Beyond the inverted pyramid: Teaching the writing and all-formats coverage of planned and unplanned breaking news

By Patrick Walters

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Abstract: For generations, journalism educators have focused on the structure of a basic news story as following the inverted pyramid style, structuring it from the most important information to the least important—not chronologically. The current environment still demands that at times, but also requires journalists to cover events live, chronologically, in short bursts of headline-style reporting. Using a descriptive case study method, this paper explores a pedagogical technique for teaching breaking news in the 21st century, whereby students concurrently produce the different writing styles required for tweets, broadcast, print and web audiences. The study concludes with staged approach whereby undergraduate students efficiently learn how to cover both “planned” and “unplanned” breaking news.

Patrick Walters ( is a former Associated Press journalist who has been an assistant professor of English at Kutztown University since 2013. He teaches journalism, breaking news, literary journalism and mass communication courses. He is the Associate Adviser for The Keystone, Kutztown University’s student newspaper, and serves on the Student Media Advisory Board, where he helps to educate student media about their First Amendment rights. He is active with the International Association of Literary Journalism Studies and serves as the Teaching Committee Chair for AEJMC’s Newspaper and Online News Division.

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