September 2, 2009 Archives

Key Concept:


You should really, really avoid empty intensifiers, a whole lot. They are the biggest wasters of words.

If you feel that your reference to "a big dog" doesn't do the dog justice, instead of writing "a [very big / damn huge / friggen humongous] dog," a good journalist will ask questions so that the passage will read "130-pound Rottweiler named Bruiser." 

If calling something "a disappointment" doesn't do it justice, calling it "a big disappointment" or "a very big disappointment" or "a colossal disappointment" will be no better.  Express intensity in more direct, context-sensitive ways.  A fourth-quarter loss might be "a crushing disappointment," while an uninteresting movie might be "a mind-numbing disappointment."   Instead of "a big X" or "a very big X," consider "a crippling blow," "an unwieldy overcoat," or "a generous pie slice."

Key Concept:


A news article (hard or soft) should have at least three sources, and should mention each source at least once in the first half of the story. 

Don't leave "the opposing view" until the last paragraph, because an editor will expect to be able to chop off the bottom of your story to fit it in on the page.

A movie or restaurant review is based mostly on the author's direct observations of the subject, and thus might not include any additional sources.

Can you recognize a good lead? Do you know when and how to attribute? Can you recognize bias? We'll find out what you know, so that I'll know what you need.
Assigned Text:

Clark & Scalon 164-174

Skim this… I won't grill you on the details of Dr. Seuss's life, but note the reporter mentions the breed of the dog and the model of the car.
You may already be very familiar with how to write an essay for an English class.  Writing scholastic essays gives you verbal and compositional skills that transfer well to news writing.  Nevertheless, your goals as a news writer are different, so what counts as "good writing" is 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 are supposed to be learning. You write from the position of a learner.
  • An instructor already knows the subject matter, and is interested in evaluating your knowledge, technique, and growth over time. 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.)
  • Most readers won't know when you are wrong. Their understanding of the subject depends entirely on your ability to research and write the news. 

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. (We will cover the concept of the "Invisible Observer" soon.)
  • Journalists report the emotions and opinions of the sources they interview --not their own personal feelings. (We will cover the concept of "Attributions" soon.)
  • 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.)


Assigned Text:

Sample Profile 1

Assigned Text:

Jerz, Newsworthiness

Interview a partner, for a 400-word profile; rough draft is due online Monday.

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