Midterm, Spring 2011 (Example 2)

Thanks to Wolfram Burner's Flickr shot; used under Creative Commons licensing.

Here’s today’s midterm. You may notice that it’s a bit topical. Part III, the AP portion, is not included in any of the online versions of the midterm.

Reporting 1/J361 Your name:
Suzi Steffen
May 2, 2011
Midterm, Part I


Instructions: The first part of the test is worth 30 percent and covers the chapters of the book that you have read and digested thoroughly (each question is worth two percentage points). When you are finished with this, you will receive the online analysis/questions; third, you’ll have an AP quiz; finally, you’ll have the neighborhood story assignment.

1. What are two of the things reporters need to remember about readers, according to Harrower? Bonus: What do reporters and programmers need to remember about mobile readers — people reading news on phones or tablets?

2. Your name comes underneath a headline for a story that you wrote. What’s your name called in news-speak? Bonus: What’s another name for a cutline?

3. Is it OK to use first person (I, we) or your opinion in a hard news story? In a feature story, is it ever OK to use first person?

4. What’s yellow journalism? Where did that term come from? Bonus: What war is associated with the rise of yellow journalism?

5. Draw (and label) two of the three story structures Harrower talks about in Chapter 3.

6. List two advantages and two disadvantages of each: notebook vs. recorder. Bonus: Name another tool, not counting one you use with the notebook, you might use to take notes during an interview.

7. What are four tips for successful interviews? (Some can be for before; some during; some after, and remember, if you don’t know the exact answers, this is a fairly logical question. Just relax, breathe and think.)

8. Math Question! You may use your cell or a classroom computer (not your laptop) as a calculator. Read both questions, and pick one (you may do both, but I’ll only count one, and the test has three more portions, so, you know, make a good decision).
A. You’ve used Facebook Questions to ask your publication’s mostly college-aged followers how they listen to music. The results:
Pandora   5470
YouTube 2563
Last.fm 389
Grooveshark 762
My iTunes 7745
Whatever comes up first when I Google the song 650
Check iTunes sharing to see what other people have 378
Other online 1022
Other offline 1021

1. What’s the total number of respondents?

2. What percentage of the respondents listen to Pandora (round to one decimal point)?

Bonus: What percentage of the respondents use the internet to listen to music (round to one decimal point)?

B. Feral cat count time in Eugene! Volunteers have spread out in the neighborhoods and counted the feral cats of many neighborhoods.
South University 215
Fairmount 82
Jefferson Westside 195
Amazon 347
Whiteaker 290
Trainsong 143
Cal Young 79
Harlow 127
Downtown 121

1. What’s the mean number of feral cats for these neighborhoods (you may not have a partial cat in your answer; round up or down as is logical)?

2. What neighborhood boasts median number of feral cats?

Bonus: Name three organizations in Eugene you might talk to about these feral cats for your story on the cat count.

9. Many people like to read the editorial pages before they read anything else. Name and describe three components usually on a paper’s editorial page. Bonus: What reader-generated content will newspapers often put with the editoral pages?

10. List two news ledes to avoid, according to Harrower. List two feature ledes that succeed (according to Harrower, again).

11. Feature stories come in many forms. What are at least four of the most popular types of features, according to Harrower? Bonus: What type of feature will you be writing during the next week?

12. What are two things to do when you’re covering a beat? What are two things not to do when you’re covering a beat?

13. In feature stories, should you use the present tense or the past tense? When you’re writing a news story, present or past? And finally, what verbs can you use when you’re attributing a quote, in a news story?

14. In news stories, why and when do you need a context or nut graf?

15. Online stories can and probably should be different from print stories, if you have the time and the support of your news organization behind you. What are the three ways Harrower says to make online stories more readable?

Bonus section
In Best Newspaper Writing, section one, tell me the topics of the stories.

List four beats you’re likely to see in a large city’s newspaper:

When you’re writing the part of your enterprise story that consists of
observation, what are the two senses you’re most likely to use, and why?

