Teacher resources: Pick and mix - Finding news

A School Report writes in a notebook

FINDING NEWS

This page contains a collection of videos, activities and quizzes about what makes a story newsworthy and where to find news.

You can choose which resources are the most appropriate for your pupils and classroom. We've called it a pick and mix - so you can read through and select the materials that best fit in with your plans.

Scroll down the page or click on the links to find the individual resources. Please note that all suggested times for activities are approximate and will depend on class size, age, etc.

We also have a special Teacher Essentials section which includes lots of extra information - including Practical Tips and Guides for some of the key skills of journalism - and you can also use our updated Lesson Plans if you prefer a more structured approach.

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Essentials

When it comes to working out what to cover, it can help to get right down to basics: what actually makes something "news"?

And once you have a grasp of that, where can you start looking for stories that are of interest to your audience?

Sources of potential news are everywhere: newspapers, the internet, radio and TV programmes, sporting and cultural events - not to mention your friends, family and local community.

These resources will help you understand what is and isn't a story - and direct you to where you can look for ideas and sources.

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Story choices

Journalists and editors have to make informed decisions every day about which stories to cover and how they are going to cover them.

No newspaper, TV programme, radio station or website can cover everything, so judgements have to be made to prioritise the most important news.

These resources will help to sharpen your editorial judgement about what makes a good story, and give you an idea about why certain stories make the bulletins.

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Audience awareness

We all make decisions about where we are going to find out about the news, often without even thinking about it.

Think of the very different approaches of, say, Radio 4's Today programme and Radio 1's Newsbeat, or The Sun and The Daily Telegraph. A story about Lady Gaga's new album, for example, might be big news for Newsbeat's audience - but of limited interest to Today listeners.

Understanding your audience and what will appeal to them is an important part of journalism and these resources will help to explain the different types of audience that consume the news and get you thinking about your own School Report audience.

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

Video: What is news? (2 mins 30 secs video + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)

BBC newsreader Huw Edwards explains what makes news newsworthy and why truth and accuracy matters so much to journalists.

He also points out why you need to think about your audience and how a true journalist is never really off-duty!

You can recap the key points from the video using the accompanying worksheet, or read a transcript of the video:

Key points: What is news? [26.5 KB] Transcript: What is news? [23.7 KB]

A Welsh language version of the video is also available, together with a transcript.

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Video: Finding news (3 mins video + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)

BBC newsreader Huw Edwards explains where you can start looking for inspiration for stories to cover in your reports.

And he emphasises the importance of making sure you have reliable sources for your stories.

You can recap the key points from the video using the accompanying worksheet, or read a transcript of the video:

Key points: Finding news  [26.2 KB] Transcript: Finding news [24.4 KB]

A Welsh language version of the video is also available, together with a transcript.

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Video: Finding news masterclass (3 mins video + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)

BBC Radio 5 live journalist Karlene Pinnock has to find interesting stories and exciting guests for her programmes every day at work.

She emphasises the importance of not believing everything you are told and checking your facts very carefully.

Watch Karlene's video to learn her real-life tips for spotting great stories and identifying the best people and organisations to talk to about them.

You can recap the key points from the video using the accompanying worksheet or read a transcript of the video:

Key points: Finding news masterclass  [31.9 KB] Transcript: Finding news masterclass [23.2 KB]

BBC journalists are increasingly using social media such as Twitter as a way of finding stories, information and ideas.

These sites can be fantastic sources of information but need to be used responsibly, especially by young people. Remember that Twitter and other social media websites are not designed to be used by under 13s.

Read School Report's guide to using Twitter safely as a journalist for some top tips, while the BBC Webwise team have some great tips and information about how to use social media safely and responsibly.

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Quiz: Using Twitter safely as a journalist (30 mins)

Although tweets are a maximum of just 140 characters long, the impact of the social media website on journalism has been huge.

Lots of journalists now use Twitter as a newsgathering tool. It can be a great way to search for contributors, case studies and information on a story.

However, if you want to use Twitter as part of your journalistic research during the course of School Report you should think very carefully about safety issues and the age restrictions in place on Twitter.

Just like websites such as YouTube and Facebook,Twitter is aimed at people who are over 13. Within Twitter's pages on privacy is a section on their policy "towards children" which points out that "...our services are not directed to persons under 13... we do not knowingly collect personal information from children under 13".

Any use of Twitter or social media for School Report purposes should comply with your school's social media policy, and we strongly recommend it is done in a supervised capacity.

This quiz will help pupils discuss and think through some of the editorial and internet safety issues that using Twitter creates.

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Activity: Spot the sources (10 mins)

For this activity, you will need to print out this worksheet:

Worksheet: School sources [177 KB]

Look at the images on the worksheet and circle all the possible news sources - that's where you might find a story that your audience wants and/or needs to know about.

Now answer these questions:

1. Which of these could be sources in your school for your news story?

2. What other sources could you use? Think about outside school too.

Events that go on inside the school and your local community can be just as important to your audience as major global news, so remember not to overlook great sources of information and stories close to home.

And think about journalists who work on your local newspaper or local TV or radio station. Where might they get their stories from? Could you use similar sources for your reports?

