit now at the Newseum. With more than 200 artifacts — including the Unabomber’s cabin, Patty Hearst’s coat and gun, and engine parts and landing gear from the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center — nearly 300 photographs, dozens of historic newspapers and interactive displays, the exhibit reflects the sometimes cooperative, sometimes combative relationship between the FBI and the news media. Can’t wait for the trip in June? Check out the online exhibit CONCOURSE LEVEL

Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery: Award-Winning Images and Photographers Who Took Them

This gallery features the most comprehensive collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning pulitzer prize winning galleryphotographs ever assembled as well as interviews with many of the photographers.

Some of the photographs have become icons of their time: Marines raising Old Glory on Iwo Jima, the joyful reunion of a returning prisoner of war and his family, a firefighter cradling an injured infant after the Oklahoma City bombing. Those and other images record the defining moments of our world and time.  LEVEL 1


“I-Witness: A 4-D Time Travel Adventure”

Annenberg Theater  Newseum
Annenberg Theater
Some of the most dramatic events in journalism history are recreated in “I-Witness: A 4-D Time Travel Adventure,” where a 3-D film and fourth-dimension special effects take visitors on a journalistic trip through time.  The movie chronicles the history of investigative journalism with extensive pieces on Edward R. Murrow’s war reporting on the blitz on London through Nellie Bly’s undercover work to expose on women’s insane asylums. LEVEL 1

Journalists Memorial Gallery A Dangerous Profession

Journalist's MemorialJournalists face danger every day. Some are targeted deliberately, while others simply are in the wrong place at the wrong time. They often take calculated risks, sometimes paying with their lives.

The Journalists Memorial at the Newseum is a soaring, two-story glass structure bearing the names of reporters, photographers, editors and broadcasters as far back as 1837 who represent all those who have died in the line of duty.

Each spring, a committee selects additional names to be added to the wall to draw attention to the real and sometimes deadly dangers journalists encounter all over the world. For more information about the Journalists Memorial at the Newseum, visit our FAQ.  Can’t wait until the trip?  Check out the online exhibit.   LEVEL 3

Cox Enterprises First Amendment Gallery 45 Words of Freedom

First Amendment GalleryOn Dec. 15, 1791, the first 45 words of the Bill of Rights established the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. For the first time in history, a constitution guaranteed its people five fundamental freedoms, to protect what James Madison called “the great rights of mankind.”

This gallery explores the role that this guarantee of rights has played in expanding liberty and justice for everyone in the United States by putting each of the five freedoms in historical context and providing perspective on what they mean to us more than 200 years later.

Those five freedoms are inextricably linked, and they all are strengthened by a free press staying free. “Our liberty depends on the freedom”  LEVEL 4

News Corporation News History Gallery The Story of News

history of news

This gallery tells the timeless story of news, of many voices struggling to be heard, and of the people and machines that spread that news.

At the gallery’s center is a timeline that showcases the Newseum’s extensive collection of historic newspapers and magazines. Within the timeline are 10 touch-screens that offer interactive games, a database of journalists and close-up views of hundreds of publications. The cases along the gallery walls examine recurring issues that confront journalists and feature hundreds of artifacts and personal memorabilia. Five theaters feature videos that explore some of those issues in greater depth.   LEVEL 5

Topic:  Censorship              Time:   2 days

Activator:  Students will read the first amendment and discuss the five freedoms that it protects. In groups, they will discuss the infographic below and identify the most startling statistic represented. five freedoms surveyGroup Activity: each group will be given a situtation in which one of the freedoms is challenged to discuss and decide. (Resource:  First Amendment Exhibit– Pivotal Moment segment)

Jigsaw Activity:  groups will each be given a chapter from Susan Lang’s book, Censorship. They will read and discuss the segment in expert groups, and then share out to the whole class with a multi-media presentation.  All groups will have access to an iPad.

Reflection: Students will post a blog about any aspect of censorship that they found particularly compelling.

Topic:  Reporting During War         Time:   6 days

war reporting

  1. After providing students with a journalist’s ethical code to be accurate, fair, and clear, students will be given the ethical dilemma of whether a journalist should publish a photograph of a soldier’s death despite the parent’s objection that it violates their son’s privacy.  Students will be polled on their responses.
  2. Students will watch episode 1 of the PBS Documentary “Reporting America at War” with a viewing guide containing focus questions, and then write a blog response to the hypothetical situation that if a journalist discovered the Manhattan Project, should they have informed the public?  NOTE:  THIS VIDEO IS DIFFICULT TO FIND.  As an alternative, “Reporting America at War: An Oral History” is available in book form or C-SPAN published this lecture with journalists from World War II.
  3. Students will debate the topic of whether or not the government should be prohibited from censoring the press during war.  A list of resources will be provided that students can use as they see fit.

seeing is believingTopic:  The Power of Images   Time:   2 days

  1. After an introduction to content specific vocabulary for describing images–focal point, composition, medium, context, crop– students will compare three similar images of flag raising and discuss ethical issues raised with Joe Rosenthal’s photo.
  2. In small groups, students will examine images from World War II and discuss what story the image tells, why the images are memorable, and then each student will blog about one image they found most compelling by describing the image using content vocabulary, and explaining why their selected image is so compelling.
  3. Students will watch three versions of a dramatic reading of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est, a poem about World War I, and decide which reading is more compelling and why.

War Poetry

Jake Gyllenhaal

David Roberts


Students will listen to Harry Truman’s address to the country about dropping the bomb, and then consider the same speech with images runnning by recasting the speech as a Ted Talk as manipulation of context. Students will make an iMovie and share it in small groups and then blog about their responses to this assignment.

Topic:  Political Cartoons             Time:   2 days

political cartoons

  1. In groups, students will interpret political cartoons from World War II and discuss the influence these cartoons would have on public opinion about the war.
  2. Students will create a political cartoon about one aspect related in Bomb.  Best cartoons will be published on the web page.

Heroes or Villains Project           Time:   optional

Students will select one character from Bomb and present him or her as both a hero and villain. This can be done by either writing a feature article with a photo spread, or producing a broadcast feature.

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