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Gotham Gazette 2008 Grant Winner       << Back to all Grant Winners
News and Feature Writing for Online Newspapers

Subject:English Language Arts, Journalism, Writing, Social Studies

Grade Level: 9-12

Materials: laptops with a display device for the teacher, newspaper reporting pads, online newspaper publishing program, subscription to the New York Times (or online access)

About: In the past five years, as a journalist and a teacher, I have seen the newspaper industry struggle against the online world. I strongly believe newspapers are slowly but surely making the move to the World Wide Web. However, journalists do not need to compromise their reporting and writing skills. I want to teach my students the basic tenets of journalism and at the same time, how to write for the Internet. I want to explore security issues and finally, how to create an online newspaper with as much credibility and integrity as a print newspaper.

Students will do the following:

• Learn interviewing techniques

• Learn how to gather information from primary and secondary sources

• How to write news and feature articles

• How to use a computer to create and design web pages

Students’ final project will be to create an online high school newspaper for Louis D. Brandeis. The website will have the typical sections of a newspaper: news, features, sports, opinions page, etc.

There are two fantastic features in this unit: the final online newspaper and the articles that the students will write from scratch. I expect every student to write at least one article.

• Teachers should use the Gotham Gazette as an example of an online newspaper and a possible format for the high school paper.

• Teachers should gather current news about the journalism industry and how the print as well as the online news world is functioning.

• Establish stations in the classroom so that each group of students is carrying out a portion of the final project.

Teachers would want to use this unit because it is the epitome of differentiation. Each student comes with his or her own individual skills and this unit satisfies so many different skills. Ninth grade teachers would especially want to use this unit because they have a non-fiction unit for which they are permitted to use news stories and journalistic writing.

Students will be able to read and comprehend informational material
Students will be able to learn effective interviewing skills
Students will be able to critique public documents with an eye to strategies common in public discourse
Students will be able to learn news and features reporting and writing skills
Students will be able to design and create an online newspaper
Students will be able to listen for important information while taking notes on an event.
Students will be able to use primary and secondary sources as background information for articles
Students will be able to organize news articles by using the inverted pyramid.
Students will be able to edit and revise during the writing process
Students will be able to work as part of a group to carry out complex tasks related to the final project.

A New York City newspaper that covers a whole range of topics including arts, culture, news and politics.
A great resource for high school students – to teach them about all aspects of journalism.
The Poynter Institute’s online page regarding news media.
This is a website from the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC. The website has incredible news and information regarding online journalism.
This website is from the Pew Center for Civic Journalism. It has interesting news and information about how journalism affects our world and lives.

The student reads and comprehends informational materials to develop understanding and expertise and produces written or oral work that:

• restates or summarizes information;

• relates new information to prior knowledge and experience;

• extends ideas;

• makes connections to related topics or information.

English Language Arts
Writing: creates an organizing structure appropriate to purpose, audience, and context;

• includes appropriate facts and details;

• excludes extraneous and inappropriate information

English Language Arts
The student participates in group meetings, in which the student:

• displays appropriate turn-taking behaviors;

• actively solicits another person’s comment or opinion;

• offers own opinion forcefully without dominating; • responds appropriately to comments and questions.

English Language Arts
The student makes informed judgments about television, radio, and film productions; that is, the student:

• demonstrates an awareness of the presence of the media in the daily lives of most people;

• evaluates the role of the media in focusing attention and in forming opinion;

• judges the extent to which the media are a source of entertainment as well as a source of information.

English Language Arts
The student analyzes and subsequently revises work to clarify it or make it more effective in communicating the intended message or thought. The student’s revisions should be made in light of the purposes, audiences, and contexts that apply to the work. Strategies for revising include:

• adding or deleting details;

• adding or deleting explanations;

English Language Arts
The student critiques public documents with an eye to strategies common in public discourse, including:

• effective use of argument;

• use of the power of anecdote;

• anticipation of counter-claims;

