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Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Thursday, 12 January 2012

This pick and mix section allows teachers to create bespoke lessons by picking activities and resources

This page has now been updated - you can find the new version here

School Reporters at Handsworth Wood Girls’ School prepare for their bulletin


This page contains a collection of videos, guides and quizzes about gathering and compiling news.

We would value your feedback on the resources
Email or fill out the form at the foot of this page to get in touch
And if you have any suggestions about how to improve the classroom activities or ideas for new exercises, we'd love to hear from you!

You can choose which resources are the most appropriate for your pupils and classroom. We've called it a pick and mix - so you can read through and select the materials that best fit in with your plans.

Please note that all times for activities are approximate and will depend on class size, age, etc.

We also have a special Teacher Essentials section which includes lots of extra information and advanced resources.

You can also use our updated six lesson plans if you prefer a more structured approach.


Gathering and planning

The first step in making the news is to gather all the information you need.

Journalists need to be confident about their facts and be able to spot a good story - and good research and planning at the outset is the best way to ensure they know their stuff before setting out to report.

And if they're writing a story for the web, they need good pictures to go alongside it - and forward planning is key to this, too.

The videos and activities on the right will help you to learn more about researching stories and how to get the most from internet search engines, as well how to ensure you get images that stand out.



Good interviews are a combination of apparent spontaneity and responsiveness, good research and searching questions.

Learn about the subject and remember: research is so much stronger if you are able to say that you've done it yourself.

Pick a subject and stick to it. Get the first question right, listen to the answer and follow up on that.

It is important to think through where you want to end up at the begining of the interview. What do you want to achieve?


Vox Pops

A vox pop is the name journalists give to asking members of the public what they think. Students studying Latin will know that it comes from 'vox populi' - a phrase which literally means "voice of the people".

Think back to the last local news bulletin you watched or heard, and the chances are you saw or listened to a 'vox' of people's views on a controversial subject.

These resources will help you learn how to carry out vox pops and then give you the chance to try it out for themselves. And remember - the fundamentals of asking good questions apply to vox pops as much as they do to high-profile interviews.


Video: Gathering news (2 mins 30 secs video + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)

Gathering news (duration: 2 mins 30 secs)

BBC newsreader Huw Edwards explain the 5 W's - Who, What, Why, Where and When - of newsgathering. And don't forget How!

Finding the answers to these questions is the basis of all journalism so once you've got a grasp of that you're well on your way!


You can recap the key points from the video with this accompanying worksheet, or read a transcript of the video:

A Welsh language version of the video is also available, together with a transcript.

Avoid getting a long and unwieldy list of search results by reading BBC Webwise's guide.

Now, take the internet search challenge to find out some fascinating facts about tea!

If you cannot play the video on the link, you can scroll down the page for written tips.

If you're producing journalism for your school website, your stories need great images to draw your readers in. Get tips on how to take good photos for the web by reading the BBC's College of Production guide.

You can also download and print out this guide to key practices:

Read these for advice on style and composition, and to find out how planning and knowing your camera are vital to success.

Activity: Researching the news (20 mins)

Work in pairs.

A, find a photo on a news website or a newspaper that you like the look of and show it to B, but don't let them read the story.

B, try to answer these questions, drawing on information in the picture and any other knowledge you have of the story:

What happened?

Who is involved?

Where did it happen?

When did it happen?

B, you have been using your research skills. Looking closely and asking the right questions are some of the research skills needed by journalists. But journalists should never assume anything! Checking your facts is another vital research skill.

B, check your answers with A, who has more information about the story.

But BBC journalists never take just one person's word for it, and try to find at least two sources for the same news story before they report it.

A and B, find another source for your story (a different news website or a different newspaper) and check your answers.

Activity: Newsgathering diary (15 mins)

In BBC newsrooms, some stories break without warning: a shock political resignation or a tragic accident can happen without warning, forcing journalists and editors to react quickly and work out how to cover the story.

But many stories are carefully planned in advance, with reporters able to do their research and arrange interviews ahead of time.

When your class or team has come up with some story ideas, why not start planning ahead for how how you're going to cover them.

Try filling out these planning grids. There's one with a couple of examples filled out to give you an idea of how other schools have done it, and one that is completely blank.

You could also start thinking about who you want to interview and how to get hold of them, sources for your research and so on.

