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Covering a Catastrophe: Evaluating Disaster News

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Students research news coverage of a recent catastrophe and evaluate the information it provides.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle and high school

TIME: 30-60 minutes (worksheet may be assigned as homework)

MATERIALS: Evaluating Disaster News worksheet (download) and the Consumer’s Questions handout (download), newspapers and/or computers with Internet access

PREPARE: Print copies of the worksheet and consumer’s questions, one per student.

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Overview PDF DOC
Worksheets PDF DOC
Extensions PDF DOC
Full Packet PDF DOC

To request a large print or Braille version, call 202.292.6650.


  1. Tell students: The news media play an important role in disseminating information in the wake of a disastrous event.
  2. As a class, have students read the consumer’s questions and discuss their importance. Explain that these questions are used to help evaluate news stories and determine if they are credible.
  3. Students should find two news reports (articles in print or online, TV news segments, blog posts, etc.) about a recent disaster. Tell them to choose two different forms of media.
  4. Complete the worksheet.
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Have students share their findings. (Students’ answers will vary depending on the event and the type of news source they analyzed.) Ask:

  • How many ways are there to share news about a disaster? List on the board the various media, both traditional and nontraditional, such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • What are the pros and cons of each of these types of news? (Add to the list.)
  • Which news source did you find more engaging? Why might this matter when trying to communicate information after a disaster?
  • Did one type of news source emerge as the most useful/informative?
  • If you were on the scene after this type of event, what method of sharing news what would you use to report about what was happening?
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