'Teaching English' Editorial on Living Newspapers
Please find enclosed an excellent Living Newspaper editorial piece in the soon to be issued Teaching English Publication by NATE. Teaching English is NATE's magazine, the leading professional publication for English teachers in the UK. It offers a wide range of practical ideas and inspiration for all teachers of English, as well as articles which offer new ways of thinking about or wider perspectives on the subject. Dr Paul Sutton is CEO and Artistic Director, C&T, based at, but independent of, The University of Worcester. C&T weave drama, digital technologies, creativity and copious amounts of fun together into educational projects - enabling young people to explore and grow. We build on young people's love of new technology (mobile phones, tablets and game consoles) to find playful ways to make these connections with their theatre making - creating collaborative on-line drama projects for schools, colleges and universities. Working predominantly through practiced based research, we explore the synergies that can be built between drama, performance and digital technologies and the potential for learning and developing what can be achieved through this work in an age of increasing globalisation. Our work embraces process drama, social media, augmented reality, theatre for development, documentary drama and psychogeography and, we believe, we can turn learners into independent and imaginative thinkers, connect the local with the global, and, can transform classrooms.
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - 'Teaching English' Editorial on Living Newspapers
NATE | Teaching English | Issue 2 | 35Secondaryprevious centuries the public’s access to drama wasvery limited. In our modern age the proliferation oftechnologically driven media means that today weconstantly consume drama: newspaper headlines talkof ‘siege dramas’, Reality TV blurs the boundariesbetween fact and fiction, whilst YouTube and Facebookallow us all to dramatise our everyday lives for a globalaudience. With this philosophy in mind, for C&T, dramais more than a creative discipline in its own right, it isthe genetic code that allows us to unlock the DNA of themodern media age. C&T’s online documentary dramaproject livingnewspaper.net exemplifies this potentialfor theatre in media education.C&T (visit us at www.candt.org) is an applied theatrecompany, using drama as an educational medium forschools, colleges, universities and community groups.Many companies and theatres provide such servicesbut what makes C&T unusual is that it mixes drama,learning and digital technologies, exploring the ideaand potential of new media literacies in 21st centuryeducation. Rooted firmly in the methods and techniquesof educational drama, C&T’s work deliberately tries touse theatre as a system for deconstructing 21st centurymedia and their messages.Much of C&T’s approach is grounded in the ideasof British critic Raymond Williams. In 1973 his paper‘Drama in the Dramatised Society’ argued that inFeature: Living NewspapersPaul Sutton introduces theatre company C&T’s LivingNewspapers project, which brings drama and journalismtogether in the classroom.LivingNewspapersDocumentary,Drama and DigitalMedia Literacy inthe 21st Century
36 | NATE | Teaching English | Issue 2Feature: Living Newspaperscolumns: news, drama and a final one for onlinetutorials.The teacher uses a simple drama frame to encouragestudents to investigate this site which they have‘accidentally’ stumbled upon online. Soon studentshave uncovered the backstory to the website througha number of guerilla-style videos shot by three youngpeople, Tom, Cate and Guy (named after three ofFawkes’ co-conspirators). Tom, Cate and Guy revealthat the livingnewspaper.net website has been createdby them to redress the balance in the global news media,which so often seeks to negatively stereotype or evencriminalise young people. They invite the class to jointhem in their campaign: deconstructing world eventsas refracted through the news media and present theirre-interpretations of these stories on this website for apotential global audience.Through simple facilitation the drama practitioneror teacher guides the class into this dramatic framework. Just as with real newspapers, livingnewspaper.net requires students to have an editorial policy andthe website offers accessible tools to help young peopledevelop their own manifesto for their journalistic values(there is a fast and furious digitally animated versioninspired by Joan Littlewood’s own Living Newspapercompany in Manchester in the 1930s). There are anumber of tutorial videos that distill the complex webof Living Newspaper techniques into five rules:1. Be Funny2. Be Direct3. Juxtapose4. Agitate5. Let the Facts Speak for ThemselvesThe Five Rules offer improvisation-based routes toexplore the fabric of the news. These are accessibletechniquesthatblurtheboundarybetweendocumentaryand drama, making them non-threatening for studentsLiving NewspapersLiving Newspapers are not a C&T invention, they are atheatre form that has its roots in the USA. Instigated aspart of the New Deal’s Federal Theatre project duringthe Great Depression, teams