Part of the goal of this course is to develop a sense of what is good and bad journalism. The aim is to have you read, listen to, and watch the news media with a sharp, critical eye. You will be alert to stories that meet the essential elements of accuracy, impartiality and responsibility; stories that are relevant and informative, perhaps entertaining; and stories that are well crafted.
As one of your major assignments for this course, you must submit a 500-600 word critique on a substantial piece of journalism from a newspaper, magazine or online news site. The story should be investigative in nature, meaning that it aims to hold power to account and does original journalistic research. The story cannot be an Op/Ed, meaning it should not be in a section with a name like “opinion,” “viewpoint,” or “editorial.” If you aren’t sure, please ask before proceeding.
Your job is to analyze it: What makes it good and/or what are its flaws. Do not just recite what the article says.
In your essay (not in point form) address the following points, in this order:
1.Details of where and when it was published (including a link if it is online.)
2.Why this story caught your attention
3.Comment on its writing quality: Are grammar and punctuation correct? Are there factual or typographical errors? Is it clearly written, and free of jargon or specialized terms so that the average person can understand it? Explain why getting the details correct is so important?
4.Are the sources (people, documents, studies, surveys, etc.) of the information evident? If so, what is the major source (or sources)? If only one source, do you feel there should be more
5.Do you feel the sources of the information are appropriate or credible?
6.Do you detect a vested interest on the part of the sources in this story? Do these sources influence or control the substance or the angle of the story?
7.Do you believe the story is accurate and balanced? Explain why or why not.
8. Do you detect the reporter’s bias or point of view? If so, explain. Are there any “loaded” words or phrases? If so, provide one or two examples.
9.Is this story a one-off, or part of an ongoing series of stories on this topic/issue? If the latter, how does this particular story fit into the larger issue?
10.How important is this story generally? What do you feel is its impact on society? Did or could this story effect any kind of change that will help improve people’s lives, or society as a whole?
11.What is its impact on you personally? What did you learn or not learn from this story? Did it, or will it, spur you on to any kind of action?
12.What remaining questions do you have that you feel were not addressed in this story—or were all the relevant questions answered?
13.Summing up then, what makes this a good—or bad—piece of journalism?