News articles

What does it mean to report the news? What is the language of the news? How can readers distinguish news from opinion?  

  1. Read the model news article below, published on 8 August 2022 in the New York Times. It reports on the FBI's raid of Donald J. Trump's home in Florida. Print it out and highlight all of the language in the text that suggests this is a news article in yellow. Do you see bias or opinion anywhere? Highlight this in green. Place your highlighted article on your table and walk around the class, studying other students' highlighted copies. As a class, discuss the language that you have highlighted in yellow and green. 

  2. 'FBI Searches Trump's Florida Home
  3. What are the defining features of a news article? Read definitions and examples of these features below. Have you found similar examples of these features in the article? 

  4. Feature Example
    Headline: News articles always open with a headline, which captures the essence of the news story. Unbiased news will not use sensational, emotive language. Headlines often remove definite and indefinite articles (such as 'the' or 'a') and prepositions (such as 'with' or 'about'). 

    The headline of this article, 'F.B.I. Searches Trump’s Florida Home, Signaling Escalation of Inquiries', is unbiased and factual. One could argue that an interpretation of the event is made 'signaling escalation of inquiries'. 


    Newsworthiness: A news article should be newsworthy. Generally, a story is deemed newsworthy if it is 1) relevant, 2) negative and/or 3) extraordinary. A story is relevant if its readership cares. A plane crash in Peru will not likely be reported in the UK, but it will be reported in Peru. Secondly, 'if it bleeds it leads,' meaning that disaster, chaos and tragedy often make the front page. Lastly, extraordinary stories may also make the news. 'Dog bites man' is boring, but 'Man bites dog' is extraordinary. When a woman was impaled by a parasol in the US in the summer of 2022, newspapers around the world in multiple languages reported this extraordinary, negative event.  At the heart of this article is the matter of an "investigation" into Trump. The news is relevant to millions of Americans, because if Trump is found guilty of a crime, he cannot run (again) for the office of President. The news is extraordinary, because a former president has never been accused of stealing documents from the White House. The news is negative, because, by raiding his home, Trump is outraged and calls on his supporters to attack the FBI. 
    Sources: Every reliable article has more than one source of information. Eyewitnesses, official reports, testimonies and interviews inform journalists' news articles. When one story is corroborated by another story, a picture of the truth begins to appear. Articles often use the phrase "according to..." to provide evidence to support their story.  The article opens with Trump as the source of his own story: "Former President Donald J. Trump said on Monday that the F.B.I. had searched his Palm Beach, Fla., home and had broken open a safe." The article includes several phrases with the word "according", such as "according to multiple people familiar with the investigation."
    Facts: News articles consist of statements that are based on facts, dates, names and evidence. Newspapers have a responsibility to report the truth to their readers.  Every statement in this article aims to report on topical events. Statements about the search warrant, the 15 missing boxes, Hillary Clinton and even Trump's opinion about FBI are rooted in evidence.  In fact, the article discourages the reader from jumping to conclusions based on the evidence: "The search, however, does not mean prosecutors have determined that Mr. Trump committed a crime."
    Structure: News articles tell a story in order of relevance and significance. Unlike narrative structures, which establish plots and characters, news stories string together a list of statements, facts and newsworthy events. Interpretations and explanations of these events is secondary to reporting them.  This story starts with the fact that the FBI broke into Trump's safe. This is a specific detail that makes the reader wonder why the FBI would investigate the president in the first place. It is a long article which continues to provide the reader with 'backstory' on Trump's relationship with the FBI and its investigation into the 15 missing boxes.
    Passive voice, Present-perfect tense: A news article is often reported in the passive voice (like this sentence) and reports what 'has happened', using the present perfect verb tense. The present perfect is used in conjunction with other verb tenses to distinguish what immediately happened from what has been happening recently to what happens in general.  Passive voice: "The F.B.I. would have needed to convince a judge that it had probable cause that a crime had been committed, and that agents might find evidence at Mar-a-Lago, to get a search warrant." Verb tenses:
    "[The search] came as the Justice Department has stepped up its separate inquiry into Mr. Trump’s efforts to remain in office after his defeat at the polls in the 2020 election and as the former president also faces an accelerating criminal inquiry in Georgia and civil actions in New York."
  5. Find a big news story that has recently broken in world news. How have multiple newspapers reported on the same story in very different ways? Check out these pages of newspapers that broke the Brexit vote in very biased ways. Can you find a how a single factual event is reported differently in two or more newspapers? 

  6. Compare the news article about the FBI and Trump to an opinion piece on the same story by Maureen Dowd. How do they use language differently? Find a topical story that has broken in world news. Find an opinion piece about that story. Deliver a short presentation comparing the news article with the opinion piece, using this template

Assessment

You may encounter a news article on the Paper 1 exam. 

Last modified: Thursday, 18 August 2022, 2:11 PM