Midterm Example (Password protected)

Studying for exams. Creative Commons License via Wiki Commons user Gnarlycraig.

Here’s 2007’s midterm (they had to answer 40 1-point questions, so y’all are way better off!). Some of the questions MAY be the same on this year’s midterm, and in any case, it gives you a good idea of what to study!

Make sure you know something about the other things we’ve been doing — Twitter, social media, neighborhood blogging, etc. — as well.

DM me on Twitter or email me with questions!

Reporting 1/J361
Suzi Steffen
May 8, 2007
Midterm #1


  1. What’s yellow journalism? Where did that term come from? Bonus: What war brought about the rise of yellow journalism (or really, was caused by yellow journalism)?
  2. When was TV news viewership higher in percentage terms, 1994 or 2004?
  3. Name two of the criteria that, Harrower says, make a story interesting to readers (for example, and no, you can’t use this one, impact).
  4. What are two things reporters need to remember about readers, according to Harrower? Bonus: Do you think magazine readers want the same things newspaper readers do? Why or why not?
  5. In the thrilling graphic novel “Jenny Deadline,” what did the editor cut from the reporter’s story and why?
  6. Name two of the four major divisions at a daily paper (they hold true for a weekly paper as well).
  7. Would you probably write more stories per week at a small weekly paper or a big daily paper?
  8. 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 subheadline?
  9. List three of the basic hardware items Harrower says every reporter needs.
  10. Is it OK to put opinion in a hard news story? What about a sports story?
  11. Tell me the five W’s of journalism.
  12. What does it mean when you bury the lead?
  13. In news leads, should you use someone’s full name? If so, under what circumstances?
  14. What’s a brite?
  15. Draw (and label) two of the three story structures Harrower talks about in Chapter 3.
  16. What’s the fog index?
  17. Name a couple of things that editors do to help writers as they write stories.
  18. Where do stories come from? (Name a couple of sources that spark story ideas.
  19. List a couple of types of sources (i.e. Official Records).
  20. When you’re observing a scene for a story, what kind of details will you write down (i.e. auditory)?
  21. Tape recorder: list two pros and cons.
  22. Notebook: list two pros and cons.
  23. If you’re writing a feature story, would you use the phone, email or an in-person interview to talk with your main subject for the first time?
  24. What are a four tips for successful interviews? (Some can be before; some during; some after.)
  25. Said? Snorted? Laughed? What verbs should you use in news stories?
  26. Should you write feature stories in the past tense or the present tense? Why?
  27. In Eugene, there are 50 green heron nests with 150 eggs. Raccoons got 18 of the nests and ate 42 eggs. What percentage of the eggs did the raccoons eat?
  28. In covering a beat, what are a couple of things you should do?
  29. Name several things essential to an obituary.
  30. When you’re writing about a speech, what are at least three items you should be sure to include?
  31. What are a couple of sections in which features are likely to appear?
  32. OK, let’s say you’re interested in bringing a story of courage, anguish, loss and recovery to the public, a story of Sudanese orphans making it in the U.S. as adults. Is this a backgrounder, a flashback or a human-intrest story?
  33. And let’s say you’re a feature writer for People (don’t laugh; think of the money). What kind of features are you likely to be writing?
  34. In Best Newspaper Writing, the portion you read for Journal 1, tell me two of the topics of the stories. Were they features?
  35. What are some (at least two) examples of literary techniques a feature writer can use that a news writer usually can’t?
  36. What are three examples of short-form features? Bonus: What’s a short-form feature you could use as a sidebar for your enterprise story?
  37. Explain this enterprise story thing as if this midterm is your parent and you’re trying to make her or him understand why you never have time to call or go home for the rest of the term (what kind of work do you really need to do? Why? When?).
  38. If a profile is painting a portrait, what are two techniques good feature writers use to create accurate and artistically secure portraits?
  39. How do you know if something is an opinion piece instead of a news story?
  40. When you’re writing a review of a movie, play or book, what’s something you should never do?

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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