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In May, I had the opportunity of working with our school’s Media Studies teacher, Ryan Devlin, on a joint adventure with his advanced journalism class and my AP US Government class. It was a great cross-curricular collaboration! Our students watched the documentary “Enemies of the People: Trump and the Political Press” together, enjoyed popcorn, and discussed what they were watching in real time. That enabled us to unpack the documentary even further as we considered some of the production elements. Finally, one of the producers, Matt Spolar, joined us for a Q&A session. We had numerous questions for him, and he was able to answer all of them.
Following this wonderful experience, I wanted to help other teachers use this documentary. I created some simple warm-up activities, a viewing guide, discussion questions, activities and extensions. All are flexible and adjustable to your classroom needs. They may serve as a starting point for your own lesson planning.
The documentary is focused on what the media did wrong during the 2016 campaign. Most examples focus on then-candidate Donald Trump. Some viewers may, at first glance, think the documentary is slanted against Trump. But it is really a look into errors the news media made. Lastly, about 24 minutes into the documentary there is a wonderful section reviewing the distrust between the news media and government officials over time. Even if this is the only segment you show your students, I am sure it would lead to a wonderful class discussion. So whether you use parts of the film, the film with edits, or parts of the suggested lesson plan, I am sure you will find “Enemies of the People” to be enlightening.
Jennifer Klein is an A.P. Government & Politics teacher at Fox Chapel Area High School in Pittsburgh. She is a Retro Report Ambassador.
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