August 2009 Archives

If you can read and assimilate a single paragraph, you have then developed your power to read and assimilate an entire book. And if you can follow and appreciate a single poem, you will have acquired the skill to comprehend other poems. In addition, if you can understand a single speech by a dramatic character--any speech--you can go on to do the same for the entire play.
--Writing About Literature, Roberts pg. 53

Roberts makes some pretty high claims in this introduction to chapter 2. I'm not saying that I don't believe him--I'm just saying that I think he should have mentioned just how much work is required to master these skills. And anyway, I'm not sure that I entirely agree with his statement. I've done my fair share of analyzing poetry, and I can honestly say from experience that it never gets any easier for me. And, sometimes, the point of a specific poem completely escapes me. The problem is this: every writer is different. Some metaphors are more obvious than others, and in some cases, you will get stumped. 
Having said that, I think that this chapter will be very helpful in trying to get "unstumped," so to speak. The "Raise Questions to Discover Ideas" sections of this chapter were probably my favorite part, because sometimes when I'm reading, I do get stuck--to the point where I can't even think of new questions to raise. Or, I'll just ask the really basic ones, too lazy to dig deeper. I'm not saying that I don't go in depth in my essays, but sometimes you just get tired of analyzing the same piece of literature for an extended period of time. 
Anyway, apart from these questions, the sample essays will be very useful in the upcoming months as we begin to write our own research-fueled literary response essays. I just hope (against hope and my own better judgement) that Roberts ends up being right about everything he said in his introduction, because I sadly doubt that analyzing a paragraph is the same as analyzing an entire book...but maybe that's just me. Maybe my peers think otherwise.

Prone to Visual Aid

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The pictures will carry the story. In fact, TV people will write the stories to the video they have and omit important details for which they don't.

Let's face it. Today, we live in a very visual world--so it really shouldn't surprise any of us that pictures really do carry the story. Just look at how many books are turned into movies. Look at the Harry Potter series. Sure, countless children have read the stories, but how many MORE do you think have seen the movies? It's a sad fact that when given the option between reading and watching, most everyone would choose the latter in a heartbeat.

 Even with print journalism, photographs are of the utmost importance. People simply LOVE pictures, and not just the pretty ones. Broadcast journalism has both advantages and disadvantages because of the publics love for visual media. As an advantage, Broadcast journalism can show more than newspapers can obviously--they can show videos as well as photos to help present their news. As I wrote about in Bleeding Leads to Major Turn-offs the teacher strike at my local high school made headline news. But thinking back, I'm not sure viewers would have been as interested in the news if there hadn't been so many tv cameras videotaping my teachers marching around outside the front of my high school. The visual really did make the story in this case.

Think about crime too. Although it's always interesting to hear about the local convenience store clerk who beat the robbers with a stick of pepperoni or whatever, having the convenience store video evidence makes it so much more enjoyable for viewers at home. Sure it's nice to hear about, but when it all boils down to nothing, the visuals are always going to win out against the opposite.


Broadcast Journalism = A Joke? Affirmative.

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Few reporters today are hired with an academic background or industry experience--other than broadcast journalism. Most of them move from city to city every two or three years as they move up in their careers to larger markets and better pay. So the experience they finally gain in learning a community is often lost because of this movement.

The more I read, the more broadcast journalism disgusts me. This particular section makes me sad more than anything else. I mean, going into the New Media Journalism major, I always knew that I would probably need to travel in order to find a decent job, but I just think this is ridiculous. Moving every two-three years? What's that statistic concerning how many times the average American will change jobs? I think it's seven to ten. SEVEN to TEN. That's ridiculous. Maybe if these people would actually try to apply themselves and take some extra time to utilize the experience they gain. Don't get me wrong, I'm just as eager as the next journalist to make my name known out there, but it really bothers me that most of these broadcast journalists legitimately aren't journalists. I always thought the way they talk and sort-of nod their heads was REALLY annoying, and now that I know it's all part of the act, it REALLY bugs me...
That being said, this essay was really informative, and if nothing else, I don't feel so bad for never wanting to be a broadcast journalist. Everytime I tell people that I'm majoring in Journalism, the first thing they say is "Oh, maybe I'll see you on tv someday." And I always correct them by just saying I don't like being filmed or public speaking or whatever, but now...NOW I have actual ammunition to fight my battles with...get ready boys, this could get ugly...

