September 2009 Archives

Afflicted with the Frost

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**Hey all.  Last year in Introduction to Literature, we were asked to parody Frost's Aquainted with the Night.  Since we're on to Frost again, I thought I'd post this.  (I'm actually a Robert Frost fan, this was just written after a particularly Frost-heavy week)

Afflicted with the Frost -Josie Rush


I have been one afflicted with the Frost,
I have read over poems and under poems,
I have felt the cause was lost.
 
I have received assignments with a groan,
I have copied verses with a sigh,
Since I must revisit the Less Traveled Road.
 
I have Stopped by the Woods to cry
I have prayed to gain endurance with age,
Since I'll be reading Frost until I die.
 
I have dried my tears on a well-worn page
While I watched the Woods fill up with snow,
Forever trapped in Bobby's cage,
Knowing I still have miles to go.
Knowing I still have miles to go.

Roberts reiterates much of what I've covered before, whether in college or high school, concerning "problem papers."  One way my high school English teacher taught us to write about problems and not questions was to ask why.  For example, in the chapter, Roberts says: "The question, 'Who is the major character in Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet?" is not a problem...however, 'Why is it correct to say that Hamlet is the major character' [is a problem]" (Roberts 175).  Admittedly, asking "why" will not always create a problem from a question, but it is a good place to start, because it asks us to explore literary conventions and pay attention to phrasing. 

I thought the sample essay did a good job of breaking down the author's thought process into small, inarguable steps, so that the reader came naturally to a conclusion.  When the author says that in order to claim that the change at the end of the poem did not come out of nowhere, there must be evidence of preparation beforehand (179), this seems so logically it is almost obvious.  However, there is no rule that says that the change had to be built up to in order to be effective; this is the author's opinion.  In the paper, though, the opinion is listed early on, and it is listed as a type of rule the essay is going to follow.  More importantly, it is also listed convincingly.  The writer is saying "This is how I'm going to look at the poem" and that is important so the author and reader are on the same page (pardon the pun).  It's important that the author be convincing from the start, not wait until the body of the paper to persuade.  If the writer fails to convince the reader that these rules are sensible, then the paper is lost before it even begins.       

It's Repetitive. And Redundant.

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The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is that loneliness

Will be more lonely ere it will be less (8-10, Frost; Desert Places)

 

I'm not sure if anyone else had it drilled into them to avoid repetition.  Ironically, this advice was repeated over and over again.  So, what's up with Frost?  Did he miss those days in English class?  The man repeats the word lonely (or variations of the word) four times in three lines.  Loneliness...lonely....loneliness...lonely...And now the reader is starting to wonder if Frost perhaps feels lonely.  Maybe a thesaurus could keep him company.

But before we're too hard on Frost, I'm going to lead you all down that lane that is named Memory and allow you to have a seat in my high school English class (you're welcome).  We had been reading A Separate Peace, when Mrs. Karns, my favorite English teacher, pointed out a particular paragraph when Gene describes how Finny looks when he's sleeping.  In the few lines the author uses to depict this scene, the word dead is repeated at least three times.   Anyone who's read this book before will recognize that this paragraph is pretty blatant foreshadowing.  My teacher explained that the constant lecturing against redundancy had its limits.   

"Good writers can break the rules.  It's not a crime to have the same word listed twice in a paragraph, but you have to have a reason for it.  Not being able to think of another word is not a real reason.," Mrs. Karns hastened to add.

In this case, Frost was actually describing the word loneliness by using the word lonely.  Generally this is no-no, but Frost uses the repetition to illustrate that the feeling is not going to get better, it's not going to vary in any way except to worsen.   

**Aja talks about poets breaking the rules in a blog entry about Wordsworth

In the West Hawaii Today paper, the pictures overlapping with the text is the sort of visual pull a casual observer may need to take a closer look.  However, as Angela mentions in her blog, the headline "Ondoy leaves more than 100 dead, missing" seems to contrast too much with the "fun" pictures.  While the headline is important news, it's poorly juxtaposed on a page with a whale reaching into a column of text and a football player hauling back to make a pass.

Though, does that really matter?  The front page has already done its job; it's grabbed a potential reader's attention.  Is that headline placement a little tacky?  Possibly.  Will the reader be so appalled by its placement that she tosses the paper aside?  Probably not.  100 people dead or missing is big news, and, while we don't know what the rest of the paper contains, we can probably assume that many of the other stories paled in comparison to the confusion, panic, and thirst for information that this story undoubtedly provided. 

I also can't imagine that those in charge of layout can wait for a day of purely happy news to include pictures of wildlife and athletics on the front page.  There will always be a somber story to include.  I'm the first to agree that it's odd to see Free Willy leaping towards a headline about death and destruction, but in this case, I don't think the oddity would have cost the paper any readers.

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In Journalism, There's Nothing to Zing About

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Chapter Six

"If you have solid information logically marshaled, the readers will draw their own inferences, without the aid of zingers" (Cappon 55).

Here we can also refer to the rule we were given for comma usage: When in doubt, leave it out.  Will the reader be confused by a sentence's meaning if we drop phrases like "of course" or "surprisingly"?  When we include such leading terms, betraying our own opinions, we're losing our objectivity.  Without even delving too deeply into this issue, I can think of two ways including these "zingers" can go wrong.  Perhaps the event or description we are "zinging" will naturally lead the reader to the conclusion we were trying to draw.  For example, is it necessary to include the term "tragically" when talking about an accident in which five people died?  Probably not.  In this case, that would just be wasted space, which, in journalism, is a big no-no.  Though, things could go the other way as well.  Perhaps the reader doesn't find an event particularly "shocking" yet you've tossed in that word in hopes of generating a certain response.  Well, the only response the reader will have to that will be confusing.  The last thing we want to do is distract our reader from the heart of our article with unnecessary words.

Chapter Eight

"Quotes should pull lustily on the oars to help move the story along" (68).   

While quotes add authenticity to stories, they're of no use if they're simply in the article for the sake of being in the article.  If a quote just restates a fact already mentioned, it's done nothing but waste space and patience.  Sometimes quotes can introduce a new fact, and then the reporter can expand in his/her own words after, or vice versa, but, as always, repetition should be avoided.  Just as bad as redundant quotes are the random quotes that follow no train of thought.  It's important to keep the flow of the article uninterrupted, and include quotations smoothly.

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Juxtaposition: Dancing Daffodils and Lustful Swans

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"The world is too much with us; late and soon,/ Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;/ Little we see in Nature that is ours." (1-3) Wordsworth, The World Is Too Much with Us

 

Perhaps it is these lines that best exemplify the feeling behind Wordsworth's hand in the Romantic movement.  He and other Romantics call for an appreciation of nature, a unity between our spirits and the Earth's spirit.  Peace can be found by returning to nature, gazing at the clouds, or "dancing with the daffodils."  Some people find this view on life and poetry invigorating.  Some people find it a bit tired. 

When we discussed Wordsworth in my Introduction to Poetry class, our professor told us that Wordsworth's poetry was sometimes accused of being simple both in theme and in word selection. 

I can see the critics' point, but I don't agree.  Wordsworth is not my favorite poet, but he had something going for him; an enduring theme lasting over a century.  Nature has a quality of peaceful restoration.  It's kept us taking walks when we need to think, tending gardens when we need to relax, and staring at stars when we need to find beauty.    

