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Writing 101 D: Writing China

Fall 2021

Welcome to the Writing China course guide. This guide provides tips on finding and evaluating news sources.

Finding News

Library News Databases

Below are two of the major news databases from the library:

Distinguishing Different Types of News

News comes in various styles. Importantly, different styles have different goals. "Hard" news stories aim to strictly report the facts, whereas commentary and editorials mix in opinion with reporting.

News Type Definition Example
Commentary/ Op-ed Commentary pieces contain the authors opinion on news and events. Some times a commentary piece will be written by a guest writer. You can often detect commentary if the piece is stating a case or making an argument. "How China's financial cracks could spread" Wall St Journal
Editorial An editorial is similar to commentary in the sense that it contains a certain opinion about the news being reported. The key difference is the editorial is often written by someone on the editorial board of the newspaper--as such, it represents the opinion of the publication itself as opposed to an individual. "China should tread carefully in the South China sea" Wash. Post
Feature (Soft News) Similar to straight news, but is more in-depth and often provide some sort of analysis. Sometimes these news stories take an investigative approach to reporting and contain lengthy interviews. In some cases feature stories consist of multiple articles in a series. "As China's economy thrives, the public sector flounders" New York Times
Straight News/Hard News This type of news story features on reporting the relevant facts of the story in an impartial way. They are often shorter in length than other types of news because they do not go into the depths of a story or provide analysis in the same way other types of news does. "China's imports, exports surge as global economy reopens" Reuters

In US Newstream, you can filter your results to by different news types under the "Document Type" filter:

US Newsstream's document type filter

Not all news databases have the option of filtering by news types (and filters are not always precise), so look closely at a news story to determine the type of news it is.

Evaluating Media

What to Check When Evaluating News Sources

  What Type of News is it?

Is the news aiming to convey impartial facts or deliver analysis?

  • When reading news sources that go beyond reporting just the facts (such as editorials, commentaries, and op-eds) you need to account for bias. Even when the facts behind an opinion piece may be accurate the way they are framed might be misleading or lack proper context.

 What Do You Know about the Newspaper/Publication?

Do you trust the veracity of the publication?

  • Many times we might be familiar with a given newspaper or media outlet and have a sense of their slant. Other times, you might not know. When in doubt, do some investigation about the publication.
  • It is also important to take into account the difference between a national/international paper and a local newspaper. Local newspapers sometimes have less resources, but are able to 

 Do You Trust the Author?

What is the author's reputation? Do they have specific expertise or a political slant?

  • Just like publications, journalists have reputations. For instance, many established journalists follow professional standards, whereas others might not be as beholden to these.
  • Commentators might have an obvious political position (an example from news broadcasting are pundits MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and Fox News' Tucker Carlson) but could have particular expertise relevant to the topic at hand.

 Watch Out for Signs of Fake or Misleading News

Check for corroborating news sources and look for clues that the content is not fabricated

  • Common signs of misleading news (Mis-information)
    • False Connection: Headline does not accurately convey the text of the story or is click-bait 
    • False Context: Factual information like statistics and quotes are not given proper context 
    • Misleading Content: Information is presented in a biased or unfair way
  • Common signs of a fake story (Dis-information)
    • Imposter Content: Domain names that try to look legitimate (e.g. abc.com.co)
    • Fabricated Content: Stories are uncorroborated by other sources.Misspelling and other inconsistency are present on webpages
    • Manipulated Content: Accompanying photos are not related to the story or photoshopped
    • Could also have other attributes of misleading news above
7 types of mis- and disinformation. Satire/parody, misleading content, imposter content, fabricated content, false connection, false context, manipulated content

7 Types of Mis- and DisInformation (via FirstDraft)

 

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