Lesson Ideas: Using Dying to Tell the Story

Wynette Jameson, a journalism teacher at Clear Creek High School in League City, Texas, shares the following lessons which all use the documentary Dying to Tell the Story. Other materials needed are noted.

Since 1998 when I first taped “Dying to Tell the Story” off of TBS, I have used the documentary to teach a number of lessons. The very first time I showed the tape to students I used some of the lessons and questions from the TBS website. My students and I were so moved by Dan’s story and Amy’s courage in covering it that we felt compelled to do more than just answer questions. We immediately felt compelled to write to Amy. She answered my students and me with individual postcards. That part of our story is unique and much treasured.

My students designed posters for the video, which became a type of art therapy for them. Their drawings showed how much emotion was brought up by the images they had seen and the stories they had heard. We put the students’ posters in the hall and many people stopped by the room to ask about them. Once I put my classroom and newspaper online at Highwired.com, other teachers emailed me about the tape and where to purchase it. I’ve also shared the Eldon story with others through book reviews and word of mouth.

There are several ways I now use “Dying to Tell the Story.” I feel blessed that this tape made my students aware of two things before September 11th and the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl, one being the horrible conditions existing in many parts of the world. They’ve seen the conditions in which many people are forced to endure on a daily basis. The other is exactly how dangerous that world is for journalists who risk everything to show us those conditions.

Objective: Identify the history and development of journalism through people and events.
Procedure/Evaluation: Students will watch the video and chose one of the photojournalists to research and write a feature story about him or her. Or Choose one of the countries shown in the video and determine how the people and the area was impacted by the coverage of the photojournalists.

Objective: Distinguish between responsible and irresponsible media. 
Materials: A tape of paparazzi from Entertainment Tonight or an actual special on the paparazzi like “Paparazzi Shooting Stars” by Forrest Sawyer that was made before the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy Jr.
Procedure/Evaluation: Have students compare and contrast the work done by a true photojournalist and the paparazzi or “stalkerazi.”

Objective: Report and write for a variety of audiences and purposes.
Procedure/Evaluation: After watching the video, write Dan’s story and describe the images of war as you would to one of the following groups: 
1. Elementary school students 
2. Intermediate school students 
3. High school students 
4. Parents

Objective: Plan and write relevant questions
Procedure/Evaluation: Write questions for an interview with any of the journalists in the documentary, including Amy.

Objective: Be able to write a review
Procedure/Evaluation: Write a review of the documentary including all strengths and weaknesses you perceive on the tape.

Objective: Be able to write ad copy
Procedure/Evaluation: Write ad copy for Dying to Tell the Story for print, TV, radio, and internet.

Objective: Be able to write a column
Procedure/Evaluation: Write a column about how this video has become even more important since: 
1. September 11 
2. the death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl

Objective: Write an editorial 
Materials: Articles about Pearl’s death, Committee to Protect Journalists web site, http://www.cpj.org/
Procedure/Evaluation: Review all materials-documentary, articles, and web site. Discuss the role of journalists and the dangers they face. Have students write editorials on the role of journalists and the need to protect them.

Objective: To write captions and cut lines Materials: Newspapers and magazines
Procedure/Evaluation: Review good captions with students. Then freeze frames from Dying to Tell the Story and have students write captions.

Objective: Be able to design elements into an acceptable presentation 
Materials: Dan Eldon: The Art of Life, and www.daneldon.org
Procedure/Evaluation: Using PowerPoint, Word, Photoshop, and or PageMaker develop a presentation about the importance of photojournalism as represented in Dying to Tell the Story and Eldon’s biography.