“The Way News Should Be Done” Write Up by Thomas Graham

So just for starters, this piece was about David Cay Johnston’s experience at Al Jazeera America (AJAM). It’s a reflective piece discussing what AJAM was before it was canceled. This is what prompts Johnston to argue that journalists in the profession today do not discuss the real issues in America because they seem too afraid to step on any toes. Rather, they get what is called by producers “the get”, which is having some big name in for an interview and doing everything they can not to insult them so that maybe they’ll come back or some other big name will want to come and be interviewed for the fame. It’s all about the ratings and getting people to read, not really about actually educating them or trying to persuade them on serious issues in America like poverty or unemployment or something along those lines. This, Johnston claims, is the tragedy of American journalism today. That and we don’t recognize true journalism, as done by AJAM, as it should be recognized.

A lot of opinions came out through the adjectives he used. Interesting thing to be careful of; it’s not just what facts we include or don’t include that sets the bias. We don’t always know what a journalist doesn’t include, but the adjectives he uses make the bias clear. In this case, though I think it’s clear that Johnston would only include the positive things people said about AJAM and not the negative things at all. Well, he did mention that one person said AJAM was slow paced. The other person questioned the validity of the station based on it being “owned by Middle Easterners”, and if that’s not enough to make you mad I don’t know what is. It seems like that inclusion makes Americans seem closed-minded and that it’s not really AJAM’s fault for closing, but that of Americans. So in a sense, by pointing out this criticism of AJAM, Johnston is still arguing his case that AJAM is a good, reliable news station. Also being in the “opinions” section of the editorial is a pretty big signaler that this piece is highly opinionated. Not to mention the fact that this man, Johnston, is writing this piece about his employers. So taking into account who the author is would give us a clearer insight into what biases he may bring into the piece (like Gay Talese being sexist and the like) because no one can actually be totally unbiased. We all bring our personal beliefs into our pieces even on a subconscious level, so that’s something to watch out for in our own writing, whether it’s journalism or not. And even more so in this piece by Johnston because he’s writing mostly about his own experiences at his job that he loves. This, you could say, causes the piece to border on being a creative nonfiction piece, but even then the piece still has evidence to back it up and it’s not really about Johnston himself so much as it is about AJAM, though his own experiences play a key role in the piece because they establish an inside look at the organization. He is his own primary source. Still biased though.

Another interesting thing Johnston did was that after he gave his introductory paragraph which established what the piece was about, he gave his credentials. We all know that this is the technique known as Ethos which is used to get the audience to trust the writer’s word. In this case it came off slightly pompous, though. It makes sense that he would be so, though, because this amazing company he’s worked for for a long time and loves is shutting down. Anyone would be indignant at losing their job. Thus, even though giving his credentials sounds a little egotistical (or maybe that’s just how extensive it is), it does set the tone more completely for the piece, as does the introductory paragraph with the aforementioned adjectives. But what’s interesting is that he didn’t even give all of his credentials in the beginning right then and there as an information dump. Instead, he mentioned all his awards. Later, though, he slid in the fact that he’s been a journalist for 49 years, just for example.

Another thing Johnston does is he separated his article into sections. I’ve seen this done before and not done before. I kind of like it because it makes the whole piece more organized and you directly get what the journalist is trying to say before he goes into the evidence to support it. One could argue that could be done in the topic sentences, but topic sentences are just for the paragraph, not really for the entire section that has multiple paragraphs to support it (people don’t want to read a topic sentence and then a huge body paragraph. It’s better to have the section heading and then however many paragraphs you need to support it).

One final interesting thing Johnston did was he put several hyperlinks in his article. This is a good way to get people to read more because not only will it help them understand more completely what Johnston is talking about if they read what he is referencing, but it’s also a one-click-away article for people to read without having to dig through a bunch of articles to get to. I know for my piece I submitted for this class I hyperlinked an article to something about the Republican debate being canceled because of Trump. It didn’t really have anything to do with the topic of my article and I’m not really sure if anyone clicked on it and read it, but still I gave it an effort. So that’s something I’ve actually tried in my writing and I think that’s a good way to get people to read more journalism. There’s just the problem of getting people to click on them.