Midterm, Part II

These five questions are worth 20 percent of the midterm (4 points apiece). Please, please, please use your brains AND THE INTERNET (that is, you must have links) to give me some interesting, creative, thoughtful answers. You may download to Word and attach or just answer in the email. You have until 7:30 p.m. to finish and email back this portion of the midterm.

1. Please check out UW J-prof Kathy Gill (@kegill on Twitter)’s @Storify account of Twitter and bin Laden’s death. What do you think Storify could do for a story about breaking news or sports events in Eugene or anywhere in Oregon?

2. Read Robert Niles (@robertniles)’ “The Changing relationship between reporters and sources” on the Online Journalism Review (@OJR). You may link to Mark Cuban’s original post, or you may link to anything else logical online, to answer this question: How will YOU work on diversifying your source list as a reporter? (Will social media play a part?)

3. Check out SPJ’s background info on Osama bin Laden. For what possible news events or topics LOCALLY (in Eugene/Springfield or in the Willamette Valley, even including Portland if you want) should your local news organizations be preparing toolboxes like this?

4. Take a look at Long Reads (@longreads), the Byliner (@TheByliner) and The Atavist (@TheAtavist). You may play the video if you have headphones for the computer. Many people, including Tim Harrower, claim that the internet and online reading are killing long-form journalism. After looking at these three sites, and possibly referring to things like Kindle Singles or other e-readers or apps (hint, hint), what do you think the future of long-form journalism may look like?

5. Read Megan Garber (@megangarber)’s story “Coming to a theater near you: The New York Times” at Nieman Lab. Considering the NYT’s new paywall (hint: you may want to link to stories or announcements or analysis of that), what do you think about this move as an attempt to get new readers/downloaders/subscribers?

Midterm, Part III is an AP quiz, and not online.

Midterm: Writing Neighborhood News (Part IV)

This portion of the midterm is worth 30 percent of the midterm grade and will be the last portion of the midterm graded (back to you by Monday, May 9).

With your group, you may do one of two things. The first is this: Decide together what constitutes the most important problem facing people and businesses in your neighborhood. (Economy? Homelessness? Drug abuse? Unbridled development? Environmental degradation? Cuts to school funding? Yes, you must agree to write about the same thing.)

The second choice (pick one OR the other, NOT BOTH): Find out what people in your neighborhood thought about the news that U.S. special forces found and killed Osama bin Laden. You may want to ask how they found out about it (friends? T.V.? social media? etc.), if they watched or heard about celebrations in D.C. and elsewhere, what they saw on their Facebook feeds and how they felt about it, etc. 

Together, you will go out and interview people in your neighborhood about the neighborhood’s important issue OR the bin Laden news reactions, and by 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, you should EACH have posted a 450-600 word news story on the Reporting 1 blog. Pro tip: I’d suggest you have this written/saved as a draft the night before and that your group carefully look at each other’s drafts. See the final sentences of this part of the midterm.

You must have at least three sources (not people you know, not in the SOJC in any way), and they may not all be a. from the same place or b. from the same kind of place (business/nonprofit/individual).

You may have more than three sources. Your story must have paraphrases and quotes; a news lede and a nut graf; a headline, subhed and byline; and yes, images from your neighborhood (you may all use the same photo or photos if you so desire). You must tag your stories, and I’d suggest using the SAME tags for consistency’s sake (please include the tag midterm!). Remember: News doesn’t contain YOUR opinion.

I suggest that you get together and plan where you’ll go and how you’ll get your interview notes.

Length: 450-600 words. Please help each other copy edit. If members of your group spell names, names of streets, names of businesses differently; give me different facts; or word direct quotes in a different fashion, you will all earn a zero on this portion of the exam.

About Suzi Steffen

Suzi Steffen teaches, writes, edits, reviews and rides (an adult tricycle named Momo) in Eugene, Oregon. For many years, she taught as an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication. As of fall 2015, she's teaching in Oregon State's New Media and Communications program. Suzi also edits Lane Monthly and works as an arts journalist across the state and country. Email her at suzisteffen at gmail dot com; find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for more info; and check out Lane Monthly in print around Lane County and online at lanemonthly.com.
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