Thursday, February 28, 2013

An Example of Campaign Journalism

Sequestration and the Media

Bob Woodward says that a White House official -- whom Politico has now identified as economic adviser Gene Sperling -- said that he would "regret" his reporting on sequestration. Woodward's critics say he is over-emphasizing the line. Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei interview Woodward:



Richard Benedetto writes at USA Today:
With all the best intentions of looking out for the little guy, we in the news media are vulnerable to dramatic stories of people being hurt by forces over which they have little control. Whenever someone proposes to cut budgets, we run to those affected and report in vivid detail about the suffering that will occur if the money flow is reduced even a penny.
The arc of one such claim over the last week reveals just what the diminished ranks of reporters are up against when they deal with the statements of top government officials that they must cover. Last Thursday under the headline "U.S. schools brace for federal funding cuts," TheWashington Post summarized what Education Secretary Arne Duncan told them: "Schools across the country are sending out pink slips as they brace for the possibility of deep federal budget cuts that could take effect next week."
"There's no one in their right mind who would say that this is good for kids ... yet somehow it becomes tenable in Washington," he said. The article didn't quote anyone who might have a different take, just Duncan, who blamed it on the Republicans.
...
On Sunday, Duncan followed up on CBS's Face the Nation saying, "There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can't come back this fall."
Three days later, reporters at a White House briefing followed up asking Duncan to name such a school district. He named one. When a different Post reporter checked, it turned out the layoffs there had little to do with the automatic budget cuts. The Post called this "hype." Others might use stronger language.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Second Assignment

Choose one:

1. Pick one of the president’s initiatives from the 2013 State of the Union address. Explain the White House communication strategy to promote the initiative. That is, how is the administration framing the initiative? By what means is it pitching the initiative and to which audiences? Who is opposing it and how?  In light of the opposition, do you think that the White House strategy is effective? In your analysis, you should take a careful look at the White House website (www.whitehouse.gov) as well as the sites of any relevant federal agencies. Remember that the White House website does not include all of the president’s public utterances, so you should also use Nexis and Google.  Also check the White House Twitter feed.

2. Devise a strategy for promoting a bill or other specific policy decision currently pending in Congress, a state legislature, or a local government. The strategy may either involve working with an existing group or acting on your own. Be specific: explain what message you would send to which professional media outlets, and how you would use blogs and social media. Tell how this approach would influence which specific decisionmakers. (If you really want to promote the cause in question, feel free to implement some of all of your plan, for instance, by starting a Facebook page.  Mockup ads and video scripts will not count against the page limit.)   For examples of advocacy, see Autism Speaks.
  • Essays should be typed (12-point) stapled, double-spaced, and no more than four pages long. I will not read past the fourth page. 
  • 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, March 13. 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.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mike Allen's Playbook

You don’t have to do anything else, just read Mike Allen” - Bob Woodward

Here's a great profile from The New York Times on Mike Allen, the creator of the Playbook and arguably one of Politico's best reporters. The piece is a few years old now, but it still captures the drive required to succeed in DC political journalism. 


Also, if you want to subscribe to the Politico Playbook, you may do so here:
http://www.politico.com/playbook/

Reporting 2

What would you say?


Reviewing Interviews

Sources:


Truth in the Age of Social Media

Monday, February 25, 2013

Reporting 1


  • On the Record: Information may be quoted directly and attributed to the official by name and title.
  • On Background: The official's remarks may be quoted directly or paraphrased and are attributed to a "State Department official" or "Administration official," as determined by the official.
  • On Deep Background: The source cannot be quoted or identified in any manner, not even as "an unnamed source." The information is usually couched in such phrases as "it is understood that" or "it has been learned." The information may be used to help present the story or to gain a better understanding of the subject, but the knowledge is that of the reporter, not the source. No information provided may be used in the story. The information is only for the reporter's background knowledge.
  • Off the Record: Nothing of what the journalist is told may be used in the story. The information is meant only for the education of the reporter.
CAUTION:  NOT EVERYONE USES THESE TERMS THE SAME WAY!



TRUTH IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fact or Fiction?

This TED Talk is a nice compliment to the pieces we're reading for Monday on truth and technology. Storyful's Markham Nolan illustrates some of the verification methods he uses, and mentions the Sandy photos we discussed in class.