 

"I said, 'A line will take us hours, maybe;/ Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,/ Our stitching and unstitching has been naught." (4-6) Yeats, Adam's Curse

 

The enduring theme of Yeats' poetry is man's heightened intellect and what this brings.  Power, sadness, struggle, strength?  It is this intelligence that leads to a poem of self-exile in "Sailing to Byzantium" when Yeats laments, "This is no country for old men" (1).  Yeats recognized the changing times and felt that he was too aged to belong in his homeland any longer.  It is this intelligence that leads to a poem of cursed clairvoyance in "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death."  An ignorant man could not guess that his time was ending, or proclaim that "The years to come seemed a waste of breath"(14).

Who could argue that this theme is anything but continuing?  There are certain things that are valued universally, regardless of culture or religion, and intelligence is one of them.  While some may argue that we are beginning to undervalue intellect, I would say that the world is simply changing, and it is impossible to discover a faculty of human life like intelligence and then be happy with anything less than the full employment of this faculty.  Our dignity demands such effort.  Just as nature will always have a place in mankind's heart, so will those with powerful minds forever have a space in our souls.  Wordsworth and Yeats, while both spearheading different movements, both found themes that will long outlast the generations that follow them.       

"Not that I'm some kind of feminist.

I shave my legs and get nervous in a crowd-"  -Constance [Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), MacDonald, 37]

 

Yet the type of analysis I would be most apt to use on this play would be feminist.  While Constance may have warily waved off the title of a feminist, one of her counterparts would almost certainly have embraced it.  Had Desdemona lived in our time, she would have had no problem claiming that she was the equal to a man.  She longs for Othello's position over his army, and demands that Iago teach her to use a sword.  (Now, I'm not saying anything about the aggression or violence of feminists.  I actually consider myself to be a feminist, so just bear with me until the end)

Juliet, on the other hand, searching for love and death hand in hand so that she can be complete, and then die before this completeness evades her, would win the title of feminist from a far fewer number.  Though, in the end,  Desdemona is just as frowned upon as Juliet.  Juliet is a death-crazed, lovesick airhead, but Desdemona is violent, bloodthirsty, and vindictive.  Neither are the sharpest quills on the parchment, and both end up falling short of Constance's original imagined characters. 

Constance sets out to prove that neither Desdemona or Juliet were hapless victims, despite the popular interpretations.  In the end, Constance proves herself both right and wrong.  The women aren't the victims of circumstance, but of their own character.  Constance, too was the victim of her own character.  She enslaved herself to an uncaring man, lied for him for years, and then was brushed aside because she was too timid to do the right thing for herself.  With the help of some girl talk in the form of monologues and iambic pentameter, Constance is soon trying to assure herself that she wasn't a hapless victim.  She bites out her disbelief of "love at first sight" to Juliet, and then admits that, well, maybe she did fall in love with Professor Night the first time she saw him.  This shows that Constance, just like the two Shakespearean women she encounters, was a victim of circumstance.  Is the fact that she fell prey to this snare the reason she isn't a feminist?

I say thee nay.

The fact that Constance is our imperfect hero, falling then rising again, going on a journey of self-discovery that leads to some painful revelations, all make Constance more of a feminist than Desdemona or Juliet.  Mere aggression and thirst for power does not make a person a feminist.  There are a lot of bad connotations with this word, when it's really not as scary as many people (Constance included) believe.  Constance is a part of a field she claims is ruled primarily by men, and yet she is writing for one, and her writing is accepted.  She stands up to Iago, reasons with Othello, and resists Romeo's charms (well, mostly).  Constance's struggle for knowledge led to an equality that may have otherwise eluded her.

Karyssa covers this topic as well in her entry.

When the Old is Made New

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In Golden Gate Park layoffs, Kelly M. House uses the lonely scene of an emptying park to show readers one effect of our country's financial crisis.

"The whole park's problem is sort of a symptom.  California is broke right now, the city is in trouble, there's probably going to be belt tightening everywhere." 

This quote says plainly what House was trying to get across to readers.  The park had been forced to freeze hiring, adding to the workload of its employees.  Here House paints a picture of what could be forced onto the sacrificial altar created by money problems. 

Though House finishes with an inspiring quote by an employee stating "the parks will survive," her whole article paints a dire picture for not only these areas, but the state as well.  The quote comes off as a either determined optimism or a desperate mantra.  And, considering the overlying theme, it kind of works.

 

In the article, Ethanol Indy Cars by Matthew Baker, Baker takes the choice of one driver to switch to ethanol fuel, and works that into a theme that is roughly: our natural resources are depleting and people should be more responsible.  Baker draws a wider audience by not focusing on the tired issue of pollution, but by mentioning Indy cars instead.  He also has an interesting lead, that seems to contradict itself and invites the reader to keep reading for explanation.  Although Baker's topic is not news even in the greatest stretch of the imagination, it still seems like news, because something small, not really newsworthy happened, and he found a connection.

To find out more about the structure of these articles, read Greta's entry.

Jennifer also discusses the technique of using specfic stories to cover "bigger pictures."

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Tips for Crime Reporting

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Readers or listeners often want an explanation of why crimes happen. They ask: "Could it happen to me?" -The News Manual, Crime Reporting

Though, as we've already established in this class, the news has a tendency of making people more paranoid than necessary.  When consulting the news, the answer to the question "Could it happen to me" is nearly always a resounding yes.  Part of this is because the news constantly reports the strange, the unsafe, and the unsettling, so viewers are constantly bombarded with these images.  If one of the few connections an elderly person has to the outside world is the news, then it is easy to see how they would think these things are very common, when in fact, the news is constantly reporting things out of the norm. 

Criminals take risks and face punishment if they are caught. This may make them fascinating to read about.

Well, true, but I'm not sure this should be under the "Why Report Crime" section.  It's more...a lucky benefit for the paper than a reason.  It makes everyone sound a little sadistic, doesn't it?  "Well, if the person is being punished, then, heck yeah I'll read about him.  Hm.  Fascinating."  Of course, this is still true, no matter how strange it seems in print.  My point is, however, the other reasons for reporting crime are so much more valid, that this doesn't seem to belong in the category.

( "But they may also be interested in the story of a sneak thief who broke into a poor widow's home and killed her much-loved cat". Wow.  Thanks for that cheerful scenario.  I'm sure we'll all keep our eyes out for such a lucky scene.  Geesh.)

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When Redundancy Isn't a Crime

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Dr. Jerz asks us to consider how much room is left for style and depth in a crime report when there is no time for interviews or intense follow-up.  I think that in the crime report Would-be robbery victim fights back, the journalist shows there's still room for a touch of style.  I know, most of us cringed when reading "police said" over and over again.  After all, we're taught to avoid redundancy.  But, at this point, we know that this "police said" is necessary.  It's also a good way to "pass the buck," if some information from the police turns out to be wrong.  What if the robber is caught and has light hair?  The reporter is free of critique because, hey, the  "police said."  This journalist does a good job of including all the facts and keeping things concise.

In the other article, Plea deals reached in Jeanette enslavement, kidnap case, more detail was added and the wording was less repetitive.  There wasn't nearly as much "police said" or "allegedly" surfacing on the page, because this case has already had time to progress, and the need to clarify each statement has dissipated.  There's more personal detail about the criminals, more quotes, and more trial information.  Clearly this is because there was more time to write. 

