UNIT 8
The Media and Your Right to Know:
How Information Shapes Public Policy


OBJECTIVES
1) Understand the importance of the media in shaping public debate in a democracy
2) Understand the form and content of different kinds of media
3) Explore the question of media bias in its coverage of events
4) Understand how public policy is influenced by information and access
TOOLS and MATERIALS
1) Web access for online projects and research
2) Surveys and handouts

ACTIVITIES
1) Group Activity 1: "The Media and Your Right to Know. How Does the Media Function in a Democracy?"
2) Group Activity 2: "Tracking a News Story"
3) Group Activity 3: "Watching the News"


SUMMARY of the LESSON

The goal of this lesson is to explain the role of the media in distributing information and shaping public policy. Politics is often a battlefield of ideas that shape the character of local, state and federal laws and regulations. Various agendas and ideas compete for regulatory and financial support from politicians and their constituents. The participation of all citizens in the democratic process is based upon the assumption that everyone has access to relevant information and can make intelligent choices about candidates and policies. Citizens expect public officials to respect their concerns and further their interests. Access to this information is a central concern in a democracy.

The Internet has changed the landscape of information and access and opens up many opportunities for research and activism. This lesson provides a guide to the media as a shaper of public opinion. The students will review the format and content of newspapers and television news to evaluate their handling of public issues.