Lesson Plan

When Tragedy Hits — Role-Playing a Breaking News Story

Curated and Reviewed by Lesson Planet

Young journalists engage in a role-playing exercise that asks them to consider the journalism and ethical issues raised by the coverage of the mass shootings at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. Pupils play the role of either a reporter for a local paper, a network news director, a student journalist, the president of the university, a law enforcement official, or a member of the general public. In their roles, participants respond to discussion questions designed for nine scenarios.

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Instructional Ideas
  • As homework, after the exercise, have participants craft a reflection using the last discussion question as a prompt
  • Laminate the role cards to permit reuse
Classroom Considerations
  • The activity comes with a warning that the subject of a mass shooting on a college campus is sensitive; read through the entire packet to determine if the exercise is appropriate for your classroom
  • Presumes class members know the Journalism Code of Ethics
  • Requires individual copies of the "Setting the Scene" handout and the scenarios
  • The activity encourages learners to think critically about how the vested interests of those involved impact how they report a tragedy
  • None