August 2009 Archives

Children's Author Tortured by Own Genius

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From an article in America’s Best Newspaper Writing titled “Dr. Seuss: Wild Orchestrator of Plausible Nonsense for Kids” by Cynthia Gorney:

“He reads for distraction.  He needs it.  When he is at work, the names, the verse, the story line, the colors, the shapes and sizes of his extraordinary characters all press upon him” (170).

Wow!  This line really drew me in as a reader.  By telling us this, and especially by the way she worded it, she makes it clear that Dr. Seuss is not only a genius, but a prisoner.  He is tortured by his own imagination.  Because he is creating a completely different world that is inhabited by different animals than we are used to he is, in a way, God-like.  But it’s too much for a human to handle.  Instead of saying what I said, though, she instead tells us that his pleasure reading is a distraction, an escape from his world of Wockets and Zairs.  She lets the reader draw the conclusions that he is a genius that is maybe too smart for his own good.  THIS is good writing.  In high school the features were my favorite articles to write (next to opinions because let’s face it, I have a lot of those) because there is so much more room for your personality to shine through.  The way Gorney words her sentences and constructs this article we can see that she is a skilled wordsmith without her looking showy.

What else did you like about her writing?  Or not like?


This video from The Onion reminds me of the LA Fitness shootings.  They came in with about 6 people confirmed shot when in actuality 4 died including the shooter.  They used phrases like, the shooter possibly entered the cardio room and turned off the lights much like the Onion said that the event was possibly a riot, possibly a celebration.  It was agonizing to sit there and listen to them fumbling around with the information given to them and try to make sense out of it.

Does anyone know the purpose of breaking news?  Keep in mind that in class we said that the news is meant to sell things but breaking news has no commercial breaks.

I also thought that it was funny that the Onion's spoof had the reporter on audio.  Obviously, the fake reporter is not in Haiti.  He even sends a picture.  This happens on the actual news a lot.  But without camera footage, we really don't know if the reporter is at the location of the story or if he is sitting in front of his TV, watching The Dark Knight and eating a bag of potato chips. 

The first thing the female reporter says in the spoof is "We've got a breaking story coming out of Haiti.  Quite possibly the biggest development to come out of that nation in decades."  This is sadly similar to many of the things you will hear on your local news.  How does one determine "the biggest development"?  Isn't this just insulting to Haiti? 


Stop Toying With My Emotions

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From Greg Byron's essay, "TV News: What Local Stations Don't Want You to Know":

"Tearful parts of an interview are always the chosen sound-bites.  Reporters want to capture emotions so badly, they completely forget any notion of allowing privacy or personal dignity to grieving victims or their families" (Byron).

     I have to say that reading this article was an eye-opening experience for me.  I'm generally a pretty trusting person but when I read this particular statement I felt a little betrayed.  When bad things happen the last thing you need is someone egging you on, reminding you of the worst day of your life through constant questioning.  It is especially upsetting that a lot of this questioning is presumably aimed at drawing forth an emotional response from you.  In this case, one man's grief is the reporter's glory.   If they can somehow tap into that emotion it makes them look good, and, in turn, makes them happy.  The fact that someone can be made happy by your suffering is really an unsettling one.  The person who had the major issue needs some time to recover, think things over and assess the damages.  They really do not need to be having microphones shoved in their faces asking them the obvious question "How are you feeling?"  I think if someone asked me that question when I had a truly bad day and they knew it I would have to resort to violence.  Ok...maybe not.  I'm all talk but I would at least have to give them the death-stare before giving my sarcastic response of "Absolutely fabulous.  How nice of you to ask."

Bye bye

I Was Impressed

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   I watched the 11 o'clock news on WTAE and was astonished by how much of the news was actually news.  I guess that today wasn't a "slow news day"...would that mean it was a "fast news day"?  Out of a half an hour program, roughly 21 minutes and 30 seconds was news.  That would be 71% of the news was news which is pretty good considering that there was probably about 7 minutes of commercials.  There was probably a minute of "stay right here on Channel 4 reporting" where they explained what stories were coming after the commercial break.  Then there was an additional 30 seconds of small-talk.  Not bad if you ask me.

