Instructors:
Chapter 4
 

HOW DO YOU TELL A BASIC NEWS STORY?

 

Activities

Test questions & PDF

SYNOPSIS

 

This chapter teaches basic leads, including broadcast, and the inverted pyramid.  It provides examples of literary journalism to illustrate the variety of shapes that stories can take. Chapters 12 and 13 follow up on this idea and provide alternative leads and story structures.   

Activities

The exercises in the textbook ask students to apply lessons such as in ethics, news values and framing to fact sets and then write leads and inverted pyramid stories.  They also provide students the opportunity to analyze news stories.

 

The additional exercises in the Interactive Workbook apply the the ethical principles, as well as the concepts of framing and newsworthiness, to leads and stories.

 

1.  Leads (Exercises W4-1 through W4-4 in the Interactive Workbook are corresponding assignments.)

 

a.  Ask students to identify what, if anything, makes each lead newsworthy.

 

b.  Ask students to identify any ethical issues they see in each lead.  Any issues with freedom and autonomy?  Truth telling and stewardship?  Justice and fairness? Is there an opportunity to perform the watchdog function?

 

c.  Ask students to brainstorm ways that framing choices could mitigate any ethical issues.

 

d.  Ask students to brainstorm ways to advance the story, keeping news values and ethical principles in mind.

 

e.  You can use these leads to foreground AP Style rules such as titles, days, dates and time element, and capitalization.

 

2.  Ethics and writing a basic news story  (Exercise 4-1, Fact Set B, in the textbook is a corresponding assignment.)

 

a.  Ask students if they would use the information that the smoke detector lacked batteries. Would they use the information about no adults being at home at the time of the early morning fire?  Ask them to use the ethical principles to explain why they’d use either, neither or both pieces of information.

 

b.  If students would use these facts, ask them to apply their reasoning above as they block out the rest of the inverted pyramid.  Where would they put the information that the smoke detector lacked batteries?  Where would they put the information about no adults being at home at the time of the early morning fire?  What principles are being served?  What values are being validated, or not?  What assumptions are treated as given, if any?

 

c.  Ask students to apply the lesson of cautionary tales to this story.  Should they use a cautionary tale frame?

 

d.  Ask students to consider the information and questions that follow.  Journalists routinely report whether, after a car accident, drugs or alcohol are suspected factors, and they also report whether vehicle occupants were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.  When there’s a motorcycle accident, journalists report whether the riders were wearing helmets.  All of these facts can be seen as cautionary.  So, do students see any distinctions among these facts and those in the fire story? 

 

e.  Ask students to rewrite their story.  Ask them to write a few paragraphs after their story that applies the discussion from class.