Chapter 3 introduces students to some of the differences between news writing and other types of writing. It begins by distinguishing among reports, inferences and judgments and then talks about specific ways news writing is different—it’s concise and direct, and it uses short paragraphs, for example.
1. Truth claims, value claims and reports, inferences, judgments (Exercise 3-1 in the textbook is a corresponding assignment.)
For each example, ask students to identify the inferences and judgments they see. What did they have to edit out in order to make the paragraph a report instead?
You can introduce the terms value claim and truth claim to help students articulate the difference between inferences and judgments on the one hand and reports on the other.
Value claims frequently appear in commentary, blogs and analyses.
News writing emphasizes reports, which are essentially truth claims. Journalists have specific practices to verify the truth of their reports, such as confirming facts with more than one source.
Another way to approach the lesson is to draw the distinctions among fact, argument and opinion.
Describe a fact as equivalent to a truth claim and a report. Journalists report verifiable facts.
An argument is one type of value claim, but a sound argument requires factual evidence to support it. Editorials and analyses are examples of value claims that appear in news outlets.
Opinions are another type of value claim, but they are largely outside the practice of news because they don’t require factual evidence to support them.
When students are determining whether to include in their stories the inferences and judgments that sources offer, one question students can ask themselves is whether there is evidence to support what the source says, or is it an unsubstantiated opinion?
2. Language of news
To illustrate the lessons on the language of news, pull up this story about a small school district’s difficulty in filling some type of jobs.
a. Ask students to identify where in the story they see the qualities of news language as described in the textbook chapter.
b. Preview the book’s later lesson on attributions by showing students how often they appear, what their form is (for example, they’re typically subject-verb, they use the verb “said,” and they are preceded by a comma) and where they’re placed (typically at the end of the first full sentence).
c. Use the story to teach some basic AP lessons, such as titles.
d. Use paragraph 14 to talk about,
parenthetical statements as a way reporters may inadvertently insert themselves into a story—and also to preview the concern about inserting parenthetical words or phrases into quotes
how inferences and judgments slip into a news story—through sources and through journalists, themselves. Ask students what they would do to revise the inference(s) and judgment(s) out of this paragraph