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Teacher Lesson Return to "Gowanus Canal: The $500 Million Makeover"
Gowanus Canal: The $500 Million Makeover
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Media/News Literacy Lesson: Is the Gowanus Canal Newsworthy?—Identifying Parts of a News Story and Recognizing the Gatekeeper Role of Journalism

Objective: Students will understand the basic elements of a news article.

Tell students that to be a good writer, you have to read good writing. So, especially for students who want to work in the media, it’s important that they understand the style of news writing, the different sections of newspapers and magazines (i.e. international news, national news, metro section, entertainment, etc.), and the structure of news stories. This exercise aims to help them increase those media literacy skills.

Write these terms on the board and ask your students to read them aloud or copy them down:

Headline: The words at the top of a story that tell what it’s about; a title that gives a brief summary

Byline: The author's name at the top of the story.

Lede: The first sentence or two of the story. It should grab the reader’s attention.

Nutgraf: The paragraph that contains the main point/main idea of a story, similar to a thesis statement

Sources: The people, websites, publications, organizations, or groups that a reporter gathers information from

Five W's: Who, what, when, where, why

Now, have students read the story "Gowanus Canal: The $500 Million Makeover." After reading the story, ask students to identify each of the following things:

Name of the publication:

Headline and date the story was published:

The byline:

The lede:

The nutgraf:


Identify one source used in the story:

The five Ws:
Who is involved in the story?

What is the story about?

When did the story happen?

Where does the story take place?

Why did the author write the story?


Explain the "gatekeeper" role of editors at news organizations. Editors decide what's news and what isn't, and set the tone for how that news is presented. Ask students to imagine that they are the editors of this publication, and they get to decide what gets published and what doesn't. Ask students: if you were the editor of this publication, would you have run this story; why or why not? How else might a publication approach this topic? (There are no right or wrong answers. The idea is to get students begin thinking critically about media.)

Homework Assignment: Ask students to choose two stories from the following list of publications, and fill out the form below for each story.
• The New York Times
• Wall Street Journal
• The Daily Beast
• Time Magazine
• The Atlantic
• Harper’s Magazine
• Columbia Journalism Review
• Wired

Name of the publication:

Headline and date the story was published:

What section of the newspaper/magazine was this story in? And was it a blog or an article?

The byline:

The lede:

The nutgraf:


Identify at least three sources used in the story:

Fill out the five Ws:
Who?

What?

When?

Where?

Why?

If you were the editor of this publication, would you have run this story; why/ why not?

How else might a publication approach this topic?

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[Other Teacher Resources]
(NYC-2011-09-05)

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