CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Stop the Press!

Social Studies, Political Science, English Language Arts
3 to 4 lessons
To analyze historical news events from a stated perspective; to write a press release
Using a variety of web-based resources, students examine the life and career of former prime minister Kim Campbell. They write a fictitious press release from the office of the prime minister based on a news event of the time.

Lesson Plan


During the federal election of October 1993, Prime Minister Kim Campbell was unable to combat the Progressive Conservative party's nine-year legacy and bore the brunt of voter dissatisfaction with the current issues of the day, including free trade, the GST, the constitutional fiascos, and the economic recession. Her party was defeated and reduced to a mere two seats in the House of Commons. Personally, the prime minister lost her Vancouver seat and decided to retire from politics. She returned to the world of academia and accepted a fellowship at Harvard.

Brainstorm with students what they understand by the term "press release." Explain these definitions of a press release:

  • A public relations announcement issued to the news media for the purpose of informing the public.
  • A written announcement intended to draw media attention to a specific event.
  • Pictures sent with text to the press, often by public relations companies, to promote a product, event, or person.
  • An official statement issued by someone to the media.

Discuss with the class the relevance of press releases. Ask them if they have ever read any and to share their experiences. Ask students to identify the significance of this type of communication and its place for political figures. Direct students websites that feature press releases so they can review samples of press releases and procedures to follow when writing them.

The Task

Have students research the life and times of former Prime Minister Campbell. They will work individually to develop a fictitious press release that might have been delivered during Campbell's role as prime minister. The press release should be about free trade, the GST, the constitution, or the economic recession at the time. Students may include pictures, illustrations, and text.

The Process

Students will begin on the topic Kim Campbell: First and Foremost on the CBC Digital Archives website. They can use any material on the site, and then expand their research to include other resources, including those found on external websites. Students should cite and credit all sources as necessary.

Students can consider the following questions:

  • What challenges did Kim Campbell face?
  • How might her public relations staff have responded to her public statements?
  • How might she have wanted the information to be expressed?
  • How might her public relations staff have conveyed her commitment to the people of Canada?
  • How can you write a press release so that her career is conveyed as a success story?

The press release should:

  • Be based on a news item
  • Tell the reader why the information is necessary
  • Begin with a short description of the story and state who is making the announcement
  • Have an effective first sentence
  • Refrain from using a lot of descriptive language
  • Give the facts
  • Include contact information (contact name, address, phone number, fax number, email address, website)

Assessment Tip: Track and assess student work using the download sheet Stop the Presses!


Have students work together in small groups to share their work prior to submitting it for evaluation. Students should be prepared to ask and answer questions, giving their personal opinions on their written release. They should provide supporting details from research. Students may choose to revise their entries based on feedback from their peers.


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