Teacher resources: Pick and mix - Gathering news

School Reporters at Handsworth Wood Girls’ School prepare for their bulletin Image copyright Other


This page contains a collection of videos, guides and quizzes about gathering and compiling 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 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.


Gathering and planning

The first step in making the news is to gather all the information you need.

Journalists need to be confident about their facts - and good research and planning at the outset is the best way to ensure they know their stuff before setting out to report.

When reporting, journalists must approach the gathering of information and planning of a story in a certain manner.

In some cases, there are even more factors you have to bear in mind when creating a report. This is particularly the case when reporting on the Royals, as there is a special protocol in place.

These videos and activities will help you to learn more about researching stories and coming up with story ideas.



Good interviews are usually the result of a combination of good research and planning and putting some thought into the questions.

Asking open questions will help you get more interesting and useful answers, but nothing beats knowing your subject and actually listening to what your interviewee says!

It is important to think through where you want to end up at the beginning of the interview. What do you want to achieve?

These videos and activities will help you learn more about how to conduct an interview and come up with great questions.


Vox Pops

A vox pop is the name journalists give to asking members of the public what they think. Students studying Latin will know that it comes from 'vox populi' - a phrase which literally means "voice of the people".

Think back to the last local news bulletin you watched or heard, and the chances are you saw or listened to a 'vox' of people's views on a controversial subject.

These resources will help you learn how to carry out vox pops and then give you the chance to try it out for themselves. And remember - the fundamentals of asking good questions apply to vox pops as much as they do to high-profile interviews.


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

BBC newsreader Huw Edwards explain the 5 W's - Who, What, Why, Where and When - of newsgathering. And don't forget How!

BBC newsreader Huw Edwards explain the 5 W's - Who, What, Why, Where and When - of newsgathering. And don't forget How!

Finding the answers to these questions is the basis of all journalism so once you've got a grasp of that you're well on your way!

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

Key points: Gathering news [26.26] Transcript: Gathering news [22.93]

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


Video: Camerawork and sound (5 mins 30 secs + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)

Camerawork and sound masterclass

BBC News correspondent Chris Buckler introduces a masterclass offering tips on camerawork and sound.

Cameraman John Anthony explains to students from The Wallace High School in County Antrim how to keep your camera steady and get the best sound possible, as well as talking through what's what when it comes to white balance, focus and exposure.

If your students are planning on filming their reports and interviews, watch this guide to help make the most of their stories.


Video: Filming masterclass (6 mins + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)

Filming masterclass

Another masterclass by cameraman John Anthony with pupils at The Wallace High School in County Antrim.

John explains how to get all the shots and sequences you will need for your report.

From wide shots to close-ups, over-the-shoulder pictures to pieces-to-camera, this guide should give you an insight into the world of filming news reports.


Activity: Researching the news (20 mins)

Work in pairs.

A, find a photo on a news website or a newspaper that you like the look of and show it to B, but don't let them read the story.

B, try to answer these questions, drawing on information in the picture and any other knowledge you have of the story:

What happened?

Who is involved?

Where did it happen?

When did it happen?

B, you have been using your research skills. Looking closely and asking the right questions are some of the research skills needed by journalists. But journalists should never assume anything! Checking your facts is another vital research skill.

B, check your answers with A, who has more information about the story.

But BBC journalists never take just one person's word for it, and try to find at least two sources for the same news story before they report it.

A and B, find another source for your story (a different news website or a different newspaper) and check your answers.


Activity: Newsgathering diary (15 mins)

In BBC newsrooms, some stories break without warning: a shock political resignation or a tragic accident can happen without warning, forcing journalists and editors to react quickly and work out how to cover the story.

But many stories are carefully planned in advance, with reporters able to do their research and arrange interviews ahead of time.

When your class or team has come up with some story ideas, why not start planning ahead for how how you're going to cover them.

Try filling out these planning grids. There's one with a couple of examples filled out to give you an idea of how other schools have done it, and one that is completely blank.

Newsgathering diary (with example) [10.55] Newsgathering diary (blank) [9.28]

You could also start thinking about who you want to interview and Pick and mix: Gathering news how to get hold of them, sources for your research and so on.


Video: Interviewing masterclass (4 mins video + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)

Video: Interviewing masterclass

Radio 1 Newsbeat reporter Natalie Jamieson explains how you can get the most out of your interviews and shares her top tips.

Interviewing is one of the key skills in journalism, giving reporters the chance to put the questions they want answered to the people at the centre of the story.

Thorough research will help you get to grips with an interviewee.

If you have a good idea about their beliefs and achievements before talking to them, you have a much better chance of getting an interesting reaction from them, rather than asking the questions they've answered hundreds of times before.

Key points: Interviewing masterclass [26] Transcript: Interviewing masterclass [26.5]

It also flatters people to know that you've taken the trouble to find out about them! They might be more inclined to open up to you!

This guide from the BBC's College of Journalism helps point you in the right direction when it comes to thinking about how to research your interviewees.


Activity: How to pick your interviewee (15 mins)

Work in small groups or as a class.

Decide on a story or topic you would like to report on.

Discuss the sort of people you would like to interview for your story and start to fill out this grid:

Worksheet: How to pick your interviewee [67 KB]

What do you think they would add to the story? Do they have expert knowledge or a strong opinion about the subject?

