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news director: The top news executive of a local television station. news release An item, also called a handout or press release, that is sent out by a group or individual seeking publicity. News Reporting & Writing (Eighth Edition) by the Missouri Group. Copyright 2005. Reproduced by permission of Bedford/St. Martins.

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Real Reporting: Making a Good News Story into a Great News Story

Anthony Flowers of Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur, Texas.

Real Reporting: Making a Good News story into a Great News Story

Anthony Flowers
Thomas Jefferson High School
Port Arthur, Texas

Description of School and Students

This five-day unit will be taught to 10th- and 11th-grade Journalism students who have completed journalism I and are taking either journalism II or newspaper classes. The student body is culturally diverse inclusive of African-American, Hispanic, Caucasian and Asian American students. The school district is inner city and is considered an “at-risk” campus.

Generative Topics:

  • Discussion of required readings (Roberts handout, Didion article, Swisher article, Clark Ch. 7)
  • What makes a news story interesting?

Generative objects:

  • Story Ideas handout
  • “Sins of Young Journalists” handout
  • “How To Write Good” handout

Understanding goals:

  • Essential or Guiding Questions
    • What makes a good news story?
    • Why are some stories better than others are?
    • Why is terse writing important?
    • Why is description so important to a story’s development?
    • Where can you find sources outside traditional areas?
  • Critical Engagement Questions
    • Why is it important to pay attention to details other than a source’s words?
    • Why is it important to have an audience in mind?
    • Why do young journalists tend to overlook reporting in favor of writing?
    • Why is it important to be fair and to check all allegations?
    • Why should a journalist strive to remain “outside” the story?
    • How can the Internet be used to check facts and find information for a story?

Performances of Understanding, Rationale and Timeline

This weeklong lesson (traditional schedule, two week for block) is designed to strengthen the student’s writing and reporting skills. Through the discussions, readings and other activities the students should develop an understanding of basic and advanced interviewing skills and how they add to a story. The student will also learn to write with a specific audience in mind and the reasoning behind this approach. This will help students to develop stronger writing skills and help them develop a higher level of critical thinking through synthesis of what they see and hear first hand and discover through research.

Activity 1

  • Students will divide into groups of five and will choose news stories from the local daily newspaper. They will find four stories they think are good and four they think are average to bad. They will highlight the general facts of each story.

Activity 2

  • Student groups will use information from the handouts to determine which of the eight stories are actually well written and why. They will present their findings to the class.

Activity 3

  • Student groups will rewrite the poorly written stories to try and make them good news stories. They will then present the new stories to the class.

Activity 4

  • Students will undertake an individual writing assignment to find and write a news or feature story using the skills they have learned from this lesson. They will present the story to the class.


Each activity builds upon the preceding one, so all four culminate on the fifth day into one grade. Using a 135 point system, individual grades will be assigned as follows:

  • Activity 1 – participation: 25 points
  • Activity 2 – participation: 15 points, presentation 25
  • Activity 3 – participation 15
  • Activity 4 – Assignment: 30, presentation: 25

Recommended Readings and Sources

  • Cappon, Rene J. “News Writing: Information is not Enough,” “The Associated Press Guide to News Writing 3rd ed.” ARCO – Thompson Learning. 2000. pp. 5-21.
  • Didion, Joan. “The End of the World,” Stanford Review. March 1994.
  • Roberts, Paul, et al. “How To Say Nothing In Five Hundred Words,” “Readings For Writers 3rd ed.,” (Harcourt,.Brace Jovanovich publishers). 1980.
  • Internet sites for examples and information searches

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Biographical Information

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