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roundup: A story including a number of related events. After a storm, for example, a reporter might do a roundup of accidents, power outages and other consequences of the storm. News Reporting & Writing (Eighth Edition) by the Missouri Group. Copyright 2005. Reproduced by permission of Bedford/St. Martins.

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Jennifer Rinterknecht
Teacher of English and French
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The Basics of Features and Interviewing

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Personality Profile Assignment




The Basics of Features and Interviewing

Jennifer Rinterknecht of Corvallis High School in Corvallis, Ore.

Jennifer Rinterknecht
Corvallis High School
Corvallis, Ore.

Title: The Basics of Features and Interviewing

Key Theme: Features and Interview Skills

Overview and Rational: Students often complain that there is nothing to write about in school. They feel as if they can do no better than the local paper because nothing happens at school and the newspaper only comes out once a month so that any newsworthy event is always old by the time it is published. Feature stories are one way of showing students that their publication can be interesting and meaningful to their target audience. In this lesson, students will learn about feature writing, especially the personality profile. They will also learn interview skills that will help then to find the real story worth printing. This lesson will take one 90 minute block. Students will have two weeks to complete the personality profile, during which time they will engage in mini- tutorials to learn photo, layout, editing, and revision skills.

Goals:

  • Students will be able to find a story where there appears to be no story
  • Students will value their peers and collegues as interesting people with stories to tell
  • Students will appreciate their own ability to write interesting stories
  • Students will understand how to prepare for an interview
  • Students will value the importance of observation

Essential Questions:

  • What is a feature story?
  • How do I find a good story?
  • What does it mean to be a journalist?
  • How do I prepare for and conduct a good interview?

Activities

  • Warm up
    • Quote on board: "Interesting people tell interesting stories”
    • Discuss the idea that everyone has a story to tell, and that it takes an interesting reporter to uncover the interesting stories. The stories that the class will focus on today are features, specifically personality profiles. Student should browse the day’s newspaper for examples.
    • Discuss the following:
      • What kind of person was chosen to be profiled?
      • Why were these people chosen?
      • How do reporters or editors make these decisions?
      • How do reporters find interesting stories, where seemingly there is no story?
    • The answer is good interview and reporting skills.
  • Mini Lecture/Discussion:
    • Good reporting skills equal good observation and listening skills. Good reporting is also tied to good interview skills: knowing which questions to ask.
    • A reporter’s biggest mistake is either to go into an interview with no questions or to go into an interview with a list of question and not deviate from the list. A good reporter begins an interview with a set of questions, but knows when to add impromptu questions that will get a subject to continue on a train of thought if it sounds interesting. Example. Reporter asks “What was the goal of the fundraiser’?” Subject answers “We wanted to make the club look good; no really the goal was to earn enough money to help build a new center for migrant worker education” Instead of skipping to the next question a good reporter follows up on the first part of that answer to find out if there was something behind it. “What did you mean that you wanted to make the club look good’?” the reporter asks next.
    • A good reporter also spends a lot of time looking at the subject as well as the subjects surroundings. It is a good idea to interview a person in their office, classroom or home if possible because a reporter will always learn more about person by watching him in his environment not yours.
  • Mock interview
    • Have students watch an interview between two people.
    • Discuss what was good about that interview. What could have been better?
    • Based on the mini lecture and what students just saw could they write a set of rules for interviewing? Have them do this in small groups then share with the larger group. Stress importance of background research before an interview.
  • Pesonality Profile assignment
    • Introduce the Personality Profile assignment (see the related file to this lesson plan). Students in the class will be assigned another student to interview and write a personality profile about. See assignment sheet for details.
  • Getting started
    • Now that you have an assignment how do you get started? Before you even go to talk to the person that you have been assigned you need to find out about that person so that you will know some background info and what kind of questions to ask.
    • Where are places to begin? Brainstorm as a class: yearbook, friends, teachers, coaches, siblings, etc. If you were doing an adult you might look on the web or at city hall for additional info.
    • Interview the people surrounding your subject first. Then write up your interview questions for the main interview.
    • All interview questions need to be reviewed by one student and either the head editor or adviser before the interview can take place.

Assessment:

  • Through the Personality Profile assignment f will be able to assess students interview skills.
  • Next month we will be having a class press conference in which Miss Mossbottom will appear to answer questions from the staff on a very important issue. This will provide an opportunity for me to assess students’ abilities to conduct themselves properly in an interview and to come up with meaningful questions. I will also be able to note their observation skills.
  • I will get feedback from teachers who are interviewed for newspaper articles throughout the year.
  • For each issue of the paper students will be required to hand in interview sheets. These will help me assess a students ability to prepare for an interview and a students ability to find all possible sources of information.

Recommended Reading

  • Feature stories as examples of what the students are aiming for such as “A Boy of Unusual Vision” and “Puff Daddy."
  • Books by John McPhee and Rick Bragg who are excellent non-fiction writers and craft their essays as good features should be crafted. Joan Didion and Barbara Kingsolver are also excellent non-fiction writers whose craft should be copied.



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