Students in the Public Safety and Digital Media Production programs at the Wexford-Missaukee Career Technical Center recently collaborated on mock trials surrounding the original radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. The 1938 production, part of the drama series “The Mercury Theatre on the Air”, was overseen by Orson Welles, who was accused of disturbing the peace after the broadcast was so realistic that a mass panic resulted. Students from the Public Safety program filled the roles of the prosecution and police officers, while the Digital Media students had the assignment of defending Mr. Welles and videotaping the trials, and students from both programs took on the roles of jurors, witnesses, and press representatives. Career Technical Education Director David Cox served as the judge.
Kim Iverson, Instructional Consultant and Special Projects Coordinator for the Wexford Missaukee ISD, oversaw the assignment. She said the aim “was to integrate two programs which could potentially be on opposing sides of a real world issue and explore what role ethical influence plays. Students were asked to think about three key questions: Can we believe everything we hear? How do we judge the accuracy of the information we consume? And, are broadcasting entities responsible for entertainment, information, or both?”
David Johnson, fellow Instructional Consultant and Special Projects Coordinator, said he originally presented the assignment to DMP students to focus on ethics in broadcasting, stating that “the unit is about helping students who would be a part of the broadcast field in the future remember the ethical responsibilities that come along with their daily responsibilities.”
Students prepared for their roles by listening to the original broadcast and reading about its history, as well learning about those involved in its production.In 1938, Orson Welles escaped punishment, and in 2015, his fate was similar, as both the trials conducted with the morning and afternoon students ending in hung juries.