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Planning visual coverage to attract attention


Using hard copies of local newspapers or the electronic resources located at the Newseum’s website, students will work with a partner to evaluate the front pages of local, regional, and national papers. They will make observations about the types of stories and photos included on the front page, which stories or photos catch their eye, etc.  Then, class members can discuss their findings about how newspapers and yearbooks can plan content that will attract readers’ attention.


  • Students will be able to evaluate the front page of several newspapers and make observations about the papers’ photography decisions.
  • Students will make their own judgments about the importance of including a wide range of images and visual elements on a newspaper’s front page.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7 Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.


45 minutes


Hard copies of several different types of front page newspapers (local, regional, and national); OR electronic access to the Newseum’s front page resources (

Class set: Photography & you assignment

Lesson step-by-step

1. Discussion — 5 minutes

Discuss the expression, “don’t judge a book by its cover.”  What does that mean? Why do people warn against making those sorts of judgments?  Is there any validity in that argument?  Should we judge a newspaper by its cover?  What sorts of judgments might you be able to make from looking at the front page of a newspaper?

2. Activity — 15 minutes

Explain to students that they will work with a partner to examine the front pages of at least three different newspapers: one local, one regional, and one national.  (If the teacher prefers, you may also have students examine the front page of a national news website)  Ask students to pay particular attention to the visuals on the front pages of these newspapers.

*How many photographs are on each front page?  How big are they? Are they horizontal or vertical in orientation?

*What ages, genders, and ethnic/racial backgrounds are represented?  How many people are in each photo?

*Which photos, designs or stories on the page catch your eye? Do you know what makes those aspects so appealing?

*Are any stereotypes perpetuated (or avoided) by these particular images?

*Does the photo tell TELL a story of its own, or does it simply accompany a written story?

*What can these photographs tell us about what this community values?

*What inferences, if any, could you make about the target audience and/or culture of the paper?  What type of audience is targeted by these photos? How can we tell?

*What dangers may arise from making these types of snap judgments from looking at only one day’s front page?  How many days would you feel you need to see before feeling justified in your opinion?

3.  Class share — 15 minutes

Ask students to share their perspectives with other members in the class.  (If all students evaluated different newspapers, ask them to share a little bit about what they discovered with their newspapers.  If all students evaluated the same newspaper, see if anyone disagrees with the judgments that other group members made.)

Potential discussion questions:

*What differences did you see between an “okay” photo and a “great” photo?

*How important is it for a newspaper to accurately represent its target audience on the front page?

*How sensitive should newspapers be to the potential stereotyping that can occur on the front page of a newspaper?  Should newspapers try to overcome these stereotypes, and to what extent?

*How does a paper’s audience (local, regional, or national) contribute to the diversity of coverage on the front page?

4. Reflection — 10 minutes

Have students write a paragraph in which they share their own opinion and reflect on the discussion from today’s class.

5. Homework

Pass out “Photography & You” assignment details/rubric.  This will be students’ homework assignment, due at whichever date the teacher prefers.


For students with more advanced training in photography: ask them to focus their discussion instead on the different techniques that the photos on the front cover display (depth of field, high/low shutter speed, composition rules); then, they can discuss what visual impact is made by photojournalists and editors choosing those particular photos.

For students who typically struggle: Make sure they are in a group or partnership that will actively seek out their opinion to help them stay focused.  The discussion questions should be broad enough that they can contribute to the group and feel important.