Spring SAVY 2017, Day 1- Intro to Journalism
Intro to Journalism students kicked things off by talking about the changing definitions of “journalist” in our society. As one student put it, journalists used to be “men in gray suits and hats going after the story,” or, as another said, “someone behind a desk reading the news on TV.” But thanks to technology, the term “journalist” has evolved to mean anyone with a blog, or a Twitter or Snapchat account. Journalism is changing fast, and students pointed out the importance of making sure all journalists, whether professional or not, uphold the value of “telling the truth.”
Much of our first class focused on how journalists tell the truth about breaking news: making sure the public receives clear, verified information quickly and efficiently. We read sample breaking news articles and practiced the art of writing news leads (or “ledes”). Students took on the challenge of developing a news lead for a story about our SAVY class, using less than 30 words. They quickly discovered how challenging it can be to pack the who, what, where, when, why and how of a story into a single sentence, but after some practice, we’d developed several strong leads. From the different leads they developed, students brainstormed different angles the story about our class could take.
From there, we talked about the inverted pyramid structure of newswriting: the idea that journalists present information in the order of most importance to least importance. Students practiced this by reading a series of facts and quotes about a proposed school board policy requiring all students to wear expensive, itchy and uncomfortable uniforms, and deciding in what order they would present those facts in an article. Students quickly discovered that what is “most important” in a story is often a matter of opinion, and the way the writer arranges the facts shapes the angle the story can take. Some students chose to elevate the cost of the uniforms as the focus of the story, while others focused on the uniforms’ inelegant look. Others chose to lead with the principal’s controversial statement that “kids should stop whining, because adults make the rules.”
Overall, we had a great first class in which we got to practice new skills and discuss the importance of the changing roles of journalists. Next week, we’ll continue with newswriting as we practice writing full news articles, planning followups, and conducting interviews. See you next week!