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Essay Topics: Grades 9-12

Based on the cover story “The Press Goes to War” from the May 2003 issue of World Press Review (Vol. 50, No. 5), pages 8-15.

Read the articles and press roundups that comprise the cover package, then select one of the topics below and write a brief essay drawing on what you learned from the reading and on your own experience of the media’s war coverage.

1. In the press roundup, “France: Avoiding the Same Trap” (p. 9), one journalist says that “America’s networks ‘are behaving like tools of propaganda in the service of the Bush administration.’” These are harsh words, but they illustrate the debate about the role of a nation’s media during wartime. Write an essay laying out what you feel the role of the media should be in a time of war. Consider the following questions when writing your essay:

Should American media “rally around the flag” and bolster national pride while the United States is at war? Or does the free press have a greater responsibility, as young men and women risk their lives for their country, to ask hard questions about government policy and military action?

Do you think dissent shows weakness or is divisive at a time when the country must stand united? Or is the right to express your views, even if they are critical of the government, one of the freedoms that this and other wars are fought to preserve?

2. Many of the articles in the cover story address the issue of having journalists embedded with military units. Write an essay examining the pros and cons of this new way of covering war. How do the U.S. government and the U.S. military hope embedding will affect the media’s version of the war? Do you think it is possible for embedded journalists to report objectively? Why or why not? Discuss the difficulties that embedded journalists might encounter when reporting on the war, and suggest ways in which they might get around those difficulties.

3. Three articles in the cover story highlight money as a factor in covering the war on the ground: “Bulgaria: A Matter of Money” (p. 12), “Media Mean Business” (p.13), and “Phlippines: Underpaid, Yet Brave” (p. 15). Read all three and then write an essay exploring how the relationship between money and how news is made. When writing your essay, also try to think of what effects that relationship has on the news we see, hear, and read. Consider some of these issues as you write your essay: diversity of opinion, bias, concentration of power, imbalance of wealth, poverty and corruption.

4. Journalists work to uncover facts so that they can report “the truth” to the public. But the articles “My Instincts Tell Me to Stay” (p. 9) and “Media Mean Business” both point to ways in which the truth can be hard to report, or even to discover. Read both articles and write an essay outlining the difficulties that journalists in Iraq have faced in trying to report what they have learned or witnessed there, and suggest ways that they could (or have) overcome those difficulties.

5. Based on what you have learned by reading this cover package, take a stand on the Pentagon’s program of embedding journalists with the military. Write a paper either:

(A) supportive of the embed program: explain with examples why embedding journalists is a good strategy, both for the Pentagon and for consumers of news
(B) critical of the embed program: explain with examples why embedding journalists with military units is not a good way to cover a war

6. Using World Press Review's directory of international newspapers, and the real-time World Headline service, analyze where most newspapers get their international news. Is it from reporters "on the ground" or from wire services such as the Associated Press and Reuters? Do you think newspapers from large, rich countries are more likely to have reporters "on the ground?" What effect, if any, do you think this has on the way international news is reported and understood around the world?