Saturday, September 21, 2013

Essay 1 story options

Below are the stories, outlets and sample articles selected for Essay 1. You will see there are 4 story options: choose one of them for your essay. For each story option, there are two outlets; it is these outlets’ coverage of the story that you will be analyzing and comparing. For each outlet, there are links to two stories. These stories are NOT the sum of the outlets’ coverage. (One of your first tasks will be research to collect the complete set of each outlet’s coverage so you can analyze it.)

NOTE: This is not the full assignment description. Be sure to see the full description at:

Another note: For convenience, these links are—of course—to the online version of the respective articles. You may want to consider the papers’ coverage more broadly: especially, it may be useful to look at physical papers to see where stories appeared, how they were different, etc. (Some papers have convenient web displays of exactly what is in the print paper; others do not.) We will talk more about this next week.

Finally, since each of these stories is very recent, coverage will continue to unfold over coming weeks. You are not responsible for analyzing coverage up to the due date of the assignment. Instead, it is reasonable for you to bound your analysis: set a date after which you will no longer collect stories. A date during this coming week, such as 12:00am on Tuesday the 24th, would be reasonable. Mention the bounds of your analysis in your essay.

Story #1: The House of Representatives passes a bill tying government funding to health care law
(This happened just yesterday, Friday the 20th, so additional coverage will be coming soon.)
Outlet 1: The Wall Street Journal
Outlet 2: The New York Times

Story #2: Mass shooting of 13 at a Chicago park
Outlet 1: The Chicago Tribune
Outlet 2: The Chicago Sun-Times

Story #3: The Pope’s comments on the direction of the Catholic Church
Outlet 1: The Los Angeles Times
Outlet 2: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Story #4: First Indian-American Miss America
Outlet 1: The Washington Post
Outlet 2: The New York Daily News

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Online Assignment #1

1. I was born in Boston, but mostly grew up in St. Paul, MN. Always brought Red Sox loyalties with me, though.

2. In this job, I read a lot of news. Probably my 'primary' source is the New York Times, but I check in with a couple of dozen outlets from day to day. I keep my eye on the big American cable channels--CNN, MSNBC, Fox News--as well as local newspapers (State Journal, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). When I'm in the car, I usually listen to NPR. Blogs and some other online media are also becoming indispensable, so I check in with Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, Politico, and some others. I also check out what friends and acquaintances on Facebook and Twitter are linking to.

3. I don't watch regular TV, but every once in a while I get into some particular show, usually streaming or on DVD. Recently my wife and I have watched WarTime Farm, a sort of documentary in which 3 goofy British historians go to a farm and reimagine what life on English farms was like during the 2nd World War. Super dorky, but my wife's family are dairy farmers, so it's pretty interesting to see how they handled stuff 70 years ago, without enough fuel, etc.


5. It might be flash mobs. They seemed kind of cool when they first started, but now I'm afraid they're getting old. I was in a train station somewhere this summer where they had been trying to do a flash mob, but there weren't really enough people, and a lot of them didn't know the dance or whatever very well. It might be a phenomenon that has run its course--except for the really excellent and original examples, of course.

6. Since I play the music, I don't really need to give myself suggestions. But I have been thinking some Prince might be nice. So if you'd like to hear something else, it would be good to suggest it...

7. This isn't exactly a new one, but I just found it a really cool and original use of autotune. We used to watch videos from Carl Sagan's series Cosmos a lot in earth sciences in high school, which is where the video here comes from. (Incidentally, the series is apparently being brought back by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.)

Online Assignment #1

Your first online assignment is to create a post on your section blog introducing yourself to your class and instructors. In your post, answer the questions below. (In the next post to the J201 course blog, I will do the assignment myself.)

The assignment will be due by 5pm on Monday, September 23.

-Prof. Wells

1. Where are you from?

2. What is your primary source for news?

3. What is your favorite TV show?

4. What is your favorite catch phrase right now?

5. What pop culture phenomenon is most annoying to you?

6. What music (song and/or artist) would you like to hear Prof. Wells play before lecture?

7. Post an online video that you have enjoyed recently. Do not simply link to the video; use the blog's functions to embed the video in the post. (See Prof. Wells' post for an example.)

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Welcome! And course description

Welcome to J201!

This is the announcements page, where you will find updates, reminders, links to extra credit assignments, and other information that will be useful to you in the class. Check in with it a couple of times a week.

For this first week, take a look at the course description:

We live in a media society. Every aspect of social life—our relationships with friends, family and acquaintances, our democracy and politics, our businesses and economy—are profoundly shaped by communications that pass through media of various types. Mediated communications influence how we choose our political leaders, how we learn about ideas and products and decide what to purchase, and how we perceive other members of society.

What’s more, we live at a time of dramatic change in the media landscape. Less than a century ago, there were no broadcast media, no radio, no television, certainly no Internet, and the only media that could properly be thought of as ‘mass’ was the newspaper and magazine. Just two decades ago the World Wide Web had barely been created, and few people even knew about it. A decade ago Friendster was a top social networking site. The pace of change in how we communicate is so rapid that this syllabus will be partially obsolete by the time it is in your hands.

Being aware of this, J201 is about exploring conceptual tools for understanding how and why our society’s mediated communications work the way they do. It is about getting beneath the surface layer of what happened on Gossip Girl, or what the Old Spice man said during the Super Bowl, or the most recent flagrant attack ad, or the next social networking tool, to develop knowledge and skills applicable across contexts and in different forms of media. Throughout the semester, we will pursue three specific objectives:

First, J201 is an introduction to the work done in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication. The J School is a diverse department that covers a lot of ground, from the history of journalism and mass communications to the latest technological innovations, and from public relations crisis management to analyses of how scientists communicate with the public. We will touch on all of these topics during the course, often with the help of faculty members guest-lecturing about their latest writing and research.

Second, J201 is the introductory skills course for many of the skills needed in later J School classes. It is an essential introduction to journalism and strategic communication for those considering a major in the J School. And its extensive written and oral communication assignments fulfill the Communication-B requirement of the UW-Madison.

Finally, because ours is such a media society, much of the content we will cover will be useful to students not majoring in journalism or strategic communication. Skills such as critical analyses of news content and advertising, knowledge of media structure, and perspectives on media effects will be useful whether you are a journalist, advertiser, business owner, scientist, doctor—and consumer and citizen.