Yellow Journalism Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Show your students that they can't always believe what they read with your instruction on yellow journalism. Instruction is supported with a small group activity that gives students a chance to analyze examples of yellow journalism for themselves. Should you wish to delve into this topic more deeply, consider using the included extensions and related lessons.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define 'yellow journalism'
  • distinguish between responsible and yellow journalism


1 to 1.5 hours


  • Assorted front pages of supermarket tabloids
  • A list of actual newspaper headlines from the New York Morning Journal and the New York World newspapers from 1800s America

Curriculum Standards


Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.


Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.


  • Begin by displaying the tabloid covers for the class.
  • Ask students to take turns reading the headlines aloud to the class. Are they all true? Do any seem unbelievable? Why do we like reading these things? Is everything we read true? Are journalists allowed to make up stories? What if these tabloids were our only means of receiving news? Discuss these questions as a class.
  • Now have students read the Introduction and Yellow Journalism Sensationalizing News sections of the text lesson What is Yellow Journalism? - Definition, History & Examples.
  • Have the students imagine that they are citizens of America in the late 1800s. Now share the actual headlines from the New York Morning Journal and the New York World. What kind of information are these headlines providing about what is going on in the world at that time? How does reading these headlines make you feel about the state of the world? List the students responses to these questions on the board now.
  • Now have students read the rest of the text lesson.
  • Next, have students work in small groups and use the internet to research recent cases where a politician or celebrity has denied media reports. Have each group summarize the events, the journalist's response, and the outcome of the case. Have them present their summaries to the class for discussion.

Discussion Questions

  • Are reality television and entertainment news programs representative of yellow journalism? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • How can we be responsible consumers of media information?


  • Have students comb through several different recent newspapers. Can they find examples of yellow journalism? How are these articles or reports different from standard journalism? Are there specific things to look for in yellow journalism?
  • Invite a reporter to the class for a question and answer session on the differences between reputable journalism and yellow journalism.

Related Lessons