of unemployed actorsand journalists were brought together to research thetopical news stories of the day and turned them intolarge-scale, theatrically-realized documentaries: LivingNewspapers. These were episodic, anti-naturalisticplays, satirical, often improvised or at least devisedrather than formally scripted. For their day theyused cutting edge technology: slide projections ofdocumentary photographs provided components ofthe scenography. The first PA systems allowed for thedevelopment of ‘The Voice Of The Living Newspaper’technique: a disembodied voice that read out factualinformation, implying a degree of objectivity.Whilst these Living Newspaper productionspurported to offer audiences insights and informationthey were anything but objective in their editorialposition, advocating for the rights of The Little Man’of America, so often the victim during the GreatDepression. It is this tension between objectivity andsubjectivity that lies at the heart of C&T’s re-inventionof The Living Newspaper form.Citizen journalismC&T’s livingnewspaper.net reframes this documentarydrama form for the internet age. Facilitated by either aC&T Drama Practitioner or a classroom teacher, classesof students are introduced to the livingnewspaper.netwebsite, created by C&T. The site is designed to reflectmuch of the zeitgeist of what is known as ‘CitizenJournalism’ – the use of social media platforms, suchas Twitter, to enable ordinary people to report breakingnews as it unfolds around them. The site itself is looselymodeled on the popular Twitter client, Tweetdeck,streaming data and information in three separate“Studentsare forced toconfront theirresponsibilitiesas 21st centurycitizenjournalists.”
NATE | Teaching English | Issue 2 | 37SecondaryFor example, as I write, six schools in New YorkCity are collaborating with C&T partner schools inWorcester, Bradford and Birmingham. In the week oftheBostonMarathonbombings,withthechiefsurvivingsuspect of Chechen decent, schools taking part in thiscurrent Living Newspaper project have been exploringattitudes to immigration in their communities and localmedia. In Birmingham students focused on reportingof recent incidents of police using their stop andsearch powers in some of the more culturally diverseareas of the city, creating dramatizations of reportedincidents. In New York, at a high school overlookingGround Zero, students reflected on media paranoiaabout immigration fuelled by fears of terrorism. Theirresulting Living Newspaper scenes satirically suggestthe Statue of Liberty, as a French import, would notcurrently by granted US citizenship. Recording theseshort dramas as smartphone videos and then uploadedto the Living Newspaper website creates a personalizedlearning experience between this online community ofdocu-dramatists, which also reflects the global nature of21st Century news reporting.In its fusion of documentary and drama the LivingNewspaper form has proved itself a powerful tool forC&T and its work. UK schools have used the websitein Geography to report the factual evidence for climatechange. In the slum districts of Nairobi, schools haveused the form to explore the barriers to achievinga successful education. However, for all this cross-curricular potential, the Living Newspaper is at its bestwhen it is enabling students to critically reflect on thedrama of world events.Paul Suttonis Artistic Director of C&T, based at the Universityof Worcesterwho are less comfortable with drama activities and forEnglish teachers inexperienced in theatre techniques.Breaking newsThe website then guides students to a constantlyupdating feed of breaking news stories drawn froma range of web-based media agencies. Each of theseis positioned to enable students to use the LivingNewspapers Five Rules to identify the factual basisfor their selected report and then to deconstruct thenews values that frame this particular version of ‘thetruth’. Students are then asked to stage these newstories dramatically and document their resulting workthrough video, images, audio and text. They can thenpublish their interpretation of these news stories on thelivingnewspaper.net website.It is this process of interrogation, deconstruction andcritical analysis that it at the heart of the pedagogy ofC&T’s Living Newspaper. At it purest journalism strivesto represent world events truthfully, but by contrast,drama is an interpretative medium. By bringing thetwo disciplines together students are forced to confronttheir own subjectivity and question where theirresponsibilities as 21st century Citizen Journalists lie.Global and localA key feature in all of C&T’s practice is the use of theInternet to create a collaborative, networked theatrepractice. With partner schools in New York, Kenya,Singapore, Australia, China and the UK this C&TNetwork means that students can collide their learningwith peers in vastly different social and culturalcontexts, using a range of web and digital mediatools. C&T’s livingnewspaper.net illustrates how this‘glocalised’ practice (exploring global themes throughlocal contexts) can bring rich learning experiences intoclassrooms.“LivingNewspapersenablesstudentsto reflectcritically onthe drama ofworld events.”