This resource from the Journalism + Design Lab supports more people to participate in their local news ecosystems through curriculum and other programs.
Students will use the iceberg model to understand how to trace individual events to larger policies, structures, and ideas. By going beyond surface-level understanding, students can help their communities understand the structures and ideas that drive news stories.
Students can analyze existing articles or their own stories using this model, identifying patterns, collective beliefs, assumptions, ideas, and worldviews that support systems.
News coverage is often dominated by reporting on current events—a protest, a murder, a policy, the government's response to a pandemic, etc.
When we take a step back, we can provide context for the events we cover, and illuminate the systems* at play. We have the opportunity to highlight and question the policies, forces, beliefs, and power dynamics that are fueling our most entrenched problems.
Systems thinking is a set of tools and framework for understanding complex issues and opportunities to change them.
*NOTE - according to Journalism + Design, a system is defined as: a set of interconnected and dynamic forces that have a collective function or purpose. Examples: the court system, social service networks, a freshwater lake, a group of friends
Use the Iceberg model worksheet to visualize the systems in news articles and your reporting.
The iceberg model is a tool to help you contextualize the individual events you're reporting on and trace the underlying patterns, structures, and ideas that perpetuate them.
Pick an event that you're focusing on in your reporting. Write it at the top of your iceberg.
Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.
Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity. Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
Prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
An obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions.
Media refers to all electronic or digital means and print or artistic visuals used to transmit messages.
All forms of media created with the purpose of informing the public and delivering news through specific mediums such as radio and broadcast stations, digital news organizations and others.
The act of consuming any form of media including anything that is text or visual. It can be books, television, papers, flyers, advertisements, newspapers, information on the Internet, etc.
A group of people who live in the same area (such as a city, town, or neighborhood). It can also be a group of people who have the same interests, religion, race, etc.
In news media, when storytelling presents a “frame” or window into important events or topics.
A simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group; a set form or convention
The condition of having or being composed of differing elements. Especially in the context of the inclusion of people of different races, cultures, etc. in a group or organization
The act or practice of including and accommodating people who have historically been excluded (as because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability)
Immediate, current information and events are newsworthy because they have just recently occurred. It’s news because it’s “new.”
Investigating and explaining, in a critical and clear-eyed way, how people try to solve widely shared problems. Solutions journalism focuses on responses to problems.
People are attracted to information that helps them make good decisions. If you like music, you find musician interviews relevant. If you’re looking for a job, the business news is relevant. We need to depend on relevant information that helps us make decisions.
In news, it’s a story’s point or theme. It's the lens through which the producer or writer filters the information they have gathered and focuses it to make it meaningful to viewers or readers.
The people who read, watch and consume news. Often, journalists think about audience and newsworthiness in similar ways. How will the news story serve their local or national audience? Who am I writing the story for and why?
When violence strikes or when people argue about actions, events, ideas or policies, we care. Conflict and controversy attract our attention by highlighting problems or differences within the community or between groups. Sometimes conflict can be subtle and manifest as tension.
The term “empathy” is used to describe a wide range of experiences. A generally definition is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. In media-making, creators can have empathy for their subjects and the audience can empathize with the characters.
Video stories about newsworthy issues and topics, factual information, balanced reporting, research, voice overs, soundbites, b-roll footage, infographics, reporter standup, nats (natural sound bites).
Narration and/or voiceover (VO) with a host, commentary, research, personal experiences, explanations, infographics, nats (natural sound), music, entertainment.
The availability of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid
Something that is known or proved to be true.
A view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
Something that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.
An investigation into and study of sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.
A source is an individual, company, document or more that can provide information to fuel a new story. In order for a story to be considered verified and to maintain a reputation as a news outlet, it is important to have a credible source.
The process of verifying the accuracy of a piece of information.
Historical understanding requires recognizing this multiplicity of points of view in the past, which makes it important to seek out a range of sources on any historical question rather than simply use those that are easiest to find. It also requires recognizing that perspectives change over time, so that historical understanding requires developing a sense of empathy with people in the past whose perspectives might be very different from those of today. (NCSS D2.His.4.9-12 - D2.His.8.9-12)
Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences. (ISTE)
Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of view represented in the sources, the types of sources available, and the potential uses of the sources. (NCSS D1.5.9-12)
Historical inquiry is based on materials left from the past that can be studied and analyzed. (NCSS D2.His.9.9-12 - D2.His.13.9-12)
Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. (ISTE)
In order to act responsibly and effectively, citizens must understand the important institutions of their society and the principles that these institutions are intended to reflect. That requires mastery of a body of knowledge about law, politics, and government. (NCSS D2.Civ.1.9-12 - D2.Civ.6.9-12)
At its heart, chronological reasoning requires understanding processes of change and continuity over time, which means assessing similarities and differences between historical periods and between the past and present. (NCSS D2.His.1.9-12 - D2.His.3.9-12)
Whether students are constructing opinions, explanation, or arguments, they will gather information from a variety of sources and evaluate the relevance of that information. (NCSS D3.1.9-12 - D3.2.9-12)