SchoolJournalism.org

News: Researching, Interviewing, Reporting and Writing

Carolynne Knox
Ruidoso High School
Ruidoso, New Mexico

Rationale
In order for the students to mature as journalists, we will focus on specific skill building activities for research, interviewing, reporting, and writing to include leads and headlines. In addition, we will practice developing story ideas.

Objectives
Students will:

  • conduct research using data from in-depth field studies
  • synthesize information from multiple sources to draw conclusions that go beyond those found in any of the individual sources
  • use language persuasively in addressing a particular issue
  • find and interpret information effectively
  • respond respectfully to viewpoints and biases
  • demonstrate proficiency in accessing information electronically

Activities

Activity 1 –Research

  • Brief lecture on discussion day over handout: Reporting Techniques by Ira Hadnot of The Dallas Morning News.
  • Your assignment is to interview an adult about his/her high school experiences.
  • You must research to find out as much as possible before you talk to the primary interview.
  • You must have at least three sources of information. You may use the Internet, interview other knowledgeable people, or use the library.
  • Finally, prepare a set of at least 10 questions in order of importance. Remember to write “open-ended” questions that require more than a one word response.
  • Turn in information from the secondary sources along with the 15 questions along with other work on Monday to earn points.

Activity 2 –The interview

  • Group activity: As a group, meet briefly to determine your “angle” on a possible article on your teacher. Prepare at least one question each.
  • Each person in the room will interview your teacher by asking one question. You are responsible to take quick, careful, and accurate notes.
  • Discussion: what was helpful? what was difficult? how can you improve note taking skills for your interview?
  • In groups of three, listen for instructions. One student will be interviewed, one will interview, one will observe. Students will change roles. (The teacher will instruct the one being interviewed – first time to be very interested and accommodating, the second time to be very bored and uninterested.) What happened? Discuss skill involved in engaging a person in an interview.
  • Now, take the ten questions you prepared, review them carefully so that you know at least the first five without looking.
  • Conduct the interview trying to be conversational and engaging. Take brief notes, but maintain eye contact.
  • Write up your notes as soon as possible after the interview.
  • Write a plus/delta. What did you do well? What could you have done better? Write a paragraph.
  • Turn in the activity along with other work on Monday to earn points.

Activity 3 – Story ideas (You may choose to do this activity with a partner for 15 points.)

  • Print out the home page of an online daily newspaper.
  • For each of the articles listed on the home page, write an idea for a story that relates to your school newspaper’s readers. For example: how does the war in Iraq affect high school students?
  • For each of these tired topics, come up with a new high school angle for a story: flip-flops, crime, sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, parents, nutrition, security, drinking, dress code, religion
  • Turn in the activity along with other work at the next class period to earn points.

Activity 4 – Writing the lead (In class activity, earns 15 points)

  • You will be given a set of facts from several stories that appeared in last week’s newspaper.
  • For each article, you will have 5 minutes to construct a solid lead that will hook the reader. The class will work together.
  • Handout and discussion, examples of feature leads by Wanda Cash.
  • Select any of the newspapers available in the classroom or go online to locate three articles. Highlight the lead and comment on how effective it is “hooking” the reader. Rewrite leads that are not effective so that they are.
  • Turn in the activity along with other work on Monday to earn points.

Activity 5 – Writing the headline

  • On the Internet, research what makes a good headline by going to www.journalism.org, www.asne.org, www.jea.org, or do a Google search. Summarize briefly what you will look for in a good headline and how to write a good headline.
  • Review at least three of the newspapers in the classroom or online for good, bad, and indifferent headlines.
  • How can you tell a good headline? What are its characteristics? What makes a headline bad? When is it not appropriate to be funny?
  • For the handout of 5 articles provided with this activity, read the articles and write a great headline.
  • Turn in the activity along with other work on Monday to earn points.

Activity 6 – Copy editing (In class activity, earns 15 points)

  • Using a news or feature story from a local newspaper, discuss if this is a good story that flows well? Why or why not?
  • Now read a bad article and compare and contrast the two.
  • Review the Copy Editing Symbols handout to learn correct marking
  • Choose three articles from any issue of your school newspaper. Mark all edits that should have been made using the copy editing standard.
  • Turn in the activity along with other work on the next class period to earn points.
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