At my small liberal-arts college, I don’t expect most of my students will pursue careers in the news industry; yet anyone who expects to work with words can benefit from practice meeting deadlines, being fair and balanced, and understanding the function of the free press in a democratic society.
While newsrooms of the past were more likely to have full-time photographers, fact-checkers, copy-editors and designers, lines between those jobs keep getting blurrier.
While I still assign plenty of traditional “interview a classmate” and “cover this campus event” stories for newcomers, once students they get the basics, I start asking them to create multimodal news packages.
- 200-word preview (published the day before a scheduled event)
- 10-12 social media posts (published during an event)
- gallery of 6-8 photos (not just the snapshots everyone in the room can take from their seats, but carefully executed works of photojournalism, with detailed textual descriptions)
- breaking news updates (frequently updated page with bulletins describing the reporter’s developing understanding of a story; the page shouldn’t post anything that hasn’t been properly verified, and should include clarifications and retractions as necessary)
- 600-word followup (with fresh interviews conducted after the big event is over, and a new lead that emphasizes the latest developments, including reactions from decision-makers)
- media file (video or audio, following the conventions of reporting in that genre)
- infographic (with original research, meticulously sourced; not just a rehash of what Wikipedia or Google tells you)
- multi-page print layout