Notes: The biggest challenge for this assignment is that students may not have taken a serious look
at a full ½ hr evening newscast. You might consider asking students to do both for the assignment.
In addition to making a good out-of-class writing assignment, this could also serve as a good
springboard for class discussion.
As always, feel free to use whatever grading scheme works best for you. I use a criterion-based
system, where I assume that most students will complete the assignment in a competent manner
and should earn a grade of B. A graduate student grades my papers using the following standard:
• For a grade of B, students should provide a log of the news stories from NPR. They should
have comments that the stories are long. Students might also say that the stories are about
issues they are not familiar with. Finally, they may note that NPR does not have
• For a grade of A, students should note the longer nature of stories, the greater depth in
reporting, and a look at longer term, less “spot news”-oriented stories.
• For a grade of C, students may note that the stories lack the pictures that go with television
as their key difference.
For 1½ hr, listen to a radio station that you don’t normally listen to. What station did you listen to?
What sort of format does the station have? Who is the station trying to appeal to? How does it differ
from the station you usually listen to? Would you listen to the station again? Why or why not? (You
may find it helpful to visit the station’s website, if it has one.)
Notes: Students will have fun with this assignment, though they may have difficulty finding
ownership information. The reference desk at your school’s library can probably provide help with
this information, as can the FCC website. Also encourage students to go to the SALES portion of the
station’s website, which will often have target audience information for potential advertisers.
The main criterion to separate an A from a B paper is completeness on the ownership question. A
good discussion of who owns the station, whether it is local or national ownership, and where the
station’s programming comes from is the best evidence of an A paper.
View a current music video. In a brief (300–500 words) paper, name the video and the artist and
briefly describe what kind of music it contains. Then analyze what the lyrics of the song say and
compare them with the message of the video itself.
Notes: One of the startling things about music videos is the fact that the visuals and the lyrics are
often completely unrelated to each other, something that doesn’t seem to bother college students.
It’s also interesting to see how students try to see connections that may or may not exist.
• Students should get a B on the essay if they give a fairly literal interpretation of the visuals
and the lyrics.
• Students should get an A on the essay if they explain the metaphors and themes that show
up in the video and lyrics that go beyond a literal interpretation.
• Essays that are short or incomplete in describing the video or lyrics should get a C or lower.