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Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Wednesday, 6 July 2011 14:37 UK

These lesson plans are structured to last for one hour, and cover all the key elements of journalism

School Reporters from Handsworth Wood Girls’ School practice their interview technique

School Reporters from Handsworth Wood Girls’ School practice their interview technique


This lesson, the second in a series of six, explains how to gather news - including the art of conducting good interviews.

We also have a pick and mix section where teachers can pick out resources to create bespoke lessons for their pupils.

And the special Teacher Essentials section includes lots of extra information and advanced resources.

Please note: this lesson is designed to run for an hour, but all timings (except for video durations) are approximate and can be expanded or reduced if necessary.

  • To develop research techniques
  • To understand the importance of open questions
  • To understand a journalist's impartiality
  • To understand the difference between fact and opinion


1 - Video - Gathering news - 2 mins 30 secs (+2-3 mins to recap/discuss)
Resources required: Internet access

2 - Activity - Open and closed questions - 15 mins
Resources required: None

3 - Video - Interview masterclass - 4 mins (+ 2-3 mins to recap/discuss) Resources required: Internet access

4 - Activity - Research and writing questions - 25 mins
Resources required: Internet access; writing materials

5 - Quiz - Gathering news - 10 mins
Resources required: Internet access or printable worksheet/answer sheet


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.

Activity: Open and closed questions (15 mins)

Huw Edwards talked about the 5 W's (and How). One of the crucial things to think about when interviewing is the difference between "open" questions and "closed" questions.

This activity will help demonstrate the importance of choosing the right questions.

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? Why do you think that was?

Closed questions often prompt the short response "Yes" or "No". Open questions are usually preferred by journalists because they encourage people to give more information.

Open questions are also known as 'W' questions because they usually begin with What, Who, Where, When, Why - and How.

Another 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!" The second answer tells you everything, whereas the first one leaves you wondering.

This time B, ask A questions 5 to 8.

A, you must include the "question in your answer", so that it stands alone, 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!

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.

Activity: Research and writing 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.

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 test 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 quiz online, either on this page or on a separate page which is easier to email and distribute at school; a low-tech alternative would be to print out this worksheet:

  • For reference, teachers may like to look at previous years' resources including 2009-11 and 2006-8.

Approved rubber stamp graphic

This lesson has been approved by the BBC College of Journalism.



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