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The Power of Journalism

African American journalist Ida B. Wells was born on July 16, 1862. Ida B. Wells’s work as a journalist provided a public forum for her crusade against lynchings and other violations of basic human rights.

The work of Wells and other journalists can provide an effective launchpad for learning through a classroom unit, in which students explore some of the ways journalism has contributed to the advancement of human and civil rights causes around the world by spreading information and affecting public sentiment. An outline of steps might look like this:

  • First, ask students to help you brainstorm a list of human rights issues from current events or from events you’ve studied in class.
  • Have students break into groups and select topics from the list. Each group should research their issue in depth, uncovering the facts on both sides of the issue, the names of people and places involved, and related images.
  • Using a current print or online newspaper, engage the whole class in an examination and discussion of the ways that journalists cover a story, including factual articles, editorials, and photojournalistic essays.
  • Finally, have each group create articles for a classroom newspaper or newsletter, in either online or print format. 
  • Publish the newspaper or newsletter for the school or local community, and plan a trip to a local news office for students to share their work with and get career information from the editors there.

Studying examples of modern-day journalism can be inspiring and informative. How do you encourage students to investigate journalism in your school?