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Lesson 3: Writing news

  • 23 July 2014
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Students working on a report

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More lesson plans

  • Lesson 1 – Finding news
  • Lesson 2 – Gathering news
  • Lesson 4 – Broadcasting news
  • Lesson 5 – News Day in an hour

This lesson explains how to write news reports for TV, Radio and Online. It introduces the three C’s of scripting – being clear, concise and correct.

Jim, from Radio 1’s Newsbeat, explains the process involved in writing a good script, the importance of checking facts and researching the subject.

To develop an understanding of writing reports for TV, Radio and Online
To develop an understanding of the 3 C’s – writing clearly, concisely and being correct
To develop an understanding of how to structure a news story


1. Video – Writing news2 mins 30 secs plus discussion time
2. Activity – Writing concisely15 mins
3. Video – Scriptwriting masterclass3 mins 49 secs plus discussion time
4. Activity – Writing for TV, Radio and Online10 mins
5. Quiz – Gathering news10 mins


1 – Video: Writing News – Huw Edwards

Media playback is unsupported on your device

BBC newsreader Huw Edwards explains the essentials of writing news.

BBC newsreader Huw Edwards explains the 3 C’s of news writing: being Clear, Concise and Correct.

Writing scripts and news stories also means understanding that you need to get straight to the point!

There’s no point in having an amazing news story but leaving the most important fact to the last sentence!

You can recap the key points from the video with this accompanying worksheet, or read a transcript of the video:

Key points: Writing news [27.13] Transcript: Writing news  [22.90]


2 – Activity: Writing Concisely

Look at this information about a new study into children and their use of mobile phones. Pick out what you think are the most important points and then write a short script (of no more than five sentences) explaining what the story is about.


  • You can pick a story of your choice for this activity if you’d prefer. Check out the BBC News and Newsbeat websites for ideas.

Remember to cover the 5 W’s:

  • What’s happening?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where is this happening?
  • When is it happening?
  • Why is it happening?

And be:

  • Clear – use simple language
  • Concise – keep sentences short
  • Correct – check your facts, grammar and punctuation

When you’ve done that write a headline – just one short sentence explaining what the story is about.

Extension exercise: Depending on your school’s social media policy and the age of your students, you may ask them to write a tweet or a Facebook post explaining the story.

Example answer: Writing concisely [22.90]


3 – Video: Scriptwriting Masterclass

Media playback is unsupported on your device

School Report – Scriptwriting masterclass

Jim from Radio 1’s Newsbeat explains the process involved in writing a good script for TV, Radio and Online.

He explains the importance of checking facts, researching the subject, doing vox pops and writing the cue as well adding extras including graphics and sound effects.

Key points: Scriptwriting masterclass [27.13] Transcript: Scriptwriting masterclass [22.90]


4 – Activity: Writing for TV, Radio and Online

Give your students the same piece of text as in the Writing Concisely section, the mobile phone study, or a story of your choice and ask students to choose between writing a piece for TV, one for radio and one for online.

Remind students to think about how their scripts might be different, depending on the platform they are using.

  • TV – Students will need to think about the pictures – what shots would illustrate their reports? They don’t need to write about what they see as people can see it? Willl students include a piece-to-camera?
  • Radio – Think about using many more describing words so students can paint a picture for the people who are listening. What sounds would help their audience understand what is going on – eg: a ringing phone.
  • Online – Get most of the crucial information in the top four paragraphs. What pictures would they use to illustrate the report?


EXTENSION Activity: Storyboarding


  • You can pick a story of your choice for this activity if you’d prefer. Check out the BBC News and Newsbeat websites for ideas.

You’re now going to make a TV report about the new study into whether mobile phones are harmful to children.

These are all the bits you have – put them in order of where they will go in your report.

  • A piece to camera done by the reporter at Imperial College London explaining the study
  • An interview with one of the researchers
  • An interview with some children who will be taking part in the study
  • Pictures of children using mobile phones
  • An interview with someone from the World Health Organisation
  • Pictures of Imperial College London and the research team
  • Pictures of mobile phone shops and people using them on the streets
  • Some script by the reporter explaining why this is really important
  • The reporter saying ‘this is John Smith, reporting for BBC News School Report’

Is there anything else you would like to include in your report? If so, make a list.


