Mass Communicative Discourses
Study Guide, Seminar & Lecture Notes, Writing Exercises
P.R.R.White. University of Adelaide
Coordinator: Dr Peter R. R. White
Email: When emailing please address to firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure, at the same time to CC to email@example.com
(University email is firstname.lastname@example.org )
Consultation hours – Napier Tower, room 907
Wednesday: 12 – 1
Thursday: 2 - 3
If you want to meet with me, it is a good idea to email me in advance (email@example.com) in order to avoid double bookings and to ensure I will be in my office when you come by.
Office phone number is 8303 5196.
Link to Study Guide
This course is designed to develop simultaneously your practical and theoretical understanding of the nature of mass media texts, how they are constructed, their rhetorical and ideological potential and the functions they serve in society. The course will equip you to account, both descriptively and critically, for the verbal styles and textual organisations of mass media texts while developing your ability to construct such texts yourselves. The practical strand will focus particularly on skills related to researching and writing news, current affairs and features of all types.
Most, perhaps all, of the following topics will be covered:
You will be invited to offer feature articles/packages (either print-style or podcasts/vodcasts) for the course’s online magazine, tentatively titled Adelaide Exposed or Adelaide Uncovered or Adelaide Eyeor Adelaide Voice (alternative suggestions warmly welcomed, including those which don’t include any reference to ‘Adelaide’.) Currently the idea for the magazine (still open to discussion) is that it will cover news, current affairs, social issues, sport, local history/heritage, human interest, lifestyle, the media, the arts and music from an Adelaide or South Australian perspective. It will be aimed at an audience assumed to be intelligent, reasonably well informed and wanting more depth than is typically provided in publications such as The Advertiser.
The two-hour seminar will focus on both theoretical and practical aspects, though the weighting will be in favour of the practical. You can expect to do a lot of media text writing in these sessions. Time will also be spent analysing, deconstructing and critiquing published/broadcast media writing.
On most occasions you will need to do some substantial preparation in advance of each seminar. For example, you will typically need to have completed media writing exercises or analyses, or to have written actual reports, features, reviews etc which you will bring along for discussion during the seminar. On some occasions you will be required to submit the writing exercises to me by email, usually at least two days in advance of the seminar (i.e. if your seminar is on Monday, then your work needs to reach me by Saturday evening, if your seminar is on Tuesday, your work needs to reach me by Sunday evening.). This will be clearly indicated in the course outline.
It is intended that by the second-half of the course (after the mid semester break) we will be in a position to start publishing student work on our online magazine website. The work you produce for the two assessed feature writing exercises should be written with this magazine in mind.
(The University requires me to remind you that attendance at seminars is compulsory and that you should obtain a medical certificate if you are forced to miss due to illness. Absence for other unavoidable reasons should also be explained. It is also usual practice at the university for those students who miss more than three seminars without explanation to be required to make up the missed work or to be failed.)
Textbook: Ricketson, M., 2004, Writing Feature Stories, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW [Available from Uni Books – should be available by the end of week 1]
Seminar notes, writing exercises, lecture handouts – supplied as Reading Pack 1 (available from the Copy Centre) and online (see links below)..
A reading pack of photocopied articles and book chapters – supplied as Reading Pack 2 (available from the Copy Centre)
Further articles and book chapters made available for reading or download via the library’s electronic resources. Links to these resources will be made available below..
2 nd-year level students must submit a minimum of 3 of the following exercises and 3 rd-year level students a minimum of 4. (Obviously you are strongly encouraged to complete and submit all the exercises.)
1. Costello Speech Report (week 3)
2. Sleep Deprivation Report (week 3)
3. Drug Trial Disaster Report (week 4)
4. Multicultural Music short feature (week 6)
5. Macedonia Recognition Crisis Feature (week 8)
6. Hospital Outrage Report (week 9)
For 2 nd-year level students, the final mark for this component is the average of their best three exercises.
For 3 rd-year level students, the final mark for this component is the average of their best four exercises.
Either individually or as a two-person collaboration.
Due midnight, Friday Sept 21, via the digital dropbox.
To conceive, research and write/produce a feature article (or podcast/vodcast) suitable for publication on the course’s online magazine website. You should have in mind a reader/listener who is reasonably well informed and who is interested in more depth than is typically provided in the mainstream media. You are encouraged to either focus on local issues/events or, at least, to provide a local perspective. The subject matter can be news/current affairs, social trends/issues, lifestyle issues, sport, human interest, local history/heritage, the media/advertising, or the arts/music.
The article/package should be an informative feature, not a commentary/opinion piece. That is to say, you should be reporting and not arguing a case or presenting your own opinions.
Length: 2 nd-year level – 1,200 to 1500 words (or equivalent); 3 rd-year level – 1,500 to 1800 words (or equivalent).