Ombudsmen: Gay Rights, Columnists

Parick Pexton, outgoing ombudsman for The Washington Post, presents an email dialog between an anonymous reader and an anonymous reporter for the paper:
The reader wrote that Post stories too often minimize the conservative argument: “The overlooked ‘other side’ on the gay issue is quite legitimate, and includes the Pope, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, evangelist Billy Graham, scholars such as Robert George of Princeton, and the millions of Americans who believe in traditional marriage and oppose redefining marriage into nothingness. . . . Is there no room in The Post for those who support the male-female, procreative model of marriage?”
Replied the reporter: “The reason that legitimate media outlets routinely cover gays is because it is the civil rights issue of our time. Journalism, at its core, is about justice and fairness, and that’s the ‘view of the world’ that we espouse; therefore, journalists are going to cover the segment of society that is still not treated equally under the law.”
The reader: “Contrary to what you say, the mission of journalism is not justice. Defining justice is a political matter, not journalistic. Journalism should be about accuracy and fairness.
“Good journalism also means not demeaning conservatives as ‘haters.’ ”
The reporter: “As for accuracy, should the media make room for racists, i.e. those people who believe that black people shouldn’t marry white people? Any story on African-Americans wouldn’t be wholly accurate without the opinion of a racist, right?
“Of course I have a bias. I have a bias toward fairness,” the reporter continued. “The true conservative would have the same bias. The true conservative would want the government out of people’s bedrooms, and religion out of government.”
(At the Media Research Center, Tim Graham takes exception to Pexton's framing of the issue.)

Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The New York Times, poses the question of whether the paper's columnists (as opposed to op-ed writers) have free rein (BTW, not spelled "free reign") to write what they want:
To explore the issue, I interviewed Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, and I surveyed the Op-Ed columnists, including Gail Collins, who was the previous editorial page editor. The response was unanimous: Columnists have almost inviolable free rein on subject matter. But that “almost” is important.
One recent exception was Mr. Rosenthal’s directive that columnists not all write about the Newtown school massacre within a day or two of one another.
Another constraint is still more rare: deciding against publishing a column that has been written. Mr. Rosenthal said he had done it only once.
“I had to say, ‘We’re not going to print that column,’ “ he recalled, declining to provide specifics, other than to say it was “inappropriate.” Some time later, the columnist wrote on the same subject in a different way, and the piece was published.
But for the most part, columnists write as they see fit for as long as they are granted the platform, which for most of them is a very long time. While they all appreciate their freedom, a few said they wouldn’t mind having a regular sounding board. Ms. Dowd was among this group.
“All writers can use an editor,” she said, “especially those of us charged with ‘stirring the beast,’ as the political cartoonist Pat Oliphant used to call editorializing.”

Friday, February 22, 2013

IS SENATOR TED CRUZ OUR NEW MCCARTHY?




The New Yorker article via The Huffington Post:

Some Democrats likened Senator Ted Cruz as Joseph McCarthy, after Cruz's questioning of Chuck Hagel.

After all, dark legacy of McCarthyism lives on!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

POTUS, TNR, & PR

Time is running a long cover story on health care by Stephen Brill.  He originally wrote it for The New Republic's relaunch issue, but as the Huffington Post reports, problems arose:
Brill said his only early concern about the piece came up in email conversations with [editor Franklin] Foer and [owner/editor-in-chief Chris] Hughes, in which the editors referred to it as “the single-payer article” -- a description Brill felt didn’t capture the thrust of the piece and falsely suggested he was taking an editorial position in favor of a single-payer health care option.
Otherwise, Brill said the process was “going wonderfully” until he saw the planned cover art on Jan. 15. Brill described the cover to The Huffington Post as “ridiculous." He said it featured an underwear-clad young man strapped to a desk chair with “duct tape wrapped around him and IV tubes coming out of him.”
“It was something you would do if you were really drunk and ran the college newspaper,” Brill said.
But later that day another problem arose. Brill said that Hughes told him Anita Dunn, Obama's former communications official whose firm, SKD Knickerbocker, was doing publicity for the magazine's relaunch, had helped The New Republic land an interview with Obama in the Oval Office. Hughes -- who worked for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and has attracted criticism for participating in the oval office sit-down along with Foer -– told Brill that the interview would be running on the cover of the relaunch issue instead of his piece.
Brill said he told Hughes that Obama wouldn't say anything particularly newsworthy, but the editor-in-chief was determined to make the Obama interview the cover story. Hughes offered to put the health care story on the cover of the next issue, but Brill declined.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Organization and Audience

Test Your News IQ

Politico and the Enda article

"Retreating from the World"

"State of the Media"

Partisanship and news audiences

Selective exposure and information silos

"Friends of Hamas"

Some Internet sites have asked whether Chuck Hagel gave a speech to "Friends of Hamas."  There is no such group, however.  At The New York Daily News, Dan Friedman writes how the rumor started:
On Feb. 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did Hagel’s Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had addressed?
Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the “Junior League of Hezbollah, in France”? And: What about “Friends of Hamas”?
The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.

