Current Events as told by Ron Swanson: A How-To Guide

I try my hardest to journal before bed every night. It’s such a great way to decompress and reflect on my day, few days, or week, depending on how long it has actually been since my last journal entry. Because of my pro-journaler status, I figured that writing a journalism piece as my first experiment would be a piece of cake and boy, was I wrong!

For my examples, I chose three journalistic articles all discussing the same broader topic, but different in style and outcome:

  • A news analysis from the New York Times titled “Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey: Rebuked. Now What Do We Do With Their Work?”
  • An opinion piece from abcnews titled “What it means to ‘stand by your man’ in the #MeToo era
  • An interview-heavy two-sided piece from Cosmopolitan titled “Should I See Aziz Ansari’s New Tour? A Debate”

Even though they were each speaking on the topic of sexual assault in Hollywood, these articles hit different points, concluded in different ways, and ultimately took a different route to address the issue.

Throughout my English classes over the years, I have been told to assume that my audience does not know anything about the topic that I am going to be discussing. In the articles I read, I noticed that there was an adequate introduction to the topic, but not too much. This leads me to my first rule of writing an article:

Rule 1: Depending on the topic, you can probably assume that your audience is at least a little bit informed about what you are going to be writing about

Reading these articles, the authors knew that I, as a reader, had at least heard of the Me Too movement and am aware of its presence, which was a fair assumption to make. Similarly, the articles only briefly introduced the key players in the situation, some with a simple name-check, one sentence introduction, and picture.

Rule 2: A few sentences of background info about a person is typically enough

Rule 3: Pictures can help, too (we love multimodality!)

Each of the articles I looked at referenced different people and almost always, a picture of the subject was included alongside a new introduction of a person. Most of the time, each new person came with a new paragraph. News articles often hop from paragraph to paragraph pretty quickly, as to not lose the attention of the reader or turn into an essay.

Rule 4: Keep the paragraphs short and sweet – you don’t want to lose your readers in lengthy paragraphs that are intimidating to read

There is a lot of freedom that comes with writing a current events article. The three articles that I read varied in the amount of factual information versus personal opinion. However, none of them were primarily opinion – information always overpowered the amount of opinion within the piece.

Rule 5: Find that personal connection with the topic you are discussing and engage in it, but do not linger for too long

Those are the top five points that I took away from the three articles I read. There are many similar techniques used within current events piece, but there is also plenty of freedom to write and mend the articles in different ways depending on what you hope to get across to your reader. Ultimately, these articles differ in the way they present evidence to address their main question.

 

“Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey: Rebuked. Now What Do We Do With Their Work?”

This article weighs the big question: can we separate an artist from their art? Should we separate an artist from their art? To answer this question, the authors refer to opinions from many accomplished people in the industry such as actors, senior news media reporters, and scholars. While they do not come up with an ultimate answer to the question (I’m beginning to think it isn’t possible to), by using a range of opinions from credible sources, this article encourages the audience to consider different possibilities.

 

“What it means to ‘stand by your man’ in the #MeToo era”

This article explores the different ways that wives of men are affected when their husbands are accused of sexual assault. To do so, the author Meghan Keneally discusses a variety of sexual assault allegations and the different outcomes they had on the wife or partner of the accused. She looks primarily to examples of these outcomes to deliver her point. This differentiates this article from the rest: it is the only one that looks at the implications for a specific party involved, not just the accuser, accused, and audience through examining real-life situations.

 

“Should I See Aziz Ansari’s New Tour? A Debate”

The title of this article just about says what its main concern is: the author is conflicted about whether or not she should be going to see Ansari’s “comeback” tour in light of his sexual assault allegations. For this article, the author first explains her concerns and then presents two different opinions given by two women. After her initial contribution, the author does not insert her opinions or any background information in the piece – she leaves it totally to the two women to express their thoughts on if it’s appropriate to attend or not (one argues why she will not be attending, the other why she is). The two women debating are both in their twenties and justify their opinions with personal experience. This method is totally different from the other two articles I read: it uses the personal experience of two non-famous women to show two opposing views on the issue.

 

The options for current event articles are seemingly endless. The general conventions are present, but in no way limit the creativity that goes into creating a piece. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that journalism is MUCH more work than journaling.

One thought to “Current Events as told by Ron Swanson: A How-To Guide”

  1. You make some interesting points regarding the rules of writing an article which, as you note, challenge what most students are taught in school. I agree that the assumption the reader knows absolutely nothing is annoying and detrimental to certain articles depending on what the writer is trying to do. Assuming the reader has at least a basic understanding of the topic leads to more effective writing as the writer can focus on their argument instead of educating the reader. Another rule that I had never really considered is the importance of paragraph length. The reader doesn’t want to have to make their way through huge paragraphs searching for information. Also, smaller paragraphs break up ideas more and improve transitions.

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