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The Breaking Story: Creating a Dynamic Learning Environment for Journalism Students

Abstract: One of the problems of teaching journalism in the classroom is replicating the environment of news production, which requires journalists to process information from a range of sources under the discipline of strict deadlines.  This case study describes a model for teaching journalism students to respond to these pressures by creating a dynamic learning environment that simulates the task performed by journalists reporting on a breaking story.  Students are presented with a range of documents and materials (videotape footage, email messages, telephone messages and photographs) that all relate to a newsworthy incident (a political assassination).  This information is introduced into the learning environment at pre-determined intervals.  The task of the students is to write a news story about the incident that keeps up to date with the arrival of new information and is completed according to a strict time limit.

Author information: Barry Lowe has been teaching journalism for the past 10 years in universities in Australia, Hong Kong and Britain.  He also conducts professional training courses for working journalists, mainly in developing countries.  He has a background in the news industry, working as a print and broadcast journalist.
He has written a book on media education (Media Mythologies) and is currently working on a book about Lifestyle Journalism.  He has also published several chapters in other books, including a chapter on teaching journalism in New Ways of Using Computers in Teaching.
He has designed and taught courses in several aspects of journalism education including business reporting, environmental reporting, online journalism, feature writing and journalism ethics.

Date: September 2002

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