We focus on current events and use USA TODAYs national and international news coverage along with the local newspapers to make comparisons of a storys style, how it was written, the lead it was given, and the sources that were used by each paper. We talk about the placement of a story, whether leads are appropriate, and how they differ from the local papers. We then determine if front-page stories were selected on the basis of traditional merits such as timeliness, proximity, etc., or some other criteria. We also compare how USA TODAY runs its stories versus other papers, e.g., The New York Times.
From the beginning of the semester, I have my students keep a journal featuring a developing story and have them address the following points as the story unfolds: slant, completeness, sources, timeliness and relevance. Students also draw out a storys “5Ws”: Who?; What?; When?; Where?; and Why?
When discussing copy-editing, well look at design and placement of stories, fonts, headlines and white spacing and try to determine why articles are positioned the way they are and what effect these factors have on a story.