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If You Can't Read Him, Read a Parody

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"Nay, love's a bond of servitude;

A trap that sly deceptors lay for fools-"  -(MacDonald, 69)

 

Oh, come on now.  Who doesn't love them a little jaded monologue?  I know I do.  And who, at one point or another, hasn't wanted to read the part of Romeo and Juliet where Romeo discovers Juliet chews with her mouth open, or Juliet finds out Romeo has some nasty back hair.  Was young love accurately portrayed by Shakespeare?  Sure, if the love only had to make it for three days.  And we see from MacDonald's version of things, that three days was the staying power of this particular relationship.  We also get to see a parodying of the death-happy Juliet and the bloodthirsty Desdemona.  What could be better? 

MacDonald goes on to point out the scenes in each play that drive an audience member crazy.  We've all been in a similar position as Constance when she is disgruntled over the sloppiness of these "tragedies," even if this didn't occur when we were watching a Shakespearean play.  Maybe you were watching TV, and a character's boyfriend is sitting with another girl.  We know they're just talking about a paper, but from the angle our protagonist sees them, they seem to be getting ready to....er, cuddle.  Now, as the protagonist runs off, don't we all give a groan of disgust?  "Talk to him, already!" we yell at the screen, as the protagonist dissolves into tears.  This was the exclamation Constance gave when Othello took Iago's word about the handkerchief, and Romeo decided not to tell Tybalt that they were now cousins.  Sorry Will, but MacDonald has a point; those scenes are just irritating (11).    

If I were to recommend this book to someone, I would suggest that if they hadn't read either of the Shakespeare masterpieces portrayed in this play to at least scan a summary.  I hadn't ever read Othello (I know, bad English major, bad), and I appreciated the play so much more once I had an idea of what was being changed.  Obviously, this isn't necessary, but it does help one catch some of the "inside jokes" going on. 

I would have loved to see this play last a little longer.  My only complaint is that it felt rushed.  We saw that meeting between Constance and the Professor, and, much like in Romeo and Juliet, were expected to believe there was love on one side.  Though, in retrospect, that's an interesting theme to continue.  We have to believe in love at first sight; as in the first time we see two characters together, we have to believe there's love.  I could read Constance's iambic speeches forever, I loved when she answered a long monologue with "Oh.", and the battle cry of "Bullshit!" almost wrung a cheer from me as well.  Maybe that's why I wanted it to last longer.  But, since the reading had to be done for Monday, I think that particular wish makes me the Fool.

Here's the Wind-up...And the Pitch....

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"Look at it from the editor's point of view. This is not selling out or 'playing the game,' this is framing your idea in a way that will strike the right chords with the newspaper and get your story into print." -Joe Grimm, How to pitch a story

So often reporters are worried about "selling out."  Covering that big corporation feud between millionaire owners when you really want to do a piece on the homeless in your town can seem like pushing aside your values.  But, really, here's the thing: If your paper won't print it, you're writing for an audience of one.  That's not saying drop the original idea.  Stick to writing about the homeless, but give it a spin.  Your editor is more interested in the business pieces right now?  Fine.  How is the presence of the homeless effecting marketing?  Are people avoiding these places to elude the poor on the streets? 

Despite Joe Grimm's claim to the contrary, this is "playing the game".  It's just that playing the game isn't such a horrible thing.  It's not a compromise of moral integrity; it's making sure your voice is heard so you can (if not now, then eventually) write about the stories that matter.

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Profile1

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Coverage and Timeliness: Here are all of the entries that I've posted so far this semester.  Also, each of my entries were posted in a timely manner, so these sections are combined:

OK...Right...Whoa, What? - a blog about those passages that just don't make sense

Forget the Bird, What's the Cage Singing About? - a bit of symbolism that wasn't as clear as the canary in the play "Trifles" and what this symbol means for the play's undertones

What She Said - what value was there in learning about Minnie Wright through every character *except* Minnie Wright?

Strangling Verse -a reflection on Billy Collins poem "Introduction to Poetry" and some links to other great poems by this poet

Blather, Wince, Repeat - why Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge flopped for me. Twice.

Lying Eyes - the joys of an unreliable narrator and a book recommendation

The One That Got Away -Thomas Hardy's story, The Three Strangers, lacked something important--conflict. 

So Tell Me About Yourself -the reason we come back to literature? Exposition. 

It Makes My Love More Strong, To Read a Sonnet that I May Leave Ere Long -a Shakespearean sonnet gives us an example of "showing vs telling."

Daddy Issues - Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy" is powerful for many reasons.  This blog expands on a few of them.

 

Depth:

Forget the Bird, What's the Cage Singing About?

What She Said

Strangling Verse

Lying Eyes

OK...Right...Whoa, What?

 

Interaction:

This Isn't Literary Surgery? Karyssa Blair

-My comment was the first of five on Karyssa's blog about the difficulty of analyzing literature.  Here I gave some reasons that people tend to over-analyze and lack confidence in this aspect of literature.

 For the Love of Em Dashes - Karyssa Blair

-Here Karyssa discusses the use of dashes in Thomas Hardy's poem, The Man He Killed.  I had a differing opinion on their usefulness in this poem, and a small discussion occured.

All Tied Up- Aja Hannah

-This was Aja's take on Trifles.  I participated in a conversation about the female characters that continued for nine comments.

It Takes a Paragraph to Make a Book -Jessie Krehlik

-Jessie disagrees with a quote from our textbook...and it seems all our classmates agree with Jessie.  In my comment I helped point out the folly in the book's reasoning.

Someone Needed to Tie the Knot -Melissa Schwenk

-In this entry, Melissa discusses the motive the women in Trifles may have had for covering up the murder of Mr. Wright.  I give my opinion in the first comment on the blog.  This conversation continued for seven comments.

 

Discussion:

OK...Right...Whoa, What?

Forget the Bird, What's the Cage Singing About?

Strangling Verse

Blather, Wince, Repeat

Lying Eyes

The One That Got Away

So Tell Me About Yourself

It Makes My Love More Strong, To Read a Sonnet that I May Leave Ere Long

 

Xenoblogging:

Strangling Verse -here I posted links to other Billy Collins' poems.  Also, when commenting, Jessica wondered about Collins' work (was he a teacher, as it seemed in the poem?), so I did a quick search and answered her question in a comment.

This Isn't Literary Surgery? -Karyssa Blair

I was the first to comment on Karyssa's entry, including reasons why analyzing literature is so difficult at times.

Fire and Rebirth -Jessica Orlowski

Jessica wondered about a stanza in Plath's Poem, Lady Lazarus.  I included a somewhat lengthy comment detailing my interpretation, and followed up the conversation with another comment about an interview with Plath.

The Type of Awe Thou Mayst in Blog Behold -Karyssa Blair

Karyssa points out the use of second-person in Shakepeare's sonnet.  In my comment, I state that second-person is very common in poetry and give a few examples.

 

Wildcard:

Forget the Bird, What's the Cage Singing About?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portfolio 1

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This is a portfolio of the work I've done so far in our Newswriting course at Seton Hill.   To see more portfolios from my classmates, click here

Coverage: (These are all of the blogs I have posted this semester)

Fire Pretty, News Bad -a look at what's in the news and why

Stop Talking and Tell Us Something -a critique of the chatter among anchors during a news broadcast.

Clones, Pies, and Other Things that Make the News -what makes a story newsworthy?

I Would Read it On a Plane, I Would Read it in the Rain -a discussion of a Dr. Seuss profile, and what makes the profile different from other types of newswriting

I Think This is What I Think -the difference between the English essay and a news story

Words They Never Say - the struggle to obtain worthwhile quotes

The Only Titles I Can Think of Are Tasteless, so Obituaries it is - a closer look at obituaries and why they are the way they are

A Play, Because My Relationship with the News Inspires that Kind of Passion - my version of "The News and I"

Reading for the Comics - a reflection on my peers' relationship with the news

Doubt- The Enemy of Succinctness - what drives us to verbosity?