   Most of the news tonight was local.  They talked about everything local from a car accident in Plum Boro to the Westmoreland fair.   Out of the roughly 20 stories, 17 were local.  The more national news incuded reporting about Michael Vick, the Ted Kennedy funeral, and the story about a woman found after being abducted when she was 11 back in 1991. 

   Overall, I think the news today was very efficient.  The reporters moved quickly from one story to the next, giving good and relevant information.


This reminds me of something...

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     We were asked to take a look at a comic called "A Famous Person Has Died" by John Campbell and it was so hilariously true of TV news!  The line that really struck me was, "Billy, do you have any new information?" and Billy responds, "No, do you?"  This is exactly what happens when anything remotely extremely newsworthy happens like the death of a certain giant musically talented celebrity or a gym shooting.  Soon the reporters take over your television (whether you like it or not) and you get to know all about these people's lives.  You get to meet their second cousin three times removed, you get some drunk guy on the street's opinion, and you sometimes even get to hear the reporters blundering over the facts because they are trying to stretch the news even further.  Pretty much you get everything short of a quote from their dog, Fido.

"Bark!  Bark!" (which when roughly translated means" take me home")

Clark and Scanlan conTribute to our learning

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From America's Best Newspaper Writing:

"Place a good quote high in the story to create a variety of voices and a human focus" (Clark and Scanlan 292).

This quote I find especially helpful.  As a person who wrote for the newspaper in high school, I know that one of the things that I had a hard time with is the incorporation of quotes.  I never quite got their purpose for some stories.  But now I have finally gotten my answer.  Good quotes provide variety and another voice.  It makes it seem like you have done your work.  You have tried hard to get the best information available and give the reader a good view of the story.  Now to find that good quote...

A good example of the clever use of a quote is in "In His Own Hands" that appears on page C5 of Tuesday, August 25, 2009's edition of the Tribune Review.  In the third paragraph, Steeler cornerback admits what the article claims about him: that he cannot catch very well.  He said, "My personal goal is to catch the ball (this season) and make the Pro Bowl."  This angle shows that the author is not just an angry Steeler's fan that wants this man to learn how to catch.  He has noticed the excellent playing of this man, however, also points out where he falls short.  The fact that the player himself admitted his weakness provides strength to the journalist's article.

A bad example of this concept is seen in "Ghost enthusiasts could experience courtroom terror."  The second paragraph says, "'People have been going in there for years thinking they'll see a ghost or something.  But it's now owned privately and the family that owns that building no longer wants anyone going there,' said township ordinance officer Terry Giannini."  Although this quote does get the point across, it is long and rambling.  Instead, it would be better if the author would have maybe taken part of the quotation and then paraphrased the rest.  He could have said, "People have been going in there for years thinking they'll see a ghost or something," said township ordinance officer Terry Giannini.  He added that the property is now privately owned and the new owners do not want anyone going in there.  See the difference?



Making an Old Story New

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When reading the lead section of our assignment, I noticed the sentence that says that if "the fire [the story] itself is no longer news, your lead could emphasize some new element that makes the old story fresh" (Lead).  Upon glancing on the first page of the newspaper I couldn't help but notice Michael Jackson tucked in the bottom left-hand corner. 


My immediate thought was, "Oh my goodness, let the poor man go" but then I read the little blurb next to it that says, "The Los Angeles County coroner has ruled Michael Jackson's death a homicide, and a combination of drugs was the cause, an official says."  Now that little lead grabbed my attention enough to follow up and read (no rhyme intended).  This article serves to confirm the suspected hypothesis that Jackson was murdered.  This article is well done.

Did you think the article was well done?  Did you find any evidence of bias?


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