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Self-censorship examination


by Lori Keekley


Self-censorship examination


This lesson examines the self-censorship on the individual level. The lesson starts by providing a prompt in which students examine what they would like to cover, but feel they can’t for some reason. Discussion addresses why this self-censorship exists and examines whether this self-censorship should be abandoned.  


  • Students will examine their own self-censorship content
  • Students will discuss why this self-censorship exists
  • Students will see whether this topic should be covered — is there a newsworthy peg that can be covered in a journalist responsible way.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.C Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.D Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.B Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.


100 minutes

Materials / resources

Handout:  “Ask These 10 Questions to Make Good Ethical Decisions,” Poynter Institute (teacher may want to print these for easier student reference during both lessons)

Slideshow: Self-Censorship Lesson Slides (see the bottom of the lesson)

Package planner (if you don’t have one, you could use the planner from Tim Harrower’s site.)

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

Step 1 — Introduction and slide 2 of the slideshow (5 minutes)

Teacher should tell students the information they provide today will be anonymous unless they decide to put their names on their paper. Let them know the information will be used for a class discussion following this activity. This is outlined on slide 2 of the slideshow.

Step 2 — Prompt (5-10 minutes)

Ask students to answer the prompt on slide 3 using their own paper. They may make a list or use full sentences. It’s important they are honest and unafraid of putting the information down. Let students work through the prompt.

Students will be asked to identify the topic they would most like to cover. When this is finished, ask students to turn in their paper. If students could anonymously submit in an electronic form, it would make the second day preparation easier for the teacher.

Step 3 — Continuing the slideshow (15 minutes)

Students will work through a practice scenario starting at slide 5.

Step 4 — Evaluating their topic (10)

Students will evaluate (either alone or with a partner) if they could cover what they identified as the topic they would like to cover. This evaluation begins on slide 9. Students should work through the questions. The teacher may require students to write the answers down or just ask students to work through them.

Step 5 — Debrief (10 minutes)

Ask a few volunteers to share what they did. Students may opt to not to talk about the topic, but talk about the process instead. During the last two minutes of class, ask three people to share what they learned. (These should be three different lessons from the day.)

Day 2

Preparation: Teacher should examine the topics turned in and create a list for students to use in the following lesson. Teacher should have at least three topics for each group to discuss. Also, print out the list of 10 Questions or project them during class.

Step 1 — Review (2 minutes)

Ask a student to talk about the previous lesson. Again, ask students to share what they learned.

Step 2 — Small group discussion/examination (10 minutes per topic, 30 minutes total)

Put students in groups of four by counting off in class. Teacher or a student leader in class should orally provide one of the topics on a sheet. Teacher should not hand out the sheet since handwriting can identify an individual.

This should be completed three times in the group. Remind students they may be given a topic another group member provided. Students should remain respectful in discussion

Step 3 — Application (18 minutes)

The group should select one of the coverage ideas. If you don’t already have a coverage planner, teacher could use the one provided at Tim Harrower’s site. Teacher should assess the package planner sheet.


Using your student media mission statement and policy statement, evaluate whether these allows an open forum for the free exchange of ideas — and not just those that are popular.

An extension to this assignment would be for students to take one or more of these assignments and show administrators and others why they should be encouraged to report these stories or similar ones instead of having copy prior reviewed.


Self-censorship examination slideshow

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