Bleeding Leads to major Turn-offs

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Crime is big--crime against the innocent even bigger. If there's a sexual angle, it will be there as explicitly as the TV people dare to say it, pretending their disgust on each successive newscast. And since people are fascinated with fire, photographers shoot lots of fire and news producers would run all they could get at the top of the show. They'd throw out the day's stories and throw their whole staff at a big fire for "team coverage" of any fire which still had big flames when the news crews go to the scene. That it might be an abandoned old warehouse doesn't matter. Viewers are drawn to spectacle and that makes yellow flames the lead story.
--"Local TV news is completely ratings driven," Greg Byron, broadcast Journalist

I really do have to agree with everything Byron said in this essay. Ratings destroyed broadcast journalism. As for "if it bleeds, it leads," I can honestly say that one of the biggest turn-offs from Tv news for me has always been the amount of troubling and "dangerous" news on each episode. In fact, I can recall several arguments I've gotten into with my parents over this same subject. Dad always gave me a hard time for not watching the news, but I always had the same argument, "why would I want to watch something that just makes me depressed? That's what my chick flicks are for..." They fill an entire news segment with tales of travesty and woe, strategically placing a few heart-warming (and sometimes humorous) stories in between to make sure the public isn't completely brainwashed into thinking that the whole world is a ticking bomb just waiting to go off.

While reading this essay, I thought back to the beginning of my junior year of high school, when wonderful Hempfield Area's teachers went on strike, demanding raises or at least compromises from our dutiful school board. Of course, this made it into the news, but if I recall correctly, the news crew was more interested in the protesters outside of my high school than they were about the actual strike. And, because I live right down the road from Hempfield, my neighbors and I always walked to school, and boy, those reporters couldn't wait to interview us as we walked along side the road...thinking back, I think they just asked us what we thought of the whole strike thing, and I remember getting so excited because I was a journalist for my school paper. I gave the reporter some long story about how I was worried that the strike would mess up my school schedule for preparing for AP exams. Needless to say, my quote wasn't exactly what they were looking for, so they used my neighbor's quote instead...I think he said something about wishing the strike would just be over. I'm not bitter or anything--I understand that they needed to use the quote that made the story, but even then, I wondered why they would use his quote over mine...

I guess the whole point I'm trying to make here is that it's a shame that tv news has come to this. It has so much potential, but instead it worries more about ratings than about reporting news. In a way, I feel like broadcast journalists give the rest of us journalists a bad name--I mean, I get that they're just trying to make a living like the rest of us, but how can you call yourself a real journalist when you fabricate your stories' teasers just to make your viewers more eager to watch more of your attempt at producing quality news?

Check out other student's thoughts here.

OOOOOO Bright shiny thing!!!

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It is very unfortunate that there are actual, legitimate news stations out in our world who actually report news just like the Onion Broadcast Spoof. Stuff like this joke really make one question the liability of current news stations. After watching this short clip, I couldn't help but think back to last night's 11 o' clock news, with its breaking news about a car accident. Wendy Bell said something along the lines of "We're told that two were injured and rushed to the hospital." While it's good to give the public information on the current events, perhaps this was one incident when it would have been better to keep the details to a minimum. Pretty soon, she would have probably ended up guessing what caused the accident (cars) or something stupid like that. I know that the Onion Spoof was an extreme parody of real news, but I still think it proves a good point. News anchors are so determined to keep their viewers tuned in that they'll make any situation sound far more perilous and interesting than it really is. It's almost like...OOOO BRIGHT SHINY THING!!! Wait, where was I? Oh, haha, it's almost like they get distracted too easily. And, let's face it, sometimes the reporters out on the field really have nothing to go on either, like the reporter at CMU who showed the clip of the "eyewitness who saw that the stairwell was roped off..." Isn't there any way that Broadcast news can become more reliable? How do they feel accomplished with feeding such bogus stories to their viewers? The world may never know...
Due to golf practice, I missed the evening news, so I ended up watching the 11 o'clock news. I must say that I was surprised by how much news they actually had tonight. The first conversation (between Wendy Bell and the weather guy--forgot his name) didn't happen until close to 20 minutes into the broadcast. However, the thing that REALLY surprised me, was the coverage of Carnegie Mellon University tonight. After explaining that WTAE does not normally cover suicides, Bell proceeded to correspond with a reporter on scene at Carnegie, where a 19 year old student was found dead in a stairwell. Not only did WTAE cover this news story, they interviewed several students--something I found to be rather uncomfortable. I could understand interviewing these students down the road, but immediately after the accident was kind of distasteful--especially because Carnegie Mellon refused to make a comment. What really bugged me, was that instead of moving onto new news, Bell began to talk about all the other issues CMU has been dealing with in the last week, but none of this information was related to the suicide on campus. They then discussed untreated depression, even though it really isn't news. 

