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How a breaking story unfolds online


Students evaluate how professional news organizations break news using the Web and social media tools.


  • Students will evaluate how professional media use the Web, social media, online tools and print media to cover breaking news stories.
  • Students will compare print and online coverage of a breaking news story.
  • Students will use an online curation tool to cover a breaking news story.

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.11-12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty 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.


90 minutes


Boston Globe: Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News entry materials (link to complete set of PDFs)

Boston Globe: Pulitzer entry cover letter (link to PDF)

Boston Globe: Evolution of a story, day 1 (link to PDF)

Boston Globe: Liveblog of coverage (link) and Summary/excerpts of liveblog (link to PDF)

“Five Days in April” (video)

Handout: Boston Marathon bombing: Case study analysis and guiding questions 

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 5 minutes

Begin by asking students how many remember the Boston Marathon bombings. Explain that The Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize in the category of Breaking News Coverage for their coverage of the bombings and their aftermath. Today, they will analyze that coverage to learn more about how major news organization use the Web to covering breaking news stories.

2. Guided reading — 25 minutes

Distribute the Case Study Analysis sheet to students. On the back, they will find the guiding questions for the nomination letter written by editor Brian McGrory. They should open the link to the nomination letter (a PDF that can be found online through the Pulitzer site — see above), and use the letter to address the guiding questions. Students can work in pairs.

Though they may begin, they will probably not finish the Application activity on the back. This can be saved for use as a culminating activity (summative assessment) at the end of the lesson.

3. Discussion — 10 minutes

After they have had time to complete the guided reading, ask for volunteers to share their responses and address the questions of the group.

4. Case study analysis — 30 minutes

Now have students complete the chart on the front of the handout, examining each of the coverage types listed in the far left column of the table. Again, you may want to have them work in pairs. They should open the links to content both in the Pulitzer packet and on the Boston Globe’s website. Remind students that they will need to look through all of the content before they are able to draw conclusions about the role each coverage type played in the situation.

5. Discussion — 10 minutes

After they have completed the coverage analysis chart, ask for volunteers to share their findings for each coverage type. Address questions as they arise.

6. Conclusion — 10 minutes

At this point, students should have the ability to develop a breaking news protocol — or at least a list of tips and guidelines — to follow in a breaking news situation. Have them write their responses on a separate sheet of paper, which you can collect and evaluate.


If teaching this lesson across two shorter class periods, do the guided reading on one day and the case study analysis on the next.

Some students need a narrower set of documents to work through. In that case, do not provide them with the link to the entire set of Pulitzer entry documents. Instead, provide links only to the content you would like them to analyze.