Your research paper

This semester you will write a short research paper on the topic of this class, which is President Trump and the media. I would like you to find two news reports about the same story (for instance, Trump’s trip overseas or his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s dealings with Russian officials). The reports should be from two different news organizations.

Although these stories may be opinionated, please do not choose a pure opinion piece, such as a newspaper op-ed. A television or radio report is fine as long as you can provide a link to it. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Your task will be to write a 750- to 1,000-word paper comparing and contrasting the two pieces. Does one strike you as being better reported than the other? Why? Does either or both rely on anonymous sources? Are you troubled by that? Is one more fair than the other? Do either of them deviate from the principles put forth in Kovach and Rosenstiel’s “The Elements of Journalism”?

As with your midterm, your paper will be graded on the level of detail, the quality of your writing, and the strength of your argument. Be sure to spell all proper names correctly; errors will have some effect on your grade.

Your paper will be due on Friday, June 16, at 5 p.m. in the form of a Word document that you will email to me.


Your midterm

Your midterm questions are below. Although in some respects it might look like your last quiz, these questions require deeper engagement and analysis on your part, and will be graded accordingly. You will be assessed on the level of detail you offer, the quality of your writing, and your ability to synthesize information into a coherent argument. Misspelled proper names will affect your grade.

Each question can be answered in 100 to 300 words. Please email your finished midterm to me in the form of a Word document no later than Friday at 5 p.m.

1. On several occasions President Trump has called for changes to the libel laws in order to make it easier to win a lawsuit against a news organization. What is actual malice, and why is it an important part of the libel laws? Do you agree with Trump, or do you believe the laws should be left alone?

2. When James Comey was FBI director, he was reportedly asked by President Trump to jail journalists who publish classified information. Please discuss the two circumstances under which journalists might be jailed.

3. This semester you have been asked to read The Washington Post on a daily basis. President Trump regularly accuses mainstream news organizations such as the Post of publishing “fake news.” Based on your reading, do you think the Post’s coverage of Trump has been fair, or has its reporting been too harsh? Please cite one specific example to support your opinion.

4. What do you think is the most important principle in Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel’s “The Elements of Journalism”? Why? You will find a link to an essay about “The Elements of Journalism” below the slideshow that I posted on the class website.

5. What do you believe is the most important takeaway from Thomas Patterson’s report “News Coverage of the 2016 General Election Campaign: How the Press Failed the Voters”? How could the media have done a better job?

Your weekly quiz

Your news quiz for this week consists of five questions that call for short answers of 50 to 100 words each. Please do not exceed that length — this is a quiz, not a midterm. You will be graded on the basis of accuracy, originality, level of detail and writing quality. Write you answers in a Word document and email it to me. Deadline is Friday, May 26, at 9 a.m.

1. What do you think was the most important news story of the week involving President Trump? Please provide a link to the story.

2. The most important news story of the week not involving Trump was clearly the terrorist attack in Manchester, England. What do you think was the second most important non-Trump story of the week? Please provide a link to the story.

3. On Tuesday, Professor Meg Heckman discussed her experiences in covering the New Hampshire primary over the years. For you, what was the most important or memorable takeaway from her talk?

4. Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte has been charged with physically assaulting a reporter. Under the Constitution, the Congress has the right to determine the qualifications of its members. If Gianforte wins the special election, what consequences should he face? Should the House refuse to seat him? Or should it respect the will of the voters?

5. Although we can’t know the answer to this, I am interested in your assessment. In your opinion, does Fox News host Sean Hannity know that he is promoting what appears to be a baseless conspiracy theory regarding murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich? Does he actually believe it? Or do you think there are still enough unanswered threads to Rich’s killing that Hannity is right in continuing to push?