Or so I thought.
The aide promised to get back to me. I followed up with an e-mail, as a reminder: “Did he get $25K speaking fee from Friends of Hamas?” I asked.
The source never responded, and I moved on.
I couldn’t have imagined what would happen next. On Feb. 7, the conservative web site Breitbart.com screamed this headline:
“SECRET HAGEL DONOR?: WHITE HOUSE SPOX DUCKS QUESTION ON ‘FRIENDS OF HAMAS’”

Obama and the media

In an article published Tuesday, Politico's Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen examine the media strategy of the Obama White House:
President Barack Obama is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House. 
Not for the reason that conservatives suspect: namely, that a liberal press willingly and eagerly allows itself to get manipulated. Instead, the mastery mostly flows from a White House that has taken old tricks for shaping coverage (staged leaks, friendly interviews) and put them on steroids using new ones (social media, content creation, precision targeting). And it’s an equal opportunity strategy: Media across the ideological spectrum are left scrambling for access.
The article, which was also the top story in Allen's Playbook on Tuesday, echoes what we discussed in class regarding which outlets the President grants interviews to. A sidebar (!!!) video titled "Obama's softball interviews" compiles clips of the President's appearances on The View and other programs; and the article jabs, "Why bother with The New York Times beat reporter when Obama can go on 'The View'?"

Much of the analysis is interesting, and the point about the administration neglecting print reporters is plausible, as we discussed in class. However, having had firsthand experience at the White House during the CMC Washington Program (do it!), I take issue with some of the evidence they use to portray Obama's communications efforts as "arguably dangerous," including this point in particular:
One authentically new technique pioneered by the Obama White House is extensive government creation of content (photos of the president, videos of White House officials, blog posts written by Obama aides), which can then be instantly released to the masses through social media. They often include footage unavailable to the press.
While it is true that this administration has released an unprecedented number of photos—over 4,000 have been posted on the White House public Flickr stream since 2009—and videos, this isn't a bad or nefarious development. White House photographers take hundreds of photos of the President every day of both open- and closed-press events, as they have since the Johnson administration. Choosing to release more of these photos to the public as they are taken increases transparency, despite the article's assertion to the contrary. Take, for example, photos taken during meetings held in the Situation Room—events the press never has and never will have access to. Nonetheless, the Obama administration has released over 100 photos of these meetings. The Bush administration released far fewer, and I'd be willing to bet that isn't just because the technology wasn't as advanced.

Additionally, photo releases are rarely driven by some agenda of the President's communications staff. Rather, both the photo of the day, and the photos posted each month on Flickr are chosen by Official White House Photographer Pete Souza and the Photo Office staff—most of whom have journalism backgrounds themselves and respect and value the role of the White House Press Corps.

Ok, enough with my ranting (I could discuss White House photos for hours). Former White House Press Corps member Matthew Cooper offered a more nuanced response to VandeHei and Allen in the National Journal. Recent developments aren't as surprising as some reporters have made them out to be, after all, Cooper says, "Each administration takes greater liberties to spin the news than the one before, which is utterly unsurprising. State and local governments do the same. So do corporations." He continues:
The real question is what’s lost in the process. Some, but not much, I’d say. The loss of scripted sessions such as “read outs” — behind-the-scenes accounts of presidential meetings as described by White House aides — is a loss, but not one that would have deterred a Bob Woodward or Ryan Lizza from richly reported accounts of the White House. (Granted they’re not in the sealed world of the White House press corps, but the point still stands.) 
Cooper argues the press corps ought to focus instead on intelligence issues:
The greater threat from the Obama administration isn’t the usual playing of head games with the White House press corps; it’s the aggressive prosecution of both the people who leak government information and the reporters who receive it...Those are the things we really need to know. The president’s golf score? Oh, please.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Reporters actually reporting