5 – Quiz: Writing News

This multiple-choice quiz is designed to test your knowledge of how to write scripts and stories.

Quiz: Writing news [23.79]

You can find the answers here.


For reference, teachers may like to look at previous years’ lesson plans including 2012-14 , 2009-11 and 2006-8 .

This lesson has been approved by the BBC College of Journalism .

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Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Tuesday, 17 July 2007 16:08 UK

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Printable version

Lesson 3: Writing a news story

This lesson has been updated and the new version can be found by following this link:

Lesson 3: Writing News

Writing the news

Students write a news script which is clear, concise and correct – the three Cs of journalism.

They develop their speaking and listening skills before applying them to their writing, in order to maintain their own style of language.

Students examine the importance of writing correctly to avoid breaking the law.



Preferable resources

Low tech alternative


Intro video: Writing a news script

Internet access or DVD

Go on to activity 2


The three Cs of journalism

Print-outs from the BBC website

Print-outs from the BBC website


Writing a news script

Worksheet 3.2

Worksheet 3.2


Keeping news safe and legal

Print-outs from the BBC website

Print-outs from the BBC website


Plenary presentation

Lined paper

Lined paper


These documents outline the key curriculum areas covered in lessons 1-6 for 11 to 14-year-olds.

England, English
England, Citizenship
England, ICT
Scotland, English Language
Scotland, Citizenship
Scotland, ICT
Wales, English
Wales, PSE
Wales, IT
Northern Ireland, English
Northern Ireland, Learning for Life and Work
Northern Ireland, Using ICT

Huw Edwards

Huw’s tips

Before watching this video, remind students of the five Ws. Explain that there are also three Cs of journalism – words beginning with the letter C which define the style of a good news story.

Ask them to guess what the three Cs might be. Students revise their guesses while watching the video.

In the video, Huw Edwards explains that journalists often read their own word aloud, as they are writing – like actors in a play.

This is why reports are often called scripts. Huw explains how to write a script in a way that is clear, concise and correct – the three Cs


Go onto the next activity which covers the key points made by Huw Edwards in the video.


Display this sentence: The man sustained fatal injuries.

Ask students: Is it 100% clear? If not, why not? What would have made it more clear? Suggestion: The man died from his injuries.

Explain that journalists use simple language to write clearly.

Remind students of the five Ws. Explain that there are also three Cs of journalism – words beginning with the letter C which define the style of a good news story. Clear is one of them. Ask students to guess the other two Cs during the next part of the activity.

Print out and distribute examples of a news story from either the BBC News or Newsround website, depending on the language capabilities of your students. Use the links, top left.

Ask students to fold the paper over, four sentences from the top, making the story shorter or more concise – the second C.

Ceefax website
Ceefax online

Select page 101 for news headlines
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Explain that the first four paragraphs of a news story on the BBC website is automatically transferred to the Ceefax pages. Ceefax is not the third C!

This means that journalists working on the BBC News website have to fit the key facts (what, who, where, when and why) into the top four sentences of their report. Also, if they use opinions in these four sentences, they have to be objective. Otherwise, Ceefax viewers will get a biased point of view. Getting all the facts right and being objective amounts to the third C – correct

Ask students to fold the printed news story over so only the headline is visible. It is now even more concise.

Ask students:

  • Is the language in the headline clear?
  • Is itcorrect? Does it contain the key facts? Is it objective?

It should be, as some people only read the headlines. See page 101 of Ceefax.


The style of a good news story is:

  • Clear – simple language
  • Concise – short
  • Correct – uses facts, objective

These are known as the three Cs of journalism.

Students working in pairs

Pair work

Before beginning this activity, students should familiarise themselves with the interview they planned in lesson 2 on worksheet 2.2.

Worksheet 2.2: Planning an interview (blank)

Explain that TV and radio journalists write as if they were telling a friend about something really interesting they’ve just found out. This makes the story:

  • Clear (you write it how you would say it)
  • Concise (your friend doesn’t like waffle)
  • Correct (you’re not going to lie to your friend

Students practise this skill by telling their partner about the news topic they chose in lesson 2.

If students do not have the worksheets to hand, they can use the script of today’s World Class/Newsround bulletin. They should read the script, chose a story, turn the print-out face down and tell their partner the story in their own words.