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Activity: Sources and reliability (20 mins)

Work in small groups or as a whole class.

How many X Factor winners can you remember?

Without referring to books or the internet, try to answer some or all of the following questions:

  • how many individual states are there in the United States?
  • who is the most expensive footballer (in terms of transfer fee) in the history of the Premier League and how much did he cost?
  • name the last three winners of X Factor
  • who is the captain of the school football/cricket/rugby etc team?

Did everybody agree on the same answers? If not, why do you think there were differences? And how did you decide what the right answer is?

Now double check your answers with your teacher or by researching online. Did you get it right?

As journalists, it's vital that you check your facts.

If two people tell you the same story, it's more likely to be true. And you can compare what they said to check how accurate they are. But you still need to think about how reliable the source is - do you trust the source of information?

Remember - just because something is online doesn't mean it's definitely true. What if the person who produced it made a mistake or had a particular reason for bending the truth?

Use sources you trust and check at least two different sources, no matter what the story. Nothing undermines a story more than an inaccuracy.

"Truth and accuracy" are two of the BBC's most important news values - and you need to think about making sure your journalism follows suit.

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Activity: News judgement (10 mins)

Using this worksheet, put a tick next to the headlines you think are the genuine news stories - and a cross next to the headlines that aren't news.

Worksheet: News judgement [27 KB]

Why did you choose the stories you did?

What do you think the key ingredients of a good story are?

Can your group or class agree on the most important elements of a good story?

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Activity: Story analysis (10 mins)

Compile a list of current news headlines. You may wish to scan the front pages of the BBC News, BBC Local News, Newsbeat, or CBBC Newsround websites, or other news websites, newspapers and school newsletters.

For each story, answer the question: Why is it in the news?

Here's a few examples:

GCSEs scrapped for 'English Bac' - People need to know about it

Farah wins Olympic 10,000m - People want to know about it

Plastic heart gives dad new life - It's unusual

News is essentially something people WANT to know or NEED to know. At the BBC, we say that news that people need to know is "in the public interest".

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Activity: Guess the audience (10 mins)

Look at the front pages of the BBC News, BBC Local News, Newsbeat, or CBBC Newsround websites.

Journalists always need to think about their audience

Guess the age of the audience for each, commenting on the choice of news topics, formality of language, layout etc.

Now think about your own reporting for School Report and try to answer these questions.

1. What is the age of your audience on School Report News Day? That's when you will be making the news for real and publishing it on your school website.

2. Given your audience, are there any stories you would avoid reporting or think very carefully about how you report them?

Lots of factors are involved in deciding which stories to report and how to cover them, including whether they are appropriate for your audience.

An upsetting crime story which is suitable for viewers of Newsnight at 10.30pm could be totally inappropriate for Newsround's much younger audience at teatime.

In addition, there are legal issues to consider: ongoing court cases are extremely tricky and BBC court reporters undergo training to guard against the risk of breaching contempt of court laws. This is a serious offence and can lead to heavy fines and trials collapsing.

Without hard facts, celebrity gossip can be nothing more than rumour and is usually best avoided.

There is also the potential to damage somebody's reputation unfairly, raising the prospect of a libel action - and repeating somebody else's story is no defence in the eyes of the courts, which can issue large fines.

Look again at your answer to question 2. Having read the information above about reporting regulations, would you add to or change your answers?

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Activity: BBC News cards (20 mins)

Work in pairs or larger groups if appropriate.

For this activity, you will need to print off and cut out a set of BBC News cards for each group.

Worksheet: News cards [180 KB]

The objective of the exercise is to decide which audience different news programmes are aimed at and gain an understanding of what that means for your work with School Report.

A reads out the content of their card.

B listens and then writes down a description - or perhaps even a representative drawing (!) - of the typical person who would watch or listen to that programme. How old would they be? What sort of interests might they have? What type of music would they enjoy? What kind of job would they have? etc

A and B can discuss the results and then swap roles, before writing out a similar card for the school's School Report content. Don't worry if you can't fill in every box.

What kind of audience is likely to be reading/watching/listening to your output? And what does that mean in terms of how you approach stories and which stories you cover?

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Activity: News programmes and services (15 mins)

Work in pairs.

Think of all the places you can access the news: TV, radio, websites, newspapers and any other sources. Which, if any, do you access or like?

Discuss why it is you get your news from that place.

What is it about the programme or service that appeals to you? Is there anything you would change?

What types of news do you find interesting? Which presenters do you like?

Now, bearing in mind what you've just talked about, think about what topics your "dream" news service or programme would cover. Perhaps it would be sport, music, politics or international news? How would you like it to be laid out or presented?

Would it be a TV or radio programme? Or perhaps a newspaper, magazine or blog?

Get together with another pair and compare ideas.

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Quiz: What is news and where to find it (10 mins)

This multiple-choice quiz is designed to test your knowledge of news programmes and services, sources, and truth and accuracy.

It also provides real-life scenarios to prompt discussions about the issues that surround the world of news.

You can take the above quiz online, either on this page or on a separate page which is easier to email and distribute at school; a low-tech alternative is to print out this worksheet:

Quiz: What is news and where to find it [26.4 KB]