Ongoing Activities for War with Iraq
April 4, 2003
Web posted at: 2:36 AM EST (0736 GMT)
1. Creating a first draft of history
"[A journalist has the] inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of a history that will never be completed about a world we can never understand." -Phil Graham, late chairman of the board of the Washington Post Company
Share the above quotation with your students and challenge them to discuss the role of journalists in providing a first rough draft of history. What do they think Phil Graham meant by this statement? How does the work of a journalist compare with the work of an historian? What role do journalists play in recording history?
Challenge students to begin a timeline for the war against Iraq. Decide on a format for displaying clippings about the war including articles, photos, graphics, and maps. Some techniques that work well are cork bulletin boards with pushpins or string with paper clips or clothespins. Place the front page of a newspaper or magazine announcing war for students to see. Then, inform students that each night (or week) they should search print and online news sources for key stories about the war. Each day, or at the end of each week, students should present their stories to the class. After a class discussion about the events, the students should vote on which story should make it to the timeline (if done weekly, students can choose more than one story). After the class has selected the clipping(s), record on an index card the person who brought in the clipping, the date and source of the clipping, and a list of bullet points explaining the reasons for the selection. The clips that were not chosen for the timeline should be categorized by topic and placed into an appropriate envelope or box for future reference.
At the end of a select period of time, such as a month, tell students that they need to narrow down their multitude of clippings to just five (if done weekly, you may want to let a little more time go by). This assignment can be done in small groups or as a class. The point of this exercise is to help students understand the work of historians; that is making choices about what is most meaningful and significant. If journalism is a first draft of history, then students are compiling the content for the history of this war against Iraq. Encourage students to compile a class history of the war. Included in this history could be personal contributions such as poems, stories, drawings or other pieces of work to illustrate the students' feelings about and reflections on the war.
As a wrap-up to the activity, ask students the following questions:
• Do you think journalists provide a first draft of history? If so, how? If not, why not?
• Were there some topics that got selected more often than others? If so, how do you explain the selections?
• What information did journalists provide? What information was left out? How do you account for the choices made by the journalists?
• How do you think an historian might interpret your class history 1, 5, 10 or 50 years from now? Which clippings do you think will be most significant as time goes by? Explain.
2. Reporting the war
Explain to students that, throughout history, reporters have brought the news of war from the front lines to the people. As a class, brainstorm a list of historical conflicts such as the American Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean and Vietnam conflicts, Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Middle East. Assign pairs of students one of these conflicts and have them research the technology that the reporters of the time had or have available to them (e.g., pony express, printing press, telegraph, photography, radio, video, satellite, Internet, etc.). Students should consider the strengths and limitations of each type of technology for reporting the news. Ask: How might the technology available have influenced the type of reporting available? How might the technology have affected the course of the conflict? How did the technology affect the information made available to the people? How informed was the public at the time?
Have students track the reporting techniques used by CNN journalists in reporting on the war against Iraq. Direct students to conduct research on and interview family and community members about media coverage of the Persian Gulf War and other military conflicts such as Korea and Vietnam. Ask: How did the coverage of previous wars compare with the news coverage of this war against Iraq? What technology is available now that was not in previous conflicts? How have these technologies affected how we experience the war? What challenges do journalists still face as they cover the war against Iraq? How much access do you think the media should have to the military? What are the logistics in bringing news from the front to living rooms around the world?
Extension: Direct students to the Newseum (Museum dedicated to the news) exhibit titled "The History of War Reporting and Technology" (http://www.newseum.org/warstories/technology/index.htm) to gain more insight into this topic.