English Language Arts

Day 1: What makes a story newsworthy in the media?
Students will be able to learn to read and comprehend the news critically.
Students will be able to understand the difference between a news and feature story.
Laptop cart to view news and feature articles online
newspaper articles
Hand a group of four students four articles and ask them to individually identify it is as a news or feature article. Each group must justify their answer.
Ask each student in their groups to choose an article and identify what the most “interesting” detail is in the article.
Give each student two articles. In their writer’s notebooks, ask students to explain why certain details in the article are interesting.
Class discussion: What makes an article newsworthy? Why does the media report on certain stories – are they appealing to their readers?
Have students go to an online print media website and ask them how the articles online are different.
Have students go to multiple news websites and note any patterns in the type of stories on their main web page.
I like giving students exit slips at the end of every lesson, asking them the following questions:

1. Name one new thing you learned today

2. List at least one question you have on your mind about the lesson

3. Make any suggestions for the next lesson

Day 2: Name the FIVE W’s of news and feature reporting
Students will learn the organization of news writing including the inverted pyramid
Students will be able to identify the different structures of news writing including the leade, nut graph, background, and clincher
Students will learn the basics of news gathering or reporting
newspaper articles
laptop computers
overhead projector or display device
Mini-lesson on the five W’s of news writing: who, what, where, why and when.
Hand each student one newspaper article and ask them to individually identify the five W’s in it
Ask students to analyze the first sentence of their article. What type of information is in that one sentence? How many W’s are answered in that one sentence? How many words are in that sentence? How is it structured – how does it begin?
Mini-Lesson on the news leade and the nut graph, the first sentence and main idea of a news article, respectively. The lesson will explain what the news leade should look like. I would show them examples of news leades on the overhead projector.
Give students a handout with a whole bunch of facts that are out of order. The handout will have three different sets of facts.
Activity: Students will turn the facts into three different news leades.

Day 3: What is news reporting?
Students will be able to conduct an interview including what questions to ask: i.e. open-ended and close-ended questions.
Students will be able to transcribe information while interviewing.
Students will be able to collect verbatim quotes
Quickwrite: As soon students walk into the classroom, ask them to write about the following question: If you had the chance to meet someone famous, what are five questions you would ask him or her? Have students share their responses
Class discussion: Ask students: Why did you choose these questions to ask?
Mini-lesson: A good interviewer keeps their audience (or reader) in mind by asking questions that they would want answered. Prepare before an event by making a list of questions you want to ask. Determine the most important questions to ask. What are open-ended and close-ended questions.
Tell students they will be interviewing you about an animal that escaped out of the Bronx Zoo and was later captured by animal control. Give students time to create questions.
Hold a press conference in which students ask questions. (Give them a heads up that at a real press conference, all the information provided can be used by all the reporters present).
Time the activity so that I determine when the last question is asked.
Ask students to take the information they collected and write a news leade and nut graphs. Share news leades and nut graphs.
Collect the work and grade

Day 4: How is writing for the internet different from writing for print media?
Students will be able to use online tools to report news.
Students will learn about technologically viewing and reading the news.
Students will be able to produce online articles in diverse ways.
Current day’s newspaper
LCD projector or other display device
laptop computers
Have all students read one of the main stories on the front page of the New York Times.
As a DO NOW, ask the students to identify the most important information in the story.
Along with the students, visit several news websites including www.topix.net, www.salon.com, www.msnbc.com, www.fox.com, and Gotham Gazette’s website.
Ask students if they found the New York Times article on any of these websites.
In their writer’s notebooks, the students should compare the news stories and find similarities and differences between the two.
Have students explore the blog or forum pages of one of these websites. Are the readers making comments about the news?
Mini-lesson: What is “open-source” reporting? How can reporters use comments from readers to write news stories online?
Answer following questions in writer’s notebooks: How can the online community help news reporters gather the news? How do reporters maintain the news gathering process online? How do reporters maintain objectivity while reporting online?
Ask students to go to popular students’ blogs or forums and make a list of 10 story ideas that they may want to write as a news or feature article for the final project, the online high school newspaper.

Day 5:

Minauti Dave


Louis D. Brandeis High School
145 West 84th Street
New York, NY 10024

Ms. Dave has been a high school English Teacher for three years as a New York City Teaching Fellow. Before she became a teacher, she was a journalist for seven years, working for newspapers and websites. Her former journalism career has worked harmoniously with her new teaching career. As a teacher she returned to her English literature roots. She is in love with words; picking apart literary language and reading critically. Journalism still holds a special place in her life. She is the high school’s newspaper club advisor and takes every opportunity to teach journalism in her English classes.


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