Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Windows and Mirrors: A Program about Diversity for Grades 4-5

Activity 3: Media Audit

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers and tape
  • Magazines and newspapers from a wide variety of sources
  • Local and national mainstream newspapers and magazines with photographs
  • Minority-owned newspapers and magazines (look for photographs of African Americans, Asians, other racial/ethnic minorities and people with visible disabilities
  • Optional: Video clips from local newscasts, streaming news video, other online news media and appropriate player(s)
  • Optional: Data from a recent census that documents the percentage of population in your community that are Native American/Indigenous, African American, Latin American, Asian American, Arab American and/or immigrants from other countries

Preparation for Activity

  • Gather magazines and newspapers from a variety of sources. Ask parents and congregation members to bring in magazines and newspapers several weeks before this session; Leader Resource 1 provides a sample email or handout. Try to obtain as many images as you can of all of the racial and ethnic groups represented in your community so participants can consider the full range of who lives in your community, including people of European descent.
  • If you will use technology to share images, test equipment in the meeting space before the session.
  • Gather enough examples of print or video media for participants to view each example alone or with just one partner.
  • Optional: Gather census information that shows your local demographics as well as national demographics by minority group status.

Description of Activity

The Mirror question for this session is "What do I understand about my place in racial/ethnic diversity in my world?" The Window question is "What do I understand about my world's diversity?"

First ask the participants what kind of people live in the community: Are there people who speak different languages? People who sometimes wear special, cultural clothing? People with different skin colors? People who eat different foods? While many of these are indicators of culture-as opposed to what we typically think of as racial or ethnic diversity-these questions are a way to circle around "race" and ethnicity before zeroing in on the presence of people in your community who are Native American/Indigenous, African American, Latin American, Asian American, Arab American and/or immigrants from other countries.

Lead the children to look at the community where your congregation meets, through images in the local media. The objective is not to conduct a media critique, but to elicit observations and build awareness. Ask children, "Who do you see in the images? Yet, who actually lives/works in this community?" and "What are the people doing in the pictures? What does that say about people who belong to the same racial/ethnic group in our community?" Share with the participants whatever facts you have about populations represented in your community (percentages of community population, neighborhood location, country of origin, and so on). Ask participants why they think the local media do not have many (or any) images of these groups.

Finally, ask "How true do you think the impression is that we get from our local media? What could be done differently in our newspaper/magazine to make the pictures look more like our real community?"

Next, invite children to look at national media samples. Encourage them to compare the mainstream media with examples you have brought of magazines/media owned by minorities. Ask participants to note differences and similarities. Of particular images, you may like to ask:

  • Who are these people? What are they doing/where are they going?
  • Are any of us here members of this group?
  • Does anyone have siblings, parents, teachers or friends who are in this group?

Listen to what participants have to say and make notes on newsprint. Of course, you should correct any overtly racist remarks. At the same time, remember these are youngsters who reflect the perspectives they have learned from families, friends and schools as well as media. Keep discussion focused on exploring what we know and what we do not know about racial/ethnic groups in our community or the nation and how media images help or do not help us learn more.

Conclude this activity by asking the participants how we can learn more about the racial/ethnic groups in our community. Ask what they think could be done so the media are more true and fair. Record their responses on newsprint. Say:

We can all be social justice, anti-racism allies. We can let the publishers and reporters and newscasters know the problems we saw in the media images here today.

Make a commitment to convey some of the children's observations or suggestions to the correct person at a local newspaper, television station or other media outlet. Be sure to follow up and tell the children when you have done so and let them know if you receive any response.

If the group will do the Faith in Action activity, Congregational Audit, tell them they can come up with more ways to be allies later.

Including All Participants

Avoid making any child feel self-conscious, especially if they are a racial or ethnic minority in the group. If the group has only one Asian Pacific Islander child, focus on representation of another minority group in your community. If a child asks, "Why aren't there any images of (my people)?" you can respond, "For some reason, I could not find any images. That isn't very realistic, is it? How can we all make sure that in the future more of (your people) are in the media?"