Real BBC News scripts from World Class/Newsround
This lesson plan has been updated since it was first published in September 2006 and worksheet 3.1 has been removed. Teachers who still wish to use it can access it here.
Worksheet 3.1: Write as you speak

Students transfer their words – as they spoke them – onto Worksheet 3.2 to form a script. The right-hand column allows them to work out long it will take a presenter to read it. Limit students to a script of 30-seconds or less. It will help them remain concise.

Worksheet 3.2: Script template

Remind students not to write in the large left hand margin. They will need to use this in Lesson 4 and should keep it somewhere safe until then.

Not only does this exercise help students develop their own news-reporting voice and style, it also helps avoid the temptation to copy and paste, which without adequate acknowledgement can amount to plagiarism.

To avoid this, students should attribute information accurately: reporting who said it or where they found it. One way of doing this is to use a quote, for example:

Head teacher Peter Walsh said: “The rebuilding of part of the school will benefit Forest Hill students enormously.”

Another method is to identify a source. In this case, “According to” is an extremely useful phrase, for example:

Making a simple online report
Guide: Writing an online report

You can write a concise and balanced news report in five sentences.
1 contains the key W facts
2 gives one opinion
3 gives the other side
4 contains more facts
5 is a conclusion

The Loch Ness Monster has been named as the most famous Scot ahead of Robbie Burns and Sir Sean Connery, according to a survey carried out by Crabbies Green Ginger Wine.

Online reporting alternative

Students who have decided to produce online reports on School Report News Day may like to use this guide in conjunction with Worksheet 3.2.

In order to format their news reports into five-sentences, as advocated in this guide, students should leave a row between each sentence on the worksheet. Students may therefore require two copies of the script-writing template.


Explain that being correct is also about staying within the law and making sure your report doesn’t put people in danger.

Students take this quiz:

Quiz: Keeping news safe and legal


TV's Judge John Deed

1 B To protect yourself you should NEVER post your last name on the internet. If you are taking part in BBC News School Report, you can use your first name ONLY and your age.

2 A Interview people who will help you create a balanced report. Ideally you should interview someone with an opinion, someone with an opposing view and an expert on the matter. It’s also a good idea to ask a variety of people. All adults, all children, all men or all women doesn’t make a very balanced report.

3 A You CAN put strong opinions in a news report but they must be based on fact. By comparing old and new packets, you would be able to check that the new food does contain more fat, sugar and salt than the old. However the new supplier could take you to court for suggesting that their food is out-of-date or poisonous (without proof) and, if you lost the case, it could cost you a large sum of money.

4 C Think of photographs (and other kinds of media) as possessions. They belong to the photographer (or the person who made them). You have to ask their permission to use them, otherwise it’s like stealing. If you take your own photographs, YOU own them and you can give yourself permission to use them. If you are taking part in School Report, BBC News has obtained permission for you to use some photographs. They must be on the BBC News website and have one of the following credits: AP, PA, AFP, Getty.

5 B The simplest thing do is to pick another news story. If you are reporting a court story you should be in the courtroom yourself – and even then you have to be extremely careful. For example, the law says you cannot name the patient. Think about it. Would you want your name published if you were in their shoes? Copying what someone who WAS in court has written is a safer option than writing about the court case in your own words, but what if the journalist you are copying has got it wrong. Both of you could be fined a large sum of money. Court stories are very tricky to report so it’s safer to avoid them unless you have done lots of training.

It is important that teachers read this guide, to ensure they understand what should and should not be published on the school website. It covers protecting children’s identity, taste and decency, contempt, defamation and copyright.
Essential information for teachers about media law

6 C Remember who your audience are. Would they feel uncomfortable about a graphic report of a teenager’s drug overdose? Would you feel comfortable reporting it? It would also be inappropriate to reveal too much information about the manufacture of drugs, in case anyone decided to copy the process. You might choose not to include anything about drugs or similar subjects – or you could decide to report the issue in an appropriate and safe way.

Students presenting to the class

A few students read their scripts aloud. The rest of the class give them a mark out of three for being clear, concise and correct (one mark for each). They award them an extra mark for making the news particularly engaging.

Students with four marks are named “super” script writers. Perhaps this is a role they would like to adopt on a practice News Day or the national News Day.

Additional resources on writing the news can be accessed from the SEE ALSO and RELATED BBC LINKS at the top right of this page.

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This lesson has been approved by the BBC College of Journalism.

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