How did you come up with those names? And do you have people from both sides of the story, or representing different parts of the debate? If you only tell one side of the story, your report will be unbalanced and possibly unfair.

Image copyright School Report
Image caption School Reporters have interviewed politicians, including Northern Ireland's deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

What if your preferred interviewees aren't available? Who else could you approach to speak to about the story?

And lastly, how would you go about getting hold of your targets? You don't necessarily need to know straight away, but put some thought into the best routes.

Is it through personal connections like friends and family? Or by researching a work email address or phone number for the person? Or perhaps by contacting an agent or representative for the individual concerned, especially if they are high-profile.


Video: Interviewing top tips (7 mins video + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)

Experienced BBC journalists and presenters like Jenni Murray, Libby Purves and Jon Sopel are veterans of literally thousands of interviews over the course of their careers.

So it's worth listening to some of the tricks of the trade from them in this BBC College of Journalism series about how to get the most out of your interviewees and the critical importance of research.


Video: Interview questions (7 mins video + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)

Watch BBC Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman providing examples of how to ask your questions to get the best answers.

It's all about simple and clear questions.

And it would take a brave person to argue with Mr Paxman over that!

Watch this collection of powerful interviews - and direct questions - to see how simplicity is often the best policy.


Activity: Open and closed questions (15 mins)

Work in pairs.

A asks B the following questions:

  1. Do you like school?
  2. Do you meet your friends during break?
  3. Is homework set every day?
  4. Do you eat school dinners?
  5. What do you like about school?
  6. What do you do during break-time?
  7. How much homework do you receive?
  8. What do you think of school dinners?

Now, as a pair, answer this question:

Which questions generated the best answers?

Closed questions often prompt the short response "Yes" or "No". Sometimes people expand on them, but they don't have to - and it can make for an awkward and not very insightful interview if you end up with a string of one-word answers.

Open questions are used by journalists because they encourage people to give more information.

A top tip which will make life a lot easier when it comes to editing your material is to try to get your interviewee to include the question in their answer.

Often when journalists put together a report, the interviewer's questions are edited out - to save time and to make the report seem more natural.

Imagine the difference between hearing: "They're great, apart from we only have chips on Friday!" and "I think school dinners are great, except that we only have chips on Friday!"

This time B, ask A questions 5 to 8.

A, you must include the "question in your answer", so that it makes sense to a listener or viewer even without the question.

Now, pick a topic to interview each other about. Take it in turns to ask each other as many open questions as you can in a minute.

Under pressure, it's not always easy to avoid closed questions!


Activity: Internet research and questions (25 mins)

Imagine your editor has asked you to do some background research about your local MP or a sportsperson of your choosing in preparation for an interview. Spend the next 20 minutes looking online for information.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Usain Bolt is the biggest name in athletics
  • When using a search engine, remember to use quotation marks around their name eg "David Beckham" or "Usain Bolt". This will help narrow down your search results.
  • Bookmark your most interesting and relevant results so you can return to them again. If you don't know how to do this, ask your teacher.
  • Include an advanced search for news about them on bbc.co.uk within the last month. This will help to uncover any recent news involving the subject and might prompt ideas for new lines of enquiry.

Now, based on the information you have found, compose five open questions for your local MP or sportsperson. They should add to the background research you have just done, not give you the same answers.

Rank the questions in the order you would ask them.

Remember, you may not have enough time to ask them all, and that it will often put your guest at ease to start with an easier question.


Video: Royal reporting masterclass (3 mins + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)

The BBC's royal correspondent Peter Hunt's top tips on how to go about getting an interview with the Royal Family - and what to do if you land it.

Hardly a day goes by without something about the Royal Family being reported on somewhere in the media.

Following the Royal Wedding, The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and in 2013 the birth of Prince George there is even more interest.

Being the BBC's royal correspondent allows Peter Hunt regular access to one of the highest profile families in the UK, as he follows their activities wherever they go.

Having a chat with Prince William about his beloved football club Aston Villa may sound great, but actually securing an interview with him isn't easy.

Here, Peter offers his top tips on how to report on a royal visit, and how to possibly get a face-to-face time with a member of the Royal Family - and what to expect if you are granted an audience.

You can recap the key points from the video using the accompanying worksheet:

Key points: Royal reporting masterclass [36KB]

If you follow Peter's advice, you might get the chance to interview a member of the Royal Family just like these School Reporters from Hove Park School in Sussex who succeeded in interviewing the Earl of Wessex.

Their letter impressed Prince Edward so much that they were invited to Buckingham Palace to interview him!


Video: Do's and Don'ts of vox-popping (4 mins 30 secs + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)

This Class Clips video follows comedienne Susan Earl on the streets of London for a masterclass in how NOT to do it!

Her deliberate mistakes make for amusing viewing, but also highlight potential problems.


Activity: Vox-popping (15 mins)

Think of a news topic, something about which lots of people have an opinion.

Now write down an open question to do with the topic (one beginning with one of the five W's or How). Make it count - you want a question that will really bring out the most interesting views.

Ask a range of people the question (at least five people) and record their answers.

Now select which answers - and which bits of the answers - to use in a news report. Remember to get a balance of opinions.


Quiz: Gathering news (10 mins)

This multiple-choice quiz is designed to test your knowledge of how newsgathering works.

It also provides real-life scenarios to prompt discussions about the issues that can arise during the process of research and interviewing.

You can take the above test 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: Gathering news  [25.05]

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