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30-60 minutes
  • Current Events
  • Journalism
  • 4-8

  1. Select a pair of news articles about a disaster. One article should be breaking news, published within hours of the event. The second article should be published the following day.
    • Possible sources include the Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages ( and for archived web pages.
    • Variation: select different article pairs for each small group.
  2. Tell students that today they will explore how information about breaking news can quickly change. For this reason, news is often called “the first rough draft of history.”
  3. Ask students why information in these conditions might be inaccurate or incomplete in early reports. Ideas include: the event hasn’t ended; reporters can’t get to the site to investigate; spokespeople and eyewitnesses don’t have complete information, etc.
  4. Hand out the news articles and worksheet. Ask students to fill out both charts with eight facts and their sources from the report.

  • Tracing the Facts worksheet (download), one per student or small group
  • Newspaper articles about a disaster (print or online)

After students have completed the worksheet, discuss their answers. Prompts:

  • What facts changed over time? What stayed the same?
  • What sources did the journalists use in their initial reports? The later ones? Why do you think they changed or stayed the same?
  • Were you ever unable to determine the source of the information? Why do you think this was the case?
  • Was there conflicting information from different sources? If yes, why do you think this happened?
  • If you were a journalist covering a disaster, what sources would you seek out to gather information for your report?


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