October 2009 Archives

They Have to Make the Right Mistakes

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                “Many journalists apparently believe that since they are writing the “first rough draft of history” and doing it under deadline pressure, it should be expected that some errors, misunderstandings and misinterpretations will occur; that historians eventually will sort it out, and that only the most egregious factual errors need to be corrected now” (Haiman 13).

                I wonder if the journalist who accidently reported the wrong information about the miners’ story we studied last week would think this. After all, he was only trying to write the “first rough draft of history”, which as a draft can contain mistakes and can be worked out by others later. However, the reporter’s “rough draft” was sorted out later while making history of its own due to the damage the report had done.

                Although television news may have been more to blame in the example I gave above (although print/online news was guilty as well), newspaper journalists have to be very careful about what goes into their article. The mistakes they risk making may be minor, such as a small type that accidently added an extra letter to someone’s name, or the mistake can be drastic and damaging, such as a misreported fact that could possibly create ill-informed rumors. When I read the above quote from the handbook, I instantly related a journalist’s article to what Dr. Patterson always says in class about a first draft of a paper: although it is a first draft, it must be a polished first draft and as error free as possible. Newspaper writing has to be the same, there are some times when mistakes just happen, but they need to happen as little as possible even though the article may be the first piece of information on a developing story. In other words, thinking college essay wise, if a mistake is going to be made, it has to be one that will cost them the least amount of points possible. This accuracy helps to prevent events, such as the miners’ incident with the families, from happening.

                I think realizing how much mistakes in a newspaper can affect readers’ lives also reminded us in this handbook how powerful news articles can be. Although the articles may be quickly pieced together, in most cases they are some people’s only insight to a certain topic.

                It seemed like most of this research for this book was done in the late 90s, pre-9/11. I wonder what the author would find if he interviewed people now. With an unfavorable war going on and new forms of journalism exploding, especially on the internet, what would people have to say now? I still think they would say the same complaints. I think a lot of lack of accuracy would be blamed on the internet, where newspapers and other sites try to post information as quickly as possible, and where regular people can post information that may be incorrectly taken as fact by a journalist. With the war, I especially because it is unfavorable, newspapers have to be very careful. Articles have the ability to sway people’s opinions from one side of the conflict to the other, especially if they were uneducated about the topic prior to reading the article. I feel that journalists have to be especially careful about not making factual mistakes when writing reports on the war because of how touchy the situation is to begin with, and because any mistake they make can cause the public to develop wrongly informed opinions and ideas about what is actually going on.


Damage Can Be Done

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Since I was home over break, I found it really weird that by chance I was learning about editorials while my youngest sister was learning the same in her journalism class. Her weekend assignment had been to draft an editorial piece. She just so happened to ask my advice on what she should write on...so I gave her some.

I noticed that my sister had the same high-school-writer issues that I used to have at that time. Although she could write well, she was really one-sided in her writing in most cases, mostly because she was passionate about what she was writing. For her editorial piece, I tried to explain some of what I had learned from our class, that you had to show both sides of the story usually in order to make it effective and not a turn off to readers. I also told her that she had to be careful what she chose to write because it could influence people, for better or for worse.

As an example of how powerful an editorial can be, I referred to an editorial that had recently been written in my local newspaper. Previously to the publication of this particular editorial, an article had been published addressing a recent scandel at my high school. The superintendent, who is also the high school girls basketball coach, recently permitted three star athletes to remain in the schools honor society, despite that the rules for the organization clearly state that members caught cheating will not be tolerated. The school board was up in arms over his decision, the teacher-advisor for the organization resigned, and parents of students who had been kicked out for cheating in the past were banging on the school board room doors. The original article didn't list the students' names or sports, and didn't seem heated in any opinion. It was just simply stating the facts that had been submitted to the paper.

The editorial on the other hand, was very opinionated and very blunt about expressing the opinion. The author called not for responsibility to be taken by the superintendent, but by the student athletes themselves. It called them to personally step down from the society in order to make up for the bad scene they had caused.

Although I disagreed with the decision the superintendent made, I thought the editorial had expressed too much opinion and had gone too far. Although it too didn't mention the students' names, it was still calling them out. People in our community already knew who the students were, so it was even more embarrassing for their parents. I think the worst part about it was the writer failed to acknowledge that the students had only taken the opportunity that was given to them by the superintendent, which was community service. Once again, I disagreed with this scenario, but the students were taking the advice of someone who they saw as an authority figure to make up for the wrongs they had done. I'm sure if the original solution had been asking the students to step down, they would have. WIth this point, I think the writer of the editorial had been too heated in the wrong direction and had done damage to kids and their families.


First: Find Breaking News

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To start off tracking the news cycle, I have selected two articles that were written through the night on events that took place late yesterday. I expect the UCLA article to be the most promising because of the unusual circumstances of the crime and the fact that the article for it was written hastily overnight and has very basic details.

Missing Toddler - A developing story in Williamsport that began yesterday when a toddler was taken by his father who has been convicted of dealing in illegal drug activity.

UCLA Throat Slashing Incident - A story that began yesterday when a UCLA female student's throat was slashed during a lab by another student. What I think is interesting about this story is, although there is a lot of information for it just being written overnight, you can still tell it was a quickly written article because the phrasing is a little off and makes it almost comical at parts (although the subject is anything but).

Back to class



Another Reading Response

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Even after reading the two sample crime reports several times, when I read some of my classmates’ blogs I realized I had still missed some very obvious observations. Richelle had a great conversation going on her blog about how much repetition had been going on with the first news article. Most of us writing on her blog agreed this occurred because the article had to been written quickly because it was breaking news. Her blog made helped me to understand that just because this article maybe didn’t follow guidelines perfectly, but it was still decently written for being composed at the last moment. The most important part was that it got the facts out quickly.

            Greta’s blog helped point out some easy to see typing errors that I had managed to somehow miss. Her blog helped me realize that no matter how well you read an article to edit it, there will still be some mistakes that will get by unless you let another pair of eyes take a look at it.

Reading Response

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RRRR: Cappon Chapters 3 and 4

Dianna had provided and interesting example for Cappon’s chapter three information. She took Cappons’s advice about using unique and less common verbs to make a lead more interesting and created her own example. She used boring information about a piano having to be moved because of rain, added a few interesting verbs, and created a lead that sounded more captivating. Her blog was a great way to show how she took the information she had just recently learned and began to apply it.

                Kaitlin’s blog was simple and short, but packed full with a great lesson. She used Cappon’s point that sentences should only be about sixteen words in length and attempted to write her blog following that guideline. In her short choppy sentences, she wrote how she felt during the experience, especially about how difficult it was to write a complete thought. I found this to be very creative and a great way to apply what we are learning as well as sharing the experience with others.

A Second Collection

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Even though Portfolio 2 is shorter than my first portfolio because of the shorter length of time between them, I was still able to accomplish some of my goals. The most significant difference in this portfolio from the last one is how much more I attempted to interact with my peers and their blogging. I would like to continue doing so and even more often for future blogging activities.


  • I Must Be Getting Old - just an opening blog to get you started with the portfolio and to get a sense of what I have been writing about recently


  • Walking on Eggshells - Here is an example of one of my longer blog entries. I discuss my mixed feelings towards editing and creating leads for news stories.


The links below help to show the comments I left on some of my classmates' blogs in an attempt to start or add to a discussion.



  • Whoops and Parallels - One of my goals from creating my first portfolio was to become more active with discussion and ineraction amongst my peers who are blogging as well. In this blog, my topic sparked a discussion between two of my other classmates.
  • Red Tape - For this blog, I responded to one of my classmate's comments to continue the conversation she had started.



  • Presented Well - In this blog I linked to as many sources as I was using as possibly so readers could instantly access the documents I was talking about while reading my blog.


Below are some reflections that I have written for the class. I think they help to show what I have been learning from what I have been studying as well as what I have read from my classmates' blogs.


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