Video: Interviewing masterclass (4 mins video + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)

Interviewing masterclass (duration: 4 mins)

Interviewing is one of the key skills in journalism, giving reporters the chance to put the questions they want answered to the people at the centre of the story.

BBC Newsbeat reporter Natalie Jamieson explains how you can get the most out of your interviews and shares her top tips.

As an entertainment reporter with Radio 1's flagship news programme, Natalie has interviewed some of the biggest names in showbusiness and knows her way around a red carpet!


Talking to the members of JLS, she shows what makes a good interview... and what to avoid!

You can recap the key points from the video using the accompanying worksheet, or read a transcript of the video:

And if you want an insight into how it feels to be interviewed, you can also look at a guide from JLS themselves about what makes for a good interview.

Thorough research will help you get to grips with an interviewee.

If you have a good idea about their beliefs and achievements before talking to them, you have a much better chance of getting an interesting reaction from them, rather than asking the questions they've answered hundreds of times before.

It also flatters people to know that you've taken the trouble to find out about them! They might be more inclined to open up to you!

This guide from the BBC's College of Journalism helps point you in the right direction when it comes to thinking about how to research your interviewees.

Experienced BBC journalists and presenters like Jenni Murray, Libby Purves and Jon Sopel are veterans of literally thousands of interviews over the course of their careers.

So it's worth listening to some of the tricks of the trade from them in this BBC College of Journalism series about how to get the most out of your interviewees.

Watch BBC producer Sally Webb offering hints and guidance on how to phrase your questions to get the best answers.

The advanced video, from the BBC's College of Journalism, also includes tips on how to avoid "crossing the line" while filming - a cardinal sin of camerawork which makes your final edit look distinctly odd.

Activity: Open and closed questions (15 mins)

Work in pairs.

A asks B the following questions:

1. Do you like school?

2. Do you meet your friends during break?

3. Is homework set every day?

4. Do you eat school dinners?


5. What do you like about school?

6. What do you do during break-time?

7. How much homework do you receive?

8. What do you think of school dinners?

Now, as a pair, answer this question:

Which questions generated the best answers?

Closed questions often prompt the short response "Yes" or "No". Sometimes people expand on them, but they don't have to - and it can make for an awkward and not very insightful interview if you end up with a string of one-word answers.

Open questions are used by journalists because they encourage people to give more information.

A top tip which will make life a lot easier when it comes to editing your material is to try to get your interviewee to include the question in their answer.

Often when journalists put together a report, the interviewer's questions are edited out - to save time and to make the report seem more natural.

Imagine the difference between hearing: "They're great, apart from we only have chips on Friday!" and "I think school dinners are great, except that we only have chips on Friday!"

This time B, ask A questions 5 to 8.

A, you must include the "question in your answer", so that it makes sense to a listener or viewer even without the question.

Now, pick a topic to interview each other about. Take it in turns to ask each other as many open questions as you can in a minute.

Under pressure, it's not always easy to avoid closed questions!

Activity: Internet research and questions (25 mins)

Imagine your editor has asked you to do some background research about your local MP or a sports person of your choosing in preparation for an interview. Spend the next 20 minutes looking online for information.

Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt is the biggest name in athletics
  • When using a search engine, remember to use quotation marks around their name eg "David Beckham" or "Usain Bolt". This will help narrow down your search results.
  • Bookmark your most interesting and relevant results so you can return to them again. If you don't know how to do this, ask your teacher.
  • Include an advanced search for news about them on within the last month. This will help to uncover any recent news involving the subject and might prompt ideas for new lines of enquiry.

Now, based on the information you have found, compose five open questions for your local MP or sports person. They should add to the background research you have just done, not give you the same answers.

Rank the questions in the order you would ask them.

Remember, you may not have enough time to ask them all, and that it will often put your guest at ease to start with an easier question.

If you'd like to interview a celebrity for one of your stories, read this School Report guide.

It has lots of tips on how to persuade famous people to get involved.

Schools have managed to secure interviews with the likes of former England cricketer Phil Tufnell, author Nick Hornby and comedian Richard Herring through their own efforts.

Who would you like to interview for School Report? And how would you go about getting hold of them?

Remember that your interviewees don't have to be household names! An exclusive chat with a local councillor or politician could be just what your story needs.

Watch Melanie Grant, who's worked at 1Xtra, Radio 1 and Radio 4, on location at a market as she offers her top five tips for recording vox pops for a radio package.

