Fear and Favor in the Newsroom

Consume THREE of the following ONE THE SAME DAY. You will then compare these sources in a paper using the critical media literacy process prompts outlined below.

  • Read the entire front page section of a print newspaper (eg. OC Register, LA Times – https://enewspaper.latimes.com/ (Links to an external site.), NYTimes – https://www.nytimes.com/section/todayspaper (Links to an external site.))
  • Watch a 30-minute morning/evening network newscast (eg. KTLA-5, KCAL-9, Good Morning America)
  • Watch a 30-minute cable news broadcast (eg. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News)
  • Listen to a 30-minute morning/evening public radio newscast (eg. KCRW, KPCC, NPR, KPFK)
  • Spend 30 minutes reading the top stories of an independent or nonprofit news magazine or news outlet (eg. Mother Jones, The Nation, The Guardian, The Intercept, Harper’s, Voice of OC)**
  • Spend 30 minutes reading the top stories on a major native digital news site—a news organization that started & grew on the internet (eg. BuzzFeedNews, Yahoo News, The Root)**
  • Spend 30 minutes reading/watching/listening to a non-English language news outlet focused on the U.S. (eg. Univision, La Opinion)

**If you’re not sure what qualifies in these categories, ask me.

If you’re having trouble choosing news outlets, you can consult this chart (Links to an external site.) for ideas

Paper Assignment:

Introduction – Explain what three news outlets you consumed, how you consumed them, and the exact day/time you consumed them

Description – Briefly describe what stories/segments each outlet covered. What was the lead story? Who were some of the sources they quoted? What visuals did they use? What was the tone of the headlines/language? What types of ads or sponsored content ran during the segment?

Analysis – Compare the choices each outlet made – did one devote more time to certain topics than the other (eg. politics, crime, human interest)? What angles did they take on the stories?

Interpretation – Now it’s time to do a little more background research:

  1. Consult the Pew Research Center’s State of the Media fact sheets (Links to an external site.) that apply to the media you studied (eg. local TV news, digital news). This will give you some information on industry trends and who the audience for these outlets is.
  2. Determine who owns/controls this news outlet (eg. a local millionaire? A media conglomerate? A major international corporation? a nonprofit public broadcasting corporation?)
  3. Look back at the ads that supported this news and think of who they are targeting.

Now determine, why do you think this outlet made the choices it did in news coverage, based on what you learned about its audience, ownership, ad revenue, and industry trends.

Evaluation – Review the SPJ code of ethics (Links to an external site.), the textbook chapter on newspapers and your notes from “Fear and Favor in the Newsroom.” Now, consider the value of these news segments. Do they provide information we need to be engaged citizens? Do they deliver the information in a way that’s easy to understand? Or do they slip into ‘infotainment’ or sensationalism to boost audiences? Do they seem to cater to the interests of their advertisers or owners? Is one segment more valuable to the public than another?

Engagement – Think about someone in your life who would benefit from a good news diet – your parents/grandparents, your children/nieces/nephews, a friend. Based on what you’ve learned in this exercise, how could you coach them on best practices to consume news? What would you recommend they consume? How would you warn them to be mindful about their consumption?


  • 1200-1500 words
  • Must directly reference content from the three news outlets
  • Must directly reference the Pew Research Center’s State of the Media
  • Must directly reference the textbook, the SPJ Code of Ethics and/or “Fear and Favor in the Newsroom”
  • Reference any additional sources used to determine ownership/umbrella company for outlet (HINT: don’t use Wikipedia)
  • Must include Works Cited page in MLA format with all sources cited



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