Midterm, Winter 2012

Agate Hall, temporary home of the School of Journalism and Communication. Photo by the U of O’s Campus Planning and Real Estate department (really – who knew?), in the public domain.

Midterm, Part I

Part I of the midterm is worth 30 percent of the MT grade and is based on the Tim Harrower book Inside Reporting, so even if a question doesn’t say anything about the book, the question is about what the book’s author said. If you can’t remember the answer to a question, move on and come back later. No notes or books or Internet or phones except for the math question, for which you may use your phone or the computer as a calculator. You have about 45 minutes for this portion. Each question is worth 2 points.

1. In news ledes (that is, the first paragraph), should you use a person’s full name? If so, under what circumstances?

2. Online stories can and should be slightly 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: What are two ways your news organization could support you in that effort?

3. What’s the Fog Index, and why is it important? How would a writer who wanted to know her fog index calculate it?

4. 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 editorial pages?

5. Math! Pick A or B. Do not do both! (Unless you have time & just want to try.)
A. Lane County Animal Services decides to do a sweep of your neighborhood to look for unlicensed dogs and cats without ID chips. LCAS finds & impounds 48 dogs and 112 cats. About 400 people from your neighborhood go to LCAS to protest this sweep. Assume that protester number includes one owner for each animal impounded. What’s the percentage of people who did not have a pet picked up by the animal patrol but who are protesting (round up to the nearest whole number)?

Bonus: What’s the rough ratio of dogs impounded to cats impounded & how would you explain that to a newspaper audience?

B. The college meme thing has gone insane, right? You are assigned to write a follow-up story for the Daily Emerald, so you do a poll (on Facebook, duh) asking students how much time they’re spending each day making, looking at and talking about UO memes. Here are the first 20 results:

30 minutes 2 hours 15 minutes 1.5 hours
12 minutes 48 minutes 4 hours 76 minutes
69 minutes 133 minutes 0 minutes 55 minutes
1 hour 42 minutes 95 minutes 20 minutes
3.5 hours 15 minutes 45 minutes 10 hours

What’s the mean amount of time respondents spend on memes?

What’s the median amount of time respondents spend on memes?

What’s the range?

Bonus: If your editor asked you to throw out the most questionable results of the poll, which answers would you toss? (I’m not saying you should do this – but if you were asked to, what two or three answers do you think are most questionable?)

6. In what kinds of stories/articles that appear in newspapers is it not OK to give some sort of opinion? Name two kinds of writing in newspapers where the writer should give an opinion.

7. How often should you write a question lede? What about when you cover a speech or a city council meeting — is a topic lede OK then?

8. What’s a deck, in newspaper terms? Bonus: What’s a refer?

9. Draw (and correctly, fully label) the three story structures Harrower talks about in Chapter 3.

10. Harrower says that when you write a feature story, your style can and should be different than your news story style. List at least three style choices he says can be different in a feature story.

11. What type of feature will you be writing (or revising) over the weekend? If this type of feature story is like painting a portrait, what are some tips Harrower gives you as for painting/writing well?

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. You’re packing a ready-to-go reporter-at-a-disaster-site bag to keep in your car. What things would you keep in that bag or your trunk? Name at least four logical things for full credit. Bonus: Name two natural disasters that you and your newsroom might anticipate covering in the Pacific Northwest.

14. List two advantages and two disadvantages each to taking notes by hand in a notebook AND to using a recorder for interviews. Bonus: List one advantage and disadvantage to using a laptop.

15. Think about Harrower’s deadline checklist. What is the single most important subsection on his checklist to get right when you’re on deadline?

Bonuses
What are four countries you’ve learned more about as a result of studying for or taking current events quizzes, and what have you learned?

List four things about doing journalism you’ve learned from other writers (not in this class, but on your beat) while completing the assignments for your beat blog.

If you could change one thing about the first half of Reporting 1 (not counting my London trip, which I wish I could have changed), what would it be, and why?

Midterm, Part II

For this portion of the midterm, you have about 45 minutes. You need to read and respond to five four-point questions about the current state of journalism, social media and journalism education. In each answer, you should find something online – an example, a tweet, an essay, a college newspaper, etc. – that supports your answer and include the URL of that support within your answer.

1. Read @RobertNiles’ post about how to make money online. How would you respond to his suggestions for how to make money? How have media sites used these various ways to make money (back up your answer)?

2. Read @SteveButtry’s post about Digital First Ninja School. Considering what you heard from @JasonAWilliams and what you learned in Gateway, do you think the School of Journalism and Communication should do more to turn you into “digital ninjas” or “digital wizards”? If so, how? If not, what should the SOJC do instead? (Please refer to at least one site that is not Steve Buttry’s blog.)

3. Journalist and columnist @MoniGuzman wrote a post for GeekWire about unplugging on Sundays. Read it, and then look at other unplugged movements as recorded by techies or journalists online. Referring to what you find, tell me what you think of the idea of unplugging for a day – how would that work for you as a journalist? Is it even logical for journalists? Or should journalists get to take a day off from being news providers?

4. Read @ElanaZak’s story on how news organizations used social media to respond to the death of Whitney Houston.  Let’s say that you’re a reporter for a T.V. station or a newspaper when the news comes in of a celebrity’s death. Which of these tools might you use, and why? Please refer to at least one of the examples mentioned in Zak’s story.

5. Fact-checking has become something of a journalism specialty. Read this @CJR piece about PolitiFact Ohio, and tell me how you would design a fact-checking operation for your local paper or news station.
Notes:
a. By “your local” I mean whatever’s local to you – you can decide whether that means Eugene, the UO, your hometown, where you want to work … whatever.)
b. If you’re planning to be a sportswriter or sportscaster, feel free to design a fact-checking operation for sports claims; same for arts writers, etc.

Part III is an AP Quiz worth 20 points. It’s 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 Wednesday, February 22).

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 think about the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination (you will need to understand who’s still in the race and where each person has won primary elections or caucuses). You can also find out what they think about media coverage of those candidates.

Together, you will go out and interview people in your neighborhood about the neighborhood’s important issue OR the Republican candidates, and by 11:59 p.m. Friday, February 17, 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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