Persuasion and media bias

Students will analyse a series of front covers from The Sydney Mail from the Library’s collections. They will investigate how readers are positioned to respond in a certain way through the use of persuasive language and heroic imagery and come to understand media bias.
Stimulus #1: 
Covers of The Sydney Mail 1860–1938

Text type

  • Persuasive

Background notes for teachers and students

Learning intentions:

Students are learning to:

  • recognise when the media is using persuasive techniques to influence a reader’s response to the news.
  • reflect on their understanding of media bias and apply it in their own life.


Success criteria

Students will be successful when they can:

  • Recognise persuasive techniques used in media texts.
  • Analyse the impact of persuasive devices used in media texts..
  • Use persuasive devices when creating own media text.
  • Reflect on new knowledge.


The Sydney Mail

The Sydney Mail was a weekly magazine published in Sydney from 1860 to 1938.

The State Library has digitised the covers from The Sydney Mail for the period of WWI and they provide a unique insight into how the war was reported at the time.


The media in World War I

The media presented a jingoistic view of the war, often using strong, heroic images which glorified Australia’s involvement in the war. People at home were protected from the realities of war and were instead encouraged to support the war effort and to share the view that the war was an exciting adventure for Australian soldiers. This type of media coverage was used as a way of encouraging recruitment, and to prevent readers from feeling fear and despair over the events unfolding in Europe.


Glossary of terms

Framing: The way in which elements in a still or moving image are arranged to create a specific interpretation of the whole. Strong framing creates a sense of enclosure around elements while weak framing creates a sense of openness.

Gaze: The directed look of either a viewer or figure in an image, including demand and offer.

Salience: A strategy of emphasis, highlighting what is important in a text. In images, salience is created through strategies like placement of an item in the foreground, size, and contrast in tone or colour. In writing, salience can occur through placing what is important at the beginning or at the end of a sentence or paragraph or through devices such as underlining or italics.

Symbol: An object, animate or inanimate, which represents something else through the use of association, intentional analogy and convention.

Vector: An item that directs our eyes towards a focal point, for example when the subject in a visual text is pointing or looking in a certain direction. As the reader or viewer, our eyes will follow the direction in which they are pointing or looking.

NSW Standards Authority Glossary  

Student Activities

In the news

Students form groups and work together to analyse the persuasive techniques used on the front cover of The Sydney Mail. They will discuss how these front covers would have influenced readers at the time.

Number of set tasks: 1

Design your own front-page news

Students use persuasive techniques to create the front cover of a fictional newspaper, drawing upon real recent news stories or developing a fictional newsworthy event.

Number of set tasks: 1


Students are to reflect on what they have learnt about media bias and the persuasive language and visual techniques used by the media to influence readers. They are to use their own device to record a video log.

Number of set tasks: 1

Additional resources

NSW Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum: English K-10

A student:

  • communicates effectively for a variety of audiences and purposes using increasingly challenging topics, ideas, issues and language forms and feature EN3-1A
  • composes, edits and presents well-structured and coherent texts EN2-2A
  • uses an integrated range of skills, strategies and knowledge to read, view and comprehend a wide range of texts in different media and technologies EN3-3A
  • uses knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary to respond to and compose clear and cohesive texts in different media and technologies EN3-6B
  • thinks imaginatively, creatively, interpretively and critically about information and ideas and identifies connections between texts when responding to and composing texts EN3-7C
  • identifies and considers how different viewpoints of their world, including aspects of culture, are represented in texts EN3-8D



Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • use and describe language forms and features of spoken texts appropriate to a range of purposes, audiences and contexts

Engage personally with texts

  • understand and appreciate the way texts are shaped through exploring a range of language forms and features and ideas
  • experiment and use aspects of composing that enhance learning and enjoyment

Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive texts, choosing and experimenting with text structures, language features, images and digital resources appropriate to purpose and audience 

Respond to and compose texts

  • compose texts that include sustained and effective use of persuasive devices, e.g. texts dealing with environmental issues 



Develop and apply contextual knowledge

  • understand how texts vary in purpose, structure and topic as well as the degree of formality

Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • understand that the starting point of a sentence gives prominence to the message in the text and allows for prediction of how the text will unfold



Develop and apply contextual knowledge

  • identify and discuss how own texts have been structured to achieve their purpose and discuss ways of using conventions of language to shape readers' and viewers' understanding of texts
  • discuss how the intended audience, structure and context of an extended range of texts influence responses to texts

Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • identify and explain characteristic text structures and language features used in imaginative, informative and persuasive texts to meet the purpose of the text



Understand and apply knowledge of vocabulary

  • understand the use of vocabulary to express greater precision of meaning, and know that words can have different meanings in different contexts

Respond to and compose texts

  • select appropriate language for a purpose, e.g. descriptive, persuasive, technical, evaluative, emotive and colloquial, when composing texts
  • experiment with different types of sentences, e.g. short sentences to build tension and complex sentences to add detail



Engage personally with texts

  • interpret events, situations and characters in texts
  • think critically about aspects of texts such as ideas and events

Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and feature

  • understand how authors often innovate on text structures and play with language features to achieve particular aesthetic, humorous and persuasive purposes and effects 



Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • identify language features used to position the reader/viewer in a wide variety of communication activities for a range of purposes, including debates, formal talks, interviews, explanations, anecdotes and recitations

Respond to and compose texts

  • discuss and explore moral, ethical and social dilemmas encountered in texts   


In each year of Stage 3 students must study examples of:

  • print texts
  • visual texts

Across the stage, the selection of texts must give students experience of:

  • everyday and community texts
  • an wide range of factual texts that represent information, issues and ideas

Learning across the curriculum

General Capabilities:

  •  creative and critical thinking
  •  literacy