Her advice includes helping people to feel at ease, listening to what they have to say and recording a variety of voices from a diverse range of people.

Activity: Vox-popping (15 mins)

Think of a news topic, something about which lots of people have an opinion.

Now write down an open question to do with the topic (one beginning with one of the five W's or How). Make it count - you want a question that will really bring out the most interesting views.

Ask a range of people the question (at least five people) and record their answers.

Now select which answers - and which bits of the answers - to use in a news report. Remember to get a balance of opinions.

Quiz: Gathering news (10 mins)

Quiz: Gathering news

See how much you know about gathering the news.

School Reporters working on computers

1.) Interviews

A closed question…

School Reporters using recording equipment
  1. Prompts "Yes" or "No" answers.
  2. Encourages people to give detailed answers.
  3. Works well in radio interviews.

2.) Interviews

Encouraging your interviewees to include your question in their answer is useful because…

School Reporters practicing interviews
  1. It gives you time to think of your next question.
  2. It makes it easier to leave out your questions when you are compiling the report.
  3. People like giving long answers.

3.) News values

If you present stories fairly and without bias, you could be described as being...

School Reporters preparing to read a bulletin
  1. Impartial
  2. Incredible
  3. Inferior

4.) Interviews

You've asked someone if you can interview them on camera. They say yes - but only if you give them a list of your questions first. What should you do?

School Reporters doing an interview
  1. Send them the questions you are going to ask.
  2. Refuse to tell them anything.
  3. Tell them the topics you are going to be asking about.

5.) Research

You find a website that has some useful information you want to use in your report. What should you do?

School Reporters using a laptop
  1. Try to memorise the information.
  2. Write down the information you want in your notebook.
  3. Take notes and bookmark the webpage for later.

6.) Fact and opinion

A fact is...

Two School Reporters in a radio studio
  1. A statement made by someone important.
  2. A statement based on a belief.
  3. A statement that is true and can be backed up with evidence.

7.) News values

What word best describes a news report that only gives a one-sided view of a story?

Two School Reporters reading from their scripts
  1. Biased
  2. Balanced
  3. Boring

8.) Staying safe

You've been researching a story online and are about to take a lunchbreak. What should you do before you leave?

A keyboard on a laptop
  1. Load up your editing software ready to use when you get back.
  2. Make sure you've logged off your computer.
  3. Write down a list of things to do after lunch.


  1. Closed questions prompt "Yes" or "No" answers which might be dull for your audience. Try asking open questions, which often begin with words beginning with W: what, who, where, when, why - and one which doesn’t begin with W: how.
  2. It makes it easier to leave out your questions when you are compiling the report. So "I decided to run the marathon because I wanted a challenge" is a more useful answer than "Because I wanted a challenge." Ask interviewees if they can reference the question, so their answer can "stand alone".
  3. Being fair and unbiased means you can be described as impartial. Impartiality requires you to seek out and weigh the relevant arguments on any issue and to present them fairly without letting your personal views affect what you say. Being impartial helps your audience trust what you tell them.
  4. You should tell them the topics you are going to ask about but avoid sending them a list of questions. You don't want them to prepare all their answers in advance as a) they sound unnatural and b) you are more likely to get to the truth when your guests are answering spontaneously.
  5. Taking notes in your notebook is good but it is even better to take notes and bookmark the webpage. Your editor may ask for more information about the source and if you've got it bookmarked, you can easily refer back to it.
  6. A fact is a statement that is true and can be backed up with evidence. When you are reporting, remember to make it clear if something is a fact or if you are reporting someone's opinion.
  7. A one-sided story is biased. Reporting just one side of a story means the audience aren't getting all the facts. Try to make sure your stories are balanced and look for alternative views.
  8. You should make sure you've logged off your computer. That way, people won’t be able to use your accounts or look at any personal information you may have left behind.

Your Score

0 - 2 : Keep working at it

3 - 5 : Good but could be better

6 - 8 : Well done!

The online quiz gives you the answers at the end of every question. If you are using the quiz worksheet, the answers can be found here:

This multiple-choice quiz is designed to test your knowledge of how newsgathering works.

It also provides real-life scenarios to prompt discussions about the issues that can arise during the process of research and interviewing.

You can take the above test online, either on this page or on a separate page which is easier to email and distribute at school; a low-tech alternative is to print out this worksheet:



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