The next day after the discussion about the advantages of a free and open press, we considered the problems and abuses of the press by reading the NorthStar selections carefully.
All of these discussions gave the students a little taste of university courses on Media Studies. We made a list of the kinds of things people criticize in the press:
- news companies want to make profits and they like sensational stories (like the NorthStar story about coverage of the bombing suspect)
- sometimes they print things without being sure of the evidence
- they are too intrusive in people’s private lives, particularly politicians (Gennifer Flowers in the NorthStar story)
- they give too much time to stars and athletes
- they only talk about what’s good for their own country
What do yours students think of the press? Do these issues come up in class? How do you usually structure the discussions and activities?
We also discussed libel laws in different countries. In the U.S., if you are considered a “public figure” a libel verdict is very hard to prove since it is assumed that you put yourself forward and have to take the consequences of the “free market of ideas.” In other countries, the question of libel is more narrowly defined.