Choose a political event that is CURRENTLY making national headlines. It might be a story about a political election, political responses to natural disasters, the global economy, or a highly publicized criminal trial. This does not include popular entertainment stories. analyze how this story is being covered by the following:
- Major national newspapers (USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal)
- Mainstream news magazines (Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report)
- Alternative magazines (The UTNE Reader, Harper’s Weekly, Mother Jones, In These Times)
- A local radio station
- National Public Radio (NPR)
- A local TV station
- Major networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, CNN)
- The internet (chat rooms, websites, blogs)
- Late-night talk shows featuring topical comedy (such as Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, The Late Show With David Letterman, or Jay Leno’s Tonight Show)
- Whatever else you come up with!
Pay particular attention to the following:
- The amount of time or space devoted to the story
- The “tone” of the coverage (Is it supportive or critical? Is it purely factual or reflective of certain political opinions? Does it include specific, objective language or biased, inflammatory language?)
As you discuss the topic, summarize your findings. What are the differences in how the story is covered (for example, local versus national media, print versus electronic media, one TV network versus another, and mainstream versus alternative press)? What are the similarities?
Interpret your findings. What do these differences and similarities suggest about the people who run these media organizations? Whose political or economic interests are being served or undermined by the manner in which the story is being presented to the public? Which medium do you think is providing the most accurate, objective coverage? Why? If you have selected a criminal trial to research, make broad use of court reports as well. Tell the story as it is happening, and incorporate the scholarship in your analyses.
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