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The Role of the Newspaper in the School Community: Writing the Mission Statement

Marti Anne Maguire of Pensacola High School in Pensacola, Fla.

Marti Anne Maguire
Pensacola High School
Pensacola, Fla.

Title: The role of the newspaper in the school community: creating a mission statement

Overview and Rationale

This lesson is designed to orient students in their role as reporters in the school community by focusing on the needs and preferences of its audience, mainly other students, and their responsibilities as journalists. By understanding the role the paper should play in the daily life of the school, students will develop a sense of the newsworthiness of stories in the context of a scholastic publication. Designed for an introductory journalism class of mainly 9th and 10th grade students, the target audience will be a class of roughly 25 students of varied academic ability, race, gender, and cultural background.

Generative Topics

  • The purpose of the school newspaper

Generative Objects

  • Examples of different types of publications
  • Blown-up picture of students changing classes

Goals for Understanding

  • Essential Questions
    • Why do we have a school newspaper?
    • What do students need and want to know?
  • Critical Engagement Questions
    • How does a publication’s audience affect its content?
    • Is a newspaper a business or a public service?
    • What responsibilities do newspapers have to their readers?

Performances of Understanding and Timeline

The timeline of this lesson is condensed, as a school-wide poll will take several days to complete and tally, during which students will be instructed on effective polling techniques and how to evaluate data. Combining this unit with lessons on polling techniques should increase student interest in both. The focus of this unit is to establish a mission statement for the school newspaper using the results of the poll and the addition of other “need to know” news stories. Including the poll, this unit will take about two weeks.

Activity 1

  • Using a list and examples of each, introduce students to different types of papers, such as general interest, national, local, minority, foreign language and special interest.
  • Discuss the audience each addresses and how they cater to its needs. Decide in which of these categories a school newspaper might fit.

Activity 2

  • Post enlarged picture of students and reiterate that this is our audience as a publication.
  • What do they want and need to know? The class will brainstorm their own ideas and pose questions for a school-wide poll of student interests.

Activity 3

  • Final draft of poll is completed as a class and prepared for distribution to students.
  • Meanwhile, students will search the Internet and local newspapers for news stories that may affect students. Since many students at our school do not regularly read newspapers, localizations of stories are helpful, especially those concerning government.
  • Compile a class list of these “hard news” stories the class has found.

Activity 4

  • This class will focus on compiling the data on student interests from the polls.
  • Groups of students will be given completed polls to tally, and final results will be broken into percentages.

Activity 5

  • The class will discuss the poll results.
    • Did the types of stories they thought would affect students rate well with the student body? (Chances are, no.)
    • Should the newspaper cover them anyway? Why or why not?
    • What would the paper be like if we mirrored the priorities of the student body? Each group will consider these questions and list out priorities for the school paper.

Activity 6

  • Introduce students to various types of mission statements, for newspapers and other organizations, including a “how to” on creating a mission statement.
  • Each group will turn in a carefully worded mission statement for the school paper, and defend their priorities in front of the class.


Students will be graded in groups based on the quality of their statement, their ability to defend it, and their participation in class discussions throughout the unit.

References Recommended

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