Plagiarism is an academic or professional misrepresentation, in which a writer takes credit for someone else's ideas.

Maintain your academic integrity by 
  • submitting your own original work
  • giving proper credit to other people whose words and/or ideas appear in your work
  • recognizing that direct quotation (with citation) and paraphrase (with citation) are both acceptable ways to use outside material.
Avoid the panic that might make cheating look attractive.
  • start early (plan 2-3 hours of homework for each hour of class)
  • keep on track (with brainstorming, drafting, workshop, and revision assignments)
  • seek out help (from the professor, Writing Center, tutors)
You may already be very familiar with writing college essays. Those personal narratives, interpretive theses, and research papers are all great preparation for news writing. 

Nevertheless, your goals as a news writer are different, so what counts as "good writing" is also different.

English Essay News Story

Audience: Your Instructor 

Usually, the instructor knows more about the subject than the student-author.

Audience: The General Reader 

Usually, the reporter knows more about the subject than the general reader. 

Essays for Your Instructor 

  • Your academic goal is to demonstrate how much you know or what you can do.
  • Your instructor does not expect you to be an expert. You write as a learner..
  • You can trust your instructor to correct your mistakes. .Your teacher will read your work with an expert eye, ready to call your attention to claims that are inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete. 

Journalism for the General Public 

  • A journalist aims to inform the reader.
  • The journalist writes from a position of authority. The news is supposed to be a source of verified facts, not just a vehicle for passing along what people are saying. (We will cover the term "verification" later.)
  • Readers depend upon you for accuracy. Most will not know when you are wrong, and most will be too busy to double-check your research. (That's why they read your article, to save themselves time and effort.)

Personal Perspective

  • In high school, you may have been asked to express your feelings, perhaps by explaining what you would have done if you were in the protagonist's place, or relating a concept to your own life.
  • You used phrases like "I think" or "I feel" or "now that I look more closely at it..." in order to tell the story of how you came to your present understanding of a subject or incident.
  • Your teacher rewarded you for demonstrating personal involvement with the subject, because students who engage in this manner are generally more likely to learn the subject matter.  

Objective Perspective

  • Traditional journalists stay out of the story.  No "I" or "me" (and no "this reporter," either). (Reporters have various strategies for writing as an "Invisible Observer.")
  • Journalists report the emotions and opinions of the sources they interview --not their own personal feelings. (Traditional news reporting attributes every emotion, opinion, or prediction to a specific, named source -- avoid "some people say" or "it has been said.")
  • Journalism investigates each story from the perspective of those who care -- including those whose reasons for caring conflict with each other, or with the journalist's personal values. (If it's not interesting to you, it may be interesting to someone.)

Instead of a thesis or research question, a news article has a lead (or "lede"). Instead of long paragraphs designed to convince professors that you understand your subject, a news article has short paragraphs with details carefully chosen to help non-experts understand your subject.

Feel free to post your questions here, or on any other page on the site.

Posting a comment here will automatically generate an e-mail, so you don't need to e-mail me to tell me that you left a comment.

If you'd like to talk in person, check the syllabus for my office hours.
Key Concept:

Production Lab Report

Your production lab report is written as a 400-word hard news story, covering your contributions to the latest issue of The Setonian. Although I have placed this page on the course web page for Sep 20, the assignment is not actually due until the following week, after the paper comes out. So if you are looking at this age, but haven't yet done anything for the paper, you still have time to contact the editor and find out what the production schedule is.

Write it as a third-person, objective news story, not a first-person essay.

Begin with a lead, follow the inverted pyramid, and include direct quotes from at least three sources (one of which can be yourself).

An editor's car trouble, a power outage, and a pet rodent on the loose didn't sink last week's homecoming issue of the Seton Hill University newspaper, thanks in part to some timely assistance from freshman Gertrude Griffin.

"When my tire went flat at 2am, I thought I'd never get back to school on time, but Gertrude was there for me," said editor-in-chief Nate Gruff.

Griffin, a journalism major from Philadelphia, was getting ready for bed when the lights went out early Monday morning.

"I couldn't see very well, but I grabbed my my computer bag when Nate called," said Griffin. "I didn't know  Squeaker had climbed inside."
Most lab reports won't be this dramatic, but you get the idea.

In this example, Gertie Griffin has actually interviewed her editor, Nate Gruff, and she is filling out the story with made-up quotes from herself. (That's fine for this exercise, where the point is for you to practice the form of a news story, but would be completely unethical in a real news organization.)

While it's OK to toot your own horn a bit in an exercise like this, you'll need to talk to your editors and peers to supply the quotes that fill out the story.  Be accurate, and be realistic.  (Note that the example says Griffin is "in part" responsible for saving the issue. It would be inaccurate to suggest she saved the paper all by herself.)

See the full rubric for the lab report assignment: EL 200 Lab Report.doc

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