Trust Me, I was There - backing descriptions up with evidence

Better Know What You're Not Doing - knowing the rules before you break them

Some Rules Really Aren't Meant to be Broken - a look at some AP rules and why they exist

The Wheels on the Bus Go 'Round and...AH! - are reporters insensitive about their "bus plunge" stories?

Why Long Plunges Make for Short Stories - why the bus plunge story can be so short without being disrespectful

Digging is for Reporters and Shovels, Not Readers - articles should be an "easy read," not buried in prose and pointless facts. 

All Together Now...Remember Your Audience - an old piece of advice, but how to follow through on it?

 

Depth:

Fire Pretty, News Bad

-Here I talked about our tendency as viewers to flock towards disasters, making this "what the people want."  I brought up a somewhat recent even to tie into my blog (Michael Jackson's memorial service and coverage)

Better Know What You're Not Doing

-In this blog, I wrote about the importance of knowing the rules before straying from them.  I used an example from our reading, and an example from another type of writing to show how important mastering the rules was when writing.

Some Rules Really Aren't Meant to Be Broken

-This was a blog about the AP rules.  Instead of just listing rules and corrections to mistakes, I picked a particular rule and gave reasons for its existence

Words They Never Say

-This blog laments the difficulty of getting "good" quotes, but explains why it is important to do so, especially in a profile piece.  The comments that this entry received also offered some advice on gathering helpful quotations.

The Only Titles I Can Think of are Tasteless...So Obituaries it is

-Here I discussed why obituaries were usually so formalized, as this was a common point from many of my peers during class discussion. 

 

Interaction:

When Writing SHOW Don't Tell - Dereck Tickle

-I was the first of four to comment this blog, and a discussion of what was helpful and unhelpful when writing and revising news articles took place.

Duck Profile? -Aja Hannah

-In this blog, Aja talked about the possibility that the journalist took too long to get to the point in his profile piece.  I was the second to comment on this blog (Dr. Jerz beat me to the punch), but followed up my comment after several more people added their opinion to the piece.  This blog had a total of nine comments.

Good Quotes Can Win Awards- Angela Palumbo

-Angela discusses the difficulty of finding good quotes (we were on the same page with this subject), and myself and several classmates sent her our advice.  I was the first person to include my advice and experience in gathering quotes.

Children's Author Tortured by Own Genius- Angela Palumbo

-Angela called for opinions at the end of her blog on the Dr. Seuss Profile we read in class.  I was the first to comment here, stating that I enjoyed the writer's simplicity.  While one of the comments seemed to coincide with mine, the other disagreed, saying the writer's word choice was questionable.  Here my comment sparked a discussion that may have lacked the quantity of posts, but definitely had the quality.

 

Discussion:

The Only Titles I Can Think of are Tasteless...So Obituaries it is

Doubt-The Enemy of Succinctness

-While this entry didn't have an amazing amount of comments, Matt did challenge some of my ideas and gave me a chance to defend them and clarify my points.

 Clones, Pies, and Other Things that Make the News

Better Know What You're Not Doing

 

Timeliness: (These are the entries that were posted in a timely manner)

Fire Pretty, News Bad

Stop Talking and Tell Us Something

Clones, Pies, and Other Things that Make the News

I Would Read it On a Plane, I Would Read it in the Rain

I Think This is What I Think

Words They Never Say

The Only Titles I Can Think of Are Tasteless, so Obituaries it is

A Play, Because My Relationship with the News Inspires that Kind of Passion

Reading for the Comics

Doubt- The Enemy of Succinctness

Trust Me, I was There

Better Know What You're Not Doing

Some Rules Really Aren't Meant to be Broken

The Wheels on the Bus Go 'Round and...AH!

Why Long Plunges Make for Short Stories

Digging is for Reporters and Shovels, Not Readers

All Together Now...Remember Your Audience

 

Xenoblogging: (Some examples of how I contributed to our class's blogging community)

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and...Ah!

-Here I linked to Greta's blog.  She had mentioned that she'd never actually seen an article about a bus plunge before, and, as I had been thinking the same thing, I included that in my blog.

The Tragedy of a Bus Plunge Story-Comparing these Fillers- Jeanine O'Neal

-I was the first to comment here, and respectfully disagreed with some of Jeanine's statements.  Several comments followed, including a response from Jeanine.

Duck Profile?  Aja Hannah

When Writing SHOW Don't Tell- Dereck Tickle

Crazy Confusing Names- Aja Hannah

-Here I directed Aja to Jeanine's blog, because they were wondering about the same type of AP issues.

 

Wildcard:

Better Know What You're Not Doing

-This is one of my favorite entries so far, mainly because it inspired this reflection by Angela.  That kind of feedback really encouraged me to put a lot of effort into my blogs.

All Together Now...Remember Your Audience

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"Long, complicated sentences present no obstacle to professional readers.  But we don't writer for professional readers" (Cappon 37).

How many times have we been reminded to write for a specific audience?  My rough guess--A lot.  One thing I've learned about oft repeated phrases over the years (like, chew your food completely, don't run down the stairs, stay away from dark alleys) is that they usually carry some beneficial knowledge in them.  The thing about writing for the general public, though, is, to be frank, it's difficult. 

Personally, sometimes when someone points out a leap of logic in my writing, my first reaction is to be puzzled.  "But, I know exactly what I mean," I'll think.  The fact that I am initially confused by the concern exemplifies my need for fresh eyes.  In the type of writing I'm used to doing (more literature-based, less journalism), this doesn't pose a problem.  I can easily find a willing reader to offer advice.  In a journalistic setting, where things are more time-sensitive, this may not always be the case.  That's why it's important to get in the habit of writing sophisticated articles that Joe down the block can understand.  To do this, I think we need to make our first goal (aside from accuracy) reader comprehension.  If we sacrifice prose for practicality, so be it.  Of course, it's possible for skill and understanding to coexist, we just have to diligently work on both.  To recycle another repeated phrase, practice makes perfect.

Digging is for Reporters and Shovels, Not Readers

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Every now and then, I'll read a rule in one of our style books, and my first reaction will be, "Oh.  Oops."  Right from the beginning, Cappon revealed a mistake I'd made in our recent assignment, the Accident Report. 

"To avoid mumblers, the lead writer must first of all decide what the most important news is..." (Cappon 24)

For some reason I found writing the lead extremely difficult.  I had a hard time deciding what to include, the pedestrian being struck by a car, or a package being stolen as the car's driver went to help the pedestrian.  Should I include both, and if so, how?  In this case, I could not decide which incident to highlight, and so I clumsily inserted them both.  I'm sure there were many of you able to skillfully include both.  I, however, am sadly exiled from your group. 

Getting to the point, and not "burring the news" will ensure that your reader knows why he/she should bother with your article.  Making the lead comprehendible lets the reader know that he/she will be able to bother with your article.      

Daddy Issues

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I decided I would join the hordes of readers rushing towards Sylvia Plath's poem, "Daddy."  Why the mad dash?  It's clear Hallmark wasn't going to be in touch with Plath about their father's day cards.  However, what Plath lacks in literary paternal loyalty, she makes up for in the desperate honesty she managed to maintain through tireless self-scrutiny.  It's this bare reflection that helps readers relate to Plath, even if they are ignorant of the specific biographical points of her life that help unlock some of the imagery behind her verse.