I feel like Bell said "we don't normally cover suicides" just to draw the viewers in. Like, "Ooooh, they're doing something off the wall for once! They're branching out!"

I also noticed that most of the sources used in their news briefs were either neighbors or parents, or even policemen. 

It appears that sports news was the most important information of the night, because the news station waited until almost 11:30 to talk about the Steelers, even though they previewed the news several times. Newscasters spent time discussing the pirates before leading into more weather forecasting. It makes me think they ran out of information, because they showed the weather twice.

I was honestly surprised by how much news was provided in this episode of the news. It was a lot more than I expected. Nevertheless, they still spent a lot of time relaying information that could easily be found on the internet (such as suicide being the second leading cause of death for college students).

War.

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"I shot him dead because--/ Because he was my foe./ Just so: my foe of course he was;/ That's clear enough; although
"The Man He Killed" by Thomas Hardy, pg. 372

First off, let me just say that this poem completely escaped me after my first reading. It wasn't until line 17, "Yes: quaint and curious war is!" that I actually understood that the poem was about war. Looking back, I realize that if I had taken the time to read the footnotes, I probably would have picked up on that fact a lot sooner; however, after rereading the poem, I have a few thoughts. This section quoted at the top of my blog was my favorite stanza in the poem. Not only was it extremely poetic, it also points out the only reason that people die during a war, because someone is always someone's enemy.

While reading this poem, I thought back to "Luck" by Twain, and yet again, readers really have to question whether or not luck is a factor in war. Like the soldier (speaker) in the poem says, that had he met his foe on different terms, such as on the street or in a bar, they may have been friends. The thought of killing his fellow soldier would never have crossed his mind. Thus, we must think, is it luck, or rather, unluckiness? It's almost as if someone must always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But regardless, this really makes readers put things into perspective on how many innocent lives are wasted with war. Sure, the end result is usually for the best, but it's still sad to think of all the young men and women who give up their lives for the betterment of the world and our country. I've never been pro-war in any way, shape or form, but anyone who doesn't support our troops just because they don't agree with the war should step back and take a look at the big picture. If these people didn't choose to enlist, who would fight to defend us in the end?

Luck or Destiny?

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He is just as good and sweet and lovable and unpretending as a man can be, but he doesn't know enough to come in when it rains. Now that is absolutely true. He is the supremest ass in the universe; and until half an hour ago nobody knew it but himself and me. He has been pursued, day by day and year by year, but a most phenomenal astonishing luckiness. He has been a shining soldier in all our wars for a generation; he has littered his whole military life with blunders, and yet has never committed one that didn't make him a knight or a baronet or a lord or something.
-"Luck" by Mark Twain, pg. 362 in Writing About Literature

Some people are just born lucky. "Consequently, the took his idiotic blunders for inspirations of genius." This story really makes readers think about whether or not the same applies for other military leaders throughout history. Sure, this story is fictional, but there is that what if factor with war. What if Napoleon had marched his troops just a little further, enough to tucker them out, giving the enemy the upper hand? What if American radar had picked up on the Japanese Kamakazie planes. Would all of those lives still be lost at Pearl Harbor decades ago? This piece really makes us think about how much luck plays into military strategy. Sure, Napoleon was a genius, as was Paten, and everybody else we've studied throughout history, but if the luck had shifted even a little bit, would they still have been seen as military geniuses? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.

On the other hand, maybe luck doesn't play into it at all. You could take this piece of writing multiple ways. For example, if the reader believes that everything happens for a reason, luck wouldn't even enter the equation. Scoresby was just a product of time and destiny. Luck had nothing to do with it. Maybe it was just meant to be, or maybe Scoresby really was a genius and the clergyman missed it. I think it was einstein who failed math in high school? (don't quote me on that, because I'm probably wrong), but the point is. Some people may not be text book smart--that doesn't mean their as dull as a burnt out light bulb...

