What Is Newsworthy? (10m animated lecture)

How do journalists determine what events are worth covering? “Dog bites man” is routine, but “man bites dog” is unusual, so it’s more newsworthy. Unusual events are more newsworthy than ordinary events. Important people, and ordinary people who do important/unusual things are more newsworthy than ordinary people who do ordinary things. Events with a significant impact are more newsworthy than events with a trivial impact. Events that affect many people…

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Why do journalists use “allegedly” when they report on obvious crimes captured on video?

Look at this picture. A guy in a uniform obviously has his hands around a kid’s neck. Why would Business Insider use the word “allegedly” to describe what seems like a pretty obvious assault? If you are Young Sesame Chicken, what makes the Business Insider post worth sharing is the contrast between the mealy-mouthed headline and the powerful image. Why don’t journalists just call it abuse? Why soften the report…

How Fake News Happens: It’s simple! A governor tweets a Fox News graphic from a story that cites a British tabloid’s misinterpretation of a scholarly study, and a false narrative about Biden banning beef stokes political rage

How dare President Biden be invoked by a British tabloid that rather creatively linked a scholarly study to a plan Biden floated during the Democratic primary. How dare Biden be implicated in a Fox News graphic that falsely lists cutting beef sales by 90% as a requirement of Biden’s “climate requirements.” How dare Biden be targeted by the Texas governor who retweeted the misleading Fox News graphic that amplified the…

Fact Check: No, an NPR story on the Trump supporters’ attempted coup dated January 6, 2021 9:33 AM ET is not a sign of a conspiracy theory

According to the Internet Archive, this is a story NPR posted at 9:33 this morning. As events developed, and the story changed, NPR updated this page — drastically. As you can see, the headline and the picture are different; though the date the page was first created is still there, the page now also includes an “Updated at 3.08pm ET” time stamp. (The blue highlighting is mine.) Conspiracy theorists are…

When is the phrase “when asked about…” part of good news writing? Rarely.

A new graphic for an existing handout, which I touched up a bit. When is the phrase “when asked about…” part of good news writing? Rarely. A journalist who uses the phrase “when asked about” (or a similar phrase) is carefully telling the reader, “I’m bending over backwards to make sure you don’t think I’m giving you the wrong idea about this quote, which could be misinterpreted.” Students who are…

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The phrase “debate begins” in the headlines of multiple stories on coronavirus does not mean sneaky journalists copy-pasted a press release

If you encounter the same story on different news sites, that does not mean you caught sneaky America-hating fake news “journalists” in the act. A meme I recently encountered shows three slightly different coronavirus headlines, all of which use the phrase “debate begins.” Text shared along with the meme suggests the repetition means the story is a copy-pasted press release. I did some simple Googling. You can follow the links…

Meme alleging Trump said “Africans Are Lazy, Good at Sex, Theft” is a hoax

I’ve seen this meme shared by several FB friends in the past few days. It’s clearly a hoax. It was created by someone who wasn’t trained as a journalist. The body of the story doesn’t even include the quotes that are mentioned in the headline. (The head says Trump said “Africans are lazy,” but in the body of the article he is talking about “African Americans.” The terms are not…

No, this photo of people wearing coats standing in front of bare trees was not a fake news media attempt to misrepresent what’s happening in Texas and Arizona in July

It’s distressing and shocking to realize that some people are more willing to spread conspiracy theory shit than it they are to check their sources. Isn’t it the bad guys who are supposed to be spreading lies? I like reading news stories for myself, rather than spreading disinformation on social media. How hard is it to Google for “Refrigerated trucks requested in Texas and Arizona as morgues fill up due…

Stick to facts, but write news your readers will actually want to read.

Students who put a lot of effort into learning the editing guidelines in the AP Stylebook might benefit from the occasional reminder that good news writing requires the creative use of language, a good idea for detail and the ability to make connections between your readers and the news. The sources we interview are real people, and we can’t invent details or speculate about what sources think or how they…

Journalists who are doing their job by reporting fairly on a controversial topic often get attacked from both sides. 

Americans can fairly and legitimately differ on important values. Freedom or security? Peace or justice? Which short-term sacrifices are worth making, for which long-term benefits?

Most readers will nod along with whatever parts of a story affirm their values. A significant number will reject any story — even one that’s carefully sourced and fact-checked — if it challenges their world view. (“So biased!” “Fake news!”)

Whenever even the fairest-minded journalists tackle a high-stakes story involving groups with different levels of access to wealth, education, healthcare and personal security, any honest story they publish is going to make someone upset.

I never have time to create materials like this during the academic year. Brand new handout. Easily 10 hours of work. Hoping to post one a week.

AP Style follows the standard English practice of capitalizing proper nouns. They stayed with Uncle John at Gracious Living Inn on the shore of Grenada Lake while on vacation in the South. Capitalize the names of particular people, places or things. (Proper nouns.)  In the above example, “shore” and “vacation” are common nouns. They stayed with my uncle at a hotel on the south end of a peaceful lake. Lowercase descriptions and general categories. When you send a thank-you note to your mother’s brother,…