Journalists often pitch story ideas inspired by events occurring in their communities or by issues they care about, but they also turn to the Internet and social media to find out what topics are engaging a large audience. This lesson will challenge students to think about the term “newsworthy” and what makes a story worthy of being reported. Click on the Activities Tab to complete the lesson.
Students will learn how journalists consider story ideas and start to understand the role of journalists in communities. Thinking through the idea of newsworthiness will help students dissect their information consumption habits and critique the role of audiences for journalists creating media that is supposed to inform.
Journalists have to make tough decisions about what stories to cover. Understanding newsworthiness will help students uncover what important civic issues need to be reported, and the issues that are not being addressed in news media landscapes.
Immediate, current information and events are newsworthy because they have just recently occurred. It’s news because it’s “new.”
Local information and events are newsworthy because they affect the people in our community and region. We care more about things that happen “close to home.”
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 interested in other people. Everyone has something to celebrate and something to complain about. We like unusual stories of people who accomplish amazing feats or handle a life crisis because we can identify with them.
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.
Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences. (ISTE)
Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical. (ISTE)
Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally. (ISTE)
Explain to students that every day, journalists around the world are challenged with identifying what is newsworthy and what isn’t. While journalists strive to be fair and accurate, their life experiences shape the decisions they make.
Reporters and editors use certain guidelines to determine whether or not information is worth being shared. Since the advent of the Internet and smartphones, journalists also use social media to see what news people are engaging with.
Virtual Option: Use Zoom, Google Meet, or other video conferencing platforms to complete the activity
STEP 1: Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students. Set a 5-minute limit to each group discussion and then ask students to share out to the whole class.
STEP 2: Determine if there is a common story that students mentioned
STEP 3: Pass out the Newsworthiness Chart
Virtual Option: Use this Padlet template to complete the worksheet in a more interactive way. Be sure to click the remake icon to make a copy of our template. If you are using Padlet for the first time, you can create a free account here: https://padlet.com.
STEP 1: Divide into pairs to complete this worksheet.
STEP 2: Instruct each group of students to identify their local news organizations. Are they aware of them? Then, instruct students to find two news stories they find interesting: one local and one national. This could be from a local news site, a social media platform, or a national news site like PBS NewsHour, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Google News, or Apple News. They will use this story to complete the worksheet.
STEP 3: Bringing the class back together, select students to share their news story and report their findings on what makes this story newsworthy.
BONUS: Ask students to identify the basic elements of information gathering to determine if the news story has them all: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY
If your students are working towards producing a story or news package, have them refine their story idea and pitch sheet using the worksheet to check that their story is Newsworthy.
Ask students to reflect on the characteristics that make a story newsworthy. Why do they think journalists use those specific characteristics? What are some others? How do you understand news differently after this activity?
OTHER: What is the difference between a reporter who works for a local news organization, versus a journalist who works at a national news organization?
Self-reflection is important. Distribute copies of the What is Newsworthy Exit Ticket.