Broadcasting didn't kill Newspapers

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First of all, let me just say that I loved John Campbell's A Famous Person Has Died. Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's get down to business. I think a lot can be said about this comic. It is very unfortunate that so much of it is true. Too often the viewers at home find themselves listening to the latest news on the new death of some famous guy who's name we'll probably forget in the next decade.

Although I know brevity is kind of important with comic strips, Campbell could have taken this even further simply by including an "hours later" or even "days later" box to his strip. How long did the media include Michael Jackson in their nightly news? Wait, aren't they still talking about his death and his trust funds and all that other mumbo-jumbo?

Campbell make's a great argument here nonetheless. I can honestly say that I do not remember the last time I watched the evening news on my own. Sure, my parents always have CNN and MSNBC blasting in our living room, but I rarely pay attention. Some journalist I'm turning out to be, huh? But honestly, I've never really liked broadcast journalism. Okay, I'm done rambling for now, let me get back to my point: everytime I watch the news it seems like they spend more time leading up to a story than they do actually telling a story. This comic is a great representation of that fact too--the reporters often waste time repeating the same information, only with different wording in order to keep the listeners attention long enough for some breaking news.

I guess the bottom line is, not all breaking news holds the attention of the audience like newscasters might hope. It really does make me appreciate print journalism more, though. Because broadcast journalism is so up-to-the-minute specific, they have to bring in "experts" who no one has ever heard of or cares to learn about. Newspapers, on the other hand, have the opportunity to actually credit their sources and thus, in my opinion, newspaper articles sound more intelligent.

For more insights, see our comments on the comic.

Leads lead to information

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On A3, "Swine flu toll may hit 90,000" has a very long lead; however, it seems to work simply because the lead is separated by several paragraphs. Thus, the first section of the opening sentence, "Swine flu may infect half the nation's population this year..." is a great lead, and follows up with plenty of information that will grip the readers. This is an excellent example of a direct lead (Clark & Scanlan 292).

In "Ghost enthusiasts could experience courtroom terror," (B1-B2), the author illustrates the selection of the "best material" (Clark & Scanlan 292). After explaining that trespassers will be prosecuted for their crimes, the article takes a turn as the author begins to describe what the old  insane asylum used to house during its days of operation--"Giannini believes that some interest in the vacant asylum was spurred by rooms that were used to administer shock therapy and perform lobotomies, methods used to treat mental illness before the 1960s."

A great example of the inverted pyramid can be found on B6, in "Man dies while repairing silo." The author takes full advantage of his narrative licenses with this article, as he slowly unveils the story of a man who died on his 40th birthday. By giving the reader information slowly, the author took advantage of writing his story in chronological order, after explaining that the man died. (Clark & Scanlan 294)

See Clark & Scanlan for more examples.

Writing About Literature: Preliminary

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If you don't get your thoughts into writing in some way, your thinking will be incomplete. It is therefore vital for you to use the writing process as a means of developing your ideas. For many students, it is a psychological necessity to carry out this process by pencil, pen, or typewriter.
-Writing About Literature, pg. 29

It would be wrong for me to say that this entire chapter has simply been a review for me, because I did learn a few new insights into writing about literature. At the same time, I do feel like I was reading a lot of the same stuff that I've had to go over in high school. I'm not going to be quite as blunt as I once was in Writing for the Internet, when I talked about Crawford Killian's book on writing for the web, but I do have to say that I wish this chapter was...I don't know...maybe a little less involved? For example, almost every suggestion given to the reader concerning analysis while reading a piece of literature was followed by a series of questions the reader could ask himself while reading their chosen written work. 

Okay, I think I'm done complaining for now, because despite this lengthy start to this book, I did take several things from the book. Early on in the chapter, Roberts gives "guidelines for reading," which are actually pretty helpful, in my opinion. I especially liked his idea of keeping all of your notes for a piece of literature in a specific notebook so that you can go back to them at any time. When I was in middle school, I remember writing my reactions to whatever book I was reading at the time next to my description of the main plot points as the story progressed. Although this was required of me by my 8th grade Adv. English teacher, I still think it really helped me to become not only a better writer, but a better reader as well.

