6-W’s — Who, What, Where, When,Why and WTF

It’s lead writing time in Intro to Newswriting.  And once again, I have a group of young people who haven’t picked up a newspaper since …well, they can’t remember the last time.  I’m serious.  They were born in 1991.  One was born in 1992, the year I went to grad school at Northwestern.  They were in kindergarden when the internet boomed.  They are the generation that has done most of their writing and reading online.

I knew there was going to be problems when they turned in their online quizzes for the chapter.  After two quizzes of mostly perfect scores, the numbers plummeted to scary territory.  I told them not to worry.  We would park ourselves in this chapter all semester, I said,  until they had a grasp of  the concepts of News Writing Basics, the title of the chapter.

The basics of course are the famous 5-Ws.  And despite reading the chapter, for 50 minutes I was speaking mostly alien to them.  Well, it just seemed like that because they all had this confused look on their face, like I used to have when studying Advanced French at the Sorbonne with the teacher who did not speak any English.   But I’m not worried.  We still  have 12 weeks left.  Not that I’m counting.

But all was not as depressing today.  My students in Video Journalism turned in their first blog posts today.  And I was quite impressed with many of their posts.    There were no constraints of the 5-Ws and “rules” of legacy journalism.  And because of this, many of the students surprised me with their honesty and creativity.  Yes, some still need to clean up their grammar and spelling, but they were on the right track.  What they wrote was interesting.  The students’ posts I enjoyed the most weren’t trying to be anyone else but themselves.  The normally quiet, shy student had found a voice.  Check out some of their blogs on my page.  My favorites this week are Expecting the Unexpected, Backstage Access to the Fashion World and Through Rose-Colored Glasses.


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