"Daddy, I have had to kill you,

You died before I had time." (6-7)

The reason these lines have the ability to shock a reader isn't simply because of the casual mention of patricide.  Here Plath reveals that even though her father died when she was young (in line 57 she says she was ten when they buried him), she carried her hatred of him into adulthood.  He may not have lived long enough for her to kill him, but he managed enough years for her to hate him.  The implications of these lines, naturally, make the reader wonder what in the world went on with Plath and her "Daddy." 

Plath also unlocks other means to convey her loathing.  Aside from calling her father a Nazi (well, more accurately, the Nazi.  She does make a few references to Hitler), and accusing him of "[biting] my pretty red heart in two," Plath displays expert control over the sounds of her words.  Notice that Plath makes use of words like "do," "you," "shoe," "achoo".... All of these words force the mouth into an almost disgusted grimace, which further exemplifies Plath's relationship with her father, and later on in the poem, her husband.    

 

 

 

Why Long Plunges Make for Short Stories

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In the article "20 Die in Nepal Bus Plunge" the main facts were given (what caused the crash, how many were on the bus, how many died, how many survived, the state of the injured, and so on), along with two quotes by the same person, the police inspector.  The bare facts were covered, and nothing more.

In another article, "23 Killed as Bus Plunges into Gorge in Northern India" the same type of facts were covered, as well as a quote from a police officer.  This article differed from the first by including some statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau, which stated that 300 people die in road accidents in India each year, and then gave some causes for these accidents (this reminded me of one thing most of our classmates disliked about the news: its tendency to make crimes and accidents seem more common than they actually are. In this case 300 is not an appalling number, but given in this context, it can appear that way).

Basically what's common about these stories is that they do not need to gather many quotes from many different sources.  Really, even if there were witnesses to the accident, would they be able to tell the reader anything aside from the experience was "terrifying" or "horrible"?  These are all things the reader is doubtlessly intelligent enough to infer on his/her own.  However, if the driver was assumed to be sick, drunk, or in any other state that would leave him unfit for driving, then a witness saying "the bus was swerving all over the road" may be helpful.  Though, then the story may actually entail a bit more coverage than a short article.  It seems to me that a traditional "bus plunge" story is short because not much information is required to cover it.    

To read more comparisons, click here.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and...Ah!

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It says a lot for our modern-day news that a vehicle, likely transporting at least a small group of people, taking a plunge off a cliff is actually considered "filler."  I have to agree with Greta on this, though, I've never actually seen a headline dealing with a bus plunge (though I know now it's just used as a term to describe any accident that can be covered briefly yet thoroughly).  Regardless, I can already anticipate the reaction this piece's dark humor will motivate from many of its readers:

Reporters are jerks.

However, this is not the impression I was left with.  There's nothing disrespectful or flippant about the coverage of the event.  Reporters can't help it if "bus" and "plunge" fit nicely on a page.  Allowing the reporters some gallows humor to help them through the destruction and crime they routinely deal with is, in my opinion, not an unreasonable request.  Logically thinking, if each time a reporter wrote of an accident, he/she spent hours crying over the mishap, little would ever get written, and all that did, would be smeared with tears and useless sentimentality.

 

Dr. Jerz's Blog on this subject

More Student Blogs on this subject

Some Rules Really Aren't Made to Be Broken

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One reason for the necessity of AP Style procedures is uniformity.  After all, we can't have one journalist writing the date as November, 1, and another writing it as Nov. 1....That would obviously lead to mass confusion.  I can see where it would look better if each paper followed the same form, but I do think as writers we sometimes get a little crazy attentive.  Regardless of my opinion, the blog must go on, so I'll just give you an example of a rule that I found logical.

Use quotations when you want to communicate the emotions of your readers.  When you want to communicate facts, paraphrase.  There does seem to be a more resounding ring of authority on a phrase that is printed sans quotation marks.  Why is that?  Because as journalists, as writers, we are the voice of the story; we're the authority on the subject we're discussing.  We even surpass the person we're interviewing.  For example, if a man commented on his red shirt, but as the reporter you included a sentence after his quote that said he was actually wearing a blue shirt, your word will be taken over the man's.  Other more practical reasons for this rule include the concept that facts need to be printed plainly, without being cluttered with the emotions or unnecessary words of the speaker.  Things should remain concise and crisp, in true journalistic form.

"This thou perceiv'st, which makes they love more strong,

To love that well, which thou must leave ere long" (Roberts103)

 

Notice the line about the fleeting nature of the relationship is part of a couplet, not one of the quatrains.  This creates an abrupt effect, cutting of the rhyme scheme that had grown to be natural to the reader; just as the love that had become an intricate part of the speaker's life is soon to be gone.  This, interestingly enough, could also be seen as an example of "showing" vs "telling."

Notice the difference:

"I'm going to leave you pretty soon.  Yeah, very, very soon.  I'll be gone.  Poof, no more me.  We'll have to say adios to our love; let it ride off into the setting sun like John Wayne in so many cowboy movies.  So...yup, like I said, the end is nigh..."  

As opposed to:

"You've loved me well, but soon we must part."

Aaaaaaand scene.  Had the speaker told us that the partnership was temporary (I hesitate to say that the love itself was temporary, because that's not exactly what the speaker is stating) at the beginning of the poem, we would have been left with a thought akin to, "Apparently not that temporary.  You hung around for 14 lines."  Ending with the revelation that the speaker and his love will be separated gave the impression of a quietly, but firmly shut door.  One of the two had left, and now there was nothing to look at but the remaining space on the page; nicely symbolizing the emptiness of the remaining lover's life.    

So, Tell Me About Yourself

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"Exposition is not limited to the beginning of the work, where it is most expected, but may be found anywhere" (99).

Anywhere and everywhere.  In a way, many stories have exposition interwoven throughout each aspect of the plot.  Each time a character speaks, makes a decision, or has a thought, we are taught more about her.  It's really what we read for, isn't it?  While it is interesting to be lost in literary worlds where people fly, stars are purple instead of white, and the ground is sometimes upside down, I would argue that the books we return to, the books we stubbornly dragged to college with us (ignoring the incredulous looks from our parents as we stuffed yet another piece of literature into our overflowing suitcase) are the books that have characters we can know like ourselves.

Karyssa put it best in class on Friday when she said that she knows fictional characters better than real people.  There is no safer place to say something like that than a room filled with English majors.  We all know that feeling.  I reread Little Women over and over because I can relate to Jo's dreams and struggles; I've read Anne of Green Gables repeatedly because Anne's fiery spirit and sense of friendship appeal to me, and I love to revisit The Bell Jar because Esther's dark sense of humor and perseverance amid such confining turmoil never fail to capture my empathy.  We read for the characters, and the more exposition we're given, the more attached we grow to these creations.  That's why there's such a strange feeling of loneliness when we finish reading a book.  That open window into another's life has been shut, and we're no longer on the inside.

           

The One that Got Away

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"My trade is a sight to see;

For my customers I tie, and take them up on high,

And waft 'em to a far countree!" (Roberts 334)

 

So sang our antagonist, and what a lovely song it is.  Don't the lyrics just endear you to their creator?  Doesn't the imagined tune just make you want to leap from your chair and dance?  Weren't you wishing for another verse? 

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, this blog may not be for you.

