Wednesday, February 2, 2011

First Essay Assignment, Spring 2011

Choose one:

1. Pick any news event (e.g., speeches, press conferences, Sunday morning talk shows) since January 1, 2011 for which you can get a full transcript, recording, or video. Read the coverage of that event in three major mainstream news sources (e.g., New York Times, Politico). How did each define the story? On what sources did the stories draw? Did any miss something important? Explain in light of the papers’ audiences, constraints, and organizational processes. You may find transcripts at:

2. Look at first-day coverage of a disaster (other than the examples that Graber gives on pp 116- 117). Check at least two newspapers. Then compare this coverage against historical sources. What did the original reports get right and wrong? What, if anything, did they miss? Why?

In addition to Nexis, you may find old news stories at:

3. Write an op-ed on any topic that we are discussing. The op-ed should run no more than three pages. You may add a fourth page, discussing strategy for publishing it. Tell where you would submit it, and why you think it could win acceptance. If you succeed in publishing this op-ed, you will get an A for this assignment. (To qualify for the auto-A, it must appear in a legitimate, professional news outlet. Blogs, newsletters, and student publications do not count.)


  • Essays should be typed (12-point) stapled, double-spaced, and no more than three pages long. I will not read past the third page (except for option #3, where you should add a short explanation of placement strategy).
  • Put your name on a cover sheet. Do not identify yourself on the text pages.
  • Cite your sources. You may use either endnotes or parenthetical references to a bibliography. In either case, put documentation in a standard format (e.g., Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style).
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you.
  • Return essays by the start of class on Wednesday, February 16. Essays will drop one gradepoint for one day’s lateness and a full grade after that. I will grant no extensions except for illness or emergency.


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