What distinguishes a good journalist?
The public's champion
How do ethics and critical thinking apply to everyday reporting?
Get it in writing
The public's champion
How do you tell a basic news story?
The story changes with the medium
Background for your stories
A journalist's skeptical research
Plagiarism and Fair Use
Working with sources
Who gets the spotlight?
How do you conduct an interview?
How do you report what sources say?
Working a beat
Storytelling in other forms
Leading with something different
What about other kinds of news stories?
How storytelling connects to larger forces
Abbreviated table of contents
Hello fellow educators,
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—Jennie Dear and Faron Scott
The book is organized into six units. The first five units begin with a section called Habits of Mind. They foreground some ways of thinking that underlie the practice of journalism and of being a journalist, and they relate to one or more of the lessons in the unit’s chapters. The chapters in each unit are closely connected, and the book is designed so that you can reorder the units if you wish. We recommend that you begin with the first unit because we introduce concepts and terms that are used throughout the book. The sixth unit is the book’s conclusion.
Unit 1 introduces students to the practice of journalism, making explicit some assumptions about what journalists do and what their project is—to serve their audience by providing useful, relevant, interesting information in an ethical way. The Habits of Mind section describes some characteristics a good professional possesses: initiative, persistence and curiosity. The unit provides some historical context to explain why good journalists take their public duty seriously. It introduces an ethical framework to structure a student’s critical thinking about reporting and rendering stories. It provides a case study that asks students to apply the ideas presented so far.
Unit 2 introduces students to the ways that news is different from other kinds of narratives. The Habits of Mind section discusses how journalists frame reality for their audiences and also some ways for students to decide whether a story is newsworthy and why. The unit covers the basics of news language and story structure. It introduces students to some ways that the different media employ different storytelling strategies, even as the goal remains the same—useful, relevant, ethically presented information.
Unit 3 teaches students how to conduct background research for their stories, including assessing website credibility. The Habits of Mind section gives students some historical context regarding the Internet. The unit includes instruction about plagiarism and copyright infringement because these issues can so easily arise when students use websites and social media to gather information.
Unit 4 covers working with sources. The Habits of Mind section delves into how people can hold really different views of the world and that students' way of seeing isn’t necessarily going to match that of the people they interview—or of the audience. It also talks about objectivity in some depth, so that students know that the goal behind this idea is laudable, but that attempts to be objective often result in less accurate news. This section encourages students to keep an open mind and also to be alert for others’ biases seeping into their news stories. The unit covers source selection, interviewing, quoting, paraphrasing and working a beat. It also includes some instruction on privacy and defamation because these issues can easily arise as students gather information from human sources and make decisions about how to use that information.
Unit 5 addresses writing beyond the basics the text has discussed so far, including different kinds of leads and story structures. The section on blogging introduces students to reporting with an opinion. The Habits section introduces students to logical fallacies so that they can recognize when someone’s argument contains fallacious reasoning—and avoid perpetuating it by repeating it in their own stories—and so that they can avoid illogical thinking themselves. The unit introduces the concept of pods as a structuring mechanism for longer stories and also how to create transitions. It looks in some depth at the purpose of opinion writing for the journalist, when it’s helpful and when it’s not.
Unit 6 is a capstone unit that places the ideas and skills presented in the book into the context of some of the other forces students will contend with as they move into the profession. The unit introduces some basic theory about audiences and presents a case study to illustrate the concepts. It introduces students to ideas about how cultural, political and economic systems can influence their reporting. It sets them on the path of educating themselves about these systems, how they overlap and interlock so that, as professionals, they can engage in more expansive, less literal reporting. The unit closes with some inspiring words from professional journalists.