Unit Four

Unit Four:  Reporters + citizens = a conversation

Summary for teachers of lesson’s objectives:

  •  Teacher Objective: to help students recognize ways to invite and welcome their broader high school audience into the conversation of news coverage for the school online newspaper
  • Student Objective: to understand that news is no longer something that comes down from above to the audience below; news is now a community effort in which the reader/viewer decides where and when to look for news, and is able to contribute to or interact with that news coverage

In my survey, described in Methodology and Key Findings, the highest number of respondents (9) said they got their news from online sources other than newspapers. This ability to find multiple sources of news easily makes a good case for online newspapers or

news ChartExport

news sources to reach out and engage the readers/viewers, to seek their opinion and ask for their help in covering news. If readers feel like they belong to that news community and have a stake in it, they will support it.  I want to encourage our future student online news staff to be responsive to the students they are going to serve, and invite them into the conversation.

Clearly readers and viewers seek a dialogue with those who run and work for their newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, and Web sites. They want to be part of the discussion. So whether imperfect or not, citizen journalism is here to stay.” (Brooks, Kennedy, Moen, & Ranly, 2010)

The word “imperfect” in the quote above brings our attention to the issue of verification. Basically, can the readers/viewers depend on citizen journalism to do the research work that professional journalists do for stories?

“In other words, the journalistic process of checking and rechecking information and using multiple sources provides some assurance that a report is reasonably accurate. Such rigor is often missing in citizen journalism reports, which sometimes are little more than opinion pieces.” (Brooks, Kennedy, Moen, & Ranly, 2010)

Student journalists need to identify the optimum way for their fellow students to get into the conversation. Commentary blogs and photography blogs might be two ways for readers/viewers to contribute because verification of their sources might be easier to confirm.



Homework assessment:

Students will share their group (Boys and Girls) 3-minute slide presentations on their perceptions of accuracy, fairness, bias and objectivity in the news sources they compared. Discuss the findings in class after each presentation.

Teacher: Introduce this segment of the lesson which has examples of online news sites featuring citizen contributions. Below are examples of citizen journalism and expert advice incorporated into a newspaper site. Tell students to be thinking about how to incorporate something like this into their school online newspaper in order to welcome general student input.

1.Bluffton Today, the Bluffton, S.C. newspaper invites the community to post commentary on a blog on the newspaper’s site. (See page 22 in “Telling The Story)

Unit Four bluffton blogsite



2. The New York Times invites citizen experts in to join reporters in videos related to New York Times stories. This link brings you to a video in which a textile conservation expert tells the New York Times reporter how to care for and preserve wedding dresses.

nyt wedding expert

NYT paper wedding story IMG-20130414-00700


Here is a picture of the New York Times page that had the reporter’s story with information about where to find the corresponding video on the New York Times website.

Convergence at work!


3. This link is to another New York Times story on the paper’s website which has its own link to an interactive guide of the Lauder collection of cubism presented by the curator of the collection especially for the New York Times.

lauder nyt multimedia story


multimedia nyt lauderCapture


Here is the link to the multimedia presentation given by the curator specifically for the New York Times.


4. Boston Globe invites readers/viewers to have a conversation with staff members. This conversation is with a Boston Globe photographer.

globe backstory



 5. The link BELOW takes you to the Boston Globe Big Picture which is a photography blog curated by 3 photographers on the Globe. Citizens can send in images for posting. Most images are from professional sources such as Reuters or Getty images, but if a reader’s images are exceptional, they can get on The Big Picture.

big picture link


Here is a link to the site’s rules about publication:




Teacher asks students what they liked about how the newspapers involved the readers. Did they see any ways they might use similar ideas to involve their student readers?

I will tell my students about my survey of students and parents regarding what they would like to see in the online school paper:

  • Top votes (9) in the top three  for activities outside of school
  • Top votes (9) in the top four for a photography blog
  • Top votes (9) in the top five for student videos

I will ask students how their general high school population could be involved in any of those top interests noted.

Walter Williams’ Journalist’s Creed


Teacher: Discuss what these words mean: clear thinking, clear statement, accuracy, fairness, fundamental, good journalism.


Teacher explanation: The purpose of this homework is to start thinking about blogs as a way to involve the general student body in the school online newspaper. Some students already have blogs. Teacher will provide links to the student blogs for students to read.

To Do: (Collaboration and Cooperation) Research the blogs that I provide links to (I will email to students), and search your local newspaper site to see if and how citizen blogs are included.

  • What are some of the subjects of the blogs?
  • Are the blogs inviting to look at?
  • In the case of online newspapers, are there clear instructions for                               people who want to participate and post a blog?
  • What is interesting about the blogs you looked at?
  • Are they easy to navigate?
  • Do they have pictures too?

When you have found two links to blogs you would like to share, please send to me so I can approve and post to our Facebook page.

Students should visit the class Facebook page and post positive comments  about what they liked about at least two of the blogs.

Assessment: Homework will help the students discover how news sources are having conversations with the general public. This will help the students start to form ideas about features for their own online school newspaper