Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Tuesday, 17 July 2007 16:08 UK

Lesson 3: Writing a news story

This lesson has been updated and the new version can be found by following this link:


Writing the news
Students write a news script which is clear, concise and correct - the three Cs of journalism.

They develop their speaking and listening skills before applying them to their writing, in order to maintain their own style of language.

Students examine the importance of writing correctly to avoid breaking the law.


  Activity Preferable resources Low tech alternative
1 Intro video: Writing a news script Internet access or DVD Go on to activity 2
2 The three Cs of journalism Print-outs from the BBC website Print-outs from the BBC website
3 Writing a news script Worksheet 3.2 Worksheet 3.2
4 Keeping news safe and legal Print-outs from the BBC website Print-outs from the BBC website
5 Plenary presentation Lined paper Lined paper


These documents outline the key curriculum areas covered in lessons 1-6 for 11 to 14-year-olds.


Huw Edwards

Before watching this video, remind students of the five Ws. Explain that there are also three Cs of journalism - words beginning with the letter C which define the style of a good news story.

Ask them to guess what the three Cs might be. Students revise their guesses while watching the video.

In the video, Huw Edwards explains that journalists often read their own word aloud, as they are writing - like actors in a play.

This is why reports are often called scripts. Huw explains how to write a script in a way that is clear, concise and correct - the three Cs


Go onto the next activity which covers the key points made by Huw Edwards in the video.


Display this sentence: The man sustained fatal injuries.

Ask students: Is it 100% clear? If not, why not? What would have made it more clear? Suggestion: The man died from his injuries.

Explain that journalists use simple language to write clearly.

Remind students of the five Ws. Explain that there are also three Cs of journalism - words beginning with the letter C which define the style of a good news story. Clear is one of them. Ask students to guess the other two Cs during the next part of the activity.

Print out and distribute examples of a news story from either the BBC News or Newsround website, depending on the language capabilities of your students. Use the links, top left.

Ask students to fold the paper over, four sentences from the top, making the story shorter or more concise - the second C.

Ceefax website
Select page 101 for news headlines
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Explain that the first four paragraphs of a news story on the BBC website is automatically transferred to the Ceefax pages. Ceefax is not the third C!

This means that journalists working on the BBC News website have to fit the key facts (what, who, where, when and why) into the top four sentences of their report. Also, if they use opinions in these four sentences, they have to be objective. Otherwise, Ceefax viewers will get a biased point of view. Getting all the facts right and being objective amounts to the third C - correct

Ask students to fold the printed news story over so only the headline is visible. It is now even more concise.

Ask students:

  • Is the language in the headline clear?
  • Is itcorrect? Does it contain the key facts? Is it objective?

It should be, as some people only read the headlines. See page 101 of Ceefax.


The style of a good news story is:

  • Clear - simple language
  • Concise - short
  • Correct - uses facts, objective

These are known as the three Cs of journalism.


Students working in pairs
Pair work

Before beginning this activity, students should familiarise themselves with the interview they planned in lesson 2 on worksheet 2.2.

Explain that TV and radio journalists write as if they were telling a friend about something really interesting they've just found out. This makes the story:

  • Clear (you write it how you would say it)
  • Concise (your friend doesn't like waffle)
  • Correct (you're not going to lie to your friend

Students practise this skill by telling their partner about the news topic they chose in lesson 2.

If students do not have the worksheets to hand, they can use the script of today's World Class/Newsround bulletin. They should read the script, chose a story, turn the print-out face down and tell their partner the story in their own words.

This lesson plan has been updated since it was first published in September 2006 and worksheet 3.1 has been removed. Teachers who still wish to use it can access it here.

Students transfer their words - as they spoke them - onto Worksheet 3.2 to form a script. The right-hand column allows them to work out long it will take a presenter to read it. Limit students to a script of 30-seconds or less. It will help them remain concise.

