Spring SAVY 2017, Day 2- Intro to Journalism
This week in Intro to Journalism, we continued learning about newswriting by putting our writing, interviewing, and critical thinking skills into practice. Students wrote their very own breaking news stories based on a prompt: they were asked to imagine that students in their school had received a letter from the principal on the last day of school announcing that all extracurricular activities or clubs except for sports and yearbook would be cut starting the next school year due to budget limitations. Students first practiced writing a breaking news story following the inverted pyramid structure they’d learned about last week: identifying the who, what, where, when, why/how of the story and reporting the details in order of what they felt was most important to least important. Many of them noticed again that their idea of what was most important was different from what some of their classmates identified as most important, prompting a discussion about whether journalists can ever be truly objective.
Then, students used a model of creative thinking to “step back” from the immediate details of the story and brainstorm angles for follow-up stories. Who would be interested in or affected by the principal’s decision that they might want to talk to? What would be the implications of implementing these cuts? What larger inferences could they make about the state of the school budget, or the future of students in that school, that would be worth exploring? What further research would they need to do to follow these leads? During our discussion, students generated close to two dozen possible angles for future stories, and planned follow-ups ranging from immediate reactions of students in the school to multi-part investigations into budgetary decisions and larger questions of education funding priorities in our society.
We then turned to a discussion of interviewing sources, and learned tips for asking effective interview questions. After students identified 4-5 key sources they would need to interview for their follow-up stories, the class held a mock news conference in which students got to ask questions of volunteers from the class playing the principal, a student in an activity being cut, a student in an activity not being cut, and a teacher who had directed one of the clubs being cut. This gave students the opportunity to practice trying out different types of interview questions and responding to different source reactions. We closed out the lesson by discussing what we would do if, during an interview, a source made a claim that we knew to be untrue. Would we correct or challenge that source immediately, or wait? Was there danger in waiting? How would we report on a claim we knew to be false? What kinds of evidence would we present to counteract the claim? What if part of the claim was true? Students had many different ideas about what they would do, but most agreed that saying nothing was not an option, because of the danger of people repeating the claim as fact once it was out there.
Next week, we’ll be using our interviewing skills to practice writing profiles and other types of feature articles. See you next week!