The New York Times' media reporter David Carr wrote an interesting piece yesterday about a reporter (incidentally one from my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska) doing good old fashioned reporting in the internet age. Carr explains:
On Sunday, Jan. 27, an underground fire cut power in half of downtown. A vivid photograph of unknown provenance, showing fire shooting out of manholes on a city street, began popping up on Reddit, where it had 1.5 million views, and Gawker.
... 
In this age of Photoshop, it wasn’t long before the debates cropped up, on the Web and in Omaha, about the picture’s authenticity. 
Matthew Hansen, a columnist at The Omaha World-Herald, wondered the same thing, and one night found himself in a bar engaged in the real-versus-fake debate. Like many photos on the Web, this one came from everywhere — forwarded, tweeted and blogged — and nowhere — there was no name on the image nor any text to indicate its origin. 
Carr goes on to recount Hansen's search for the origin of the photo—including a description of a odd encounter with someone Hansen calls "Pantsless Kenneth." Carr concludes that this story "serves as a reminder to reporters — and those who read their work — that if journalists take their eyes off the screen, leave their cubicle and actually go out and talk with people, they might discover something that is interesting as heck."

Organizational Process

Types of pieces:
  • Hard News: immediate, or "breaking," story about Who, What, When, Where, and Why
  • Analysis: discussion of the trends, data, or personalities behind hard-news stories. 
  • Feature: in-depth, magazine-length story with in-depth analysis
  • Editorial: unsigned piece giving the opinon of the organization's editorial board
  • Op-Ed: "opposite the editorial page" expresses the opinions of an outside named writer 
  • Column:  opinion essay by a writer who regularly writes for the paper or a syndicate
  • Sidebar: a story that accompanies the main news story, focusing on a particular aspect of an event.
Typical newspaper organization chart

Generic titles
  • Bureau Chief The director of news operations in a remote site or bureau.
  • Reporter A person whose job it is to gather and write the news for a publication or a broadcast outlet.
Print Titles

  • City Editor The individual (also known as the metropolitan, or metro, editor) in charge of the city desk, which coordinates local news-gathering operations. At some papers the desk also handles regional and state news done by its own reporters.
  • Copy Editor A person who checks, polishes and corrects stories written by reporters. Usually copy editors write headlines for those stories, and sometimes they decide how to arrange stories and pictures on a page.
  • Editor The top-ranking individual in the news department of a newspaper, also known as the editor in chief. The term may refer as well to those at any level who edit copy.
  • Editorial Page Editor The individual in charge of the editorial page and, at larger newspapers, the op-ed (opposite editorial) page.
  • Graphics Editor Usually, the editor responsible for all non-photographic illustrations in a newspaper, including information graphics, maps and illustrations.
  • Managing Editor The individual with primary responsibility for day-to-day operation of the news department.
  • News Editor The supervisor of the copy desk. At some newspapers, this title is used for the person in charge of local news-gathering operations.
  • Photo Editor The individual who advises editors on the use of photographs in the newspaper. The photo editor also may supervise the photography department.
  • Publisher The top-ranking executive of a newspaper. This title often is assumed by the owner, although chains sometimes designate as publisher the top local executive.

Broadcast Titles
  • Anchor One in the television studio who ties together the newscast by reading the news and providing transitions from one story to the next.
  • Executive Producer The television executive with overall responsibility for the look of the television newscast.
  • Field Producer Behind-the-scenes television reporter who often does much of the field work for a network's on-camera correspondents.
  • Network Correspondent A television reporter who delivers the news on camera. Network correspondents may or may not do the actual news-gathering for their stories.
  • Show Producer Television news specialists who produce individual newscasts and report to the executive producer.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Recent Media Items

The New York Times profiles Ben Smith, editor in chief of Buzzfeed:
Mr. Smith, 36, has long had a reputation for doing things his own way. Before Buzzfeed, he was known for pulling city politics into the digital era with The Politicker, a blog he started for The Observer in 2004. While other print reporters were waiting for deadlines to share the news, Mr. Smith had the then-novel idea of publishing what he knew on the Web and letting readers leave comments, producing a lively and often indecorous forum that transfixed Gotham’s power brokers.

“It’s not just that he did it first, he did it well,” Mr. Benson said.

It’s that forward-thinking mentality that helps add some clarity to the Smith-Buzzfeed marriage. Buzzfeed, which was started in 2006 by Jonah Peretti, a founder of The Huffington Post, operates on the philosophy that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are America’s new front pages and that the content people view online is determined more by what their friends share than what is found on the home page of a news organization. As such, the distinction between Web ephemera like baby videos and traditional journalism has all but disappeared.

Mr. Smith, who was born and raised on the Upper West Side, appears to fit right in so far. He has brought political reporting to Buzzfeed without betraying its signature attitude. The site’s year-end roundup of political stories was titled “The 15 most OMG Buzzfeed Politics Stories of 2012,” and its most popular political post of the year was “A User’s Guide to Smoking Pot with Barack Obama.”
BTW, you might want to bookmark Buzzfeed's Politics page.

