Midterm for #J361, Fall 2012

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed blogs. Creative Commons license

Here’s the midterm that the #J361 students are taking today, October 24, 2012.

Midterm, Part I

• Every numbered question in this portion is about the book Inside Reporting, by Tim Harrower, and nothing else. They are about the book, chapters 1-6.
• You have up to 45 minutes for this part.
• Each question is worth two points (of 100 total for the midterm).
• You may not use notes or the internet.
• You may use your phone calculator or the calculator on the 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. Name and explain four types of feature stories (out of the 10 Harrower lists).

2. Draw the three story format graphics and label them fully (explaining what each part does for the story).

3. How much did one copy of a mass-market U.S. newspaper cost in the mid-19th century? (Hint: The [what kind of] press)

4. What are two things to do when you start working a beat, and what are two things not to do when you’re on a beat? Bonus: Name a recent movie (within the last 10 years) that shows a reporter breaking at least one of the not to do parts.

5. In what kind of stories in the newspaper is the writer’s opinion desirable (and to what extent should the writer’s opinion be present)? In what kind of stories should it never appear?

6. What are Harrower’s five essential tools for any reporter to have? How many of those do you have with you all of the time?

7. In writing profiles, you’re trying to paint a word portrait of the person you’re profiling. What are Harrower’s three tips to making that profile vivid?

8. What verbs can you use with quotes in news stories? What about features?

9. Define (or explain) byline, cutline, refer, deck. (In newspaper terms.)

10. Name four of Harrower’s five things to look for when you’re editing and revising your own piece. Bonus: How would you calculate the fog index on a piece you’re thinking about revising?

11. Harrower lists seven news values that make stories interesting to readers. List four of your favorites and explain them (i.e. humor – it makes the readers laugh [that’s not one of the news values, by the way]).

12. Why does writing a good news lede matter? And what are two of Harrower’s three news ledes to avoid? Bonus: What’s a nut graf for, and what’s another name for it?

13. Harrower suggests six different reliable options for sources. What are four of those options? (For instance, the internet, though Harrower actually doesn’t list that as one of the options.) Bonus: Explain how you might crowdsource a story on your transportation beat.

14. Harrower lists four types of things you should be looking for when you’re observing. Two of them are senses; two are not. List one of each. Bonus: What are the three senses he doesn’t list, and how might you use them in observing?

15. Math! Do A or B.
A. During an interview with the public relations folks at Lane Transit District, you receive the statistics that the department has collected about cars, bikes and bus riders on West 11th Ave. in Eugene. LTD tells you the new EmX is predicted to cut down on car traffic by about 15 percent. Assume each car contains an average of 1.5 people and that all those people switch to the EmX or other West Eugene buses. How many formerly in-car people will be riding the EmX or other buses instead of cars, according to these statistics?

Type # per day Predicted % change Predicted number change
Car 4000 -15 percent – drivers/passengers
Bike 500 +2 percent +10 bike riders
Bus 2500 +50-60 percent + 1250-1500 bus riders

B. You’re looking at the stats on longboarding, skateboarding and rollerblading in different near-UO neighborhoods of Eugene, as collected by the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee:

Neighborhood # per day
1. Amazon 63
2. Jefferson Westside 42
3. West University 247
4. South University 101
5. Downtown 57
6. Whiteaker 78

What’s the mean number of skateboard/longboard/roller bladers in these six neighborhoods? (Note: No partial people. Round up or down as appropriate.)

What’s the median?

Bonus: Why might the numbers be lower in South than West University?

Extra Bonuses:

Explain an enterprise story.

What’s one question you expected on this midterm that wasn’t on it, and how would you answer it?

What’s your dream job, and how do you plan to make it happen?


Midterm, Part II

Instructions: Please write a mini-essay (two-five paragraphs, as you see fit) answering each of these two questions. Use internet sources – other articles, websites, news sites, etc. – as evidence in your answer (for instance: If I were redesigning our curriculum, I’d look hard at the model provided by the Missouri School of Journalism. There’s a description of what’s known as “the Missouri Method” here, and I think it could be applied to the Emerald and other UO media in three specific ways … ).

You have about 45 minutes for this portion.


1. Read “Fact-checking at the New Yorker” by Peter Canby on the site of the Columbia Journalism Review. Answer EITHER (NOT BOTH) of these two questions:
a. Looking at the changing/changed nature of writing for online publication, and using examples you can find online, how do you think the process of fact-checking might work differently than it does at the New Yorker for online-only news sites and magazines?


b. Looking at some recent highly publicized implosions of journalists (both for the New Yorker and for other publications) who plagiarized, made up quotes and lied about it, what are ways you think a news site or magazine could fix those holes in their fact-checking process, or help the journalists not do this in the first place? (Please make reference, and link, to those recent events.)




2. Please read danah boyd’s “The ethics of fear and how it undermines an informed citizenry” at Poynter.

Then answer either of these questions:
a. Considering the problem that boyd has identified in the attention economy, what are some news production sites (multimedia, newspaper, TV, radio, magazine, nonprofit investigative organization, etc. – however you identify them, as long as they’re news-related) that you think are working against this trend, and how are they getting attention without using fear to flog their stories? How do you think these sites are useful for people living in a democracy?



b. Considering that boyd gives exactly no examples in her piece, fill in her missing examples by finding fear-mongering headlines and stories in each of these areas: Twitter (link the tweet or tweets), Facebook (if it’s public, link to the actual FB post; if it’s private, link to the post to which the person linked), a TV station or network, a news site, and a magazine site. Explain how each of the examples you’ve found is unhelpful for people living in a democracy but might get more hits.


Part III is an Associated Press Style quiz, and isn’t online.

Midterm: Writing Transportation Election (Soft) 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, though I hope to have all of it back to you on Monday.

With your group, find out what people in your transportation area think about the presidential and local elections (and ballot initiatives, if they know about them – you will want to familiarize yourselves with them before you go out).

Together, you will go out and interview people who use your form of transportation about their thoughts/feelings about the election, and by 11:59 p.m. Friday, October 26, 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 (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.

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 (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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