This model essay aims to provide some useful guidance for writing an insightful and impactful argumentative essay on an A-Level essay question. The essay is periodically interjected with Teacher’s Comments (TC) to allow a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the content.

Question Analysis

  • A free press is an indispensable bulwark (a person or thing that acts as a defence) of an open, democratic society because it defends the society against bias.
  • One needs to get to the stage where one is acutely conscious of the damage that can be done by inaccurate/over reporting, both to the reputation of individuals and to society as a whole.
  • People have to be discerning about the information they take in, and be aware of the severity of inaccurate/over reporting, because that could ruin the reputation of individuals (e.g. an innocent person accused of a crime) or harm the society (e.g. reporting incorrect haze levels/Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) can harm people’s health because their perceived level of safety is inaccurate).
  • Media is plural. Medium is singular.

Fully-Guided Model Essay

The role of the media is to report and provide information, and to shape the perspectives of people through its dissemination of information to the general public. [TC: Good opening sentence: to highlight the role/purpose of the media but to evaluate critically, you need to consider the differences between the responsible media and the irresponsible media. Your stand supports instituting a responsible media.] There is a diverse array of topics which could be covered in the media*, but there are also particular subjects that should not be publicised under any circumstances, due to reasons such as the possible invasion of personal privacy, or even potentially putting the safety of the country at risk. [TC: Good. You have clearly stated your stand that you agree with the question.] It is essential to realize that it is the liability of the media to exercise discretion wisely to ensure that privacy and security at all levels are preserved. [TC: Good link] To be more specific, issues that should be kept at length from public discussion or discourse include information on national security, gruesome images or details and personal confidential information. [TC:Good introduction]

The responsible media have the obligation to restrict the circulation of security information, especially when it jeopardises the national security of an entire country. It is imperative to guarantee the protection of the country’s top-secret documents and information, whose leakage could potentially unleash widespread destruction. This includes information relating to defence against national threats such as transnational terrorism. [TC: Good example but there is no link to the next line with a focus placed on the question. Add: Indeed, the media should not publish materials relating to national security and defence that most countries have placed restraints on.] The media should uphold the executive orders set out by governments such as the recently revised United States government classification system, in which it lays out the system of classification, declassification and handling of national security information generated by the U.S. government and its employees and contractors, as well as information received from other governments. Such security measures demonstrate the immense significance of handling national security information with care in which the responsible media should not breach.[TC: Good link] Moreover, another case discusses how WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, were under fire for posting more than a quarter million secret U.S. documents, many of which threatened national security. When The New York Times published these U.S. State Department papers, the U.S. Air Force responded by blocking its personnel from accessing the news sites with published leaked cables. The availability of such sensitive information might endanger the US and coalition personnel since the warring methods and strategies were disclosed to the enemies. These two examples evidently prove that leaking classified information threatens the national security of a country, which explains why every government places great value on upholding the confidentiality of such information. Therefore, the media have a responsibility to refrain from providing information that endangers the national security and may precipitate the collapse of the national social fabric.

Another condition that the media must consider before publication is the manner in which it describes heinous crimes.[TC: Good point] The media must recognise the fine line between helping its audience to vividly comprehend the atrocity of the crime, and offending its readers or viewers, particularly children.[TC: Good elaboration] Consequently it is crucial that the media takes into consideration the audience to which it is targeting by the use of the demographic factor. [TC: Good evaluation] Indeed, young children who are simple-minded and undiscerning may be easily manipulated by others’ perceptions and false factual information. Hence, it is vital that undiscriminating children are sheltered from the profanity, nudity, violence and obscenity we often encounter in the media as adults as it may undermine their beliefs and value system. Nonetheless, there may be readers, apart from children, who are not able to stomach the violence and monstrosity contained in the graphic images or details. To exemplify this, the censoring of morbid images and videos of the Iraq War for the American society was essential to prevent any permanent damaging psychological effects on the general audience. [TC: Good example] Thus, it is absolutely critical for the media to exercise prudence in ensuring that the materials it produces for public viewing are acceptable across all age groups, so as to not offend any of its viewers. [TC: Good link]

Last but not least, it is the onus of the media to safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of any individuals such as witnesses, victims, or sometimes even the perpetrators of crime. [TC: Good point] When it comes to victims of rape, for instance, the identities of these victims have to be concealed to protect them from public harassment, discrimination or shame. [TC: Good elaboration] In the case of the rape victim of the actor Michael Le Vell**, after her name was revealed on Twitter, a man suspected of disclosing this information was detained. Greater Manchester’s police superintendent Phil Davies justified these actions of detainment as public identifications of victims of sex abuse, in particular child victims engaged in court proceedings can cause both immediate and long-term distress and harm. The management of information concerning victims of crime should not be taken lightly as this could be severely damaging and detrimental to their psychological wellbeing, and may also adversely impact their recovery process. For that reason, the media have the duty to ensure the privacy of individuals such as the victims, witnesses and young perpetrators of crime, to protect their identities and any confidential information.

To sum up, the media should exercise vigilance before bringing up any issue in the vast array of topics. [TC: Vague. A better conclusion should summarise all three points mentioned above. Consider this instead: To sum up, the media should exercise vigilance when it concerns national security, gruesome images and details, and individuals’ privacy.] It is the responsibility of the media to protect certain sensitive national security information or confidential individual information. The media should also censor mentally-damaging images to safeguard the psychological wellbeing of its viewers and ensure that they are not at risk of any future repercussions, which may lead to dysfunctional lives. Therefore, governments in any country should work closely with the media to ensure these objectives are met adequately, so as to maximise the welfare of the citizens.  [TC: This is not a good closing statement. You need to understand the media should be independent of the government to support the democratic processes. Consider this instead: Therefore, as far as national security interests are at stake, a responsible media should respect the executive orders of the government and limit the flow of socially destabilising information. At the same time, a responsible media should also be quick to report on the government’s misconduct and misdeeds in order to tighten the bolts on the country’s stability.]

Additional Notes:

*Give some examples: environmental issues like environmental degradation? Political issues like corruption? Social issues like mortality, poverty and educational statistics?

**Actor Michael Le Vell has been cleared of a number of child sex abuse charges, including rape.

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