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for Grades 9-12

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For Grades 9-12 , week of Aug. 21, 2023

1. KANSAS RAID

Recently, the Marion County Record newspaper in Marion County, Kansas, was raided by police in an investigation as to how the paper obtained and handled a document about a local restaurant owner and whether her privacy was violated. Kari Newell accused the paper of illegally obtaining a government record about steps to restore her driver’s license and sharing that information with a city councilwoman. The investigators seized computers, cell phones, and other materials from the paper’s office, the home of the paper’s owner and editor, and the home of a city councilwoman. The Marion police chief defended the raid, but a top prosecutor in Marion County said there was not sufficient evidence to support it and that all devices and materials that were seized will be returned. Raids on people involved in the journalism industry are very uncommon in the US; write an opinion article explaining why that’s an important part of our country and the industry’s watchdog function.

2. RATE SPIKE

A recent study of more than 560,000 patients found that while cancer rates for some groups stayed the same or went down, rates for women in their 30s went up by almost 20 percent in the last thirteen years. Breast and digestive system cancers were responsible for the most new cancers. Experts point to a variety of factors that could have caused the increase, including obesity, heavy drinking, smoking, and environmental factors. It could also be attributed to the fact that more cancers are being diagnosed earlier now, meaning more diagnoses but fewer deaths. How would you report on this story in a way that informs people without drawing conclusions that aren’t part of the research? Write a paragraph describing how you would approach that process.

3. LGBTQ VETO

North Carolina became the twenty-second` state to restrict access to gender-affirming care for transgender youth after a battle between the state’s legislative and executive branches. The House and Senate approved a bill that would keep medical professionals from providing hormone therapy, puberty-blocking medications, and gender-affirming surgeries for those under 18. Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the bill, but the Republican supermajorities in both the state’s House and Senate were able to override the veto with 74-45 and 27-18 votes, respectively, enacting the bill against the governor’s opposition. Advocacy groups in the state have already vowed to take up the fight against the bill in court. Minors who had begun treatment prior to this August can continue receiving care in the state if their doctor deems it medically necessary and their parents consent. Write an article that summarizes the facts of this story and ties it into the wider context of similar bills that have passed in other states in the US, using further research online and in your newspaper to bolster your story.

4. CONSPIRACY THEORY

After photos from the Maui wildfire were circulated by news media, some people began theorizing about what they considered to be an usual sight: poles and trees still standing amid the burned buildings, cars, and other wreckage. They suggested a fire wasn’t actually to blame for the damage, but experts have weighed in, saying that wildfires often leave trees standing in their wake because their water content protects them from being vaporized by the flames. Additionally, wildfires can spread in different ways: flame contact, radiation, or flying embers. While fires spread by contact or heat radiation will burn everything in its path, those spread from building to building because of embers—or small, burning particles—can leave things like trees, poles, or patches of vegetation intact and largely unscathed, while structures like homes and buildings are more susceptible. Consider how you would address conspiracy theories in your reporting, if you would at all. Discuss your thoughts with your classmates.

5. LIMITED ACCESS

X, formerly known as Twitter, slowed down users’ access to some news sites linked on the social media platform, like the New York Times and Substack, as well as rival social networks like Facebook and Instagram. Users first reported noticing the slowdown, about 4.5 seconds to open a link, and several affected news outlets reported on the data. While X didn’t comment on the “throttling,” as it’s known in technical terms, the issue appeared to be solved this week. Write an opinion piece on whether it’s problematic for X to slow down access to news sites and competitor social media platforms.