Was it convincing even though it was clearly an opinionated piece? It doesn’t seem to matter considering AJAM was already being canceled when he wrote it. So it’s important to think about timing when writing a journalism piece. The question of “is it too early?” never seems to come up, but something we should probably keep in mind is “is it too late?” That said, if this article had been written in time and wasn’t just a reflective piece on Johnston’s experience at AJAM then it probably would have been convincing because he paints a vivid picture of great journalists and editors losing their jobs (especially if they have backbones like they used to) and he clearly put a lot of heart into writing this piece so we can tell that it matters a whole heck of a lot to him–that journalism in general is kind of going down the drain. But even though this was a highly opinionated piece, he still slid in solid facts like how when Gay Talese wrote “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” he didn’t even meet Sinatra, which supported what he said about journalists not needing direct access to the subject to write about it. So in that respect it is convincing us to want real news that goes in-depth on social issues facing us today that so many are afraid to touch. And that real news, Johnston claims, could have come from AJAM with its diversified staff if it hadn’t been flushed away.

Even though this man David Johnston has the narcissism of Harm de Blij with the presentation of his many, many, many credentials at the beginning of the piece and then more credentials throughout the piece, leading up to the piece de resistance of talking about his finishing of the article allowing him to write a book about “a simple and effective federal tax system for the 21st century economy” not to mention his mentioning of several news organizations begging him to write for them, I still found myself convinced by him. I don’t know how, maybe it was the evidence he gave about all the recognition AJAM received over the years or maybe it was his conviction or maybe it was just the way he presented it all, but despite his personality I was still convinced that AJAM was a great news organization and the world/the nation should be sad to see it go because it was one of the last true news organizations that gave real pertinent news. Color me impressed.

“Movies Vs. Television: The Tide Shifts Back” Write Up by David Mejia

Summary:

This piece focuses on the downfall of movies while considering where television stands in retrospect. The author focuses on multiple sources to provide a contrasting viewpoint on where Television work stands compared to cinema.

Yellow Highlight:

The yellow highlighted focuses on moments in which the writer uses a listing method, a list to clarify or provide supporting information to back up his previous statement.

The first highlighted portion [underlined]–

Maybe that was Spielberg’s way of acknowledging the inevitable: that The King’s Speech was about to take home the big prize, even though 10 years from now, movie buffs will more likely remember 2010 as the year of Winter’s Bone, Black Swan, Toy Story 3, Inception, and The Social Network (not to mention Dogtooth and Exit Through The Gift Shop). It may be cold comfort, but it is some comfort. Daring, rousing filmmaking losing to respectable awards-bait? That’s just Hollywood tradition.

–focuses on Spielberg saying that the films that typically win the awards don’t. In fact, the fellow nominees are more memorable so the writer lists some of the bigger hits of that year and it is true because since this was published in 2010, I have had 6 years to see these films age—still talked about today. I don’t hear much about King’s Speech.

The third highlighted portion that discusses True Grit also does the same, it provides a clear point for the reader to latch onto what the writer is saying when comparing to the other solid films of the previous year.

The following highlighted portions focus more on the actual content, really serving the previous thing I analyzed which is to provide clarification on what not.

Green highlight:

The green highlight focuses more on the actual writer really providing technical information to really help the reader understand what’s going on in the argument/discussion. The parenthesis is the highlighted portion, it is used to incorporate quotes, finance information, more description of the subject. This is helpful in allowing the reader as I said earlier, more of an understanding. I think it is important to highlight since there are so many factors that go into really grasping the magnitude of this work since the film business is so dynamic in terms of what effects what.

What Can We Learn:

For starters, we can learn that every view on the TV is helping it, keep that low-key show you stumbled on and now love on even if you’re not paying attention, hell text your buddies and tell them to tune in.

The film industry isn’t just about storytelling, unfortunately, it’s more about being tactical and savvy. It’s a business after all, sometimes it’s that before an art, I think this article really portrays that. The real artists in this article (the indie filmmakers) are the ones paying for their stuff in full and really shooting for their idea.

What Can I Incorporate:

As I just used above, the indie filmmaker parenthetical, I can use parenthesis to offer more clarification and what not. I can really also consider in terms of my own art what medium I should focus on, television writing/production or filmmaking/screenwriting. There’s a lot I can really use outside of just writing techniques, of course the author uses listing and that’s always been thing I love to do in order to provide or more clear and powerful point.

“Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti, Oddball Rap’s Children, at Play” Write Up by Dante Rose

I’m glad that the New York Times had this article by Jon Caramanica and I highly appreciate it, I just wish it had been longer and better- gone more in depth and got down to the marrow of this new wave of hip hop and its impact and greater implications. Though I do like this article, and it is an example of some good and thorough journalism- they went to their concerts and took pictures and listened to their music and whatnot. I didn’t really enjoy some of the elevated diction used here, it struck me as forced and kind of lame in this specific context- I didn’t like it at all. Also what was the deal with the line “their children are, to a man, even stranger”? Don’t get me wrong- I’m glad this article exists and these three artists were written about with some goddamn respect and not just quickly mocked and dismissed. I’m glad the writer appreciates the music and realizes it’s effective and infectious than a motherfucker. Like these people aren’t stupid, there’s intentionality in everything LIL BOAT does, and listen to “Sauce” by Playboi Carti, go listen to that shit and tell me it’s not absolutely phenomenal, the beat is so goddamn skeletal and tasteful, it’s fucking heavenly. And Lil Uzi Vert is my personal favorite, mainly due to the fact that he’s one of the best dressed musicians ever (I saw him live and this motherfucker had on a diamond chain with a killer klowns from outer space t-shirt, balmain jeans and a black pair of yeezys) and his stage presence is from another fucking sphere of existence, shit is ridiculous. I highly appreciate the fact that this article was written without biases and these artists, these poets- weren’t just dismissed like I feel like they are by many people who write articles like these, my favorite thing about this article was how not-prestigious it was. I liked that the writer showed some goddamn respect for these youngsters who all came from absolutely nothing and found success in music, Lil Uzi just released a new mixtape recently and it’s great, there’s this one song that has this gorgeous accordion sample and his sense of melody is borderline-prodigious, so is yachty’s and carti’s they all have great senses of melody, which is good because melody is the single most important thing in music. And I predict that Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti and Lil Boat are all going to continue to get bigger and rise in popularity.

“Zika Virus Traced Back to Venue Bathroom” Write Up by Catherine Anderson

The Hard Times never fails to make me giggle, so I recommend reading some of the other articles. Don’t stress, they’re super short. This is the longest one I could find. THT is an excellent teaching tool when comes to satire, because they take the three elements of what really makes writing funny; sarcasm, irony, and my third made up one which is making up quotes, or basically dialogue.

Sarcasm comes in right at the beginning of this article with a quote from the “NC Dept. Of Health and Human Services” drawing attention to the lack of toilet seats in the venue. Hah! Surely this would never happen in a real establishment. But this is satirical journalism, anything goes.

Right into the next paragraph, another quote! How absurd it is, to hear a health inspector say they usually just let the places pick their own score sort of as an honesty system. Or should I say ironic. How unrealistic! Or maybe I just feel so strongly because I work in bars. Each quote thereafter is just increasingly disgusting and over the top in sarcasm and conflicting irony. It’s obvious that this place can’t be real.

At the end, the very last line gives a nice punch. The whole time I hope you are thinking “how is a place like this even still standing?” or something like that. And I hope you were surprised at the end. How! How on earth did they get a B+? No toilet seats? Bloody, crusty, vomit plastered bathrooms? That’s probably the secret- dried puke is what they use to keep the place together.

“Women’s Health Takes A Backseat to Religion Again” Write Up by Casey Edeiken

With Garrett Epps’ piece, I’m really interested in the way how something that could easily be so boring, is actually funny. I’m fascinated by the way that humor is facilitated through literary devices. So that’s what I tracked.

Turquoise: The bitter humor of this piece.

So I was really drawn to this because not only were these comments funny, but somehow they managed to be openly hostile without being offensive. They really served to highlight the absurdity of this entire question. I think it’s almost hilarious because really this isn’t a question we should still be asking (do women deserve basic health care in the form contraceptives?). I’m obviously interested in this topic because it’s old, it’s so old and it’s so annoying that I was drawn to this article because it somehow managed to make the issue as ridiculous as it should be.

Orange: How the quotations influence the tone of this piece.

A lot of the quotes aren’t actually quotes, they’re just words in quotations. For whatever reason, that made so much of everything seem sarcastic that I was excited every time I saw a quotation mark. Even some of the selective quotations were bitingly sarcastic which I actually really appreciated. The sarcastic nature of everything just serves to even further highlight how ridiculous this argument is and  how little attention it deserves.

