Freshwomen Spoken English Spring Semester 2019: Lesson Five. Reporting; American newsmakers in the movies

Dear Students,

welcome to today’s lesson. We’re going to do some more IELTS exercises, and discuss American journalism in the one or more American movies (The Post, Spotlight, NightCrawler).

Group discussion one: In the news

Discuss a recent news item you have read or watched.

  • Tell us where you came across it.
  • Tell us what it is about (what’s the story), and how the news item was presented.
  • Tell us why it is interesting and significant (or why it isn’t).
  • How did it make you feel?

Newsmakers in the movies (this week if you have watched one or more of the movies, next week if you haven’t)

Context 1: the principle of the freedom of the press in the United States.

“The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”

—U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in New York Times Co. v. United States (1971)

The freedom of the press, protected by the First Amendment, is critical to a democracy in which the government is accountable to the people. A free media functions as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government wrongdoing. It is also a vibrant marketplace of ideas, a vehicle for ordinary citizens to express themselves and gain exposure to a wide range of information and opinions.

The rise of the national security state and the proliferation of new surveillance technologies have created new challenges to media freedom. The government has launched an unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers, targeting journalists in order to find their sources. Whistleblowers face prosecution under the World War One-era Espionage Act for leaks to the press in the public interest. And in the face of a growing surveillance apparatus, journalists must go to new lengths to protect sources and, by extension, the public’s right to know.  

The ACLU has played a central role in defending the freedom of the press, from our role in the landmark Pentagon Papers case to our defense of whistleblower Edward Snowden and our advocacy for a new media shield law. When press freedom is harmed, it is much harder to hold our government accountable when it missteps or overreaches.

The issue of a free press arose …. in the 1970s, when the Nixon Administration notoriously obtained a court order barring The New York Times and the Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers ? hundreds of pages of secret government documents detailing American involvement in the Vietnam War. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court in New York Times v. United States, where the ACLU filed an amicus brief urging against the injunction on free speech grounds. ‘If the Government’s vague and broad test of ‘information detrimental to the national security’ is accepted, there would be virtually no limit to’ censorship of the news now or by future administrations, the ACLU declared.

American Civil Liberties Union articles, abridged and combined (

Context 2: see the article “Whatever happened to the news?”


Film discussion

  • Choose one of the films and summarize the story told in the film.
  • What kind of journalism is the film about? How does the movie show the practice of journalism (what practices does it involve)?
  • What are the key issues/dilemmas faced by the news organization and its journalists? How do they address them? How is/are the issues/dilemma/s resolved?
  • Are the issues/dilemmas significant? If so, how?
  • What does the movie suggest about the role of the newsmakers in American society?
  • Do you think that is different from the role of the newsmakers in China? Explain your reasons.

(subtitles can be found at

Group discussion two: Imagine you are a journalist covering a story

  • Tell us what kind of a journalist you are and which organization you work from (or describe how you work independently)
  • Tell us what you are reporting about and why
  • Tell us how you will do your reporting (including, for example, the questions you might ask, and who you might ask them of)
  • Tell us what you think you might find out
  • Tell us how you will present your work

Group discussion three: interviewing the famous/important person

In your small groups, you will practice interviewing people (they might be famous or noteworthy or ordinary people).

  1. One person in the group should choose a person to be (the group can help them). Examples would include Donald Trump, Ji Xingping, Peng LiYuan, Liu Yang (first Chinese woman in space), Ang Lee (movie director), Fan Bing Bing (actress), Theresa May (British Prime Minister), Geling Yan (author); Yao Ming (basketballer [not a real word]), your mum, your Auntie, your teacher (not me please!) .
  2. Spend a few minutes thinking about your new self (use your shouji if it helps).
  3. The other people in the group should first discuss and decide what they want to ask the famous person about and then ask the questions.
  4. Be ready to tell us about what you found out when you are ready.

Group discussion four

Report on an important decision someone you know (or know of) made.

  • You should say:
  • When they had this choice.
  • What they had to choose between.
  • Whether they made a good choice.
  • Explain how you think they felt when they made the choice.


If you haven’t watched on of the three films on newsmakers in America, just do that this week.

If you have, then find examples of citizen’s blogging/chatting/reporting to discuss in class next week.


Leave a Reply