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Budgeting for content


In this lesson, publications staffers mimic the budget meeting process in which they decide what content will appear on the front page. Then, they receive new information regarding the financial/business side of the newspaper and must decide whether this changes their editorial decisions.


  • Students will demonstrate news judgment by selecting the appropriate stories for page one.
  • Students will experience how financial constraints of news media might affect content decisions.
  • Students will justify their decisions based on their knowledge of journalism best practices.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.


50 minutes


Activity: Breaking the (News) Budget

Butcher paper and markers (three sets for three groups)

Lesson step-by-step

1. Explain that activity — 5 minutes

Divide your class into three groups, and go over the first page of the activity, reading the instructions aloud. Then, assign each group one of the newspapers, and provide the newspaper description sheet for each group to reference as they make their content decisions.

2. Round 1 — 10 minutes

Give students 10 minutes to make their content decisions and to visualize those choices on the butcher block paper. Some groups might actually draw the page layout and give headlines, photo boxes, etc. This isn’t necessary, as long as they indicate the order of the stories from most to least important.

3. Round 1 presentation — 5 minutes

Have each group hold up its front page and explain what their top story is and why.

4. Round 2 — 10 minutes

Now, each group should get a new piece of butcher paper or flip theirs over. Go around to the three groups, and give each group one piece of supplementary information relating to the financial/business side of their newspaper. Instruct them that they now have to reconsider their content based on this new information. What will they change? What will they keep?  Have them create a new front page based on their new choices.

5. Present and debrief — 20 minutes

Once the groups finish, have them again present their front pages, making sure to note if they changed their content after learning new information about the financial/business aspect of their newspaper. Each group should explain why their content changed in relation to the new information, and what things they considered during the quick budget meeting.

After presenting, debrief as a class. What did they learn from this exercise? Was it easier or harder than they expected to make decisions with the financial/business information at hand? How do they think news organizations try to operate, knowing they must balance the best content with the realities of their business model?