Students explore new topics and people to develop a compelling news story.
This lesson will help students understand how journalists decide what kinds of stories to pursue and help them sharpen the focus of their own story ideas.
Go HERE to complete the lesson.
Students will be able to answer this question: What makes something newsworthy?
Use this lesson at the beginning of your news-gathering journey and before students do pre-interviews or write a pitch.
Lots of media and news literacy lessons ask students to think about the decisions that reporters make without asking them to step into the journalist’s shoes and experience the decisions that go into every story -- from the idea to the research, the pitch, framing, and production. This lesson will deepen students’ understanding of media, especially visual media, and help them be much more discerning and savvy media consumers.
Decisions about money, priorities, and policy are affected by decision-makers’ understanding of an issue. Ideas and opinions often come from the research, information, and media that decision-makers consume and the media that shape the general public’s understanding of complex topics. A stronger understanding of where stories come from gives students power over the messaging and information, and an understanding of the connection between media, community issues, policy-making, and civic life.
Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.
Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity. Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
A group of people who live in the same area (such as a city, town, or neighborhood). It can also be a group of people who have the same interests, religion, race, etc.
Immediate, current information and events are newsworthy because they have just recently occurred. It’s news because it’s “new.”
Local information and events are newsworthy because they affect the people in our community and region. We care more about things that happen “close to home.”
Investigating and explaining, in a critical and clear-eyed way, how people try to solve widely shared problems. Solutions journalism focuses on responses to problems.
People are interested in other people. Everyone has something to celebrate and something to complain about. We like unusual stories of people who accomplish amazing feats or handle a life crisis because we can identify with them.
People are attracted to information that helps them make good decisions. If you like music, you find musician interviews relevant. If you’re looking for a job, the business news is relevant. We need to depend on relevant information that helps us make decisions.
In news, it’s a story’s point or theme. It's the lens through which the producer or writer filters the information they have gathered and focuses it to make it meaningful to viewers or readers.
The people who read, watch and consume news. Often, journalists think about audience and newsworthiness in similar ways. How will the news story serve their local or national audience? Who am I writing the story for and why?
Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences. (ISTE)
Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of view represented in the sources, the types of sources available, and the potential uses of the sources. (NCSS D1.5.9-12)
Historical inquiry is based on materials left from the past that can be studied and analyzed. (NCSS D2.His.9.9-12 - D2.His.13.9-12)
Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. (ISTE)
Whether students are constructing opinions, explanation, or arguments, they will gather information from a variety of sources and evaluate the relevance of that information. (NCSS D3.1.9-12 - D3.2.9-12)
With students, review key factors from What is Newsworthy?
STEP 1: Show the class a student-produced piece from SRL:
STEP 2: After students watch the piece, ask them to give examples from each quality of newsworthiness.
STEP 3: Then have them watch How to Pitch a Story, a piece by the Associated Press about what characteristics good video stories share. (We know, it’s outdated, but the information is solid. Plans are underway to produce a better one!)
STEP 4: Ask students to share in pairs or small groups:
STEP 5: Ask each group to pick their most newsworthy story and share it with the class. Have students from each group explain why their story is the most newsworthy and take a class vote (via secret ballot/ anonymously) on whose story is the best/most newsworthy.
Being a good listener and considering the six news values are keys to finding and developing local stories.
Video journalists sometimes confuse an important topic with a compelling visual story.
Topics are vague; good video story ideas are specific and visual. But the topics themselves are important because they hint at themes that underlie the stories.
Take a look at this chart to see how important topics can be distilled into compelling visual stories and then fill out the blank spaces in the accompanying chart.
Pass out theFinding Story Ideas Worksheet and introduce the activity. Students can work on this in class or as homework. Set a firm but short deadline so students can experience some of the pressure involved in journalism. This is an exercise to get students thinking, not a final project. As the final step in the Finding Story Ideas Worksheet, students fill out an SRL Pitch Sheet.
Point out to students that all the story ideas students have generated are unique insights from this class. Explain that PBS Newshour is a national television and online news program and that Student Reporting Labs connects thousands of students across the country. Producing a story is an opportunity to give voice to these missing perspectives: if you don’t tell these stories, they won’t get told.