At Politico's Playbook, Mike Allen offers a telling example of how the media's conveyor belt has changed.  Once upon a time, The Times would cover a story and other organizations would follow.  It does not always work that way anymore...
NO SHAME AWARD to N.Y. Times for putting on the front page -- with no indication it wasn’t a novel revelation -- a carbon copy of a story that led POLITICO.com on Thursday evening, was on the front page of Friday’s print edition, and was a segment on “Morning Joe”:
--POLITICO’s Manu Raju, “Ted Cruz comes out swinging”: “upending the Senate’s conventional ways, in which freshmen typically work quietly to build bridges with their colleagues … Another GOP senator reported that fellow Republicans were already getting ‘annoyed’ by Cruz’s antics. … ‘I made promises to the people of Texas that I would come to Washington to shake up the status quo,’ … Cruz wrote in an email.” http://politi.co/XdvuyG
--NYT’s Jonathan Weisman, “Texas Senator Goes on Attack And Raises Bipartisan Hackles”: “made his presence felt in an institution where new arrivals are usually not heard from for months, if not years. … raised the hackles of colleagues from both parties. … ‘I made promises to the people of Texas that I would come to Washington to shake up the status quo,’ he said in e-mailed answers to questions.” http://nyti.ms/WOuyUZ
--PLAYBOOK FACTS OF LIFE: Jonathan was working on his story at the same time as Manu, and it’s not like no one had heard of Ted Cruz before. But in the new information world, it doesn’t make sense to pretend you’re sole voice talking to your audience. And you can’t try to pass something off as new, when the people who care the most about the topic have read the same thing 24 hours earlier. You’re The New York Times: Be confident! Acknowledge the conversation around a topic you’re imbuing with your unique authority. A clever way to needle Cruz, and give readers a priceless insight into the Washington ecosystem, would have been to say “emailed in a statement that was identical to one he provided to Politico.”
And on Thursday, Jon Stewart had some comments on CNN's excessive coverage of The Poop Ship:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

House of Commons Responds to Zombie Threat

Apparently, the media troll who hacked Montana's KRTV emergency broadcast system caught the attention of the Canadian parliament. Parliament Member Pat Martin asked Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird about an "international zombie strategy" on behalf of "concerned Canadian citizens." Apparently, John Baird is "dead-icated" to the cause. It's not quite a "War of the Worlds" effect, but it's pretty funny.



Linda Holmes of NPR also published "Ten Clues That The Zombie Outbreak Being Announced On Your Television Is Not A Hoax" in response to the impending zombie crisis. See also: "Canada to Zombies: Drop Dead, Eh".

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Press Freedom and the Law

The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Copyright

Defamation:



 

In Gertz v. Welch, the Court allowed different standards for private citizens.

RT (Russian TV, yes) on  FOIA:



(Another FOIA video)

Shield laws


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Another Whoops from WaPo

Washington Post blogger Suzi Parker wrote today that Sarah Palin was joining Al Jazeera as a commentator. If that sounds like satire, that's because it was; Parker got the tip from a report on the joke news website The Daily Currant. There's a correction up now.

Just another reminder about fact-checking and double-checking! And perhaps another example of what can happen when online journalists don't have the safety of a print deadline schedule.

Here's the story from Politico: http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2013/02/washington-post-erroneously-reports-sarah-palin-joining-156744.html#.URpfsewgx-U.twitter


Comcast Buying Out GE Stake in NBC Universal

Pitney mentioned in class that NBC is typically less critical of the US defense budget because GE has a significant stake in the company and GE makes jet engines for the military. No longer...

From NYT: "Comcast said Tuesday that it has agreed to acquire General Electric’s remaining 49 percent stake in NBCUniversal for approximately $16.7 billion, completing a sale process that was expected to take several more years. The acquisition will wrap up by the end of March, Comcast said in a news release on Tuesday."

Zombie Alert

The Huffington Post reports:
The zombie apocalypse hasn't happened yet, but a few thousand people in Great Falls, Mont., are to be forgiven if they thought it was.
On Monday, the emergency alert system at KRTV-TV in Great Falls was hacked during the "The Steve Wilkos Show" to send out a message that "dead bodies are rising from their graves" in several counties.
 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Jack Donaghy and Media Consolidation

NBC's (dearly departed) 30 Rock often satirized the current media landscape. Given our discussion of conglomerates, here's a relevant clip in which then-CEO of NBC Jack Donaghy explains the many subsidiaries of GE (starts at about 1:10):

Media Ownership and Control

See article today on the president's media preferences.

