Midterm, Winter 2013, #J361NN

Australia Sunset for Midterm blog post

As the sun sets, the class works its collective rear end off. Well done, #J361NN!

Here is today’s midterm for #J361NN.

Part I

• Every numbered question in this portion is about the book Inside Reporting, by Tim Harrower, and nothing else, except where explicitly stated.
• You have until about 6:45 for this part (because you’ll then want to move on to Part II).
• Each question is worth two points of 100 total for the midterm.
• You may not use notes or the internet.
• You may use a phone or the calculator on a computer for the math question.
• If you don’t know something, skip it and come back later.
• The bonus questions are worth half a point apiece.

1. Newspapers have different reasons for printing (or uploading) stories. What makes news stories interesting to readers (example: emotions)? Please list at least four of these news values.

2. Describe the famous cartoon Ben Franklin ran in his newspaper in 1754 – something that later became a symbol for the colonies fighting the Revolution. And what was the name of Franklin’s newspaper?

3. Harrower talks about three kinds of interview – face-to-face, phone, email. Please list two advantages and two disadvantages to each (if they’re logical but not in the book, you may still garner credit). Bonus: What’s your opinion on screen-to-screen interviews using Skype, FaceTime or Google Video Chat?

4. You’re going to have a Q&A with an interesting, famous person. This will be a face-to-face conversation; you’ll cut it way down to fit in the newspaper. How can you use the web to enrich your interview? (Harrower lists three ways. You can get credit for listing two.) Bonus: Who decides when something is off the record?

5. Please edit the quotes below to make them newspaper-style correct (assume second reference if only last name is provided):

a. “If Martians came down and watched television, they would conclude that universities are sports organizations” said Nader

b. “We are the caretakers of God’s creation” Burger King spokesperson Shania Doughty said “We have a moral obligation to treat them humanely” she said

c. “You can put wings on a pig, but you don’t make him an eagle” Clinton
joked “I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs are our equals” said Churchill

d. Beyonce said, “I just wish people would love everybody the way they love me”

6. List three dos and three don’ts for reporters working any beat. Bonus: What kind of beat would you like to cover, based on the list in Harrower?

7. You’ll soon be working on a profile (a “personality profile,” as Harrower calls it). What are at least five other types of feature stories you might work on in your career as a reporter? Bonus: Name one thing reporters often talk about celebrities doing as the reporter interviews them for a profile (almost always when it’s an actor, especially a woman).

8. Your colleague has to cover a city council meeting. Please give that person four tips for covering the meeting (anything before, during and after the meeting; and/or writing the story):

9. What’s a more serious crime, a misdemeanor or a felony? Please list two tips for reporters covering the court beat. (They may be from the book or, if they’re logical, you may get credit for them anyway.)

10. A natural disaster hits Portland. You need to go up and cover it for the Emerald. List five items you have in the disaster preparedness kit in your trunk. Bonus: Think back to Brian Stelter’s experience in Joplin, and explain how you’ll keep your electronics charged and how you’ll stay in touch with your newsroom.

11. Please draw and label (fully!) the three story structures that Harrower talks about. Be sure to say what kind of story works best with each structure (sports? Q&A?).

12. Harrower lists nine “Helpful Tips for Successful Feature Writing.” Please share at least four of them here. Bonus: What verb tense will you be using for quotations in your feature stories?

13. It’s February, which is Black History Month. What are three tips Harrower gives for maintaining diversity in your news coverage far beyond history months? (You may also list recommendations Suzi made in class.)

14. Harrower lists “Five Reasons to Hit the Delete Key” – in other words, things you can take out of stories when you go back to revise. (Example: Redundancy.) What are those things? Bonus: How do you calculate the Fog Index of your story?

15. Math! Do A or B.
A. Our days are getting longer in Eugene, and they will continue to do so until Summer Solstice. At the longest, our day (June 21) will have 18 hours and 17 minutes of light. At the shortest, our day (December 21) will have 8 hours and 13 minutes of light. (Note: Not actual Solistice numbers, only for the test.)

1. What percentage of the 24 hours of June 21 will have light?

2. What percentage of the 24 hours of Dec. 21 will not have light?

Bonus: If you wanted to experience two summer solstices in one year, where might you travel in December?

B. You need to understand the household income in your neighborhood, so you (with the help of a real estate broker and a city planner) pick the 10 most representative incomes of your area. Here they are (per family unit – meaning an apartment, condo, townhouse, house):

$75,000 $46,460 $31,000 $18,050 $108,565
$24,385 $33,190 $45,305 $28,045 $84,000

1. What’s the mean family income in your neighborhood, according to these representative samples?

2. What’s the median family income?

Bonus: Which household might contain two students working minimum-wage jobs? Which household might have a full professor and a freelance writer?

