Teaching Tools

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is”

Isaac asimov

Do you have doubts about the media and the way they operate? Don’t be afraid, don’t doubt yourself. Apply your critical faculties…it’s the essence of democracy.

The exercises below will help you peer into the mass media matrix. Is their picture of the world an accurate one? Or will you see the walls start to bend and giant robots using humans as battery cells before someone offers you a choice: the red pill or the blue pill…


Search online for an article in an English-language version of a respected foreign news outlet like the India Times, Al Jazeera or an Irish newspaper – one that covers the issue of Churchill’s statue or his historical legacy.

Can you spot any differences in the tone the foreign outlet adopts when discussing Churchill compared to the British press?

If so, do you think this is:

  1. Because foreign press are biased against Churchill
  2. Because the British press is biased in favour of Churchill
  3. All news outlets have an inherent bias

Check out our article on Churchill for more information on the perspective the British press offer – and e-mail us any interesting non-British perspectives you find to thefreepress@yahoo.com!

exercise 5 – an experiment in disorientation

Al Jazeera newsroom

One evening, rather than watching your regular UK news programme, watch a bulletin on a foreign news station like Al Jazeera or Russia Today.

Pay particular attention to how they present news stories on the UK or USA. Can you detect a difference in the tone or directness of their coverage compared to UK news?

Consider, in turn, how a Russian or someone from a nation where Al Jazeera is mainstream news may feel watching UK news. Would they consider our news more “objective” or “impartial” than we consider their news?

What are the implications of this?

E-mail thefreepress@yahoo.com to let us know what you think! Stations like RT and Al Jazeera have biases of their own but often cover stories relating to the UK with greater critical insight than the British press (often they cover stories the UK press ignore!)

exercise 4 – the matrix!

Our article on Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis introduces the idea of a “matrix”, a web of personal interconnections between high-ranking journalists, politicians and businesspeople which casts doubt on media independence.

We invite you to explore The Matrix for yourself!

  • Pick any high-ranking journalist and head to their Wikipedia page. Is any close family member or friend a high-ranking politician or businessperson?
  • If so click the link to their Wikipedia page and see if any of their family or friends are high-ranking present or former members of the “Establishment”.
  • How many links will you click before the trail ends? A lot we suspect!

E-mail your findings to thefreepress@yahoo.com or click here to look at a model answer exploring the elite interconnections of mainstream media journalist Brendan O’Neill.

exercise 3 – the “neutral” knife

Read the article “Scotland After the Trial of Alex Salmond” on Tortoise Media by journalist Dani Garavelli.

The article presents as a “neutral” piece but read it critically – between the lines, if you like – and see if you can pick out three ways in which Garavelli reveals or advances an agenda which isn’t neutral.

Examples of this may include:

– Selection of interviewees

– Which people in the story does the journalist “humanize” or encourage us to sympathize with / does she not encourage us to sympathize with

– Unsubstantiated statements attributing agendas to individuals which paint them in an unflattering light

To read a critical analysis of Garavelli’s piece click this link to broadcaster and human rights activist Craig Murray’s blog. Murray is not impartial – he refers to Alex Salmond as a friend – but provides another perspective on the article. The question isn’t whether Murray or Garavelli is “correct”, but what you, as a reader, make of their articles and the wider question of how the media shape and present stories.

exercise 2: Deconstruct Disney!

Watch a Disney film of your choosing. After the movie is over take some time to reflect on what you’ve viewed and any ideology promoted by the film or assumed by it.

You may wish to consider:

  • The narrative and character arc (what did the character/s set out to achieve and how was their journey resolved?)
  • How different groups are represented – e.g. are different values/objectives assumed for male and female characters?
  • What values are prioritised over others and what social/economic structures (e.g. a ruling class) are questioned or not questioned

E-mail your findings to thefreepress@yahoo.com!

exercise 1: INVESTIGATE a well-known journalist of your choosing!

Pick the first high-profile journalist that comes to your mind. Type their name into google and see what you can learn about them from interviews, profiles and their social media accounts or blogs.

  • Where did they go to school and university?
  • Where did they work prior to their current job?
  • Do friends, family, partners work in other “Establishment” roles – high up in business, the media or politics?
  • Can you detect any views/assumptions underlying their attempts at journalistic balance

E-mail your findings to thefreepress@yahoo.com and let’s see what patterns emerge. We’ve scouted Andrew Marr (pictured) to help you get started.