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Julie Chortanoff
English Teacher/Newspaper Adviser
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Lesson Plans

Uncovering news values

Uncovering news values

Julie Chortanoff of Steelton-Highspire Junior/Senior High School in Steelton, Pa.

Julie Chortanoff
Steelton-Highspire School District
Steelton, PA

Title: Uncovering News Values

Overview and Rationale

Journalism students need to know what makes certain stories more newsworthy than others.
Students should be able to identify which issues/events have potential to become good news stories and what angle to approach the story from to effect reader interest.
Through uncovering news values, students will be able to develop sources in their school and community that will allow for more accurate and relevant reporting.
Students will be able to develop many possible story leads for their publication.

Goals for Understanding

  • Essential Questions
    • What makes a story newsworthy?
  • Critical Engagement Questions
    • Why are readers (you) drawn to some news stories and not others?
    • What criteria must be met for determining what makes a story newsworthy? What makes a story good?
    • What steps can a journalist take to develop stories that grab reader attention?

Overviews and Timeline

Activity One (One 45-minute class) Students as News Consumers

What interests you? (20 minutes)

  • Split students into several groups (3 or 4 groups of 2-3 students, class size permitting), assign each group one section of paper.
  • Students must select a minimum of 2 stories from each section that they are immediately interested in. Do not comment on or discuss any stories prior to this activity. The goal is to have students select based on their interests.
  • Students should read each story selected as group, write a brief summary, and make a list of at least three reasons why they were drawn to/interested in this story.

Why are you interested? (20 minutes)

  • Each group will select a spokesperson to share results with class.
  • Teacher will call on students to share their findings with class. Spokesperson for each group will record responses (three reasons) on board.
  • After all responses are listed, teacher will lead class through a discussion on responses, grouping similar responses and naming each group –developing a list of student reader “news values.” Questions to ask to promote correct grouping might include:
    • Why is the story important?
    • Who is going to care and why?
    • How might readers react to the story?
  • Assign homework: Students must bring three story ideas to class the next day. (These should be very rough ideas. These ideas will later be analyzed using a student-developed list/explanation of news values and will include a description of applicable news values and possible angles.)

Activity Two: (One 45-minute class): Students as Journalists: Using news values to attract readers.

  • Students will break into groups and develop a written list of news values with definitions of each value and examples. Students may cut and paste examples of articles that feature a prominent value and label it accordingly on their lists.
  • Group spokespersons will write their group’s list on butcher paper and post on the classroom walls.
  • When all groups have reported, teacher will pass out handout: What makes news news and students will compare their lists to the handout, reaching a consensus and creating one final list.
  • Teacher will produce handout with class generated list


  • Students will use their final list to take their homework (three story ideas) and develop the ideas to include: possible angle/s, sources, and a description of applicable news values as they relate to the possible story angle/s.
  • Each student will be required to contribute five fully-developed story ideas per week following above format.
  • Each student will contribute one fully-developed story idea weekly to be assigned as a potential article for an upcoming issue.
  • Alternate and/or Additional Assessment: Have students keep a journal monitoring the front page of the paper for one week. Students should analyze the front page articles for news values, reporting which are prominent, how many articles show multiple values, and which values seem to be missing. Students should include each front page analyzed. Student should highlight headlines of articles used and label news values in each.


  • Lamb, Jane. Chapter 2: “What is News?” The Complete Newspaper Resource Book. Portland: L. Weston Walch, 1985. 28-29.

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