The mainstream media face brutal economic challenges, but there is a bit of good news.  The Project on Excellence in Journalism has a new report:


FCC media ownership rules and CRS report

Columbia Journalism Review database: "Who Owns What"

An infographic

The case of Arianna Huffington:

Friday, February 8, 2013

National Free Wi-Fi? Media-Driven Myth.

Once again, our friends at the Washington Post led me, and the rest of the country, astray.

From Ars Technica

""If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas," the Post reported. The clear implication: this was a bold—and entirely brand-new—plan.
Unfortunately, the piece was basically nonsense. What had really happened was in fact unbelievably boring: the Post simply observed an incremental development in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) at the Federal Communications Commission over the issue of incentive auctions that might free up some additional unlicensed spectrum for so-called "White Space Devices" (read our explainer) operating in and around the current over-the-air TV bands. 
From this thin material, which basically consisted of Internet service providers and tech companies sniping at each other in long legal documents, with no decisions being made by anyone and no new proposals of anything, the Post then reported—on the front page, above the fold of the country's eighth-most highly circulated newspaper—that the FCC plan could lead to free Internet for most US residents."


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

First Essay Assignment

Below is your first essay assignment.  You may find tips on writing and research here.

Choose one:

1. Pick any news event (e.g., speeches, press conferences, Sunday morning talk shows) since January 1, 2013 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. Pick any current (2013) event in United States. Compare and contrast coverage in two American and two non-American sources (from different countries). How did each define the story? Did any show a bias? Did any miss something important? In your essay, try to find some outside documentation of the event in question (e.g., government sources) and learn about the news organizations. Distinguish between coverage that an organization produces and wire stories that it merely carries. Remember that coverage may consist of more than one story and may involve more than one day. Possible sources:
3. Assume that W. Joseph Campbell has invited you to add a brief new chapter to the book. Identify a post-2005 media myth, and explain how it spread.

4. Write an op-ed on any topic that we are discussing. The op-ed should run no more than three pages. Then 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 publish 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.) For more information see http://www.theopedproject.org under “Resources” (but note that some of the contact information may be out of date).

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  • Essays should be typed (12-point) stapled, double-spaced, and no more than four pages long. I will not read past the fourth page. 
  • 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 20. 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.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Media from the 1960s to the 1980s

The Buchwald "bra-burning" column as it appeared in The Toledo Blade







The movie's most famous line was itself a myth.

Number of households v. newspaper circulation:



From State of the Media 2004:
In one sense, penetration reveals the full extent of newspapers’ declining appeal. In 1950, 123 percent of households bought a newspaper (in other words there were 1.23 papers sold per household.) By 1990, only 67 percent of households bought a newspaper. By 2000, it was 53 percent.
A picture of LBJ's Oval Office illustrates the dominance of the Big Three Networks:



Meanwhile, on the radio dial:


Crack babies and the drug war

Friday, February 1, 2013

Celebrities and Policy Advocacy

As we discussed in class, celebrities can gain attention for policy issues.  The latest example is Bradley Cooper.  From The Washington Post:

Venue: A panel discussion/press conference at the Center for American Progress.
Purpose: A discussion on removing stigmas and improving services for the mentally ill.
Bona fides: Oscar-nominated star of “Silver Linings Playbook”, a best-picture nominee about a man grappling with bipolar disease.
Backup: Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy; Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.); Andrew Sperling of National Alliance on Mental Illness; Barbara Van Dahlen of Give An Hour; CAP policy wonks.
What he wants: To raise awareness of mental illness. The “only open to press” event did not correspond with a legislative push.
How he looked: Dark suit, dark tie. Hair slightly long and darker than usual but slicked back.
How he sounded: Engaged but modest, deferential to the experts. “I’m here by accident,” owing to his movie role, he said.
Observation: Was this all about using a star to promote a cause — or using a cause to promote a “Silver Linings” Oscar campaign? The invisible hand of media-savvy executive producer Harvey Weinstein seems to be at work in Cooper’s last-minute advocacy blitz, a week before ballots go to Academy members. But the mental-health professionals seemed thrilled with the turnout (about 100 people spilling out of the room) and the media exposure.
Soundbite: “I can see myself in a situation like that,” he said, referring to his movie character, “a guy who thought he had his life together” only to see it go off the rails
From Hardball:



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