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Using social media to cultivate coverage


This lesson will have students review and evaluate professional and other media staffs’ methods of storytelling on a variety of social media platforms. After the presentation and discussion, students will evaluate and analyze their own use of social media in the story development process. Students need a foundation in news literacy and research. In part two of the lesson, students will develop coverage concepts and plan of action for working social media into their news gathering.


  • Students will understand how their intended audience is using social media to share personality and interests.
  • Students will understand how they can use social media to engage with their intended audience and build a community.
  • Students will understand how they can use the available data in social media community to develop coverage concepts.
  • Students will apply news values to their concept.

Common Core Standards



Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.


Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.


Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.


Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.


Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.


Two 50-minute class periods, plus parts of others for analysis, research, evaluation, brainstorming, development.


Handout: Coverage entrance ticket

Slideshow: Using social media to cultivate coverage  

Handout: Social media to cultivate coverage presentation worksheet

Handout: Using social media to generate story ideas

Handout: Reflection and evaluation

Rubric: Reflection and evaluation rubric

Access to social media platforms through Internet through computer or smart device

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

 Warm up and presentation — 50 minutes

1. Use the  “Coverage entrance ticket” as a quick response at the beginning of class. After students have the chance to think and respond, discuss their responses. Consider creating this as a Google Form to use the Google Form Responses display to guide the conversation. Discuss as a class how the students come up with coverage ideas. Ask how do they keep coverage fresh? How can they allow the audience to engage in coverage ideas?

2. Go through the “Using social media to cultivate coverage” slideshow and discuss with the class how building voice will lead to a social media community. Discuss how engagement in a social media community comes with building a relationship with our intended audience and the engagement with that audience can lead to coverage ideas. Use the “Using social media to cultivate coverage” worksheet to guide discussion and understanding for the class.

Day 2

Discussion and reflection — 50 minutes

3. Direct students to use different social media platforms to evaluate how their intended audience posted about a recent or trending topic. Discuss different ways the audience expressed themselves and their stories during the specific time or topic. Compare and contrast the audience’s approach to the staff’s story pitch meeting and the way the staff choose to develop the story.

4. Organize students into small groups. Instruct students to search their social media feeds for potential story ideas. Instruct students to seek a variety of sources. Suggestion: give students instructions to find two sources who they have direct contact (like members of the student body) and one source from a professional news organization. Encourage them to discuss the posts and how they can localize to apply to their media. Instruct students to share their ideas with their group and as group discuss the story ideas. Instruct students to use the “Using social media to generate story ideas” handout  to discuss their findings and select three story ideas to develop on the handout.

5. If social media is blocked on the school network, instruct students to search social media feeds at home and bring their findings to class the next day to discuss with their groups.

Day 3

Reflection — 50 minutes

6. Have the students complete the “Reflection and evaluation” handout as an informal formative assessment. Use “Reflection and evaluation” handout rubric to help you evaluate student understanding. Expect to see understanding of content from social media to be used as conversation starters to help develop the story and the need for further research and reporting to help fully develop the idea.

Extension Activity

Prepare students for an upcoming story pitch meeting by brainstorming and developing a story concept plan by using social media to cultivate the concept idea. See the News Gathering lesson Pitch in: Elements of story pitch meetings.