“Is The Album Review Dead?” Write Up by Alex De Los Angeles

Every now and then, an entire following comes to a head and starts to question its very purpose for existing – discussion often culminating in the same grim thought: is this thing dead as we know it? Though the idea may sound far-fetched at times, it’s a necessary question indeed. It was not long after I became moderately tuned in to the scraps and meme-toting mobs within the vast community of online listeners and reviewers alike that I realized I was witnessing a new era in music criticism, the byproduct of an age where music streaming sites have maximized accessibility and become the medium of the new generation. A short browsing session into this community will show that official sites like Pitchfork have largely fallen out of favor, toppled by a revolution of sorts fueled by twitter shares, Facebooks posts, and YouTube subscribers. It’s clear that what reigns is a phenomenon ambiguous in its implications regarding the state of music journalism, the written album review in particular. Dan Ozzi’s deep ass question is simple: Is the Album Review Dead?

The article begins by explaining this new age in which listeners “have access to every song, every album, and every note of music ever recorded, available at the touch of a button.” Though recognizing the benefits of this new order (using Anthony Fantano’s success story as one example), Ozzi delves into an underlying disarray starting with the overabundance of counterproductive discourse seen in the “new generation of free-to-low-wage clickjockeys, outrage-generators, and online opinionistas racing against one another to be the first out of the gate with a piping hot take.” The lack of critical depth by music critics is first suggested by the scarcity of negative reviews. While this peculiarity could be simply explained as a lack of competence, further investigation reveals a variety of underlying motives – from the common need for an influx of readers to winning favors and avoiding severe harassment from the artists themselves. According to Ozzi, this endangers not only the integrity of music journalism, but also the careers of artists who display a sense of originality. The article is structured around two key circumstances (in ascending order) which I’ve highlighted: The advanced internet age democratizing music and music criticism and reviews lacking critical depth due to rampant loss of journalistic integrity.

Eventually, the two points are combined in what is an excellent use of synthesis when Ozzi writes, “There will always be good music out there, but thanks to this democratization—and dilution—of traditional music criticism, and its creaky old warhorse, the album review, you, the listener, are on your own, left to the mercy of your own opinions. After all, if Lester Bangs could do it, so can you.” What one can learn from this is that it’s wise to structure an article with a set of concrete points for an equally firm conclusion. Ozzi, with his organized intense research, effectively answers a deep ass question.

 

“The Philosopher Who Says We Should Play God” Write Up by Jackson Hassell

Steve Paulson’s “The Philosopher Who Says We Should Play God” is a good example of nearly bias-free journalism. There is some minor commentary at the beginning – “Does Savulescu just get off being outrageous?” – but for the most part the writer just lets the content stand for itself. The questions aren’t pointed towards one side – the author mentions common arguments against genetic engineering and all that, but only so that Savulescu has a chance to address them, rather than trying to pin him down in inconsistencies and discredit his argument. Even the pictures and selected comments (restated in a larger font after Savulescu says them) don’t betray anything beyond the piece trying to present someone’s opinion. Yes, there is bias in that Nautilus chose to highlight such a left wing philosopher, and has no parallel article from the point of view of a right winger, but that is a fault of the magazine (and it pandering to its audience). In isolation, the article doesn’t try to convince the reader of anything – it’s just a spotlight of the thoughts of a prominent philosopher.

A couple of things to note that the author does well: before we hear almost anything Savulescu has to say, he mentions that he’s “a prominent moral philosopher at the University of Oxford,” proving that he at least is worth listening to before his stance biases you too much against it. It would be better if this was revealed before we heard anything at all, as it is that sentence at the end of the first paragraph and the title itself already identify him as very progressive, which could put conservative readers in a defensive mindset without giving Savulescu a chance. But I guess since the point of this article isn’t to convince so much as to inform, and it probably isn’t meant for conservative readers anyways (based on what assumptions Savulescu makes), it isn’t a big deal.

Additionally, Paulson orders the questions so that they fall into a natural arc. Conversations tend to skip around on tangents a lot, but all that we get in the article is a smooth transition from discussing the ethics of bioengineering humans to general futuristic moral issues, giving the feeling that there’s always worthwhile information ahead, unlike a lot of journalists who will give the reader most of the information in a lump at the beginning, which makes reading the rest of the article feel like a waste of time. But we get the most relevant information at the beginning – the bioengineering discussion – but from there we don’t just backtrack what’s been stated already, we move on to new and interesting things, making us want to read to the end.