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What is media role
during election campaigns?


What is the role of media during election campaigns?


Students will design ethical guidelines they can use this fall and in later coverage (reporting and viewpoint) of elections, candidates and issues.

Students will work on the following questions:

  • What makes comprehensive reporting about an election, a candidate or political issues?
  • How would students achieve these comprehensive stories?
  • What processes would students use to build comprehensive coverage?
  • What resources would students use to build comprehensive coverage?
  • What ethical principles could they apply to their coverage?


  • Students will investigate the best processes to investigate and verify political claims and issues in terms of print, broadcast, visual and online platforms.
  • Students will develop ethical standards and questioning and verifying political issues.
  • Students will create their own procedural processes to apply these ethical standards.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.


Journalists and citizens have independently raised concern this election year, seemingly more so than other years, about the verification process for what candidates say in campaigns, what “facts” are raised with issues and who is the most honest. Similar concerns exist about information passed on by state and local candidates, including those running for school board and community offices.

This lesson will enable student journalists to create ethical guidelines or processes, or to sharpen existing ones, enabling them to better fulfill their social responsibility of getting accurate and complete information and presenting it in context.

One note: If more current questions of a particular candidate’s action occurs, please feel free to replace, or add, resources.


150 minutes (three 50-minute classes)

Materials / resources

Balance, fairness and a proudly provocative presidential candidate

5 types of fallacies

Mirror and candle theories of the press

Social responsibility of media

Ethical guidelines and procedures model

Lesson step-by-step


  1. Student discovery — 40 minutes

Have students go to Balance, fairness and a proudly provocative presidential candidate and 5 types of fallacies for historical perspective and current thinking on media roles during elections and with political issues. After reading the links and in Day 1 of the exercise, students will share their findings in a list of key points with others on their team. Each group will be ready to discuss them in small discussion.

Discussion points could include:

  • Is the role of media to report is said or to try to show perspective of what is said?
  • Do media have an ethical obligation to show context and background of information in political campaigns?
  • What is the best was to ethically serve the reading and viewing publics about information presented in political campaigns or on political issues?
  • What is the social responsibility of media in election campaigns and issues?
  • Do these approaches also apply to scholastic media?
  1. Assignment — 10 minutes

For homework, assign each student to prepare a beginning list of ethical guidelines for approaches that would exhibit social responsibility in covering election year candidates and issues. This will aid them to compile a working list of ethical guidelines for their teams.

Day 1

  1. Group breakdown (5 minutes)

Students will be divided into groups representing print, broadcast, visual and online media (depending on class size there might be more than one group of each).

  1. Student work time (35 minutes)

Students will compile ethical guidelines in each of their areas for covering political elections, candidates and issues for their platforms. Such guidelines might overlap.

  1. Large-group discussion/reports (15 minutes)

Each group should report briefly on what it discussed, focusing on unsolved issues or approaches.

  1. Homework/practical application

A student (or team of students) will take their group’s work home and shape it into a poster for class discussion and acceptance the next day.

Day 2

  1. Presentation — 35 minutes

Each team shares its concepts, sources and presentation attempting to reach class consensus.

Teams will discuss the ethical issues raised in the coverage and well as the news principles and judgment of story and card selection and prepare to adapt agreed upon suggestions into the staff manual and ethical guidelines.

Alternative/additional activities

Consider these additional questions:

  • In verifying information, do journalists/can journalists step outside the traditional role of objectivity?
  • Should they do so in their reporting if they feel they have enough facts and feel it is their social responsibility? How do they know what is a fact?
  • Should opinion writers, in particular, follow the same criteria as content reporters and verify sources they use in their pieces?
  • Why or why not?


Students could write ethical guidelines addressing political coverage.



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