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30-60 minutes
  • Journalism
  • 6-12

  1. Note: Assign students the AAUW blog post for reading prior to class (optional).
  2. Explain that today you will discuss the effects of stereotypes in the news on individuals and the public. Start by asking the class to define stereotype, drawing on the AAUW blog post for ideas (if assigned). A stereotype is a generalization or broad belief about a group of people. It differentiates one group from another.
  3. Remind students that stereotypes can spread positive or negative messages. Tell them that there is often a focus on race and gender when discussing stereotypes, but many different types of groups are stereotyped. Ask them for examples of each they’ve encountered in magazines, on social media, and/or in the news media. Some ideas: Men are good at math and science; American tourists are rude and obnoxious.
  4. Ask if students have heard complaints that the news media is biased. Explain that this complaint sometimes comes from the media’s use of stereotypes in their reporting. Brainstorm potential consequences of seeing stereotypes in the media. How could stereotypes affect the people discussed? The public? Some ideas: companies might hire people based on assumed skills; states could make policy decisions based on assumed needs; communities become polarized. Note that the more often stereotypes are used, the more likely people are to believe them.
  5. Have the class brainstorm groups of people in the news, then select one to research. Some ideas: immigrants, opioid users, Democrats or Republicans, millennials, people from a particular region of the country. Distribute the worksheet to each group. Discuss their findings using the questions below.

  1. Was it easy or hard to find stereotypes in the news about this group? In social media? Why do you think that is?
  2. Do you think your articles provided an accurate sample of the overall news coverage of this group?
  3. Do you think stereotypes — not just of this group, but in general — are a problem in news coverage? Explain your answer.
  4. What can be done to address the issue of stereotypes in popular media? In the news media? What about on social media? Better training for reporters and editors? More opportunities for readers/viewers/listeners to talk back when they disagree with what they see? More diverse hiring at news agencies?
  5. What stereotypes and biases do you think you hold? What can you do to combat them?

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