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Covering developing stories


Students read a series of stories covering a developing story to understand how continuous online coverage differs from the periodical print coverage most high school media staffs are accustomed to.


  • Students will analyze a publication’s continuing coverage of a developing story.
  • Students will outline the coverage and discuss the reasoning behind when/what was published.
  • Students will practice planning coverage of a developing story using a news event from their school.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas or events interact and develop over the course of the text.
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.W.11-12.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection and research.


50-90 minutes


Oso landslide coverage — The Seattle Times

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 5 minutes

Ask for a volunteer to share a recent news story s/he has been following. Take an example, then ask the group how many stories, blog posts or social media posts they have seen about the topic and for how long (i.e. Just this week? This month? Maybe the last few days?)

Explain to students that back when most Americans received their news from the morning newspaper, it was not uncommon to see several stories published on consecutive days following the same basic story from new, updated angles.

With the emergence of online news, that continuing coverage has become even more frequent, with big stories leading to several new stories and updates published around the clock.

2. Analysis — 25 minutes

On individual or shared computers, students should visit the Oso landslide coverage landing page from The Seattle Times. They will need to scroll to the bottom of the page and find the section titled “As-it-happened: Day by Day Coverage.” There they will find 16 stories produced by the publication between March 22 and April 8. For a more thorough study, you may also include the section titled “The Search for Survivors,” which includes stories published between March 24 and April 28.

Working with a partner or in small groups, students should create a timeline that includes the date when the story was published, a summary of the stories angle or purpose, and an explanation of why they think that story warranted a new story post or update to the coverage (i.e. How is this story different than previous stories? What’s “new”?)

Example of chart/vertical timeline to be created:

Date published Angle or purpose Explanation of coverage

3. Discussion — 20 minutes, longer with full discussion

Once students have finished, ask them to share their observations. It may help to pose discussion questions like:

  • Did you notice any pattern in the frequency or nature of updates?
  • What do you think led to reporters or editors deciding it was time for an update?
  • What do you think the readers got out of this continuing coverage?
  • How would you say this coverage differs from what our staff is doing?
  • In which circumstances would coverage like this be justified?

Now students will practice planning continuous coverage using a story from their school. Again with a partner or in small groups, ask the group to choose a story that they could have covered or did cover recently. If it’s the beginning of the year, use stories from the previous year.

Once they have selected a story, they should recreate the vertical timeline/chart above thinking about the stories that could or should have been published around the story. Ask them to consider the following:

  • What did the reader need to know? And when?
  • Which angles could have been pursued in addition to the “main” angle?
  • How would you report the story differently if you had the chance to do it again?

4. Presentation (optional) — 25 minutes

At the end of the previous step, could collect and evaluate the student work. Another option is to have students present their timelines to the rest of the class and open each story to group discussion. If choosing this option, using a document camera would help the presenting group to share their timeline. Another option is to have each group create the timeline digitally so it could be projected on screen.


In a 1:1 setting, the teacher may want to have students produce their timeline/charts digitally.

Some students may benefit from the teacher providing a worksheet with the chart to complete in lieu of having students create their own in their notebooks or on separate paper.

This lesson could be split over two or more class periods with students finishing their analysis charts for homework after the first day.