YR Media Journalism Primer

YR Media Journalism Primer

If you’re an educator looking for tools to teach your students to write compelling journalism in a variety of formats, this DIY primer is for you. Here, we’ll use our DIY tool to cover a few foundational journalism practices, including how to establish tone, pitch, and fact-check. We’ll also show you how we teach students to deliver reporting and analysis through news, opinion, Q&A and listicle formats. Feel free to adapt each lesson’s activities for your class size, experience level, and any time restraints. At the end of this primer, we've included a link to pitch the story you created to YR Media!

Lesson 1: YR Media News Tone and Pitching

Overview: In this lesson, we focus on cultivating students’ journalism skills and techniques. Unless framed as an opinion or commentary piece where the creator's intent is to persuade with an explicit point of view, journalism is about giving people unbiased information so that they can make up their own minds about a story. We’ll dive into both an opinion and news story in this lesson.

Every story starts with a pitch. But it can be tough knowing exactly where to start or if a story is even worth pursuing. Use this lesson to get clarity on tone and how the right tone can make pitching much easier.

Goal: Introduce students to YR Media News Tone to enable them to consider different approaches and establish their own personal writing styles

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PART 1: Tone

A. Icebreaker: What is tone and why is it important?

B. Activity 1: Where the magic happens

  1. Each student will get a copy of DIY: YR News Tone Venn Diagram
  2. Have students read through DIY: YR Media News Tone online resource
  3. Have students spend 20 minutes looking at YR Media’s site and populating the left side of the venn diagram
    • Discuss (in small groups or pairs): 
      • What do you notice about YR stories?
      • What do you notice about YR writers?
      • How is media used in YR content? What kind of media is used?
    • Have students consider:What topics are genuinely interesting to you?
      • What events and projects are happening around you? Are they being covered by news sources in ways you think they should?
      • Can you offer a new perspective on a well-known topic or surface one too many in your intended audience are missing?
      • What trends are you seeing in your community?
  4. Next, have students populate the middle and right parts of the venn diagram

C. Activity 2: YR Media Mark-Ups 

  1. Look through YR Media opinion and news Mark-Up resources and read the excerpts from YR stories
  2. Select another essay on YR Media’s site to mark-up (students can either copy and paste the story into a Google Doc and mark it up using comments OR students can print the stories and mark them up manually)

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PART 2: Pitching

A. Learning to Pitch

  1. : Have students look through DIY: Perfecting the Pitch
    • Discuss (as a class or in pairs):
      • What verticals are you interested in? Why?
      • Look at each of the pitching pitfalls. Could you see yourself making one of these mistakes?
      • Which pitching pitfall do you think occurs the most? Why?
      • Which formats are you most drawn to?
  2. For this lesson plan, invite your students to use the venn diagrams that they filled out in part 1 of this session.

B. Activity 1: The Editorial Meeting Lesson Plan

Lesson 2: Introduction to Fact-checking

Lesson 3: The Art of Interviewing and Q&As

Overview: Interviewing is more than a skill — it’s an art. The order of your questions, the way you phrase them and the tone of your voice all impact the way a person will respond to you. By carefully crafting your interview questions and paying attention to how your source responds, you’ll be more likely to gather compelling, engaging content for your Q&A. 


  • Students will learn about types of interviews and best practices for coming up with interview questions
  • Students will schedule and complete an interview
  • Students will construct a Q&A written piece

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PART 1: Getting Ready to Interview

A. Icebreaker: Where do you usually find the interviews you listen to, read or watch (podcasts, news, research, youtube videos)? Why do you like these interviews? What do you think makes for an interesting interview?

B. Activity 1: Learning about Interviews

  1. Have students read DIY: The Art of the Interview
  2. Discuss: the basic kinds of interviews
    • Which ones do you think that you encounter the most?
    • Which ones do you find the most interesting to listen to, read, or watch? Why?
  3. Listen to: Is Your Halloween Costume Racist?
  4. Discuss: the types of interviews we heard and who he interviewed
    • What role did each interview play in the story?
    • What did it add? 
  5. Practice: 
    • Each student will identify a person for each of the three interview types outlined in DIY: Art of the Interview
    • Come up with 5 interview questions for each interviewee, using the YR tips linked to create the best questions for each type of interview
    • Discuss as a class the differences students found when they constructed questions for different types of interviews

C: Activity 2: Preparing for an Interview:

  1. Students will identify a person to interview (Make sure that students are being realistic. You may want to require students to come up with one or two backups in case their first choice doesn’t pan out)
  2. Have students identify what type of interview it will be (expert, someone you know, something to hide) 
  3. Students will:

D. Activity 3: Booking and completing your interview

  1. Have students consider: What is the best way to contact your interviewee?
  2. To schedule their interviews, students will:
    • Write a professional email
    • Write a script to make a professional call
  3. After they have scheduled their interviews, students will:
    • Arrange a date for their interview
    • Create a Google Calendar event inviting interviewee and teacher 
    • Title: Your Name - Source Name
      • NOTE: Remind students to take a picture of their interviewee or ask interviewee to send a picture that they can use for their Q&A piece

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PART 2: Booking and Completing Interviews

A. Icebreaker: What did you find challenging about the interview process? What did you find challenging about the interview itself?

B: Activity 1: Creating a Q&A piece

  1. Have students transcribe interviews (alternatively, you may want to pay for a transcription program such as Trint or use Google Cloud Speech-to-Text)
  2. Students will follow the instructions in DIY: How to Do a Q&A to construct their Q&A written piece

Lesson 4: Developing a Final Project

Overview: Students will use the remainder of the training to conceptualize and complete a final project. Students should incorporate what they have learned into their final projects, so encourage everybody to look back on what they have made so far. 


  • Students will become familiarized with YR Media listicles
  • Students will conceptualize and create a final project

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A. Icebreaker: Have students read: 5 Job-Seeking Tips to Identify Creepy, Sexist Employers, discuss:

  • What did you find most compelling about this story?
  • This story was first published in May 2018 and then re-published May 2019. How do think things are changing for women in the workforce (if at all)?
  • What do you notice about the structure of this story?

B. Activity 1: Breaking down the listicle

  1. Explain: Listicles are a great way to efficiently deliver news in a digestible and shareable format. There are a few specific qualities that make up an insightful listicle.
  2. Have students read: DIY: How to Write a Listicle 

C. Activity 2: Preparing to write your listicle

  1. Give students time to think about what is happening in their community
  2. Discuss:
    • What events and projects are happening around you?
    • Are they being covered by traditional news sources?
    • Can you offer a new perspective on an old or well-known topic
    • What trends are you seeing in your community?
  3. Optional: Students may want to fill out another YR News Tone Venn Diagram to organize their ideas 

D. Final Project: Creating your listicle

  1. Have students fill out the Creating a YR Media Listicle worksheet. This worksheet will help students further develop their idea in the correct listicle format. Additionally, this worksheet includes a checklist to ensure that students complete all the steps in the final project.
  2. Students will find and create graphics to illustrate their listicle.
    • Encourage students to find already created graphics as well as make their own using sites like GIPHY
  3. Students must fact-check the information in their listicle. DIY: Delivering the Accuracy will guide students through the fact-checking process.
  4. Invite students to create sample Instagram and Twitter posts to promote their listicle.

E. Revise and Iterate: If you love what you made and want us to check it out, follow this link to pitch to YR Media. We're excited to see what you created!

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Support the Next Generation of Content Creators
Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
donate now