Journalism 300 QUIZ / Oct. 12, 2011
Provide short definitions and purposes of the following:
– The lead. The lead allows the journalist to provide the most important information on the content of the article, but leaving out enough so that the reader wants to delve deeper into the story. It is also important that a lead is dynamic and creative so that the reader is convinced that the rest of the story is worth their time to read.
– Nut graph or billboard graph. Compliments an article’s text by providing a visual component to the story.
– Delayed lead. A delayed lead is a method of writing where you place the lead deeper into the article. This allows journalists to draw in readers with anecdotes or stories before delivering the main point of the article. Works best for more creative or in-depth pieces, as opposed to briefs or strait news.
– Subject-verb-object sentence construction. The subject-verb-object sentence construction is a template for writing where the journalist will always include the subject doing something to/with an object. By following this method, sentences will be consistently descriptive and easy to follow.
– Multiple element lead. A multiple element lead is a kind of lead that introduces multiple connected points and topics that the story will cover. Used for more complex stories where a number of incidents are related to one another in the same story.
Choose a recent news event and discuss how coverage of it would have been guided by underlying principles of news value (timeliness, impact, prominence, proximity, conflict, the unusual, currency, necessity).
As an example, I would like to use Occupy Wall Street, a movement that seems to have puzzled some journalists. The movement comes at a time of rising inequality, the highest poverty rate in 50 years, and a generally sour economy- so the story will have resonance with reader. Even if the literal impact of the movement is only seen in the areas where the demonstrations are taking place-like commuters trying to get around, the story often hits close to home for people that are weathering the economy. In terms of conflict, it will suffice to say that the story exploded after a police officer allegedly used unnecessary force against peaceful protesters. Conflict often leads to very sensational stories. The reporting on the story came to be necessary when it was clear that the movement wasn’t just going to blow over in a few days, and was consistently growing. The unusual plays a big role in the coverage, because there are a lot of interesting and strange details about the movement. Aside from the fact that the demonstrators have set up something like a commune in a small park in the center of manhattan’s financial district (which, along with the sheer number of people participating, adds to its prominence) there are a lot of eccentric characters and theatrics that play into the news coverage.
Write a short, energetic lead for a story you already know well (i.e. 9/11, historic moment, sports event). Keep to the facts.
Two American citizens with alleged ties to Al Qaeda were assassinated in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen on September 30th, following a lengthy legal discussion within the Obama Administration about the extent of the government’s power to target its own citizens for the purpose of the on-going international “War on terror.”
Critique the story lead below. Explain what reporter may have been seeking to achieve in each of the numbered segments.
By ANDREW MARTIN
The New York Times
Is a football mainly for children? What about a Halloween costume or a model train? (1)
This introduction seeks to engage and slightly confuse the reader as to where the story may be going. It causes the reader to imagine what the connection between football, halloween costumes, and model trains might be, and why it warrants a news story.
None of the above, manufacturers say, as a new federal crackdown on dangerous toys has left some in the industry crying foul and not wanting to play. (2)
The second sentence introduces some of the players in the story- “Dangerous” toy manufactures and the federal government, and hints at a conflict that appears to be pitting once against the others. Martin uses “not wanting to play” as a clever play on words that ties together the topic of toys and compliance with federal regulations.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has been swamped with requests to exempt playthings from the new regulations, put in place after extensive toy recalls several years ago. (3)
The third section explains the details, and hints at the history that led to the decision: that manufacturers have appealed against regulations limiting their ability to market their products, and that these regulations stem from problems with dangerous toys several years ago that led to recalls.
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 gave the commission the job of defining a “children’s product” — which includes such things as toys, clothing and household goods — and eventually enforcing the act. But coming up with that definition has become so difficult that the commission has postponed votes three times. (4)
Here, Martin defines the regulation he had previously referred to- when it was put in place and what it’s purpose is. He begins to discuss the issues with defining a “children’s product” by hinting at how broad it is, and how much might be at stake. The difficulty is confirmed by his last fact that the commission has postponed the vote several times.
Another vote is scheduled for Wednesday, but it is unclear if the five commissioners — three Democrats and two Republicans — can reach an agreement this time. A spokesman for the commission declined to comment. (5)
Answers the questions “What is the make-up of the commission, when is the next vote?” While also suggesting that the vote is politicized, and possibly too fragile to comment on.
Critics of the crackdown argue that it heaps additional costs on small, American-based businesses that were not responsible for the tainted toys, many of which were made in China for large toy companies. So many manufacturers want out — even if their arguments may leave some children scratching their heads. (6)
Here, Martin addresses the natural question: “Why wouldn’t we want to keep dangerous toys off of the market” by providing perspective from the business community about the costs of producing safe toys. He highlights (what I imagine is a popular dichotomy) between the American small business and the large, irresponsible foreign manufactures. He ends with a clincher that suggests that what the businesses may want may not be in the best interest of the children receiving the toys.
END of LEAD
You are about to knock on the door of the home of a man killed in an accident at a dangerous intersection. How will you explain why family members should speak with you?
I would explain that gathering information on the man’s life and passing is an important service to memorialize the individual. It is also an important way of letting friends and community members who the family may not have informed know about his passing.
I would also explain that by publicizing the cause of his death- a dangerous intersection- the family could help highlight the problem the dangerous intersection, and potentially prevent another family from needlessly losing a loved one.