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Instructional Resources

Series Info

Episodes: 15

Length: 30 min.

Grade Levels:
10, 11, 12

Language Arts and Literature

Video on Demand
Teacher's Guide
Web Resources


News Writing

This series teaches writing, reporting, editing, and communication information in the public interest. Over 100 top journalists working in geographically dispersed newsrooms of all sizes reveal the secrets of their trade. Coverage of policy issues sheds light on journalism history, law and ethics. A natural choice for students pursuing journalism or communications, News Writing is also an excellent resource for improving writing skills in general, for producing a school paper, and for working journalists looking for useful and current continuing education. It features interviews with renowned journalists, including Charles Kuralt, Andy Rooney, and Linda Ellerbee.

Episode Guide

1. What Is News? — Examines how journalists determine what the public needs and wants to know. Reporters and editors from diverse news organizations discuss editorial decision making and define news as it relates to journalism ethics and the news-writing process.

2. Hard News Leads — This episode shows the power and process of the summary lead in newspaper, broadcast, and PR writing. A broad spectrum of writers, including White House correspondent Helen Thomas and Chicago Defender editor Michael Brown, discuss and demonstrate this basic journalism tool.

3. News Writing Language and Style — This episode explores the specifics of print journalism style–from the AP to Rolling Stone magazine–focusing on accuracy and detail. Enlivened by humor as Dave Barry and other writers confess their language sins and steer tomorrow’s journalists toward production of professional and pristine prose.

4. Development and Organization of a Story — This program deals with use of the inverted pyramid as well as hourglass and circle story shapes. Top journalists such as Bob Woodward, along with Roy Peter Clark (The Poynter Institute), discuss and demonstrate focus sentences, transitions, and nut graphs as story-development techniques.

5. Dealing with Sources — This episodes illustrates how to interview sources and work quotes into a news story. Larry King (CNN), Deborah Wilgoren (The Washington Post), and others demonstrate the interviewing process, touching on the use of paraphrase vs. direct quotes, the mechanics of attribution, the ground rules for using “off the record” comments, and other issues.

6. Good Writing vs. Good Reporting — This episode considers the possibilities of conflict or compatibility between these two elements. Top reporters discuss essential issues such as accuracy, objectivity, fairness, and credibility along with the elements of writing that make a news story exciting, fun, and compelling to read.

7. Beat Reporting — This program covers the wide variety of journalism career opportunities, with glimpses into the working conditions and daily experiences on crime, sports, business, government, and environmental beats as well as for general assignment and wire service reporters.

8. Broadcast News Writing — This episode compares the similarities and differences of broadcast and print journalism, with insightful comments from a host of radio and TV journalists—among them Sam Donaldson (ABC), Charles Kuralt (CBS), and Kurt Loder (MTV)—and follows a young reporter as he assembles a daily news package.

9. Public Relations Writing — The interaction of journalists and PR people is demonstrated in this episode. Professionals from Capitol Records and the Golden State Warriors discuss the similarities of writing press releases and hard news stories, while sympathetic and unsympathetic journalists, including Andy Rooney (CBS) and Susan Antilla (the New York Times), comment on the role of PR in the news.

10. Beyond the Summary Lead — This program encourages novice writers to explore other creative introductory styles, including anecdotal, quote, question, narrative, and direct address leads. Journalists Gene Policinski (USA Today), David Waldholz (The Wall Street Journal), and others give tips on ways to avoid boring leads and grab readers in the first paragraph.

11. Feature Writing Styles — This episode explores the difference between feature news, soft features, and advocacy journalism, as Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Kundsen (Sacramento Bee), Joel Achenbach (The Washington Post), and others discuss their craft. Concepts such as trend stories, personality profiles, background stories, and human-interest stories are also introduced and illustrated by working reporters.

12. Column Writing & Editorial Writing — This program reveals the relationships among hard news writing, opinion writing, journalistic critique, and column writing, illustrating how “objective” front-page news can coexist with coverage in other sections. Dave Barry and Andy Rooney examine humor in column writing, Siskel and Ebert discuss criticism, and Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writers dissect the elements of good opinion writing.

13. Covering Disasters — This section demonstrates use of journalism’s basic principles in crisis situations and under deadline pressure. Journalists who have covered earthquakes, chemical spills, severe weather, and plane crashes discuss the difference between theory and practice during community emergencies.

14. The Ethics of Journalism — This episode introduces a reporter’s on-the-job ethical challenges. Journalists from a variety of beats discuss issues such as conflict of interest, honesty, thoroughness, objectivity, privacy, and balance, and one reporter demonstrates real-life ethical decision making as she covers a controversial local story.

15. Media Law This program focuses on reporters’ rights and defenses for potential libel or invasion of privacy lawsuits as well as concepts like open meeting, shield, and freedom of information laws. In addition, Mark Goodman, attorney for the Student Press Law Center, and author John Zelezny discuss legal issues that may confront students working for a school newspaper or other publication.

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