Current Event Coverage Report

Assignment

Instead of writing a traditional synthesis paper as the key assignment for this unit of the class, we're going to do something a little different, something I'm calling the "Current Event Coverage Report." The idea is that you'll choose some current event that's receiving media coverage and then collect every article, editorial, blog post, pundit's monologue, think tank essay, analysis, etc. about it; evaluate the merits, credentials, biases, and failings of each; and then write up a report of the real story, free from all that spin. You yourself must take a non-biased, non-partisan view of the event in order to be successful.

NOTE FOR NON-AMERICANS: If you'd like to focus on current events and sources from your country or region of origin, I'm totally okay with that.

To produce your Coverage Report, follow these steps:

Step 1: Choose a Current Event

The first thing to do is choose the current event you'd like to focus on. This should be something that

Step 2: Collect All the Media

Once you've chosen an event to cover, the next step is to find everything you can on that topic. In class we're coming to understand better the landscape of public discourse, and you should try to pull from all parts of the landscape if possible, without discrimination. You should look for left- and right-leaning publications, basic journalism and deeper analysis, opinion pieces and argument, interviews and punditry, personal blog posts and tweets, print and broadcast sources, clickbait and responsibly headlined articles, and anything else you can think of.

At minimum, you need to find 24 sources on your current event.

Step 3: Make an Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography has 2 parts: citations for all the sources you've found (that's the bibliography part) and notes on each source (that's the annotations part). Your bibliography will include citations for every source you find and annotations for 12 of your sources.

Citations: Each source you find should have a citation that follows the documentation style of your choosing (MLA, APA, etc.). They should appear just as they would in a Works Cited or References page, with all the periods in the right places, all the correct italics and everything.

Annotations: 12 of your sources should also have an annotation that details the following things:

Formatting the Annotated Bibliography

Documentation styles (like MLA and APA) usually have strict rules about how to format a bibliography—things like double-spacing, hanging indents, alphabetizing the entries, etc. However, because this is a specialized bibliography quite unlike what the writers of those style guides had in mind, I want you to follow these special conditions, even if it goes against your style guide.

  1. At the top of your bibliography, under the title, please note what documentation style you are using (MLA, APA, etc.).
  2. Instead of double-spacing the entire document and indenting the first line of each paragraph, please use block formatting. This means that you single-space the entire document, that you don't indent the first lines of paragraphs, and that you add a single blank line of space between each paragraph This sample bibliography shows what I mean.
  3. You should still use a hanging indent for your citations (i.e., the first line isn't indented, but all subsequent lines are).
  4. Usually bibliographies are organized alphabetically, but I want you to also organize yours by source type. Therefore, divide your bib into the following sections using a bolded subheading for each section (within each of these sections, your citations should be alphabetized):
    • Fact-based Journalism
    • Interpretive Journalism
    • Opinion-based Journalism
    • Other Sources (could include satire, fake news, memes, social media posts, videos—anything that doesn't fit in another category or isn't journalism)
    • (These categories are defined and discussed in detail in the Journalism Continuum reading, and we will practice identifying them in class.)

  5. Lastly, when you choose which 12 of your 24 citations to annotate, please try to annotate 3 sources in each of these categories if at all possible.

Step 4: Write the Report

Having found, read, and analyzed all those sources, you are now qualified to synthesize what there is to know about your chosen event, seeing through the bias and the limitations of any one source. In 1000–1500 words, and citing from your sources as necessary, explain to your reader the following:

  1. The Facts
  2. The Opinions
  3. The Conclusion

Working as a Team

You have the option to work as a team for this assignment, and I highly encourage it. While group work does have its challenges, it can be extremely beneficial for an assignment like this where you must think outside of your own preconceived notions and biases. What better way to do that than to correlate your responses with those of others?

If you do choose to work in a team, the conditions of the assignment change a bit. One, you must tell me at the outset that you intend to work together and must clear your chosen current event with me before you begin. The deadline to do so is Friday, June 7. The maximum team size is 4.

Two, your team's annotated bibliography should contain 12 citations for each person on the team, and eight of those entries should be annotated for each person on the team (thus, a team of four would produce an annotated bibliography with 48 citations and 32 annotations). If people on the team are using different documentation styles (MLA, APA, etc.), it's fine for each person to cite in their own style. Thus, on a team with one MLA-, one APA-, one Turabian-, and one CSE-user, I'd expect roughly 12 citations in each style, give or take.

Three, your team's report should be, at minimum, 1000 words long for each member of the team (thus, a team of four would produce a 4000-word report). This is the trade-off: you have less work to do on the bibliography, but as a team you should produce an even more detailed report than any one of you could produce alone. If people on the team are using different documentation styles (MLA, APA, etc.), I'd like you to match the way you cite each source in the text to the way it is cited in the bibliography. Thus, if a source is given in MLA in the bib, in the text it might be cited like this (Grover 23), while an APA citation might look like this (Grover, 2019, p. 2). (You may have to fudge this a bit when multiple sources are being cited simultaneously: do your best and don't sweat it.)

I'm happy to set up a private Slack channel for groups to use, and I can show you how to use Google Docs or other software to collaborate effectively.

Sample Papers

Some sample materials have been posted for your use.

Also, here is the Coverage Report Rubric.

Turn It In

You will need to produce a partial draft (5 entries) of the annotated bibliography portion of this assignment by Friday, June 21 for an in-class peer review.

For instructions about turning in the final draft of your paper, which is due at or before Friday, June 28, consult this page about the Coverage Report Grading Conference.

Revise Your Work

If you choose, you can revise your paper after it's been graded and turn it in again for a higher grade. Follow the instructions on the Revise the Coverage Report page.