readings: September 2007 Archives

Assigned Text:

Crime stories

Choose two different crime stories, from an online soruce of your choosing.

One story should be written in the no-nonsense style of the Gomez article, or the article on the Delaware Sate University shooting we looked at in class on Friday. (These will typically have been filed the morning after the crime took place, or sometimes within hours.)

Another should be a feature story, like the article about the student who recovered her thesis. (These can only be written after some time has passed, but there is always a "news hook" -- such as the judge announcing the date of the trial, a jury announcing the verdict, etc.)

For both stories, consider where the suspect (if any) is on a chart of the US criminal justice system. It's very important when reporting crime and court stories that these details be accurate. (Is the crime a misdemeanor or a felony? Is it actually a trial, or just a preliminary hearing? Is the presiding official actually a judge, or some other official? Is your story happening in the US, or did a search engine point you to something that happned in Canada or Australia?)

Covering Crime and Justice, Ch 5: Covering Crime and Its Victims (note the link goes to just one page in this chapter -- please read all pages in this chapter, through to Covering Rape and Sexual Assault Victims.)  Also, refer to Crime Beat Basics and this little sidebar on the Perp Walk.

Covering crime and its victims requires perspective, persistence and patience. It's a beat where rookie reporters are often assigned, but it is one of the most challenging in any newsroom. Many victims never have had contact with the media. They feel overwhelmed, distrustful and scared. Imagine that after a horrible crime, a pack of reporters, with cameras and tape recorders rolling, surround you and yell out questions.

Writing leads, using periods, and avoiding journalese.

Your half-page reflection should demonstrate your ability to apply course material to your readings.
Assigned Text:

Backup Advice (J-Web)

Read the handout called "Nat Gruf Notes" on J-Web, in Handouts. Use that article as your resource to write a 400-word story. You may work with a partner. You don't need to do any outside research -- just use the information I provide you to find the story.

I had initially planned to have you do a city council reporting activity, but on reflection I thought I'd rather see how you do on a similar exercise that's based on a news feature.

Workbook 3 will be the 400-word article, submitted in, and due Friday.

  • Read chapters 1 and 2.
  • Write a half-page reflection and bring a printout with you to class.

I will introduce the weblogs in class on Friday, after which I would like you to start posting your agenda item and peer comments as I described them in class. But for now, just bring the half-page reflection to class.

Note that I am also asking for a different half-page reflection for today's other reading assignment.

Assigned Text:

Mao (J-Web)

Read two short news articles, Mao's Little Red Book 1 and 2, available on J-Web under handouts.

Assigned Text:

AP Guide to News Writing

Read chapters 1 and 2, paying special attention to ways to reduce clutter, and to use specific details rather than make general statements.:

Smith pushes a black cat out of the way to sit in front of her 30-inch flatscreen TV, on which three other cats are perched.

"Where's the remote?" she says, and finds it under a snoring heap of white and gray fur at the other end of her 24-foot trailer.

She puts on a DVD, the 2001 comedy "Cats and Dogs."

"I don't so much care for the dogs," she says, "but the cats are fun to watch."

Nowhere does this passage say "the lady is obsessed with cats," because 1) that would be an opinion, and journalists are not supposed to put their own opinions into news stories; and 2) the details clearly SHOW that the woman is obsessed with cats. (If this were a TV report, the camera would just pan across a room full of cats, and the sound of mewing would be in the background of the whole report. In print, you have to put specific details into words, and organize them to create the effect you want to get across.)

Assigned Text:

Sago (J-Web)

Several breaking news stories. Note how many and what kinds of sources there are. Note how the reporter uses direct quotes and specific details to convey not only the facts of what happened, but also the emotions of the participants.

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