At Journalism + Design, we've developed exercises and assignments to reach journalism students in new ways. The activities below explore key principles and practices of journalism through a lens of playful experimentation. Students are encouraged to develop a journalistic process that includes acting collaboratively, thinking systemically, and always being imaginative.

These exercises and assignments are modular and can be used with any level of journalism student. Educators should feel free to tweak the specifics of the assignment while making use of the playful structure upon which they are built.

Fairy Tale Ledes

Students use classic fairy tales to learn what makes a good headline, what makes a good lede, how to judge which information is the most important in a story, and the role of perspective in news reporting.

What Is News?

Students explore how to filter hard news from feature news, straight news from commentary, and fact-based journalism from opinion.

Interviewing 101: The Sit-Down

Students observe interviews and understand what makes a good, empathetic interviewer, what makes a good interview question, and how to encourage an interview subject to open up.

Interviewing 101: The Vox Pop

Students experience street reporting and develop a collaborative approach to conducting on-the-spot interviews with strangers.

Interviewing 102: The Transcript

Students practice turning an interview into an original story by separating important ideas from trivial ones, identifying key quotes, picking up on nuance, and recognizing when to paraphrase.

Story Development: Look, Listen, Map

Students develop story ideas by closely observing an environment or subject and applying different information-collecting techniques.

The Elevator Pitch

Students hone their ability to pitch a compelling story and learn how to give focused and effective feedback.

Meet the Audience

Students learn about the importance of knowing their audience and incorporating an audience perspective into the reporting process.

Empower the Audience

Students consider what the audience will do after consuming their stories, and explore how journalism can engage and empower communities.

Mapping and Observing

Students explore how deep observation can be a powerful tool for journalists and practice different methods of observation.

Systems Thinking: Capture, Cluster, Connect

Students learn how to dig deeper into complex issues, to better understand the different forces at play and how those forces are interconnected.

Systems Thinking: Stakeholder Mapping

Students continue to apply systems thinking to their reporting by identifying key stakeholders in a story and recognizing how that can deepen their understanding of an issue.

Mind-Mapping and Storyboarding

Students create “mind maps” of their stories, look for new ideas and connections, and create a storyboard based on their findings.

Systems Thinking: Longreads Analysis

Students learn a new framework for understanding and analyzing stories through a systems thinking lens by reading and analyzing a longform piece of journalism.

Live Journalism Brainstorm

Students use a collaboration framework to develop a live event, learning both best practices for collaborating and how to turn journalism into an experience.

Jacob’s Ladder Ledes

Students use a different aspect of their stories to rewrite their ledes, learning how to be flexible and gaining a better understanding of narrative structure.

Want to use the J+D model for your own exercises?
Here’s an Activity Template and Checklist to help you build your own.

Have questions? Feedback?
We’d love to hear about your experience using these activities in your classroom, and get your thoughts on what we could improve. Email us at resources@journalismdesign.com.