In the case of a print item, you should also consider what graphics (i.e. photographs or illustrations) might be used in association with the article and supply these if at all possible.
Resubmit a revised version of the article/package, based on the sub-editorial feedback and suggestions for changes you will receive.
Deadline: Midnight, Friday Oct 12, via the digital dropbox.
The first draft with comprise 75 percent of this component (i.e. 77% of 35%), while the second revised draft will comprise 25 percent (i.e. 25% of 35%).
As for the 1 st feature writing exercise – i.e. intended for the course online magazine, same audience, same range of subject matter, informative feature rather than commentary/opinion piece.
Length: 2 nd-year level – 1,200 to 1800 words (or equivalent); 3 rd-year level – 1,500 to 2,000 words (or equivalent).
Deadline: Midnight, Monday Nov 12, via the digital dropbox.
1 (25%) & 2 (35%) the same as above.
3. (40%) Academic Essay
Topic to be decided upon through consultation with your tutor. For example, a critical analysis of media coverage of some issue (i.e. global warming, the war in Iraq, aboriginal languages, celebrity, etc.); comparative analysis of two or more news reports covering the same event; analysis of the style and rhetorical strategy of a prominent media commentator; and so on.
Length: 2 nd-year level – 2,500 words; 3 rd-year level – 3,500 - 4000 words.
Deadline: Midnight, Monday Nov 12, via the digital dropbox.
(July 23 – 27)
Introductory – News Reporting Yesterday and Today
Nothing to prepare for the week 1 seminar
Basic approaches to conceiving and constructing hard news reports - focus on the lead.
Includes Writing Exercise 1 [Link]
(July 30 – Aug 3)
Media genres – hard news, human interest and story telling
Seminar Preparation (to be completed by way of preparation for the week 2 seminar)
1. Seminar Notes Unit 1: Introduction to News Writing (includes some writing exercises) [Link]
2. Seminar Notes Unit 1A: ‘Woman Bites Cop’ – the life and times of the hard news report. [Link]
Discussion/Feedback – Abandoned Baby report, Left Handers report (from Seminar Notes Unit 1); possibly begin work on Sleep Deprivation report
[In Reading Pack 2] White, S., 1991, Chapter 10, "The structure of hard news", in Reporting in Australia, Macmillan, South Melbourne.
Useful in conjunction with the "Introduction to News Writing" seminar notes - provides another perspective on what it takes to come up with good leads/intros.
Extension Reading (optional) - just if you want to go into some more depth.
[Reading Pack 2] Rich, Carole, 2000, Chapter 3, ‘The Basic News Story’ from Writing and Reporting News, Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont CA
Provides a north American perspective on how to write news. Some of the terms used (i.e. ‘nut graph’) are not current among Australian journalists.
[Reading Pack 2] Evans, H., 1972, Chapter 5, "The Structure of a News Story - Intros", in Newsman's (sic) English, Heinemann, Oxford
Again from the perspective of writing skills. Somewhat dated, and also sexist - i.e. the title and frequent references to ‘deskmen’. However, worth reading as a classic of journalism training which provides some very insightful advice from the British perspective. The author, Harold Evans, was a celebrated editor of The Sunday Times in the UK.
(Aug 6 – 10)
Rhetoric and point of view in the ‘hard news’ report
Lecture Handout required: [Link]
1. Writing Exercise 2: Costello Speech; Sleep Deprived (to be submitted by email - firstname.lastname@example.org - at least two days in advance of the week 3 seminar) [Link]
2. Seminar Notes Unit 2: Writing for Audio Broadcast (radio and podcast) [Link]
3. Seminar Notes Unit 2A: Story telling, media genres and news (contains some discussion points and text analysis exercises to be prepared in advance of the seminar) [Link]
Discussion/Feedback – Writing Exercise Costello Speech report; Sleep Deprivation Report
Discussion arising from Unit 2A notes (text analysis exercises)
[Reading Pack 2] Philips and Lindgren, 2006, ‘Writing for Radio / The Radio News Reporter’, in Australian Broadcast Journalism, Oxford University Press, Oxford
[Reading Pack 2] White, Sally, A., 1991, Chapter 11 ‘The hard news follow through’, in Reporting in Australia, Macmillan, Melbourne
Extension Reading (optional)
Rich, Carole, 2000, Chapter 11, ‘Leads and Nut Graphs’ / Chapter 12, ‘Body Building and Story Structures’, from Writing and Reporting News, Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont CA [Reading Pack 2]
North American perspective - Interesting and insightful account of different types of leads and different approaches to writing news.
Evans, H., 1972, Chapter 6, "The Structure of a News Story – The News Lead", in Newsman's (sic) English, Heinemann, Oxford
More again from the British perspective – slightly old fashioned but still very useful advise..
