Breaking News in the Classroom

20111028-115900.jpgStudents collaborate on a breaking news journalism assignment.

I wrote a mock police report, an official statement from a university official, and some personal info from various simulated sources, and gave students 45 minutes to churn out a news story.

Here, students collaborate on a Google doc while consulting their textbook on a iPad. My favorite part of the assignment was making up fake student comments on “”.

The packet of simulated documents also includes comments from people who speculate, insult, praise, and otherwise say things things that ordinary people say all the time, but that could count as inaccuracy, PR puffery, or outright libel if printed by a journalist.

Students asked a lot of clarifying questions — slowly at first, but gradually it dawned on more and more students that this activity was not designed to test their grammar or punctuation, but rather an opportunity to ask themselves just what is newsworthy.

The fake police report mentioned that a toxicology report was forthcoming, but in the real world labs take days or weeks to produce the results that seem to happen instantaneously on TV shows. One student looked at me as I would be able to say what the results of the toxicology report would be. (Even if I had written that part of the simulated assignment yet, I wouldn’t tell the students!)