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Evaluating journalistic content: an ethics lesson

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Evaluating journalistic content: creating your own coverage process

by John Bowen
Description
Students will examine the following: What is the most complete way to tell a story? What are the ingredients of the perfect, most comprehensive story? Can the approach work for all story types?

Students will work on the following questions:
• What in students’ minds is the “perfect story?”
• How would students achieve the “perfect story?”
• Can students apply an approach like Vox to their coverage?
• What are the strengths and weaknesses of Vox-like reporting?
• What would a scholastic approach look like?

Objectives
• Students will investigate the question of what makes good content
• Students will discuss how to improve weak content using examples and processes from the lesson
• Students will create their own media approaches to more thorough coverage from lesson discussions

Common Core State Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Length
150 minutes (three 50-minute classes)

Materials / resources
Vox.com
All you need to know..is that Ezra Klein’s Vox is nothing special
Vox.com has no idea how to cover culture
Vox.com and News Flash Cards: What do you think?
Ezra Klein on Vox’s launch, media condescension and competing with Wikipedia
Vox.com aims to bring context to news with ‘card stacks’
Vox, the forefront of technology and journalism? 

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1
1. Student discovery — 20 minutes
Have students go toVox.com and who we are to examine several Vox stories and read about the Vox concept. They should complete the handout on the following.
• What does Vox say about the purpose of its approach? Why does it work? How does it work?
• Do students think it works? Why? Why not?
• Are the Vox stories complete? Cohesive? Reliable? Verifiable? Accurate? Who or what are the sources, and what does that lead you to ask about the information? How well do they use multiplatform materials?
• If you were to adapt a Vox-like approach, what would you chose to to use, not to use?

2. Readings — 30 minutes

Assign each group to read one of the following articles about Vox and be ready to discuss in class.
• All you need to know..is that Ezra Klein’s Vox is nothing special
• Vox.com has no idea how to cover culture
 Vox.com and News Flash Cards: What do you think?
• Ezra Klein on Vox’s launch, media condescension and competing with Wikipedia
• Vox.com aims to bring context to news with ‘card stacks’
• Vox, the forefront of technology and journalism?

Day 2

1. Link — 5 minutes
Ask students to describe what they learned about the concept of Vox.com during the previous class.

2. Reading review — 15 minutes
Assign students to form six groups. Have each group reread and concentrate on one of the articles.  Ask students to think about points made and evaluate them in terms of creating their own version of Vox using the following questions:
—What do they like about Vox and would include
—What do they dislike and would not include
—What would they change and why?
—Could they make something like Vox work on the scholastic level, and how?

3. Reports — 15 minutes
Each group should report on what it discussed.

4. Practical application — 15 minutes
Once the articles and Vox have been thoroughly discussed, break the students into team of five and have them:
—Decide how they would focus their approach to cover a localized issue or event
—Choose the topic, its sources and questions to build coverage around (core story)
—Begin to research and gather/suggest the “card stacks” to make their coverage complete
—Evaluate their materials as they go, and prepare to explain their choices to each team in
–Students will decide which, if any, of their story approaches would work and implement decisions on each.
• Would their approach provide “perfect story” coverage? Why/why not?
• What could be changed to make stories more effective?
• Do they think audiences would be more completely informed using this approach? Why or why not?
• What changes, if any, would they have to make in their operations to be effective?
• Is this approach valuable enough to make those changes?

• Is this approach valuable enough to make those changes? 

Day 3

1. Group preparation — 10 minutes
Students should review the information from the practical application from the previous class.

2. Presentation — 40 minutes
Each team shares its story concepts, sources and presentation.

Teams will discuss the ethical issues raised in the coverage and well as the news principles and judgment of story and card selection.

 

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