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Carol Countryman
Journalism teacher
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Lesson Plans

Searching for Stories




Searching for Stories

Carol Countryman of Scurry-Rosser High School in Scurry, Texas.

Carol Countryman
Scurry-Rosser High School
Scurry, Texas

Title: Searching for Stories

Rationale

Contrary to what many student journalists believe, stories are everywhere. It’s the recognition of a good story that is the challenge. This unit will aid student journalists in recognizing a good story and then pursuing it. This unit will take five class days (two weeks on a block schedule).

TEKS:

2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2F, 2G, 2H, 2J, 2M

Objectives:

  • The learner will (TLW) become aware of what is and what isn’t a good news story
  • TLW develop means and routines for finding stories

Vocabulary

  • news
  • timeliness
  • prominence
  • proximity
  • conflict
  • impact
  • human interest
  • beat
  • localize
  • futures file
  • deadline
  • budget
  • news hole
  • wire service
  • tip
  • service piece

ACTIVITIES:

  • Read Chapter 3 of the "Journalism Matters" textbook.
  • Define vocabulary words listed above.
  • The students will start a clipping file from the newspaper of stories that may be of interest or have a school angle in the future.
  • The students will familiarize themselves with search engines such as Google, Altavista, Dogpile, etc. Student will learn to pare down broad subjects by doing a boolean search for specific information.
  • The students will do an Internet search of hometown name, looking for anything that might appear as unusual or interesting.
  • After reading the chapter and doing the Internet search, the students must come up with ten story ideas to pitch to the class. The class will determine if it is a story worth pursuing or not. Some things to consider when looking for stories:
    • Go to public library and search the hometown newspaper, going back as far as the archives can possibly go. As the student does so, he/she needs to keep a log of interesting stories that catches his or her attention. See if there are any follow-ups in the newspaper on those stories. Is there a story that appears to have just left the reader hanging?
    • Contact the local sheriff’s office and ask about cold cases.
    • Talk to adults who have lived in the area for a long time.
      • Ask them what was the most interesting news event that happened in the town since they’ve lived there.
      • Ask if there is a news item that just faded away without ever seeming to get closure. If so, there’s a story.
    • Go to the courthouse and look up recent filings. There may be something there of interest.
    • Talk to teacher and administrators about possible news stories or upcoming events that need to be covered.

Assessment:

  • Once the research is done and the class has determined what would be the best angle for the stories, the student needs to write the story following all journalistic guidelines.
  • Test over chapter

Sources:

Textbooks:

  • "Journalism Matters" (chapter 3)

Supplemental materials:

  • "Plugged In: Using the Internet for High School Journalism" from the Radio-Television News Directors Association
  • Local newspaper
  • "School Newspaper Adviser’s Survival Guide" (Unit 2)
  • Internet surfing


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