News Writing: Building a Case with Digital Footprints

Time to teach: 2 Weeks
Tags: Web search      Online Collaboration      Web Tools      Reading Activity      Citing/Attribution     



The goals of this unit are (1) to build on the information gathering skills developed in our initial “Search” unit; (2) to give students the tools they need to safely and courteously navigate the Web; and (3) to improve students’ writing and critical thinking skills by training them in basic newswriting. 


As we go through our 21st century lives we generate an extensive network of digital footprints, defining our public presence in ways that are both positive and negative.  This unit is designed to stretch students’ understanding of their own public digital presence and how to control that presence as it grows.

The primary means of conveying this awareness will be through the  examination of the digital presence of another individual — a public figure whose digital footprints will be the subject of a digital dossier assembled by the students; and later of interview questions to be posed to their guest speaker, and of their news story. 

Other objectives include:


Web Safety

  • Develop increasingly sophisticated effective Internet search strategies
  • Develop awareness of and strategies for securing personal identity information on the Web
  • Foster resiliency against cyber-bullying (I haven’t worked this in yet!)
  • Develop an ability to manage detail and tone Web interactions through netiquette training


Research skills

  • Expand Web search skills to include the public and private databases, the Freedom of Information Act, and social media footprints.
  • Learn to write interview questions that include embedded background research


Writing skills

  • Learn and practice basic newswriting skills, focusing on lead writing and the inverted pyramid


Anchor task: 


After learning the rules of netiquette, students will write an invitation to a local public figure to address the class and answer questions in a press conference format. Once the invitation has been accepted, students will conduct background research on their press conferee (taking time out to replicate the process on themselves and reflect on their Web presence) and use the results of that research to build interview questions for their press conference.  Then they’ll write a news story based on the information elicited in the press conference.




News Worksheet 1: The Public Figure and the Press Conference

News Worksheet 2: Netiquette guidelines

News Worksheet 3: Topic/Source Exploration

News Worksheet 4: Writing Professional Interview Questions

News Worksheet 5A: Defining the Modern News Story

News Worksheet 5A + 5B TEACHER'S MANUAL

News Worksheet 6A: Lead-Writing Exercise: Fact vs. Opinion

News Worksheet 5B: Defining the modern news story

News Worksheet 6B: Lead-Writing Exercise: Writing in active voice

News Worksheet 6B: Lead-Writing Exercise: Writing in Active Voice TEACHER'S MANUAL

Worksheet 6C: Lead-writing Exercise: Promoting Conciseness

News Worksheet 7: Identifying 5 Ws and the H in Leads

News Worksheet 8A: Writing a lead for a fire story

News Worksheet 8B: Writing a lead for a crime story

News Worksheet 8B: Writing a Lead for a Crime Story — TEACHER'S EDITION

News Worksheet 8C: Writing a Lead for a Politics Story

News Worksheet 8C: Writing a Lead for a Politics Story — TEACHER'S MANUAL

Worksheet 9: Demonstrating the inverted pyramid

News Worksheet 10: Writing a brief using the inverted pyramid

News Worksheet 10: Writing a brief using the inverted pyramid — Teacher's Manual