Obviously something Hardy was trying to achieve with The Three Strangers was moral ambiguity.  We are supposed to sympathize with the condemned, despite what "justice" calls for.  When the first stranger, our perpetrator, walks into the house, he is suspicious, but not overbearing.  While the reader may find him a little strange, we are left to feel no outright dislike for the man.  This isn't the case with the second stranger.  After stating that he would "partake in one more draught of friendship" before he left, and then bemoaning that his glass was empty (333) the reader's misgivings about this new stranger are mingled with annoyance.  We've all had that guest who basically invites himself and then eats/drinks everything in your house.  Even this, though, could be forgiven, if not for the stranger's next, greatest offense: The man bursts into spontaneous song.  Now we know he's evil.  As if this weren't enough, once the executioner decides to give chase to the supposed criminal, he just sends the townspeople out (he even sends the constable out without his cane.  I know, I couldn't believe it either).  Not wanting to deal with the weather, he doubles back and drinks some more mead.  Of course, we know by now what's going on with the first stranger, so the small goodbye scene the two share near the end of the story serves some poetic justice, but all in all, this plot lacked something that Roberts has assured us is greatly important.

Conflict.  Of course, the plot itself contained conflict, but, though Hardy tried to create some moral confusion by having us sympathize with the criminal, I believe he failed.  He made the executioner so thoroughly unlikeable, that it wouldn't have mattered if the man who escaped had been wanted for stealing kittens and devouring rainbows.  Near the end of the story, Hardy even states that "the intended punishment [for the first stranger] was cruelly disproportionate to the transgression" (339).  We couldn't even cheer for justice for justice's sake.  Hardy made up our minds for us, and in a story that attempts to blur the lines between right and wrong, this is a big mistake.  Perhaps if Hardy had left out the second stranger's little American Idol audition, there would have been a chance for redemption, but, alas.  This story, like the first stranger, will simply have to be the one that got away.    

Lying Eyes

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"But sometimes first-person speakers are unreliable because they may have interests or limitations that lead them to mislead, distort, or even lie" (Roberts 81).

Everyone has a favorite point of view to read or write in.  Many people like first person, because it seems to pull the reader in, make her feel like she's the one in the story.  Some people like third person because of the extra information they receive, the observations that wouldn't be privy to a narrator trapped in one mind.  (Yeah, I'm purposely skipping the second person explanation, because it's so rare, but if anyone enjoys that the most, feel free to let us know why)

Very few people will put conditions on their pet point of view, but I do.  While I enjoy first person, I also love an unreliable narrator.  I think this makes the speaker more human, easier to relate to.  It's just like when you're listening to someone tell a story; depending on the role he/she played in their tale, the facts need to be filtered through our own experiences and common sense.  Too often we let our thoughts run free, undiluted by logic.  Having an unreliable narrator keeps you guessing, even when you think you've got all the facts, you're often wrong.

I read a book about two years ago by James Patterson called Beach Road.  This is a great example of an unreliable narrator.  SPOILER ALERT!!  The whole way through, the narrator is trying to solve a murder.  By the end of the book, you think he has it, you're all happy, because you kind of guessed who it was at the end, too.  The guy gets the girl, the murderer gets justice, and the reader gets to feel intelligent.  However, if one were to continue reading (and I'd suggest it, since at that point there are only about five pages left), she'd find out that the narrator did it.  And suddenly you have to reread the book, to find out when exactly you were outright lied to.  Now, I am by no means the Sherlock Holmes of literature, but I usually can tell when something's going on.  I absolutely loved that this book threw me so far off my game.  Sometimes reading is really just about having fun (and a collective gasp sounds from English majors everywhere, along with a dull thud as millions fall out of their chairs).  An unreliable narrator is a great way to go into that battle of wits, to never quite be comfortable with what you're hearing, and to spur yourself on to closer reading.

Better Know What You're Not Doing

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"Good writers can break the rules to create wonderful effects, but you can be sure they know what rules they are breaking" (Clark and Scanlan 295).

            This piece of advice rings true in all kinds of writing.  We need to have our foundations intact before we can climb to the top of our tower of technique and make a fearless leap into the sea of reader expectations.  To borrow the example from the text, when Cynthia Gorney left out the name of Dr. Seuss's dog, we can bet it wasn't because she just didn't think to ask for it.  There was a certain effect she either wanted to create or thought would be ruined by mentioning the name.  In another area of writing, it is unlikely that someone whispered to e.e. cummings, "Hey, man, you forgot to capitalize, like, everything," and cummings whispered back, "Shoot, you're right.  Oh well, just leave it, maybe no one will notice."

            As writers, it is our job to master the basics of storytelling, especially in journalism when our words are sometimes the only source of information readers consult.  If the purpose for a convention is unknown, then when we go our own way, so to speak, we don't know what we're risking.  It's true that journalism is brimming with writers willing to push the envelope and delve into unmarked territory, but the people who come back successful and relatively unscathed are the ones who knew why they were braving the wilderness in the first place.

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Blather, Wince, Repeat

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Sometimes when encountering a piece of literature for a second time, it takes one a few sentences to recall their previous sojourn into the story.  In especially trying circumstances (perhaps the reader is tired or distracted, or the story is complex) one may read with a feeling of vague familiarity, and make it halfway through the text before she remembers she's read the story before. 

I made it to the last sentence before I remembered I read this in high school.

One thing that makes this story forgettable to me is the constant emphasis on the amount of pain Farquhar is in.  Yes, I understand he was being hanged, and that may be a tad uncomfortable, but we get it already.  It got to the point where each time I saw the words "sharp pain," "hurt," or "agonies," I scanned hurriedly on. 

When the big twist at the end of the story was revealed (both that Farquhar was dead and that I'd actually read this before), I wanted to be moved.  I swear I did.  I even looked up from my book, studied my surroundings, then read the sentence again.  But, nothing.  I found myself thinking, who cares?  I mean, bummer, but what was the point of the story?  Hanging hurts?  Hanging kills?  It doesn't pay to be a Confederate? 

This story did offer us a heroic man from a side of the civil war that is not usually celebrated.  One thing Bierce did provide was a character that we could disagree with, but still admire.  I'm as against slavery as the next person, but I still think courage is admirable.  And, to be blunt, courage is courage, whether practiced by a police officer or a slave owner. 

But, as far as the story's message goes, Bierce left me hanging.

Trust Me, I was There.

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She talked in a soft, elegant tone but glowed with excitement when she mentioned straight-from-the-garden ingredients, helping children eat healthier diets or her long-term relationship with California farmers - her "friends," she said.

"Every time I'm buying food, I'm supporting those people who are taking care of the land," the 64-year-old Waters said, brushing back her short, maple-colored hair as a chef in the kitchen behind her chopped fresh shallots.  (Personality/Profile Article.  Emphasis mine.)

            It strikes me that the chance to freely describe a person, using adjectives that aren't descriptive in a solely factual way, is rare in journalism.  Perhaps it is an opportunity that shows itself primarily in profile writing.  This being said, despite the added freedom in this sense, the writer should still remember to...say it with me everyone....show, not tell. 

            I would hope that if someone were to describe my tone as elegant in an article, they would then follow by listing something I said that was remotely elegant.  Stating that Waters' tone was elegant is a nice touch, I found myself imagining her voice and posture, piecing together her personality myself.  However, John Cox may have wanted to back his description with a more intellectual quote, something that had a bit more verbal grace.  Of course, being one of the least quotable human beings on the planet, I understand that a great quote isn't always available.  If that is the case, then Cox should have only written what he could back up.  It shouldn't be a case of, "Her tone was elegant.  Just trust me, I was there." 

