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Writing and Reporting / Collaborative Research

Download FileWith the evolution of citizen journalism, the barrier between news broadcaster and news consumer is blurred. But this heightens the need for strong news writing and reporting skills to avoid inaccuracy on either the giving or receiving end. Whether or not a student looks to a professional career as a journalist, adopting journalistic techniques will be useful in myriad academic and real world settings.

Learning Activity:

1.  Students know good news stories when they see and hear them. Ask students to work as a class to brainstorm the characteristics of a good news story. Record student ideas on the board or overhead.  Key components that should be included on the list include:
  • Attention getting headline
  • A strong lead containing 5 W’s and H (who, what, when, where, why, and how)
  • Use of quotes (we like to hear what others have to say about the topic of the story)
  • Real facts (the truth and accuracy matter)
  • A strong summary
  • Arrangement of the story (presenting information from most to least important)
2.  Facilitate a short discussion about what make a story newsworthy.  Some key elements when considering “newsworthiness” are:
    • Timing:  if it happened today, it’s news, if it happened last week, it’s not; with 24-hour news access, “breaking” news is important
    • Significance:  how many people are affected
    • Proximity:  the closer a story hits to home, the more newsworthy it is
    • Prominence:  when famous people are affected, the story matters (i.e. car accident involving your family vs. a car accident involving the President)
    • Human Interest:  because these stories are based on emotional appeal, they are meant to be amusing or to generate empathy or other emotions.  They often appear in special sections of the newspaper or at the end of the newscast as a “feel good” story or to draw attention to something particularly amusing, quirky, or offbeat

3.  Watch the video, listen to the audio, or print the transcript of the story of your choice from the “Archive” section of NOW Online available at http://www.pbs.org/now/thisweek/archive.html.  Distribute the News Story Analysis Worksheet provided with the lesson and review the directions with the class.  Direct students to complete questions 1-6 on the worksheet as a class, in small groups, or in pairs, whichever is most effective for your students. 

4.  Facilitate a classroom discussion about questions 1-6 on the News Story Analysis Worksheet and encourage students to share their answers and ideas as part of the class discussion. 

5.  Discuss the importance of finding and citing reliable resources when doing reporting a news story.  Remind students that with the evolution of the internet, some amateur sources and blogs are not credible sources.  Points to address when discussing Internet resources:
  • Determining who is sponsoring/presenting the content you are using as a resource.  Many reputable organizations will include their name in their URL.  In addition, the 3 letter domain code will provide clues about the origin of the content (i.e. edu = educational institution, gov = government, org = organization, com = commercial, net = personal, etc.)  The group providing the information can also slant its content to promote the agenda most likely to serve the group. 
  • Find out about the author(s) by reviewing the “about” section of the site, looking for specific contact information, and looking for author credentials on the site
  • Always evaluate the purpose of the site and try to understand the goals and mission of the people responsible for producing the site.  If it is a commercial site, chances are they are trying to sell their product.  It if it an organization site, they are probably promoting their specific point of view.
6.  Go back to the selected news story and direct students to use what they learned from the writer’s content in the story to answer questions 7-8 on the News Story Analysis Worksheet.  Provide 4-5 minutes for students to complete these questions, then discuss the answers as a class.  Collect worksheets so individual grades (completion or accuracy) can be assigned for the activity.

NOTE:  For more information on how today’s reporters find and document sources, see the article entitled “Hello, Mom. What Makes a Source Reliable?” from National Public Radio at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5014165

7.  Close the discussion by asking students to comment on the following questions.  This can be done as a class, in pairs, or in small groups.
  • As you read and learned more about the topic of this news story, did it make you want to learn more or take action in any way?  Explain.
  • In your opinion, why it is important to be informed about news that impacts you and/or your community/world both directly and indirectly? 
Performance Task:

8.  Explain to students that now that they have learned about and analyzed an example of strong news writing, they will be writing a news story of their own.  Distribute the News Story Project Guide and review the project guidelines. 

9.  When all news story projects have been completed, allow students the opportunity to share their work with others in the school community and receive feedback about their writing.  Ideas for sharing could include:
  • posting written stories on the school website or in a classroom produced publication
  • creating news story podcasts
  • airing video productions of the news stories on the school or district television news or on an appropriate video sharing website
  • putting students into pairs or small groups to share their stories in class






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