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beat: A reporter’s assigned area of responsibility. A beat may be an institution, such as the courthouse; a geographical area, such as a small town; or a subject, such as science. The term also refers to an exclusive story. News Reporting & Writing (Eighth Edition) by the Missouri Group. Copyright 2005. Reproduced by permission of Bedford/St. Martins.

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Lesson Plans




Mock Interview with Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series.

Jennifer Seavey
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology
Alexandria, Va.

Profile Writing Practice through Mock Interviewing, and throw in lessons in interviewing, attribution and the almighty news peg

Overview and Rationale


Writing a superior profile directly from an interview when no time has been available for prior research can be daunting. Creating a mock interview situation so students can practice their skills through the research and drafting process helps boost confidence for real opportunities. The subject should be chosen with a strong and immediate news peg so the students can relate quickly and perhaps have some personal knowledge of the subject. In this case, Stephenie Meyer, popular author of teen vampire novels, was a logical choice. It is important to stage the interview such that it’s clear that you, as the teacher, are pretending to be the author and that your statements are based on your knowledge of the author taken from bona fide sources.

Goals for Understanding

  • Essential Questions
    • What is the importance of news values as a key news values in choosing subjects for profile writing?
    • How do students conduct a thorough interview with special attention to note-taking, asking questions and quote confirmation?
    • How do students use Internet research to supplement their actual reporting?
    • How do you structure the interview and research material for clarity and flow?
  • Critical Engagement Questions
    • What is news?
    • From what news value does news peg derive?
    • What are the four steps in the writing process (prewriting, revising, editing and proofreading)?
    • Why is journalistic ethics important to the student press?
    • How do you attribute all material collected outside of the primary interview?
    • Why is accuracy in reporting important?

Activities

  • Day 1 – 2
    • Prior to the interview, the class will brainstorm news values (conflict, prominence, impact, novelty, proximity and currency). From timeliness comes the news peg, that which links the subject to a current event either in the immediate past, the present or the near future.
    • Students will access HYPERLINK “http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages” www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages.
    • Each student will choose three different city newspapers. Each should come from a different state in the United States. They will determine how the front page stories represent the primary news values.
    • Students will deconstruct the stories structurally to determine what event constitutes the news peg. They will discuss how to use current events in their schools to drive a news story.
  • Day 3-4
    • Students will read the ASNE Quill and Scroll national feature winner “Pulitzer Prize Winner Visits Jefferson” by Lauren Ruth. It is the story of author Russell Baker’s interview with ninth grade students who’d read his “Growing Up.” The interview/profile is available as Attachment 2.
    • As a class, they will deconstruct the primary components of Ruth’s piece using the profile model. (See Attachments 2.)
    • Students will pair off and interview each other for five minutes each. The goal is to develop a visual/anecdotal lede, a viable news peg and a vivid quote. After they’ve finished interviewing, they will type up their three graphs.
    • Critique the pieces anonymously in a read-around.
  • Day 5-6
    • The students are now ready for the mock interview/simulation. In this interview scenario, the students will not be given a chance to research the subject in advance. For most of the class, Stephenie Meyer is well-known. For those who haven’t heard of her, there will be immediate interest because of the other students’ enthusiastic response.
    • The teacher as subject sets up a 10-15 minute press conference to talk about events of current interest and some biography-background information.
    • Open to a Q & A session. Students are encouraged to ask questions until they run out of steam. Then they are asked if they’d like to confirm any material that might be used for direct quotes. (In a real interview, students are also encouraged to ask for a corroborating source, someone who knows the subject well. They also will need to check name spelling and ask for contact information in case of the need for follow-up.)
    • If the lesson plan is 45 minutes, the Q & A will run into a second period with the fact checking phase afterwards. Each student should be encouraged to ask at least one question.
  • Day 7-8
    • The students will then use the structural scaffolding model they used to deconstruct Lauren Ruth’s interview to guide their own work and a Profile Requirements/Rubric (See Attachment 1). The rubric will serve as a checklist during the first draft.
    • Each graph should be 30-40 words in length. In the Meyer piece, the word count should be a minimum of 400 words. Students should look at their notes and ascertain what information they feel they still need to flesh out their piece.
    • Using the Sourcing Guide (See Attachment 1), the students will note facts and quotes they obtained from the primary interview.
    • Students will research Stephenie Meyer using HYPERLINK “http://www.stepheniemeyer.com” www.stepheniemeyer.com. (The site has multiple links with lots of fun information.)
    • They will also watch a www.cnn.com interview with Meyer so they could get an idea as to her real appearance. They will use that information to grow a visual lede. The tricky part here is to be sure they attribute to the Web site the material they use to fill in their profile. The teacher must keep track of what’s been taken from the Web site for the live interview and what’s been creative elaboration. The students must attribute with, “According to Meyer’s unofficial biography on HYPERLINK “http://www.stepheniemeyer.com” www.stepheniemeyer.com,” or “According to Meyer’s interview on HYPERLINK “http://www.cnn.com” www.cnn.com.”
    • The next important handout is essential to the sourcing process. Because the students have notes from a live interview and will also have notes from an author Web site as well as a cable news vodcast, it is vital that they keep track of what to attribute to what or whom. Again, the students will use the Sourcing Guide (See Attachment 1) to facilitate the tracking process for multiple sources in their material.
  • Day 9-10
    • Students will complete the first draft of the profile.
    • They will exchange drafts with a peer editor who will use the Profile Requirements/Rubric(PRR) (See Attachment 1) to provide an initial assessment. Each student will return to word processing to update their draft.
    • At the end of day nine, students will submit their second draft to the teacher for evaluation. The papers will be copy edited with suggestions using the PRR. Some attention will be paid to AP Style Manual corrections, but no deductions will be made until a follow-up unit.
    • Students will spend their final day of the unit using their teacher’s suggestions to hone their pieces. They will submit their final drafts for a grade.
    • Students will then have an opportunity to read a student writing exemplar from the summer program. Together, the class will critique Luigi Cesaratto’s profile. (See Attachment 3)

Evaluation
Students will be evaluated for revision after the second draft and graded based on the final draft of the interview. I suggest a completion grade for the second draft based on general adherence to the structural basics and meeting the word count requirement. The final draft criteria will include: successful lede, clearly stated news peg, accurate quotes, biography background and a concluding graph that leaves the reader satisfied and interested.

Profile Rubric:
Each profile will be graded based on an assessment tool. (See Attachment 1). The second draft will be critiqued with impunity so the point totals can be eliminated. The final draft will receive a grade based on successful revision.

Extension Activities

  • E-mail Stephenie Meyer or her press agent. Try to get press passes to upcoming events.
  • Plan a follow-up story for the next Meyer rolling out (Perhaps there are press passes to the “Twilight” movie premiere in your town or city).
  • Brainstorm ideas for real interviews. Alumni are always great sources for cool interviews, and they are more easily reached than celebrities.
  • Organize a real interview with a local personality. Emphasize the differences between the mock interview and the real one upfront.
  • Students will use their Associated Press Style Manual to correct any mistakes they’ve made with dates, numbers, abbreviations and grammar.



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