            I know this is perhaps a little picky, but it was something about the article that jumped out at me.  It also made me more aware of my own descriptions for my profile piece.   

 

Strangling Verse

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"But all they want to do/ Is tie the poem to a chair with rope/ and torture a confession out of it" (Collins 74, Introduction to  Poetry)

This stanza earned a bark of laughter, I have to admit.  It's so true, especially with English majors, people never allow themselves to enjoy a poem.  Every line has a meaning, and it is our job to find out what that meaning is.  The diction may be delightful, the alliteration, alluring, and the imagery picture-perfect, but we can't relish in those aspects of the poem until we find out what it means.  I admit to shying away from certain poets because their poems are over my head.  After all, when you admit to liking a poem, the people who are privy to your confession will expect you to be able to tell them what the poet's saying.  It would be nice, if even for a second, we could let the words wash over us and love the language for what it is, not what it may be.

**Collins is an expert at parodying anything and everything.  The Sonnet (77) is a good example of this, but for further reading I would suggest Litany and The Lanyard. 

 (There are also videos of Collins reading his work on Youtube, if that's more your style.)

Doubt-- The Enemy of Succinctness

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The importance of word selection is covered in the assigned Cappon text.  In all writing, but especially journalism, it is important to avoid verbosity.  Considering this is such a common problem for writers of all disciplines, I began to wonder why it is so difficult to keep things short, sweet, and accurate.  I believe that most of our problems arise when we, as writers, do not trust the words we select to be enough for reader comprehension.  When these doubts override our writing sensibilities, we are underestimating not only ourselves, but our readers.  Another reason writers tend to err on the side of wordiness is because of a desire to paint a certain picture for the reader.  However, in journalism it is not the writer's job to make the reader feel as though he/she was there, it is the writer's job to present the facts in a way that leaves the reader free to make his/her own judgments. 

Reading for the Comics

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The News and I- Class Reflections

Two words that our group seemed to defer to when describing the news were biased and boring.  Nearly every student made it clear that he/she did not just follow the news blindly, believing everything that was heard.  In Derek Tickle's video, he revealed an instance when the news was giving incorrect information on an event taking place directly behind the reporters.  Towers were collapsing, and the reporter stated that both had fallen, when, in reality, one was still standing.  Jeanine O'Neal created her own news page, and in it commented on readers' tendency to skip right to the comics.  Ironically, after Jeanine presented, Diana Griffin showed the class a comic strip she drew, depicting her distaste for watching and reading the news. 

While not so long ago it may have been standard to sit down and watch the evening news on the television, our group mainly gathered news from the internet.  Whether, CNN or Yahoo, the internet was seen as a preferable means to stay informed of current events, because it was faster and easier to find several views on the same issue, and pinpoint prejudice. 

To see more class projects, click here

What She Said

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"By studying what characters say about each other, you can enhance your understanding of the character being discussed" (Roberts, 67).

            In Trifles, we learn about Minnie Foster completely through the descriptions of others.  The men scoff at her housekeeping ability and the women reminisce about her lost joy.  The men's comments serve to nudge the reader towards sympathy for Minnie, and the women's comments expose a common sense of oppression among the gender.  All of these feelings and descriptions paint our perception of the protagonist.  In my opinion, Susan Glaspell uses this technique of character revelation expertly, but one should still ask herself/himself why Glaspell chose this method.  What circumstances make learning about the character through third-party descriptions favorable? 

            I think that in this instance it was necessary to know the character as Glaspell wanted the character to be known.  This is not always the case.  In Gone with the Wind, for example, whether the reader loves Scarlett O'Hara or hates her is irrelevant.  The circumstances remain rigidly factual (so far as a fictional world can be factual).  However, in Trifles, the reader has to believe that Minnie has been oppressed, that something has been taken from her and she has been spiritually killed.  If the reader doesn't believe this, the play is about a senseless murder, a woman has simply gone mad, no one knows why, and whoops, there goes her husband.  Or perhaps the reader won't have any reason to believe that Minnie committed the murder, and then we're reading a one act play about a random murderer killing Mr. Wright, but with no known motive.  Having Minnie complain about emotional abuse to the other characters is a dicey method to employ.  After all, which one of us likes to hear someone complain about his or her life?  There's always a small part of us saying, "Oh, come on, it's not as bad as all that."  Learning about this women through other characters who had no personal relationship with Minnie casts the situation in a nearly glaring light: Yes, Mr. Wright was a jerk, yes Minnie was oppressed, yes Minnie committed the murder, and yes we as readers and human beings can understand why and, frighteningly, practically justify it.     



My Relationship with the News

A Play by Josie Rush

To be performed by people with entirely too much time and very little theatrical ambition.

 

ACT 1

We open in a newsroom right before a broadcast.  An anchor is surrounded by make-up artists and hair stylists.  The cameraman shouts "Ten seconds!" and there is a moment of organized chaos as papers are shuffled, lights are brightened, and people bump into one another as they clear the set.  Soon it is only the anchor behind the desk, and as the cameraman mouths "Three, two, one..." any stress from the moment before is erased from her features, replaced by an easy smile.  Some sort of music is playing in the background to welcome the viewers.

 

SALLY: Hello, and welcome to Channel 1 News, where we give you news you care about.   My name is Sally Jones, and I will be acting solo tonight.  My co-anchor, John Mills, is out trying to find another interesting spin on the Michael Jackson story.  We're sure we can get another few months worth of stories on that, and John's not allowed to come back until he finds something we can use.  Good luck, John.  Wherever you are. 

Pauses and recaptures her winning smile.

SALLY: (continued) Have you ever wondered about the role the news plays in the lives of young adults?  Of course you have!  Who hasn't?  Tonight we will answer that question for you.  We have Ted Victor live at Seton Hill University with the story.  Ted?

TED: Standing in front of the cafeteria entrance as students walk past.  Thank-you, Sally.  I'm here at Seton Hill University to find out just how important the news is to the average college sophomore.  In order to bring you the most accurate, unbiased, ethical report possible, I'm going to follow an unknowing young girl around campus, observe her actions as they pertain to the news, and then relate the information back to you as though she represents the entire populace.  Ah, here comes our subject now.

And, sure enough, there I am, walking into the building, listening to my Zune as is my normal, social butterfly-esque practice.

TED: Stage-whispering and following none too stealthily, but acting as though he is the Crocodile Hunter, stalking dangerous prey.  Now, Sally, this is a school that offers its students free Tribune Reviews.  Josie's route to class will take her right by the stacks.  Let's see what happens.

Nothing, really.  I walk directly past the piles.  Ted gives a gasp of shock.

TED: Why, she walked directly past the piles! The free newspapers were ignored.  Can you believe that, Sally?

SALLY: Well, Ted, this generation isn't much for the printed medium anymore.  They're very eco-friendly.

A shot of me tossing emptying out my overflowing folder in the trashcan.  Papers fall to the floor around it.

TED: Good point, Sally.  There are other ways to get your news.  As the viewers at home are well-aware, Josie could simply watch a broadcast to catch up on what's going on in the world around her.

Luckily for Ted, my next stop is the Cove, where the overhead television is turned to the news.  I sit for a second, then turn to the only other person in the room.

ME: Do you care if I change this?  Ellen's on.

RANDOM PERSON: Shrugs Whatever.

TED: Why, Sally, she's just changed the channel!

SALLY: Humming the Ellen theme song.  Sorry, Ted, I missed that.  Ellen's on, you know.

