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transition: A word, phrase, sentence or paragraph that moves the reader from one thought to the next and shows the relationship between them. News Reporting & Writing (Eighth Edition) by the Missouri Group. Copyright 2005. Reproduced by permission of Bedford/St. Martins.

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Gary Smith
Journalism teacher
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Lesson Plans

Decision making in the newsroom

Decision making in the newsroom

Gary Smith of Hampton High School in Hampton, Va.

Gary W. Smith
Hampton High School
Hampton, Va.

Title: Decision making in the newsroom


Journalism students and editors will be making decisions as to what stories are appropriate for their reading audience. This lesson gives students the opportunity to practice making decisions and explaining their thought processes or rationales for their decision.

Goals for Understanding


  • Why do some stories make the paper and others don’t?
  • Who should make those decisions?
  • What standards are you basing your decision?
  • Resources/Materials
  • Handout (See below.)
  • Blank paper and Pen


  • Explain decision making process:
    • What is the problem? (not the symptom of the problem)
    • List possible solutions (brainstorm in groups)
    • Analyze possible solutions
    • Select solution and apply it
    • Evaluate to determine if the solution solved the problem
  • Practice brainstorming
    • Problem – slow lunch times
    • Possible solutions – students provide options
    • Analyze solutions – which are doable, less expensive, etc.
    • Select one and present it to cafeteria leader
    • Evaluate – after one month are the lines moving quicker?
  • Handout
    • Give students handouts to work on individually.
    • Place students in groups to discuss their handout answers
    • Present group responses to handout questions
  • Assessment
    • Students will hand in their handout
    • Discuss decision making process – did student use all steps?
    • Group discussions – on track or wandering
  • Follow-up assignment
    • Have students brainstorm “how to improve their school”
    • Select a topic for possible story, feature and/or editorial.


Assume you are the editor of your student newspaper. The following are well written and interesting stories. Write Yes or No on whether or not you would run the story and then defend your answer in writing. Be sure to use the decision making tools discussed in class. Be prepared to discuss your answers in class.


  • The school is changing its absence policy by capping the student absences at five days a semester.
  • A student was assaulted in the rest room.
  • An article containing profane words.
  • An editorial saying the principal is incompetent and should be fired.
  • An editorial calling for a one-day boycott of classes.
  • An article rating the teachers from best to worst.
  • A review of an NC-17 rated movie.
  • An advertisement for cigarettes.
  • The Homecoming assembly was delayed because one of the finalists was nervous and threw up.
  • The acting in the school play was very poor.
  • A student was suspended for drinking at a school dance.

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