Bell, Allan, 1991, Chapter 8, ‘Telling Stories’, from The Language of News Media, Blackwell, Oxford [Reading Pack 2]
Just if you are interested in taking narrative-theory based analyses a bit further – theoretical rather than practical
(Aug 13 – 17)
Bias, Objectivity and Point of View in News and Current Affairs
Lecture handout required: [Link]
1. Writing Exercise 3: Drug Trials report – radio/podcast & TV (The first exercise - Exercise 1- is to be submitted by email - email@example.com - at least two days in advance of the week 4 seminar) [Link]
2. Seminar Notes Unit 3A: News as Rhetoric (contains some discussion points to be prepared in advance of the seminar) [Link]
Discussion/Feedback – Drug Trial Report
Discussion arising from Unit 3A notes (Gypsy Warden – comparison exercise)
Brooks et al., ‘Writing News for Radio and Television’ [Reading Pack 2]
(Aug 20 – 24)
The Feature Article
Lecture Handout required [Link]
1. Analysis Exercise: Objectivity and Point of View ( Lebanon Conflict Coverage) [Link]
2. Reading: White, P.R.R., 2004, ‘Subjectivity, Evaluation and Point of View in Media Discourse’, in Coffin, C., Hewings, A., & O’Halloran, K., (eds), Applying English Grammar, Hodder Arnold. London. [Reading Pack 2] [Link]
Discussion/Feedback – Objectivity and Point of View Analysis Exercise
Additional attitudinal language analysis exercises (to be arranged)
Campbell, Vincent, 2004, ‘Objectivity and Bias’, in Information Age Journalism, Arnold, London [Reading Pack 2]
(Aug 27 – 31)
1. Writing (and article collection) Exercise 4: Short feature-style article (Multicultural Music) & Feature article selection (Please submit the short feature article (Multicultural Music) by email at least two days in advance of the seminar.) [Link]
2. Seminar Notes Unit 4: The Feature Article – an introduction [Link]
2. RequiredReading: Rickeston, Matthew, 2004, Chapter 1, ‘What Exactly is a Feature Story’ / Chapter 2, ‘The Variety of Feature Stories’, in Writing Feature Stories, Allen & Unwen, Sydney [Text book]
Discussion/Feedback – Multicultural Music writing exercise
Best/Worst feature selection - discussion
White, Sally, A., 1991, Chapter 11 ‘News of a softer kind’, in Reporting in Australia, Macmillan, Melbourne [Reading Pack 2]]
(Sept 3 – 7)
Journalistic Voice – reporter, correspondent and commentator
Lecture Handout required [Link]
1. Interview Workshop Preparation: Macedonia Recognition Controversy. Prepare a list of questions for the interview (background information provided) [Link]
2. 1 st feature preparation (see Assessment details above). Come up with an idea for a feature article for the 1st assessed feature article exercise. Prepare a five minute ‘pitch’ for the article to be presented to the class during the seminar – i.e. a short proposal designed to ‘sell’ the idea to a features editor in which you indicate (a) the subject matter, (b) the angle you propose to take, (c) what you believe makes the subject matter newsworthy, moving, startling, intriguing, entertaining, etc, and (d) what research you will be doing, who you propose to talk to/interview.
Interview Workshop – Macedonia Recognition Controversy
Presentation of feature idea ‘pitches’.
Ricketson (text book): chapters 3, 4 & 5 (Chapter 3 will be discussed in the seminar next week, if time permits.)
Rickeston [text book], chapter 2, ‘The Subtle and Slippery Art of Interviewing’
(Sept 10 – 14)
To be announced
1. Writing Exercise 5 – Macedonia Recognition Feature (to be submitted via email in advance of the seminar) [Link]
Writing Exercise 5 (Macedonia Recognition), feedback and discussion
Further presentation of feature idea ‘pitches’.
If time permits, discussion of Ricketson chapter 3
Rich, Carole, 2000, Chapter 14, ‘Storytelling and Feature Techiques’ from Writing and Reporting News, Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont CA [Reading Pack 2]]
(Oct 8 – 12)
Mass Media Commentary
1. Seminar Notes Unit 5A: Attribution and Reported Speech in Journalistic Discourse. (Includes exercises and discussion points to prepare in advance of the seminar.) [Link]
2. Publication Candidate Workshop - prepare comments on feature articles which are candidates for publication (links to be provided here) [Link]
3. Writing Exercise 6: Hospital Outrage (please submit via email, will be discussed in the seminar if time permits) [Link]
(Oct 15 - 19)
Argument and Persuasion in the Mass Media
1. Seminar Notes Unit 6A: Analysing and Evaluating Media Arguments [Link]
2. Presentation of 2nd feature article ideas
(Oct 22 – 26)
The Rhetoric of Media Images
1. Seminar Notes Unit 7A: The Art of the Review (Music, Film and Food) [Link to be provided]
1. Further presentation of feature article ideas
2. Activity: Writing a Review [Link to be provided]