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Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Writing Workbooks  >  High School
Newspapers in Education -- High School Writing
By Tom Janz

In the last two years, newspaperman Tom Janz has traveled hundreds of miles across the Kenai Peninsula, showing teachers how to use the newspaper as an educational tool in their classrooms.

Janz is Marketing and Circulation Manager of the Peninsula Clarion, a small paper for the Kenai Peninsula, and he is also the administrator of the Clarion's Newspapers in Education (N.I.E.) program. He has written workbooks for grade schools, middle schools and high schools that contain hundreds of lessons to get students involved with the newspaper.

For high school the exercises are broken down by subject (reading, writing, health, science, math, etc.), and each subject is farther categorized into knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. "My aim," says Janz, "has been to give the high school kids a more comprehensive understanding of the paper and the world at large."

If you would like to have Tom Janz visit your school with ideas about Newspapers in Education, call (907) 283-7551.

Writing Exercises

1. Examine the editorial cartoons in the newspaper. Look for use of symbols, persuasion and stereotyping as they are used to elect political humor or satire. Then determine:

What symbols were used.
What characters are represented.
What assumptions can be drawn from the cartoon(s).
What is the cartoon's opinion?
Do you agree or disagree with this opinion?
Write out your arguments telling why you agree or disagree.

2. Interview someone and write a lead paragraph for a news story. Be sure to put the 5 W's in your lead, and write in the inverted pyramid style (from most important news to least).

3. An editorial generally consists of four different parts - the question, proof, conclusion and suggestions for reader action. Review several editorials and identify the four components. Write an editorial based on a topic of your choice. Show it to someone and together edit and re-write the piece. Read your editorial to someone and ask for feedback. Then write a final version.

4. Being a critic demands only an appreciation of the art form and exposure to it. If you listen to CDs, watch TV, or go to the movies, you can be a critic. After listening to a CD or watching a movie, write a review of it. Include in your review: comparisons of the artist's performance to those of the past; a recommendation for other people to either miss or catch a performance; and the reasons for your appraisals.

5. Work with a buddy. Review some advice columns and one of you write a letter stating a problem. Give it to your buddy to answer the letter and give advice. Change roles so you both have the opportunity to be an advice columnist.

Propaganda is the information, material or ideas disseminated to win people over to a specific point of view. There are several broad categories, or types, of propaganda.

6. Review the names and definitions of the following types of propaganda:

  • Bandwagon - Everybody's in favor of it; join the crowd.
  • Plain Folks - The users of this product or proponents of this course of action are simple, down-to-earth people like you and me.
  • Card Stacking - Distorting or omitting facts; telling half-truths.
  • Name-Calling - Stereotyping ideas or people with a bad label.
  • Glittering Generalities - Using "good" labels, such as democratic, patriotic, amazing, beautiful and exciting, that are unsupported by facts.
  • Testimonials - Seeking support for an idea or product by having it endorsed by a famous person, such as a sports figure or movie star.
  • Snob Appeal - Only the richest, most important, or most discerning people like this idea or product.
  • Transfer - Associating a respected person or idea with whatever is being promoted, such as picturing a well-known athlete in a breakfast cereal advertisement.

7. Write a letter to the editor to defend or promote a point of view. Use one or two specific propaganda techniques and indicate in the margins of the paper which techniques were used.

8. What does fact have in common with opinion? What is the relationship between the two? Find an article which demonstrates the relationship and use it to illustrate your explanation.

9. Choose an ad with more than one type of propaganda technique used to sell a product. Find the different techniques used, and distinguish between them. Point out where they are different from each other and where they begin to merge within their single purpose of propagandizing the product.

10. Choose a letter to the editor which proposes a distinct course of action. After identifying which propaganda technique(s) is used, predict the outcome(s) of following the proposed course of action. Be as complete as possible, and support your predictions with examples of the outcomes of similar situations found in the newspaper.

11. Invent an international problem, using real situations from international news articles as a springboard to your invented situation. (Use real names, places, and situations, and identify with articles these came from.) Then, write a news article about the invented problem, keeping in mind that you are citizens of the United States and will be writing from that viewpoint.

12. Design eight different ads for "Sudso" soap - one for each type of propaganda technique.

13. Evaluate the message of one of today's editorial articles. First determine what the editor's viewpoint is, and explain in your own words what the issue is, and what stand is being taken. What is your opinion about the issue? What are the facts upon which your opinion is based? Compare your opinion with the editor's opinion for differences and similarities, and make a final, supported statement in favor of one viewpoint. (If you agree with the editorial pretend you don't and argue against it.)

14. Judge and evaluate a letter to the editor which proposes a distinct course of action. Determine whether the propaganda techniques used were well chosen to achieve the desired goal of persuasion. Would other techniques have worked better? Were the techniques used, well used? Could the letter have been written better? Be specific in your judgments and evaluations, and give examples to support your statements.

15. After completing the activity above, if you did not agree with the proposed course of action in the letter to the editor, propose an alternate course of action. Predict what the outcome(s) of your proposal will be, and evaluate them against a set of standards. (This plan would achieve positive results ... This plan would be the best because ...)

Vocabulary of Newspaper Terms You May Find in These Exercises:

  • Advertisement - a message printed in the newspaper in space paid for by the advertiser.
  • Banner - a headline in large type running across the entire width of the page.
  • Box - a small article or headline enclosed by lines to give it visual emphasis.
  • Byline - the name of the writer of the article, usually appearing above the news of feature story.
  • Caption - title or explanatory note above a picture.
  • Credit Line - acknowledging the source of a picture.
  • Cutline - information below a picture which describes it.
  • Dateline - line that tells where the story originated.
  • Ears - space at the top of the front page on each side of the newspaper's nameplate. Usually boxed in with weather news, index to pages or an announcement of special features.
  • Edition - in a single day, a newspaper may publish several editions, each one going to a different part of its circulation area.
  • Editorial - an article stating an opinion of a newspaper editorial board, usually written in essay form.
  • Editorial Cartoon - cartoon which expresses opinions; appears on the editorial page.
  • Feature - a story in which the interest lies in some factor other than news value.
  • Filler - copy with little news value; used to fill space.
  • Flag - a stylized signature of a newspaper which appears at the top of page one.
  • Headline - display type placed over a story summarizing the story for the reader.
  • Index - table of contents of each paper, usually placed on page one.
  • Issue - all the editions of a newspaper published for a single day.
  • Journalism - process of collection, writing, editing, and publishing news.
  • Jump - the continuation of an article from one page to another.
  • Kicker - a short, catchy word or phrase over a major headline.
  • Lead - the first few sentences of opening paragraphs of a news story containing the answers to who, what, where, when, why and how.
  • Mass Media - any of various methods of transmitting news to a large number of people (e.g. radio, television, newspaper).
  • Masthead - the matter printed in every issue of a newspaper stating the title, ownership, management, rates, etc.
  • Newsprint - a grade of paper made of wood pulp used for printing newspapers.
  • News Services - news gathering agencies such as Associated Press (AP). They gather and distribute news to subscribing newspapers.
  • Obit - an obituary; a story of a deceased person's life.
  • Review - an account of an artistic event such as a play or concert which offers a critical evaluation by the writer.
  • Sidebar - a short story related to a major story and run nearby.
  • Typo - short for typographical error.

Related Articles
Newspapers in Education -- Middle School Reading
Newspapers in Education -- Middle School Writing
Newspapers in Education -- Writing About News Photos
Newspapers in Education -- High School Reading
The Newspaper: A Living Textbook

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