Rural Journalism Workshop

Lesson Plan

Rural Journalism Workshop


Field trip to local newspaper; tour facility, learn publishing process, design and layout, democratic free press and journalism basics to prep students to create their own piece.


Students share work in a writing circle: teacher and peer critiques. 

Introducing the Lesson

Facilitate a discussion with the students

Why is journalism important?

  • Journalism plays a crucial role in helping democracy function. Why?

What is a community paper and why is it important?

  • The smaller the community, the more important its newspaper becomes.Globalized communities find an increasing need for something that will bring them together, and the local paper does this by creating community connections.
  • The only news source that care about small towns where people call home
  • It has the power to bring about great good and make a profound difference within their locales because of one common denominator – trust.
    • In a small town every newspaper reader thinks they are a stockholder, because there exists a real relationship, an implied contract between the paper and its readers.
    • A small-town editor is not a removed “big shot”, they are a neighbor. People trust them to “tell it like it is”
    • The local paper may be praised one week and cursed the next, it’s not important that it be liked, but that it is trusted.
  • Boost local economy – both in advertising and news coverage.
  • Keep us connected to local activities, events and accomplishments.
  • Provide a forum for expression, allowing readers to make their voices heard.
  • Hold local leaders accountable, shining a light on local government and organizations.

Warm Up

Create a news room by holding a ‘news conference’ for students to brainstorm and discuss story ideas to cover what is happening in their school and community. 

Get To Work

Journalism basics:

  • What is journalistic writing: news, feature, & editorial articles
  • The “Five ‘W’s” are “Who,” “What,” “When,” “Where,” and “Why.” Referring back to the Five “W”s helps journalists address the fundamental questions that every story should be able to answer. 
  • Role of editor, and other newspaper staff roles.
  • Process of writing an article: newsroom brainstorm session, importance of contacts, how to interview and take notes, necessity of several sources to support article topic, putting it all together.
  • Design to print process
  • History of the paper and importance of supporting small community newspapers
  • The business aspects of running a community newspaper


  • Decide on a relevant topic; what are you interested in? timeliness? 
  • make a list of contacts
  • think of your angle and prep questions
  • call, text or email contacts to set-up a time to interview
  • interview contacts
  • take photos that help tell the story
  • write your article and submit it and the photos to editor for feedback before print deadline
  • make final edits and submit for publication

Extension Activity

  • Invite community members (business owners, non-profit and civil service employees etc.) to be interviewed by students. This provides students with interpersonal skill development: interviewing and face-to-face communication skills while learning about different careers. The students then write brief profiles about the interviewee to be published in the paper. This can be an additional article to their article about place to be published.
  • Prepare layout and graphics for publication in the newspaper.
    • Students design and create the zine layout using whatever programming the school has available.
    • Consider adding other student work elements to the publication, such as photography, cartoons, art, puzzles etc.
    • There are many free zine templates available on-line