One thing I really liked was the idea of breaking up your analysis into a pro and con. I'm seriously considering using this idea on my next paper to help me to create a strong argument for a piece of literature. I love brainstorming, and being that this is an alternative to the usual "bubble" brainstorming, I'm excited to try it out.

The quote at the beginning of this blog entry made me think back to my days of AP English 11. This English course is still the most difficult class I have ever taken (so far). In more ways than one, that English course prepared me for college, but there is a specific reason that I'm thinking of it now. In this course, we were assigned several readings at a time, as well as analytical questions to go along with the readings. We read poetry by Frost, Whitman and others, and we also read stories by Irving, Milton, Hawthorne and several other American authors/poets. However, writing the answers wasn't really the hard part. Sure it was time consuming, but what made it painful for me was the fact that he required all of his students to hand-write all of our responses. We weren't allowed to type our answers on the computer until the 3rd or 4th quarter of the year. However, as painful as this may have been for me, it made me the writer that I am today. There's something about writing on a piece of paper that...I really don't know how to put it exactly...that makes writing flow easier than if it's written on a pc. I think the main problem is that when we write something on a computer, we have too many distractions. Facebook...iTunes...YouTube...who knows what else...the point is, when you write something with a pencil or pen, you can stay clear of electronic distractions. Then, when it's time to finally make adjustments, you can type the whole thing out and use the computer to move everything around at a much faster rate. Personally, I've always been a fan of printing a copy of my work and marking it up all on my own. It's probably because I was a copy editor in high school as well as a writing assistant, but whatever the reason, writing stuff down on paper always helps me to get my creative juices flowing.

I really hate to say that most of this chapter is a review, but I would be lying if I said it wasn't, but I'm not saying this in a bad way. It was a great refresher--I just hope that the rest of the book is more insightful than this first chapter. Having said that, I do appreciate the tips given throughout this chapter--I just feel that the same tips could have been given with less explanation to follow.

High school flashback? -"The Necklace"

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...she dreamed of expensive banquets with shining place settings, and wall hangings portraying ancient heroes and exotic birds in an enchanted forest. She imagined a gourmet-prepared main course carried on the most exquisite trays and served on the most beautiful dishes, with whispered gallantries that she would hear with a sphinxlike smile as she dined on the pink meat of a trout or the delicate wing of a quail.
--"The Necklace," para 4.

First of all, bare with me...I haven't written a blog in several months, so this one might be a little shaky and unorganized...

I first read this short story as a freshman in my Honors English 9 class at lovely Hempfield Area High School. Looking back, I can say with little doubt that I did not enjoy the literature very much--compared to some of the other stories we read that year, such as "The Cask of Amontillado," who could blame me for not being interested in a selfish young girl who pays the price of desiring too many shiny and expensive things?Anyway, now that I'm older--and hopefully wiser, I enjoyed this story a lot more. Maybe I just read into it more than I did in the past, or maybe it helped that I knew how the story would progress and eventually end. Either way, when I opened our textbook, Writing About Literature, in order to read "The Necklace," I tried to keep an open mind and read the story as though I'd never even heard of it before. For me, this was rather successful.

The passage above has nothing to do with plot or setting or any of that business--that's not why I chose it. I could have talked about the moral of this story, or about the setting or the plot, but instead, I chose this particular passage, because I absolutely loved the vivid sensory details included in this story. There are other sections in which the author, Guy de Maupassant, describes Mathlide's surroundings, but I felt that this one meant more, because it was actually something that even she wasn't actually able to see--only imagine. 

As a journalism major, I know the importance of details. At the same time, I also know the importance of managing details. News stories rarely include such vivid sensory details, so I always take full advantage of them when I run across them in the literature that I'm reading. When I read, I try to visualize the story in my mind, so for me, the more sensory details, the better.

On a whole, I would have to say that these details are what really make this short story as successful as it is. Just look at the comments the book leaves for us on the side of the page. Instead of saying, "She suffered because of her grim apartment with its drab walls, threadbare furniture, ugly curtains," imagine if the lines simply said, "She suffers because of her cheap belongings, wanting expensive things." I guess this is an excellent example of show vs. tell. These sensory details help readers to identify with Mathlide, even if we might still think that she is somewhat selfish and materialistic. Without them, the story would have not had the same effect on its readers, even though the moral of the story would still be visible.

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