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News gathering for the in-depth news / news feature story


This lesson can serve as a review for advanced students or as a culmination of a unit on news gathering for beginners. Before this lesson, students should generate story ideas for a topical, in-depth or news feature story to reinforce effective reporting practice. Students will identify the types of interviews they will conduct, perform research to build knowledge of their story topic and/or sources, select appropriate sources, plan questions, conduct the interviews and prepare interview transcripts. Students will evaluate their own performance and also will have an editor and adviser perform an evaluation using a rubric.

This lesson ends with the collection of information for an in-depth or topical news feature story. To complete the writing, go to Revising and editing a news story.


  • Students will recognize the various ways to gather information for a story and choose the types that best suits their story coverage.
  • Students will effectively perform research on their topic and/or their sources in order to build a strong foundation of knowledge prior to interviewing.
  • Students will use proper etiquette in setting up interviews, taking into account the schedule and environment of the source(s).
  • Students will demonstrate proper interviewing techniques such as listening, rephrasing, and asking follow up questions.
  • Students will develop a hierarchy of sources that best fits their story. Here, varying perspectives and experiences are considered. Expert sources are used.
  • Students will create a transcription of their interviews and reliable research information with attribution that provides needed information to compose an in-depth news or news feature story.

Common Core Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.



Flexible. Two 50-minute class periods to review reporting basics and group story planning. An additional two to four weeks to conduct research, establish sources, conduct interviews and transcribe information and for peer and adviser assessment.


Slideshow: News gathering

Handout: Planning the interview (optional)

Handout: News gathering checklist

Handout: Online research resources (Resources for Journalistic Research)

Equipment for audio or video recording (as needed)

Internet and database access

Handout: Using databases

Handout: Reaction quotes activity (optional)

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Prepare – 5 minutes

Prior to this lesson, students should have one or more story ideas already for a news feature or in-depth story. For some topics, teachers or editors may prefer that students work in groups to cover multiple angles. If this is the case, group the students in their reporting groups. If not, divide students into random groups of three or four for discussion.

2. Review and discussion — 35 minutes

Use the slideshow to review the basics of reporting and interviewing. Students should have some experience with news writing. This lesson advances their use of news gathering skills to cover an in-depth news or news feature story.

The purpose of this presentation is to help students to think about how to research and interview for an upcoming writing assignment. Within the slideshow, there are five discussion questions for reflection and preliminary planning. At these intervals, students will break into their groups to discuss what they will do for their specific stories, and write short answers to the questions for an exit ticket at the end of class.

At one point in the slideshow, reference is made to the handout “Resources for Journalistic Research.” Make a class set or have this available to students digitally.

Alternative note-taking option: For beginners and students who need additional assistance using a graphic organizer or planner, use the “Planning the interview” handout for use with the slideshow presentation. This may be assigned as homework.

3. Assessment — 10 minutes

Ask a spokesperson for each group to give a short review of the discussions on research plans, source lists and interview plans within their groups.

Students should turn in their answers individually to the discussion questions as an exit ticket. Check and return at next class. (Record for a daily grade if needed.)

Alternative assessment: Assign the “Planning the interview” handout as homework.

Day 2

1. Brainstorm, research and adviser conference

Students working in teams to cover a story in multiple angles may need additional time for brainstorming and planning together. They should think of in-depth, enterprise-type stories that go beyond the basic news format. Teams should start listing sources, angles and potential questions and choose a team leader who can serve as a peer editor for the package. They may use the Planning the Interview handout to facilitate this brainstorm.

Once brainstorming is done, students should begin researching using the Internet and available databases on computers, phones or tablets. Or allow students to work on a different assignment while the teacher meets in small groups.

Regardless of the staff structure, have each student or group check in with you privately about their story ideas and research/reporting approach. Provide feedback on sources, questions, angles and any other information.

During the conference, pass out the “News gathering checklist” and explain that it will be used to evaluate their reporting on their story.

Day 3+

Project time and activities — varies, from two to four weeks

For the next week or more (as long as the teacher, editors or production schedule allows), students will perform research, establish sources, conduct interviews and transcribe information.

As students prepare their background materials, they should use the “Using databases for in-depth reporting” worksheet to log their research and how it relates to their story. Students must find at least one piece of information that they can use in their story. Have students place their findings in the table and use it to check off that item on the “News gathering checklist.” (It may be easier to make this available to students in a shared drive.)

Optional use: Beginning students and those who need additional support can use the “Reaction quotes worksheet” to log especially colorful or pertinent quotations discovered in their news gathering.


After a designated deadline, students should perform a self-evaluation of their work using the “News gathering checklist” and collect all required supporting materials. Then, peer evaluation with an editor or team leader should occur. Finally, student-teacher evaluation should occur using the checklist and supporting materials as required in the checklist.


This lesson ends with the collection of information for an in-depth story. To complete the story, go to Revising and editing news stories in the Writing Module.


While this lesson is intended for advanced reporters and staff reporters, it may be used as an advanced lesson in a beginning class or as a challenge to honors students. A variety of organizers and checklists are provided to help students keep track of what is required and log information as they find it.