21st Century Journalistic Writing

21st Century Journalistic Writing Syllabus

This one-semester course is designed for students in grades 10-12.  Its challenge level is between that of Advanced Comp. and Honors Comp.  It is for English credit and is a college-prep writing class that will promote critical thinking, precise writing, real-world skills, and creativity.  We will be using the textbook INSIDE REPORTING:



Below, I have tried to outline our studies.  Some of the assessments are listed with approximate point values.  Of course, these may change, and there will be many smaller assignments along the way for credit. Every Tuesday, we will have 2-3 students responsible for bringing in a current news article from the past week and relate it to what we are currently studying in class.  Every Monday and Friday, we will read and discuss Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and have frequent short writings inspired by the text.  Second quarter, we will most likely get into smaller literature circles to do an independent study of another book written by an investigative journalist, such as Nickled and Dimed, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Methland, or Postville.


How Newsrooms Work (1 week)

What is news?

What readers read

Journalism jobs

What are the parts of a story?

What are the parts of a newspaper page?


Activities: formative assessment quizzes, discussion.  Summative Assessment: Unit test labeling parts of newspaper page and parts of a news story and defining news. (25 points)


News Writing Basics (1-2 weeks)

Fact v opinion

Five W’s & H

Inverted pyramid

Writing new leads

Different story structures

News writing style


Activities:  Read Ch. 3, do the formative assessments on pp. 64-65 in groups, quiz on fact vs. opinion, bring in a news article from a local newspaper to discuss the format and the actual news. Summative Assessment: open book test over AP style (10 points)


Reporting Basics (2 weeks)

Finding sources

Using the Internet


Taking notes






Activities: Read Ch. 4, discuss as a class the formative assessment on p. 92, Read one of three articles from the morgue (mail species, flip flops or glove story) Summative Assessments:  Write a poll for the class to take online.  (10 points) Interview a partner in class about his or her summer vacation and write a news story about it using a variety of types of quotations (direct, indirect, interrupted, and summarized.) (25 points)


Covering the news (1 week)


Accidents and disasters

Courts and crime




Activities: Read Ch. 5, Read examples of articles in the morgue, Summative assessment: write a story about an athletic event in our school or community. (possibly invite coach in for a press conference in the classroom.)


Beyond breaking news (5-6 weeks)—I may break this into two units of feature writing and opinion writing

Feature writing

Generating ideas

Feature style

Writing profiles

Investigative reporting

Package planning

How to create an online poll


Editorials and columns



Activities:  Read Ch. 6.  Possibly invite a reporter to speak to the class.  Summative assessments: write a review of a video game, book, restaurant, CD, etc.  (20 points) Also write an in-depth profile of a person in the community OR write a feature story.  Plan a package with this story that includes a photo or infographic. (100 points)


Law and ethics (1 week)

Press rights


Invasion of privacy

Copyright law

Taste and decency

The Seven Deadly Sins

Journalistic ethics


Activities: Read Ch. 7, act out a law case (Tinker or Hazelwood) to explain it for the class in groups, ethics survey, discuss ethically gray situations as a class.  Summative Assessment: quiz over libel (10 points)




Online Reporting (2 weeks)

Differences in print and web


Writing for online media

Incorporating links and multimedia

How to create a slideshow

How to use Youtube

Encouraging user participation

Media convergence

Planning for online packages


Activities: Read Ch. 8,  Summative assessment: design a story package for themustangmoon.com that includes a slideshow or a video embedded on the page.


Broadcast Journalism (1 week)

Writing for broadcast

Tips of writing for radio and TV



Activities: Read Ch. 9.  Videotape a podcast you write with a partner that reports or comments  on a current event. (25 points)



Design (1-2  weeks)

Elements of print design

How to use InDesign software


Activities:  Design a double-page yearbook spread or a newspaper page


The History of Journalism (1 week)

The beginnings of print news

Famous figures in newswriting

Periods of journalism


Activities: Read Ch. 1. Summative Assessment: research an early/ influential figure in newswriting and present  him/her to the class.



No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: