November 2007 Archives


  • The language of journalism is concrete and specific.

  • The language of journalism is active.

  • The language of journalism makes meaning early.

  • The language of journalism is democratic.

  • The language of journalism has a voice.

  • The language of journalism strives for clarity.


The way in which this book looks at the language of journalism is extremely helpful when put in an ordered format. Anything and everything that has developed its own language has its bad characteristics. That doesn't mean that we can change that though. By focusing on these main points, we can help to improve the art of journalism. If this can be done, then the public will perhaps trust the media more as opposed to simply picking out its flaws. Without these basic components in a journalistic article, the article ceases to be journalism.

ML Ch. 15 & 16 News and Entertainment

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Ch. 15

“News is and always has been entertainment. But it has also been something more: a source of sometimes critically important information.”

This statement accurately describes the function of news. People want to be entertained in most every way, every day. News not only provides interesting and quite often extremely unique information for the average person, but it also connects them to something larger than themselves.

In today’s world where major media outlets are owned by even bigger multimedia corporations, the public doesn’t always take into account the viewpoint represented by the owners of a certain news group. Disney owns a movie studio, theme parks, and the ABC television network and, therefore, ABC News. Disney isn’t likely to let ABC news cover a horrendous story about one of their child stars who went bad, and if they do, they will probably seek to make it sound not as bad as it really is, or worse.

Hollywood and the news have had a long relationship, since the 1920s and 1930s. Hollywood stars now have entire magazines dedicated to covering their exploits, capturing their every move. People want to know what famous person is shagging what other famous person and so, news/entertainment is born. Stars do crazy stunts and the news covers it.


Ch. 16

All right, we’ve all seen them. You know what I’m talking about, those never-ending satellite vs. cable commercials on TV. Both offer lots of channels, way more than anyone can possibly watch in my opinion. Anyway, when cable and satellite came on the scene, they created a way for news to develop into a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, news-spreading monster. Don’t take that in a bad way, that’s just the only thing I can think of to call these channels that constantly give people breaking news whenever they feel the need to tune in.

“With an explosion in the number of channels - arriving on cable, satellite and, eventually, on the Internet - came room for more specialized news channels: one, for example, emphasizing a more opinionated, more conservative point of view.”

Now, whenever you want, you can tune into a news broadcast that caters to your particular viewpoint on the world. Some want liberal, some want conservative. It reminds me of the time when there used to be two newspapers for the same area, one for liberals and one for conservatives.

Flowers, Flowers everywhere, but only a shoe to be seen

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An anecdotal lead is the lead of an article that tells a story. This journalism concept is important to my final article because if I write use an anecdotal lead, I will need to do it well in order for my article to benefit from it. Gene Patterson utilizes a captivating anecdotal lead in his article “A Flower for the Graves.”

“A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist church in Birmingham. In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe - from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her.”

This lead gives the reader a clear picture in their head of a gruesome and horrible sight. It still gets across the important facts of where and when the story takes place, but allows the reader to identify with the mother as opposed to a simple cut and dry lead.

The never ending sentence, yet still grammatically correct

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I really liked this article by Ken Fuson. I really never thought that anyone could get away with such a long sentence - one that takes up the entire story! This article was just amazing in the manner in which it was able to evoke so many different emotions and actions while still relating them back to the main point. I truly wish that I could write something akin to this story, but such a thing is impossible.

Metal to Bone - sounds like a rock song, not like attempted murder

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This is an amazing feature article. The mix of extreme detail with the feel of breaking news really grabbed my interest and pulled me in. This story really brought into focus the desperation of people who live in poverty and those who need to keep the law. There’s always been a dark side to humanity, but through Hull’s article, “Metal to Bone, Day 1:Click,” this lurid aspect comes out of the shadows and into reality. I personally think that this is a great feature; if it were written for everyday news, I think that it would loose its punch, its pizzaz. This is one of those stories that draws you in despite yourself, and such a thing would be harder to accomplish in only a handful of paragraphs.

Best Practices Overview

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I really liked all of the pointers and facts that were put into Best Practices. While reading this text it helped me to see things from the public's point of view. They don't know everything that it takes to put together a good story, make the deadline, and still get around to do all the research for the next story. Then again, an up and up journalist probably wouldn't understand some of the public's job either. However, this text allows everyone in any type of media to see things through the eyes of the common man.

Most everyone wants to know how others look at them. This booklet lets the voice of the average person be heard, yet offers ideas of how to better the sore points listed by the public. It's encouraging to read what steps are being taken by various newspapers in order to ease the publi'c mind on several issues.

This is so a story!!

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The hardest thing in the world to do is to persuade a reporter that sometimes there simply is no big story here.

On page 57 of Best Practices starts the chapter titled "Newspapers are unfair when: they can't admit that sometimes there's no story." This section basically gave an overview of how the public sometimes sees reporters when searching for particulars on a story. It mentions how reporters are often seen as having a preconceived notion that their story is an instant success before the story has even been completely written. I have to admit, I can envision an enthusiastic reporter gunning for details on an indepth feature or news story - kinda like a bloodhound on the trail. However, we've been gone over in class somewhat that we shouldn't increase the suffering of those who are victims of crime or their families, yet we should still get our story. It all ties into the fact that reporters have to remain human while still getting the total story no matter what our image may be. As the saying goes, "Life's not fair." Journalists may seem unfair when trying to get every aspect of a story, but that's their job. Journalists have deadlines that are often tighter than others who only work a 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. job. Reporters should always try to be as fair as possible I think, it's just hard to do when you've got a short deadline and your editor breathing down your neck.

Who said that?

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Anonymous sources...this seems to be the week for hasing out the details that inevitably concern these unidentified individuals. Then again, it's always good to have a clear view of what to do about wanting to use a source who wishes to remain unknown. As evidenced by the box on page 225, the reporter Nathanial Carter gave his first report in 1822 and used an unidentified source while covering a story in Washington. He was most likely the first reporter to cover an actual news story and use an un-named source. We may use sources without names today often enough, but many newspapers have particular guidlenes nowadays.

"Sources who are permitted to withold their names can gripe and snipe with impunity." - This is a major deterrant for using unidentified sources, I think. If someone can say anything that they want without ever getting in trouble for it, then it's basically a free liscense to shout names at others and never get called on it by Mommy or Daddy. However, several unknown sources have helped to uncover numerous wrongdoings, like the Watergate scandal. So sources without names do have a place in journalism, but it would be wise to err on the side of caution and use them as sparringly as possible.

Is Pittsburgh still the west?

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I found it especially fascinating that the first new newspaper to come out of what was once considered the "west" was the Pittsburgh Gazette in 1786. Most all of us who live around here have heard some of the history about Pittsburgh. A lot of those who don't live near here have heard something about it too because with Pennsylvania, you've got Philadelphia in the East and Pittsburgh in the West. It's in these two major cities that Pennsylvania's two NFL teams are located! But I digress...I think it's quite amazing what all new newspapers were willing to do in order to give their communities a sense of identity.

It goes to show how truly dedicated a newspaper staff can be. This drive to succeed, to publish information that can better inform the public can still be seen by newspapers today - even by our ouwn Setonian! It truly must have been something to have to lug presses over mountains, survive severe flooding, and have to print in tents, sod houses, and log huts. Who would have thought that these individuals would have the commitment to overcome such feats in order to pursue the betterment of journalism? And for once it would seem, the government actually helped these budding journalists and newspapers spread by requiring that federal laws be printed in three papers in each state or territory." pg. 185 This type of perserverence has really inspired me, I have to say, to do better in journalism as well as my other studies.

I never truly realised that having so many grammatical and seemingly commonsense errors encouraged a loss of credibility for newspapers. I know that when I read the newspaper occasionally, that I just smile and shake my head at a mistake in print. Then again, I'm now a somewhat educated journalism student who still has a lot left to learn, but that also means that I have more knowledge than the average person. If someone reads the newspaper everyday, it's almost a gaurantee that they will find mistakes. Newspapers are printed, written, put-together, and edited by people. And these people are only human. One sentence included in the Best Practices book that was said by a public individual was, “I know that they are human and make mistakes just like I do, but why aren’t they willing to admit it and say they’re sorry when they do?” Well, I can't help but wonder what a newspaper can do. They could print a retraction or try and fit in a little box that says that they were sorry or something, but the public can't judge all newspapers by the same standards. Every newspaper has a different editor, several more than likely. Wouldn't it be up to the editors of a paper to apoligize for an error? I think that giving an apology is a wise move, especially if the error was easily seen, like The Office of Pubic Information!

It's also probable a good idea to publish the corrections in the same place within every issue. It wouldn't be as complicated as hunting for it everyday when you're reading the paper. Then again, this might create a bit more tension in the layout gremlins. Perhaps if newspapers start putting a larger emphasis on correcting the mistakes that have been, then the public will have more faith in the newspaper and reporters as a whole. I can't talk for the National Enquirer though, that might (as well it should) always be suspect. It'll take work to be sure, but if reporters can't get across their accurate information and the public is unable to trust it, then what use have we for reporters?

“It’s like a bullet that comes out of the woods and hits somebody in the back and you have no idea who shot it or why.” Some people may feel this way about anonymous sources, but what about the sources themselves? We've covered the topic of whether or not to print a victim's name, but not sources overly much. I can understand where the public opinion is coming from, yet if a source was ratting out the mafia or in the Witness Protection Program, then it would be really bad to give out their name wouldn't it? It'd be kinda like pointing a metaphorical finger at the Tattle Tale. Thus, I think the very first guideline in the book on page 22, "No anonymous sources unless a top editor is convinced there is absolutely no other way to get the main thrust of the story into the newspaper," is a good rule to follow. Don't use an anonymous source unless you have to and you won't hit any of the wayward in the back with a bullet and you'll save yourself the hassle.

I never truly realised that having so many grammatical and seemingly commonsense errors encouraged a loss of credibility for newspapers. I know that when I read the newspaper occasionally, that I just smile and shake my head at a mistake in print. Then again, I'm now a somewhat educated journalism student who still has a lot left to learn, but that also means that I have more knowledge than the average person. If someone reads the newspaper everyday, it's almost a gaurantee that they will find mistakes. Newspapers are printed, written, put-together, and edited by people. And these people are only human. One sentence included in the Best Practices book that was said by a public individual was, “I know that they are human and make mistakes just like I do, but why aren’t they willing to admit it and say they’re sorry when they do?” Well, I can't help but wonder what a newspaper can do. They could print a retraction or try and fit in a little box that says that they were sorry or something, but the public can't judge all newspapers by the same standards. Every newspaper has a different editor, several more than likely. Wouldn't it be up to the editors of a paper to apoligize for an error? I think that giving an apology is a wise move, especially if the error was easily seen, like The Office of Pubic Information!

It's also probable a good idea to publish the corrections in the same place within every issue. It wouldn't be as complicated as hunting for it everyday when you're reading the paper. Then again, this might create a bit more tension in the layout gremlins. Perhaps if newspapers start putting a larger emphasis on correcting the mistakes that have been, then the public will have more faith in the newspaper and reporters as a whole. I can't talk for the National Enquirer though, that might (as well it should) always be suspect. It'll take work to be sure, but if reporters can't get across their accurate information and the public is unable to trust it, then what use have we for reporters?

“It’s like a bullet that comes out of the woods and hits somebody in the back and you have no idea who shot it or why.” Some people may feel this way about anonymous sources, but what about the sources themselves? We've covered the topic of whether or not to print a victim's name, but not sources overly much. I can understand where the public opinion is coming from, yet if a source was ratting out the mafia or in the Witness Protection Program, then it would be really bad to give out their name wouldn't it? It'd be kinda like pointing a metaphorical finger at the Tattle Tale. Thus, I think the very first guideline in the book on page 22, "No anonymous sources unless a top editor is convinced there is absolutely no other way to get the main thrust of the story into the newspaper," is a good rule to follow. Don't use an anonymous source unless you have to and you won't hit any of the wayward in the back with a bullet and you'll save yourself the hassle.

Are we walking with Dante to Hell?

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This was a great feature story even if it was outside of the norm. It was really dark while at the same time being informative about the court system in Chicago. I think the book was right when it related Myers writing in this case to  Virgil leading Dante into the depths of Hell. Then again, haven't we learned that the macabre often grab the public's attention, especially murder. "The who, what,when, and, where, of each case have been answered. Only the why remains." Aren't these the things that the lead in a news story is supposed to answer? How then can these be solved  definatively if things are constantly occurring over and over again?

Newspapers, the new old world flower! Ch. 10-11, EL 200

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Newspapers took time to develope after they had been first created, much like a flower must grow in order to mature. "No previous news medium had been as successful in weaning humankind from its busybodies as the newspaper would be, but the process would take hundreds of years." pg. 147 It would take much time for the newspaper to rival the speed of spoken news in cities, it might only have yet to conquer the very smallest of rural towns. Science and the credibility of the newspaper would come later still. After all, the public wanted to read about spooky, gruesome, fantastical tales that could hardly be true, but this is what they wanted. No one wanted to read about something mundane or something that didn't immediately catch the eye. Later on different inventions would assist with the speedy travel of news such as the telegraph, radio, and TV. These would also help journalists to report facts accurately, or at least more so than they had before. Without these advancements, it is most likely that we would not trust the newspapers to the degree that we do today. Often enough, people put more credit in something that has been written as opposed to something that they hear, or have seen. 

"There is nothing so fretting and vexatious, nothing so justly terrible to tyrants, and their tools and abettors, as a FREE PRESS." - Samuel Adams. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Dr. Jerz has told us many times in EL 227 that as soon as a new government comes into power, that they move to suppress or control the press. That way, the public will only read that which the government wishes them to read, nothing else. It's truly a form of control for the government and it could be quite costly for them to lose it. After all, the press played important roles in both the American Revolution as well as the French Revolution. Several newspapers gained the term "underground press" as later newspapers would be called in the 1960s and 70s. It seems as if they were pretty outlandish fellows who had no care for the law and they saw every reason to break it. Democracy can not succeed without a Free Press and even if our system of government isn't perfect, it would certainly be doomed without the Free Press. 

Conclusion of IANS

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Let's face it: It Ain't Necessarily So has pummeled us over the head with the much the same concept that numbers are bad - Reporters Beware! However, this book was very helpful in introducing new ways in that journalists can slip up. You can always tell someone something's that right, but if you show them what's wrong, then you will be doing them a favor. Different examples were used for each new concept that had been introduced, with a few exceptions. I may not have always liked this book or a specific chapter, but I did learn some new facts about the world. It also reinforced my belief that not everything is as it seems. 

"In the time that has passed since the episodes chronicled above, additional stories have occured and recurred in the morning headlines." Time waits for no man, or any story for that matter. Mistakes will always be made. It's up to us though, the new generation of journalists who are learning new facts and ideas every day, to learn from those said mistakes. If we don't look at and examine the mistakes of those who cam before us, then we are doomed to repeat them.