Lesson plan: What is news?


1. Ask students “What news stories are important in your life as a Shaw University student?” (Example — tuition increase, a/c not working 1st week of class, )

Write them in a Word document using a projector.

2. After a list of five or so news stories ask the class to rank which news stories are the most “newsworthy.”

Give each student five sticky notes (or the number of responses you received.) Have students number each sticky note.

Ask students to come up and rank the stories — 1 (most newsworthy) to 5 (least newsworthy) [The scale depends on the amount of responses.)

Your result should be that you have identified the most and the least newsworthy stories.

3. Now ask the class to reflect on their rankings and identify criteria they used to pick the most and least newsworthy stories.

DISCUSSION: What did the top three stories have that the bottom three don’t?

4. Ask the class if they think there is a difference between information and news?

DISCUSSION: What about news makes it different from plain old information?

Have class brainstorm as many differences as they can and write their criteria on the board.

Then go back to their list and label each story on the board as either an “I” for information or an “N” for news using sticky notes.

5. Now pass out worksheet and go over the five values that journalists use to decide if something is newsworthy. (Students will fill out the right side later in class.)

PRESENTATION — 5 values of news

5 News Values  [[[ starts at slide 1 ]]]

  • Timeliness
  • Proximity
  • Conflict and Controversy
  • Human Interest
  • Relevance

[[[ End at slide 13 after review examples activity. ]]]

6. Revisit the labeling of either “I” or “N” on the class list of stories and ask students to reevaluate their choices.

DISCUSSION: Did anything need to be changed?

Also, have students reevaluate their rankings- based on newsworthiness- and see if anything has changed.

DISCUSSION: Where there were changes or they had mislabeled a story to start with?

Where can you find news?

[[[ Starts at slide 14 ]]]

DISCUSSION: Where do you find the news?

Pass out newspapers to the class.

[[[ Starts at slide 15 ]]]

Above the Fold/Centerpiece Stories (This activity can be modifiied for homework option.)

1. Discuss places to find newsworthy stories.

Highlight newspaper and where to find stories above the fold and the centerpiece story.

  • Above the fold– in a position where it is seen first, for example on the top half of the front page of a newspaper or in the part of a web page that you see first when you open it. (Source: Oxford Learners Dictionaries)
  • Centerpiece story– an item or issue intended to be a focus of attention. In online journalism it is the story that viewers see first on the webpage.
    (Source: Oxford Dictionaries)

2. Place students in small teams and instruct them to go online and find three examples of newsworthy stories and complete the tables on their “Newsworthy Examples” handout.

Students are to pick their best story example and share it with the rest of the class.

HOMEWORK: Newspaper article analysis 

Choose two stories of interest in Monday’s print edition of the News & Observer.

Answer the following questions about the articles:

  • What is the headline of the story?
  • Was the headline effective in summarizing the story and getting the readers attention? Why or why not?
  • Writer’s name (author)
  • Summarize your article in five sentences
  • What are the three most important parts of the article?

    Class time — 1 hour, 15 minutes