Jump into Public Discourse

Assignment

One of the things that frustrated me when I was your age was knowing the world around me was talking about stuff but not knowing where those conversations were happening, who was having them, and how I could join in. In a poli-sci class I was assigned to read the New York Times every day for a whole semester, and, though the prospect of being informed thrilled me, the challenge of understanding what the articles were even talking about scared the pants off me. It took weeks until I felt like I was beginning to understand the way the newspaper worked.

Today, you have it even worse. The internet and social media has complicated the landscape of public discourse and turned it on its head. People are reading more than ever, but they often don't know what they're reading since they access articles and reports directly through a feed on Facebook or Twitter, and there are criticisms that we each exist in a bubble of our own making, surrounding ourselves with opinions and reports that parrot our own worldview back to us, leaving us unaware of a true or accurate picture of current events.

Therefore, for this assignment, I want you to jump into the world of public discourse and begin to understand its landscape: the topics, the writers, the publications, the biases. Everything.

Step 1: Read A LOT

For the next week, spend at least one hour each day browsing and reading from the following types of publications.

Newspapers

Choose one of these national newspapers and, each day, read the main sections (usually called "Nation," "US," or "World" or something), the Opinion pages, and one or two of the other sections that interest you. In addition to one of these, feel free to choose a local paper of interest to you such as the Deseret News or Salt Lake Tribune, The LA Times, the Houston Chronicle, etc.

Many papers offer a limited number of free articles per month, but students can often get either free or heavily discounted subscriptions or even a free trial, including to the big three:

Websites

These websites offer a wide variety of articles and content, much of it in the form of in-depth news and analysis, often including opinion pieces. Some of these are magazines, and all of them operate more or less like magazines, publishing less frequent but more thorough content, on average. Try to focus on one or two of these websites over the week, getting a feel for what they publish and how often, focusing on news over other content.

Other

In addition to the above categories, feel free to spend some time with any of the following sources—online or on television, etc.—and any other news outlets you can discover. The major cable news networks also have individual shows such as Hannity or Meet the Press or The Rachel Maddow Show, so you can focus on one of those rather than the whole network.

Be sure to check out a wide variety of publications overall, even as you focus on a few core ones, and be sure to explore publications that maybe don't agree with your world view. If you tend conservative, try some liberal-leaning pubs, and vice versa (a quick look at Wikipedia can usually confirm whether a source leans left or right). Also, as you browse, keep your eye open for other ways of keeping up such as podcasts, Twitter feeds, email lists, etc., and share on Slack if you think the rest of us would like to know about them.

Step 2: Share the Best Stuff

During the week, share the most interesting publications and content you discover on our worth-sharing channel on Slack. Share a link to the content and a short explanation of what it is and why you think it is worth sharing. I will award extra credit to the best shares at the end of the week.

Step 3: Write a Report

At the end of the week, write a detailed, typed report that answers the following questions:

Turn It In

This assignment should be uploaded to your Submitted folder on Dropbox by classtime on Wednesday, June 5. Because this is such a major assignment requiring a lot of time, it will count for 3 regular assignments. Failure to do all the work will result in a fail for one or more of those assignment grades.