Extra! Extra! Read All About It! #

Calling all aspiring journalists, reporters, and anyone who wants to improve their writing through journalistic techniques! Believe it or not, there is value to understanding and practicing the elements of news writing, even if you never become reporter. In fact, many celebrated authors were or are journalists as well: Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Ida B. Wells, George Orwell, P. G. Wodehouse, E.B. White, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Richard Wright, Joan Didion, Maxine Hong Kingston, and more! At its heart, journalism is storytelling. Journalists are especially equipped by their training to craft stories that get to the point and communicate in a way that shows readers what happened and why. News writing requires organization, precision, economy, empathy, and rhythm to propel readers through the story. These are also the hallmarks of great fiction!

This course is for students 15-18 years of age. Younger high school students interested in non-fiction writing should explore Audiovisual Presentations or Expository Essay: Exploratory & Persuasive.

The Scoop #

This class will provide an introduction to journalism and news writing. Students will explore and practice the following journalistic elements in depth:

  • Hard news versus feature story structure
  • The inverted pyramid
  • Writing a lead sentence
  • Crafting a nut graph
  • Using color
  • Exercising the power of observation
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Choosing supporting quotes
  • Attributing sources
  • Headline writing
  • Choosing accompanying art/photographs

In addition, we will discuss:

  • The definition of news
  • News values
  • Pitching a story
  • Asking the right questions
  • Accuracy and fact checking
  • Fairness and balance in reporting
  • Framing a story
  • Publication

By the end of this class, students will have created a news article worthy of publication.

Tentative Class Schedule #

Week One: What makes a good news story. We’ll warm up by discussing the definition of journalism, the characteristics of good journalist, and the importance of news values in order to understand what stories are newsworthy and what makes a good one. Students will learn how to identify newsworthy events and pitch story ideas. They will then explore the story by asking questions. Students will also read daily news from a local and national news source.

Week Two: Journalists are investigators! In their quest for answers, modern journalists have abundant resources at their disposal. Students will use these tools to research their story to find background information and concrete facts to answer questions. This includes identifying possible sources (experts on the topic) and contact methods.

Journalists are only as reliable as their sources, which means that a good interview and verification of the information obtained is vital for a solid, informative story. Students will craft interview questions, contact sources, and learn some tricks of the trade to get accurate, meaty quotes.

Week Three: Framing and organizational structure. With the reporting done and groundwork laid, it’s time to step back, look at the raw material, and choose what information to include in the story. Students will decide how to accurately represent the story to readers and organize the information according to the inverted pyramid.

Next it’s time to write the most important paragraph of the story, the lead. Students will learn how to construct a gripping, informative, concise lead paragraph to grab attention and set the tone for the rest of the article. In addition, they will work on one sentence that is the heart of the story, also known as the nut graph.

In preparation for writing the article, students will also learn how to choose supporting quotes and add color.

Week Four: Submitting copy and publication. In the final week, students will submit a draft of their article and implement revisions based on instructor feedback. The final article will be eligible for publication in the Brave Writer Gazette, and students will learn how to pitch their story to local news organizations or online publications.

About the instructor: Samantha earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from Patrick Henry College in 2009, graduating magna cum laude with honors in her major. While in college she served as editor for her college newspaper and received the Baptist Press Excellence in Journalism award for First Place in Newspaper Feature Writing. Throughout her journalism career Samantha covered stories ranging from polygamy to Hurricane Katrina evacuee relief measures to the opening of a teen center for local youth. She has written for town newspapers, city magazines, online news sources, and blogs. She has even worked on the “other side” of journalism in media relations writing press releases for a think tank in Washington, DC. Before joining Brave Writer, Samantha wrote and edited her culture blog, Art of Cultivation.

For more information about how the classes are run, please read about online classes.

To explore our Brave Writer classroom, click here to access a sample class.

Class Structure Description #

Brave Writer online classes are specially designed with the busy homeschooling parent in mind. Classes last anywhere from four to six weeks. We offer courses that address a specific writing need so that you can take the ones that suit your family throughout the school year. Short class sessions enable you to work around family vacations, out-of-town swim meets, recovering from wisdom teeth removal, and visits from grandparents. We operate on the quarter system, including a summer session. Our most popular classes repeat each quarter, while others are seasonal.

Our classes meet in a customized online classroom, designed specifically to meet the needs of Brave Writer. Only registered students and the instructor have access to the classroom to ensure your privacy. Assignments and reading materials are posted by Brave Writer instructors each week (no additional supply fees necessary, unless otherwise indicated). Either you (homeschooling parent) or your child (homeschooling student) will visit the classroom daily at your convenience to read helpful information about the current topic or to find the writing assignment. We operate "asynchronously" (which means that the discussion is not live, but that posted information remains available to you in your time zone at your convenience). Instructors check the classroom throughout the day to answer questions and give feedback on writing.

Writing is done at home and then typed into the classroom, and shared with both the instructor and other classmates. You're not required to be online at any specific time of the day. We have students from all over the world participating in our classes so "live" discussion is impossible. Instead, the online classroom enables the instructor to post information and assignments when it is convenient to the instructor. Then, when it is convenient for you, you come to the classroom and read the latest postings.

Instructor feedback to student writing is offered for all participants to read. Writing questions are welcomed and encouraged! That's the point of class. We aim to give you immediate support as you face writing obstacles.

Brave Writer takes seriously the need for encouragement and emotional safety in writing. No student is ever at risk of being humiliated or mistreated. All online dialog is respectful and supportive of your child's process. This is the core of Brave Writer philosophy. You can read about Brave Writer values here.

What makes our program especially unique in the world of online education is that we value a corporate experience. Rather than teaching your child in a tutorial format, we prefer students to have the opportunity to both publish their work for an audience (other students) and also to have the chance to read other student writing. In no other setting is this possible. Schools-in-buildings rarely have students read each other's work. Homeschooled children are rarely in a classroom environment to begin with, so the opportunity to read peer-writing is nil.

Our classes provide an utterly unique experience in the world of writing instruction. Since most writers grow through emulation of good writing, it is a real advantage to Brave Writer kids to get the chance to read the writing of their fellow home-educated peers. They love it! They get to examine and internalize other ways of writing, analyzing and expressing ideas similar to their own. They have the chance to validate and cheer on their peers. And of course, the best part of all is that they receive the praise and affirmation of kids just like them.

Not only that, all instructor feedback is posted to the classroom for all students to read. That means your kids get the benefit of instructor comments on many papers, not just their own. We've noted that this style of instruction is especially effective and hope you'll agree!

To explore our Brave Writer classroom, click here to access a sample class.