Freshwomen Spoken English Spring Semester 2019: Lesson Five (cont.). Reporting; American newsmakers in the movies; podcasts (initial planning)

Dear Students,

welcome to today’s lesson. We’re going to discuss American journalism in the one or more American movies (The Post, Spotlight, Night Crawler), and also begin to talk about your planning for your team podcasts (to be submitted at the end of the semester).

Group discussion one (if not completed last week)

Interviewing the famous/important/ordinary 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.

Let’s have a look at the readings

Reading 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 (

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

 Group discussion two

Take 10 minutes to re-read the articles and summarize the main points in your small groups

Film discussion

  • Choose one or more of the films and summarize the story told in the film.
  • What kind of journalism is/are the film/s 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 three (an IELTS exercise)

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.

Group discussion four

Tell each other about the examples of citizen’s blogging, chatting, reporting you found during the week.

What was it about? (what’s the story, what’s the discussion about?)

Why is it interesting?

What is your view? How do you feel about it?

Group podcasts: initial planning

 Lu Jian and I have begun planning our podcasts to present to you as examples of team discussions (like your end of semester assignments).

For the first of them we plan on discussing the public art work displayed in our area of Tanggu.

  1. Observation, collecting resources

So far, we have photographed most of the art works, and shared our views about them. We find it interesting that the local government is providing artworks along with other beautification projects like lining the main roads with trees and flowers, as well as pruning trees in the late summer.

  1. Developing some questions and a theme

We are curious about their decision making and have a series of questions, including:

Why would choose they these particular artworks in their particular locations, is there an underlying logic? Is there a responsible officer, and is that person qualified in any way? Are the artists qualified in any way? Why do they cut the trees back so severely when they prune, and why do they only line the main roads that carry traffic with trees, leaving many residents with ugly looking streets?

So, with these questions we have begun to develop a theme: something like “Does Tanggu local government have a Tou Wenti [mental problem]”?

  1. Planning our discussion

Next, we will work on a plan for our introduction, main discussion, and a conclusion. We may begin by talking about how surprised we felt when we observed the art works and then walk around the area stopping to discuss them and recording our conversations. Then we may speculate on their decision-making processes as part of our concluding section.

  1. Planning our presentation.

We might use the collected photographs as a background display (possibly on a power point) to show as we play our recorded podcast, and possibly include some short video as well. Some of the segments might take the form of a discussion and some might be one or other of us narrating.

  1. Interviewing other people.

If we had time we might interview a council staff member or even just some of the neighborhood people (we’d have to translate into English). That might be excellent, but it might be too time-consuming to do in practice.

  1. Having back-up plans.

We like the Tanggu art idea and may use it for a wechat blog as well as a class example. However, it is common for groups to start an idea and them find that for some reason it’s not so good. For example, it may be impractical, or we might not have enough (3 mins each approx.) to say. So, we might have some alternative ideas to work in case we decided to give up this idea. In our case we would consider the following:

Back up idea one: “Taobao reviews are incredible”

We buy a lot of stuff on Taobao. We always use the reviews as a guide. But quite often we find that we have bought something rubbish, even though it has good reviews. That includes a bike that can’t be ridden, a table that is badly built, a bed that wasn’t fully painted, and some shoes whose sole was not glued to the upper parts. Then we found that the company people responsible for helping wanted to persuade us to either blame something else (not the company) in our reviews or offered to give us a discount if we gave them a good review anyway. Some of those company people even pleaded they would lose their jobs if we didn’t agree. We think the Taobao review process is interesting because our experience suggests that the system of trust that the business platform is based on is not credible. So that would make another good subject for a podcast.

Back up idea two: Reviewing The Handmaid’s Tale

Another topic we might do is review something cultural together, like a tv series (we might do The Handmaid’s Tale as we have watched it together). If we did that, we might develop a theme about America and China, discussing authoritative governments, patriarchy, the pressure for women to rear children, feminism. One reason this topic might work well is that Jean has a Chinese perspective, and mine is English, so we could exchange different points of view.

Group discussion five

Break into your small groups and brainstorm some ideas for a group podcast.

  • Develop a topic, or a range of possible topics.
  • Think of some questions you want to pursue, or ideas/propositions you want to explore.
  • Discuss how you will do your preparation. Do you need to do some observation, research, viewing? Will you use some resources? Will you interview anyone else?
  • Is your idea practical? Can it be done in a timely fashion (it shouldn’t involve too much work).
  • Is your idea safe? Can it be done safely (you cannot do anything that puts yourselves or others at risk)
  • Is your idea interesting and/or fun? Try to choose a topic and method of working your team will enjoy.



If you haven’t already done so, find examples of citizen’s blogging/chatting/reporting to discuss in class next week.




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