The textbook exercises ask students to write a story with transitions based on information in the chapter, analyze the structure of a news story, and find a longer story and list transitions in that story. Exercise 13-5 asks students to find a story that explains how things work and summarize.
The first four exercises in the Interactive Workbook ask students to organize lists of facts into pods of related information. The last two exercises ask students to provide transitions for brief stories.
1. Organizing information for news stories using Storify
The main purpose of the following activity is to help students practice organizing information for a story. The exercise should also help them learn to use an online tool and practice verifying information and selecting sources. (Note: The Interactive Workbook examples page also introduces students to Storify.)
a. Introduce the activity by showing students Storify's description of the company's vision as a quick introduction.
b. Next, choose a topic, or several topics, as a class. (You’ll notice that the Storify instructions that follow use the Occupy Wall Street movement as a topic.) The whole class can use the same topic, or each group can have its own.
c. Next, show instructor Kelly Fincham's helpful explanation of how to teach journalism students to use Storify. It will walk you and your class through the steps of creating a story based on information you can find on the Web.
d. Then, divide the class into groups to start working on their stories. If you are using one class period, tell them that this will be a shortened version of what they would usually do. If you are using two class periods for this activity, they can use the rest of the first class period to create the stories, and you can do a more thorough analysis and discussion in the next class. Either way, the discussion is crucial.
e. Discuss and analyze the results. First, have each group show its results to the rest of the class. Ask them to talk briefly about how they made their choices. How did they decide on the order of information? How many quotes per point? How did they decide how much of their own text to add?
f. Discuss how the elements perform like pods, and how they're similar to the way journalists organize chunks of information based on their own reporting and research. Remind students that, in most cases, there will be far more information available than they will be able to use. Discuss how to make thoughtful choices—how much were they affected by the power and effectiveness of a quote in deciding whether to include it? How much were they affected by who said it?
g. Discuss how they verified sources. If this were something they were doing for a news organization, what further steps would they take?
h. Discuss how they verified information.
2. Structuring a video story
This exercise emphasizes video storytelling for news, but we think several of the lessons are applicable for most other newswriting as well. It’s an interesting and challenging way—not based on text— to think about storytelling. The exercise is based on the Poynter Institute’s Al Tompkins’ analysis of “Puppy Love,” one of the Budweiser Super Bowl commercials.
a. Start by showing the commercial without Tompkins’ analysis (it’s one minute).
b. Then, play Tompkins’ step-by-step analysis (7:52 minutes).
c. Ask students to answer the following questions:
This is a commercial, built on a fictional story. In what ways does that make it difficult to apply to a news story? In what ways do you think it’s helpful
What is “the Rule of Three”? Can you think of examples from other stories, including movies, that use this rule? Can you think of any examples of news stories that use this rule?
Tompkins talks about the plot devices in this story: It starts with friction, builds to context and then to an explosion of action, and then ends quickly. What’s the friction, or conflict? Are there other areas of conflict Tompkins doesn’t discuss? What’s the context? What’s the explosion of action?
In what ways would such plot devices be helpful in telling a news story? In what ways might they get in the way of telling a news story well?
Tompkins notes a couple of places where information isn’t given because it might be distracting. What are these? Can you think of others? How might this be helpful in thinking about how to tell a news story well?
What was effective about this commercial? What did you think might be problematic or ineffective? And, if you applied some of its techniques to telling news stories, how might these be effective? Problematic?
WHAT ABOUT OTHER KINDS OF NEWS STORIES?
Test questions & PDF
Chapter 13 teaches students how to organize longer news stories by showing them how to gather information into pods, or groups of similar facts and quotes. It also teaches students to use transitions.
The chapter also discusses the importance of considering fairness when structuring a story and placing quotes or information about different sources. It ends with a discussion of balance, urging students to structure their stories in ways that are most helpful to their audience rather than trying to simply present “both sides” of an issue.