Extra Bonuses:
If we could have a guest speaker in #J361NN from newspaper, T.V., radio, or
multimedia, which one would you choose, and why?

What’s your dream job, and how do you plan to make it happen (the second part is important for credit on this question)?

Part II

This portion of the midterm is worth 20 points (20 percent) of the midterm grade, with each answer worth 10 points. You have approximately 40 minutes to answer these questions. Please plan your time accordingly, and use your phone alarm if you need to remind yourself to stop working on the first part and move on to the second part. You MUST be finished by 7:25 so you can take Part III.

There are two questions in this portion of the midterm. Each question has two options. Please pick EITHER A. or B. to answer in each case. (Whichever one appeals more to you or you know more about.)

As you answer these questions, please use links and references to OTHER articles or examples on the internet to back up the claims you make in your answers. You may also link to the original article, but you need to have other examples in order to have a chance at full credit for any portion.

Question 1:
Please read Poynter’s “The Stranger’s annual regrets issue is a tradition like no other

Then answer either A. or B.
A. Consider the use of humor in journalism. The Stranger, a somewhat irreverent alt-weekly in Seattle (one of whose writers won a biggest award in magazine writing last year), obviously uses humor and self-mocking in its corrections issue. Where else do you see humor in print, broadcast, or other types of journalism? Do you find it useful? Please refer to sites, video clips, or other helpful stories (with links; pasted in URLs will be fine) in your answer.


B. What’s the role of corrections in the newspaper industry, and how do reporters usually handle them? How do errors in newspapers affect journalistic credibility? And how might the Stranger’s corrections issue affect critics of journalism or of that paper in particular?

(Hint: YOu may want to look up Professor Scott Maier’s research as written about in the Columbia Journalism Review. You will need to find other sources that talk about corrections and newspapers as well. )

Question 2:
Please read Nieman Lab’s story on the new design of The New Republic (new design, new strategy, new publisher, new everything.)

Then answer either A. or B.

A. If you’re a design person, take a look at the design of the new TNR both on the computer and on your smart phone, if you have one. What do you see that seems to work? How does it compare to other large news or political magazine sites like Slate, Salon, Time Magazine, The New Yorker, The Daily Beast or Politico? (Or others of your choosing – not sports or strictly newspaper sites though.) What would you advise Chris Hughes to do to tap into stories you or your generation might find interesting?

B. If you’re more of a content person, take a look at what Chris Hughes promises in this interview (or any others you’ve read) and what he’s asking for – money from readers (consider this: “People are not willing to pay for access to content in a digital environment,” he said. “But I think they are interested in supporting brands they believe in, and I think they are interested and willing to pay for experiences.”). Looking at evidence from other newspapers or magazines that have paywalls or ask for donations (find some links here), please explain how well you think Hughes’ strategy will work for The New Republic. What’s the research on consumer behavior around news brands, for instance?

Part III is an AP Style quiz and not online.

Part IV

Part IV of your midterm is worth 30 percent of the final midterm grade (30 of 100 points). The news story of 450-600 words is due up on the J361 Neighborhood News blog by 11:59 p.m. Saturday, February 9, though you certainly may turn it in before that. IF YOU WANT ME TO GLANCE OVER YOUR DRAFT NEWS LEDE, I CAN DO THAT ON SATURDAY BETWEEN 10 AM AND NOON.

With your group, you may find sources for one of two topics:

1. What do people in your neighborhood think about the Justice Department’s 16-page white paper on the U.S. drone policy and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden’s stand on that policy for targeted killings of Americans? (You will likely need to do some research before you head out to do interviews on this topic.)


2. Find out what people in your neighborhood think about this year’s Grammy nominations (the award ceremony is Sunday night). You might want to concentrate on the larger categories or the ones in which your sources will likely know more nominees. This is a much softer news option, but many people will have opinions about it. (Obviously, you need to do some research here as well.)

Together, you will go out and interview people in your neighborhood about the topic you choose, and by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, February 9, you should EACH have posted a 450-600 word news story on the J361 Neighborhood News 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
• BOTH paraphrases and quotes; a news lede and a nut graf
• A headline, subhed and byline
• 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 does NOT contain YOUR opinion nor the words “I” or “we” or “our.”

*Please help each other copy edit.* If members of your group spell names, names of streets, names of businesses, names of UO departments differently and/or incorrectly; give me different facts; or word the same 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 (her 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 at Linn-Benton Community College, and as of fall 2017, she's also teaching at Wenatchee Valley College in Washington State. Suzi edited Lane Monthly and works as an arts journalist across the state and country. You can find her at jprofsuzi on Twitter or email her at jprofsuzi at gmail dot com.
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