When Tragedy Hits — Role-Playing a Breaking News Story
Students use a case study based on the mass shootings at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, to explore the range of journalism and ethics issues that coverage of the event raised.
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This role-playing exercise off the Virginia Tech massacre is to help students understand how seemingly simple decisions about media coverage can take on major significance as a story unfolds. It encourages students to explore the complex interaction and multiple perspectives among media, the public, law enforcement officials and others when an important news story breaks. Note: You may decide that it is too difficult for some students, especially young ones or others who may have a personal connection to this or similar tragedies.
- Review the selected case study (download When Tragedy Hits - Teacher Overview) and handouts, and optional background materials on Pinterest.
- Make enough copies of Setting the Scene to allow each student to read the material and understand the basics of this activity.
- Cut apart the role cards and place them in a hat or bowl.
- Divide the class into six groups and ask one member of each group to draw a role card
- Once the students are familiar with their roles, have them read Setting the Scene.
- Read each installment of the scenario and discuss the questions, giving each group a chance to respond.
- When Tragedy Hits - Setting the Scene handout (download), one per student
- Role Cards (download)
- When Tragedy Hits - Scenarios (download)
- NewseumED Pinterest board (optional)