Using Comparative Online Media to Study the Iraq War
Eaton, Jana Sackman, Social Education
Nor SURPRISINGLY, the war in Iraq and the aftermath are receiving media attention around the globe. A plethora of media reports from many other countries is now available online in English. This cornucopia of materials is ideal for comparative media studies focusing on the Iraq War at the secondary level. This article will recommend possible approaches to developing comparative media studies and will provide online links to specific sources. The NCSS standards addressed by these lessons include:
(II) TIME, CONTINUITY, AND CHANGE;
(VI) POWER, AUTHORITY, AND GOVERNANCE;
(IX) GLOBAL CONNECTIONS; and
(X) CIVIC IDEALS AND PRACTICES.
Lessons Employing Comparative Online Media
The objectives for these lessons could include any of the following:
1) Compare online reports of an event related to the Iraq War from media sources in a country that supported the war, a country that opposed the war, as well as a conservative and a liberal U.S. online publication. What perspectives and worldviews are reflected by the word choices, such as the adjectives and adverbs, in these reports? Which appear to be the most objective of the reports? Why? Which cite sources and appear to be the most "language neutral"? What inconsistencies are there in the reports? Do you detect any logical fallacies, such as drawing conclusions from questionable or faulty premises, or making generalizations based on too few examples? Do there appear to be any intentional distortions? Are any stereotypes evident in the pieces? Do the pieces "report" or "advocate" positions? If the latter, are they clearly identified as opinions or commentaries? (For an evaluation form to assess a site's reliability and credibility, see www.ucf.k12.pa.us/~jeaton/evaluation.html.)
2) Read the Pentagon's guidelines for embedded journalists and the media rights and restrictions at www.defenselink.mil/news/ Feb2003/d20030228pag.pdf. Describe and evaluate the use of embedded reporters in the Iraq War. How could embedding affect the perspectives of reporters? Why would the military arrange for embedding, as opposed to allowing or encouraging independent reporting? Does embedding tend to legitimize the war effort, and if so, is that a justifiable reason for embedded reporting? Should the media have the responsibility to promote a war effort or to provide independent and objective coverage? Should the media be allowed to navigate and report independent of the military in a war zone? How might embedding impact negatively or positively on the military, the readers and viewers, the war effort, and U.S. foreign policy? How far should the media be allowed to go in censuring or denouncing war efforts? Is there a difference between reporting during peacetime and wartime? What does "Freedom of the Press" mean in both situations? For detailed lesson plans on embedded reporting, see CNN's "War Stories from the Front Lines" at www.cnnstudentnews.cnn.com. The site also contains links to numerous documents, as well as to international newspapers outside of the U.S.
3) How has the advent of sophisticated media technologies impacted on wartime reporting? What technologies were available during previous conflicts? The Internet, in particular, enables people to assess conflicts from multiple perspectives. Does this pose particular challenges for reporters? For the government? For citizens? What additional educational opportunities and challenges accompany high tech media today? Has instantaneous coverage altered public expectations regarding wartime reporting or even altered the nature and course of warfare? Of military strategies or government wartime policies? The Internet makes it possible for dissemination of vast amounts of information from around the globe, as well as misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda. How can sources be tested for reliability and credibility? Students might answer these questions using the previously mentioned website evaluation form when comparing the Arabic version of an Iraq War event or related policy at Aljazeera. …