After a few minutes of television, I get out my laptop.  Ted, kneeling behind a garbage can, peeks out eagerly.

TED: Ah, here we go, Sally.  She's connecting to the internet....

Shot of me, sighing angrily.

TED: (Continued) Oh, well, she's attempting to connect to the internet...There appears to be some problem with the school's connection...Perhaps now would be the time for a commercial break?

SALLY: Great idea, Ted.

Commercial break is over, we're back to Ted.

TED: After an angry trip to the IT department, Josie is back, and she has internet connection.  Though, her attempts to actually learn about current events have been non-existent so far...

SALLY: Well, Ted, even if this isn't a news watching attempt, we have to remember, the internet may be used for homework.  College sophomores have a lot of that, you know.

TED: I don't know, actually, Sally.  I never went to college.  I went to acting school.  Anyway, you're right.  Perhaps while on cyberspace her studies will be a distraction from the news.  Let's see if we can find out what's going on.  Sally, I'm going in.

Ted hides his microphone behind his back and whistles nonchalantly as he slowly walks past me.  He leans over my shoulder and peers at my computer screen.  I turn and give him a dirty look, and he sprints away, diving behind the trash can.

TED: I was spotted, Sally, but I don't think she suspects anything.  I was able to glimpse the website she was on.  Facebook.  Not the news at all, Sally.  Not the news at all.

SALLY: Thank-you, Ted.  I'm sorry to hear about this sad turn of events.  It appears that this young lady completely disregards the news, living in her own bubble, unaware of what's going on in the world around her.  A bit self-absorbed, maybe?

TED: That does appear to be the case, Sally.  She didn't even notice that I was following her.

SALLY: Well, Ted, in fairness, you were very sneaky.

TED: Thank-you, Sally.

SALLY: Well, that's all the time we have for tonight, folks.  Thank-you for joining us at Channel 1 News, where we give you news you care about.  Unless you're Josie Rush, apparently.

Curtain

 

   

This example obituary was fairly impressive compared to the obits that are normally printed in my town's local paper.  The amount of personal detail was impressive, though it made me wonder how much probing had to be done to obtain.  I'm sure much information on a person (if he/she was a veteran, where he/she worked) could be gained without too much prying, but the more personal information may take some questioning.  Perhaps it is out of respect for the grieving that obituaries are normally so formalized and rather dry?  Honestly, this is a guess on my part, feel free to correct me.  But I wonder if the quality of the obituary depends on more than who you are (were) and who you know (knew), but how forthcoming with information your family and friends are.  Maybe this is that shining example of humanity in reporters we've been searching for?

Forget the Bird, What's the Cage Singing About?

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MRS. PETERS: (Examining the cage) Why, look at this door.  It's broke. One hinge is pulled apart.

MRS. HALE: Looks as if someone must have been rough with it. (Roberts, 397)

 

The aforementioned conversation takes place immediately before the women start to put together what may have happened prior to Wright's murder.  One wonders, though, why add the detail of a broken door?  Finding the dead bird would be more than enough evidence for the women to puzzle out what happened.  Obviously, the broken cage door adds a more vivid image of violence to the unwitnessed scene.  We can imagine Mr. Wright cursing at the singing bird as he ripped open the cage; we can hear Mrs. Wright's cry of alarm, mingling with the rattling metal of the habitat; and we can picture the angry energy carrying over into an enraged exit by Mr. Wright, an exit that would leave Mrs. Wright staring numbly at the still quivering bars in shocked silence.  Maybe, for a second, she would have been too stunned to even register that her bird was dead; perhaps before her mind caught up to her eyes, she would have only known the lesser horror of it all: The cage was broken.

Yes, the cage was broken; the boundaries that surrounded the canary, that kept it from the skies and allowed it only its own quiet song, were now bent.  Just as whatever loyalty was keeping Mrs. Wright in her own cage was bent.  Though Mrs. Wright had supposedly contented herself to live quietly, sewing quilts and biting back songs, something happened that pulled apart a hinge.  The small morsel of her former self Mrs. Wright had kept for comfort, her song, had been taken from her.  Mr. Wright attempted to kill the one bit of self that Mrs. Wright had preserved (also symbolizing this one piece of self is the single jar of fruit that survived the cold, mentioned on page 400), and that was the act of violence that tore the cage door.  With the cage door broken, Mrs. Wright found herself free, and used this freedom to take literal revenge for her own figurative death.       

Words They Never Say

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Now, I'm not an aspiring journalist, so this may be a rather dumb, na├»ve question, but how did Stockton get such great quotes?  Clearly she wouldn't print the boring ones, but, as someone who's written features before, sometimes there only are boring ones.  "She's like an angel," "I'm just constantly amazed at what is accomplished," "She believes the kernel of good in each person will ultimately prevail."  OK, the only way I would get one of those quotes would be to stand next to my interviewee, eagerly clutching my notebook and pen, and ask, "So, would you say she's like an angel?" or "Are you just constantly amazed at what is accomplished?" And, getting a slightly scared nod, I would scribble gleefully away. 

Though, I suspect that's frowned upon.

Stockton showed one great quality of a journalist; the ability to find the right quotes to support your story.  I think we can all agree that this profile wouldn't have been nearly as convincing if there were not snippets of verbal agreement sprinkled through it.  Quotes make a profile believable.  Let's face it, if we hear about a supposedly great person, our first reaction is usually doubt.  Hearing that, no, really, other people think this person is amazing, too, helps strengthen the reporter's authority. 

I Think This is What I Think

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One difference listed between an English essay and a news article struck me as slightly misrepresented.  It was listed that when writing an English essay, the author is expected to write as a learner, whereas a journalist is expected to write as an expert.  I completely agree that a journalist should seem like an authority on his/her article, however, the same commanding tone is also expected when a student is writing an essay for a literature class.  A writer has to own his or her opinion, no matter what discipline he/she is writing in.  Never once have I consciously written an essay with a questioning, second-guessing tone, though, to me, that is what is implied when one is writing as a "learner." "I suppose Dickens may have meant this, but I'm not really positive, for I am but a learner..." would not earn anyone a passing grade.  Obviously that was an extreme example, but my point is that every author has to write with a tone of authority.  A reader expects to be led by someone who knows where he/she is going.

While I suspect it would be difficult to write about Dr. Seuss in a way that would inspire fury and indignation, after the first week of class, it was nice to read a piece of newswriting that was neither shallow or sensationalistic.  Clark and Scanlan quickly dispel any preconceived notions about journalists acting solely as a white glove on the dust-ridden shelf of society.  "A cynical school of thought would have us believe that journalists are exploiters of their sources, that they ultimately violate their confidence for the sake of an interesting piece" (165).  However, it is through gaining the trust of the interviewee that the reporter catches candid truths that paint a reality; and it is through honoring that trust that the reporter gains new interviewees. 

I thought this profile read like an interesting piece of fiction, in contrast to the more rigid articles often found in the paper.  Writing a profile would be an interesting challenge in some cases; portraying someone famous as human, but not too human.  Their "normal" qualities would have to be brought out so others could relate to them, but there would still have to be a certain level of awe, so the readers know why they're reading about this person in the first place.  Often, if I'm reading a profile about a celebrity, and the celebrity seems too normal (snacking on some stale Doritos, and turning down that limo ride to the photo shoot), I find myself slightly suspicious.  I guess even though it's nice to know the rich and famous are like the rest of us, there has to be something outlandish about the way they live; otherwise, who would we alternatively mock and envy?