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Comparing print and online journalism



A lesson on common differences between print and online stories, coverage


  • Students will understand the strengths and challenges of each medium, print and online.
  • Students will be able to identify and explain differences in print and online coverage of a major news story.
  • Students will evaluate how effectively an online news organization used the online medium for a specific story.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


90 minutes / two 50-minute periods


Print vs. Online Coverage (slideshow)

Coverage Analysis Exercise (handout)

Copies of newspaper/magazine stories (if necessary)

Computer access for all students

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 20 minutes

Begin with the two quick response questions at the beginning of the slideshow. Have students write their responses in a journal or notebook. Ask volunteers to share.

Explain the slide “How the Internet changed everything.” Ask students to imagine a time when most people watched the morning news, listened to the radio on the way to work, or read a newspaper to find out what was happening in the world around them. Today, many people get their news sent directly to the device in the palm of their hand: a smart phone. If not, they may find out about a news event by checking their Facebook or Twitter. By the time the newspaper arrives in the morning (for those who still subscribe), the “news” isn’t really “new” to any of us.

Not only has how we get our news changed, but so has who we get it from. Anyone can publish on the Internet, and many people — not just journalists — do. How do we know who to trust? Before, it took hard work and a lot of credibility building to gain an audience for a journalist’s work. Today, anyone can publish on the Web. And not only that, but the cost to do so is a lot less than paying for the paper, ink, and delivery of a printed newspaper.

Once students seem to have a clear understanding of the historical background, ask them: How do you think all of this changed print newspapers and magazines, and how might modern journalism produced for the Internet differ from that produced for print?

Take a look at the three differences presented in the slideshow. Tell the class that those are just three examples, and they will try to find other differences.

Exercise — 45 minutes

Hand out the Coverage Analysis Exercise handout. If you have a class set of newspapers, have students find three stories in print. Otherwise, the teacher should provide copies from the day’s newspaper. Using older stories will also work, however students may encounter follow-up coverage in their search for online content as well.

While doing this, students may ask questions like: How do we know if an internet source is a credible source? What if the story appears in print and online? What if the topic is the same but the angle or type of story is different?

Share out and exit ticket — 20 minutes

Ask students to share their findings with a partner. They should tell their partner which of the examples given in the lesson they saw evidence of, as well as any differences that were unique to their stories. After partners have shared, ask for volunteers to add to the coverage differences between print and online coverage of the same story.

Put the following question on the board:

Given the differences you have found between print and online coverage, what do you think are the strengths of each medium? What are the challenges?

Collect students’ responses and use them to evaluate their understanding so far. Select a few to begin class with tomorrow.


If teaching this lesson across two 50-minute periods, complete one print/online comparison as a class, then ask the students to finish the other two for homework. Upon return the next day, have students share out their homework, then answer the exit ticket question in class, discussing their responses.

Some students may need the teacher to provide both the print and online examples directly.