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Chapter 14





Test questions & PDF



Chapter 14 discusses what commentary, opinion and analysis can add for news audiences.


The chapter also addresses effective use of first person, especially for opinion pieces.  It teaches students how to write well-crafted blogs as journalists.




The exercises in the textbook ask students to read several different kinds of blogs and then analyze and discuss them.


The first two exercises in the Interactive Workbook ask students to analyze blogs from two different news organizations or analyze several posts from a blog about journalism.  The second two ask students to create a blog post, one using the online curating tool Storify, and one based on a news story the students have worked on.


1.  Analyze a journalist’s blog (This exercise is similar to Exercise 14-4 in the book and Interactive Workbook exercises W14-1 and W14-2, all of which teach students to think critically about journalists’ opinionated pieces.)


a.  Ask students to list—based on the chapter and their own observations—what makes an effective journalist’s blog.


b.  Then project a blog post (choose one you like, or we’d recommend one of the blogs at NPR’s “On the Media” or Jay Rosen’s “PressThink”).  Ask students to think about the list they’ve just made as you read aloud and they follow along.


c.  Discuss their observations.


2.  Watch news commentator Rachel Maddow interview comedian/news critic Jon Stewart.


a.  Ask students to think about the following questions and issues as they watch the video:


  • Rachel Maddow is a news commentator and Jon Stewart is a comedian who critiques the news.  How does that affect the persona of each in this video?  How does that affect your perception of what they say and how they say it?


  • While Stewart and Maddow disagree about the subjects in this video, they agree on many issues, and their tone and attitude toward each other are amicable.  How does that affect your perception of their differences?  How does it make you feel?


  • Stewart's central theme in this video is that news organizations like MSNBC have adopted a partisan approach, and that this approach doesn't serve the public well. Listen for his supporting points, and think about how this critique might apply to blogs by journalists.


  • Maddow says that Stewart and she essentially perform the same job.  Stewart disagrees. Consider what you think the differences are between their roles and what their roles should be.


b.  Show this video clip, (10 minutes), or you can show the entire interview (it's 43:08 minutes).


c.  Discuss students' observations.


3.  Create a set of ethical guidelines for opinionated journalism


a.  Have students link to journalist Mark Harmon’s list of suggested ethical guidelines for opinionated journalism.


b.  As a class, list some specific problems they’ve noticed with opinion journalism—or opinions they’ve read or seen in general.


c.  Then, as a class, discuss some possible solutions.


d.  Finally, guide students as they come up with their list of ethical guidelines for opinion journalism.


4.  Investigate nuanced forms of opinionated journalism


a.  Divide the class into groups.  Assign the groups to the following news sites that focus on analysis and explanatory journalism.  You can assign all groups the same news site, or you can assign them different sites.



b.  Give each group 20-30 minutes to read the news site’s “About” page and then explore the actual site.  Each group should answer the following questions about its site:


  • What does this news site say is different about what it provides to news audiences?


  • What is the relationship between opinion and evidence, according to the site’s own description/manifesto?  What did your group observe about the relationship between opinion and evidence on the site?


  • What did your group observe about what the site provided to news audiences—was there a focus on context?  On explanation?  On data?  And how was each of these helpful or not?


  • What sorts of issues did the site focus on?  Did your group find the choices of issues to be helpful and relevant?


c.  Have each group report its answers to the rest of the class, and discuss their observations.

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