Remind students not to write in the large left hand margin. They will need to use this in Lesson 4 and should keep it somewhere safe until then.

Not only does this exercise help students develop their own news-reporting voice and style, it also helps avoid the temptation to copy and paste, which without adequate acknowledgement can amount to plagiarism.

To avoid this, students should attribute information accurately: reporting who said it or where they found it. One way of doing this is to use a quote, for example:

Head teacher Peter Walsh said: "The rebuilding of part of the school will benefit Forest Hill students enormously."

Another method is to identify a source. In this case, "According to" is an extremely useful phrase, for example:

Making a simple online report
You can write a concise and balanced news report in five sentences.
1 contains the key W facts
2 gives one opinion
3 gives the other side
4 contains more facts
5 is a conclusion
The Loch Ness Monster has been named as the most famous Scot ahead of Robbie Burns and Sir Sean Connery, according to a survey carried out by Crabbies Green Ginger Wine.

Online reporting alternative

Students who have decided to produce online reports on School Report News Day may like to use this guide in conjunction with Worksheet 3.2.

In order to format their news reports into five-sentences, as advocated in this guide, students should leave a row between each sentence on the worksheet. Students may therefore require two copies of the script-writing template.


Explain that being correct is also about staying within the law and making sure your report doesn't put people in danger.

Students take this quiz:


TV's Judge John Deed
1 B To protect yourself you should NEVER post your last name on the internet. If you are taking part in BBC News School Report, you can use your first name ONLY and your age.

2 A Interview people who will help you create a balanced report. Ideally you should interview someone with an opinion, someone with an opposing view and an expert on the matter. It's also a good idea to ask a variety of people. All adults, all children, all men or all women doesn't make a very balanced report.

3 A You CAN put strong opinions in a news report but they must be based on fact. By comparing old and new packets, you would be able to check that the new food does contain more fat, sugar and salt than the old. However the new supplier could take you to court for suggesting that their food is out-of-date or poisonous (without proof) and, if you lost the case, it could cost you a large sum of money.

4 C Think of photographs (and other kinds of media) as possessions. They belong to the photographer (or the person who made them). You have to ask their permission to use them, otherwise it's like stealing. If you take your own photographs, YOU own them and you can give yourself permission to use them. If you are taking part in School Report, BBC News has obtained permission for you to use some photographs. They must be on the BBC News website and have one of the following credits: AP, PA, AFP, Getty.

5 B The simplest thing do is to pick another news story. If you are reporting a court story you should be in the courtroom yourself - and even then you have to be extremely careful. For example, the law says you cannot name the patient. Think about it. Would you want your name published if you were in their shoes? Copying what someone who WAS in court has written is a safer option than writing about the court case in your own words, but what if the journalist you are copying has got it wrong. Both of you could be fined a large sum of money. Court stories are very tricky to report so it's safer to avoid them unless you have done lots of training.

It is important that teachers read this guide, to ensure they understand what should and should not be published on the school website. It covers protecting children's identity, taste and decency, contempt, defamation and copyright.

6 C Remember who your audience are. Would they feel uncomfortable about a graphic report of a teenager's drug overdose? Would you feel comfortable reporting it? It would also be inappropriate to reveal too much information about the manufacture of drugs, in case anyone decided to copy the process. You might choose not to include anything about drugs or similar subjects - or you could decide to report the issue in an appropriate and safe way.


Students presenting to the class
A few students read their scripts aloud. The rest of the class give them a mark out of three for being clear, concise and correct (one mark for each). They award them an extra mark for making the news particularly engaging.

Students with four marks are named "super" script writers. Perhaps this is a role they would like to adopt on a practice News Day or the national News Day.

Additional resources on writing the news can be accessed from the SEE ALSO and RELATED BBC LINKS at the top right of this page.

Approved rubber stamp graphic
This lesson has been approved by the BBC College of Journalism.

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06 Jan 05 |  Media and the law
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17 Mar 05 |  Media standards
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