Author Archives: elabd12

Investigative Article Excerpt (El-Abd)

Here’s an excerpt (3 pages) of the first two sections of my investigative article for class advice/review:

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Evaluation of Stetson Kennedy

According to Kovach and Rosenstiel, the first element of journalism is that journalism’s first obligation is to the truth. This is definitely something Kennedy observed. Even though his article seemed somewhat editorial, it was, in fact, nothing more than a narration of events that we, as the reader, presume to be fact. There is no editorializing, save for the very end, when he states that he finally understood how it must feel to be black in the South and have no one to turn to for justice. Although this is, actually, fairly factual, it is tinged with editorializing. Despite the use of “I” to tell the story, the story still stuck to facts. There was no reference to “we.” It was as though Kennedy told his readers, “This is what I experienced, and I know it to be true. You can choose to believe what you will.” This is journalism. The fact that he was a character in the article does not change that.

With regards to the next element–journalism’s first loyalty is to the citizens–Kennedy followed this rule, as well. The whole purpose of going undercover to write this article was to reveal news to the citizens that he felt it was their right to know. By going undercover, Kennedy also ensures he is verifying, not affirming, which is the third element of journalism. He was in there to get the truth, and by doing so, he verified what we know today to be true. Overall, I thought Kennedy did well in sticking to the elements of journalism as expressed by Kovach and Rosenstiel. His article was atypical of the articles we tend to think of today, but after looking at it closely, it is clear that the principles are all still there.

 

9/11, In memoriam

From when I woke up today, I’ve felt a constant tug in the back of my mind, reminding me of this unwritten assignment. I postponed writing it, though, for as long as I could, mostly because I didn’t know what to write. Forgive me, then, if this post seems to wander endlessly and without direction (because that’s what it feels like I’m doing), but I felt I had to write something, not because it was an assignment, but because it was the right thing to do. It is, in fact, the only thing I can do. Part of the reason I didn’t know what to write all day was because I’m still sorting out my feelings about the event. It was terrible in all the ways terrible can be imagined, yet even worse. And still, it is much more than that. It is an event that affected much more than a nation; it affected the world. But more importantly, it affected millions of individual lives, including both the families with empty seats at the dinner table, and the people whose faith was sometimes blamed for it all. Ten years later, and 9/11 still resonates strongly in all of our lives. It took me ten years to begin to wonder what the world would be like if 9/11 had never happened. And it took me all of those ten years to realize to what extent 9/11 had influenced my life.

Throughout the day, I visited news websites to see their coverage of 9/11. New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, CNN. But all I saw was the headlines; the only article I actually and fully read was the article on People Magazine’s site  (http://www.people.com/people/gallery/0,,20526983,00.html) that covered the stories of children who were born after 9/11, children who never met their fathers and whose fathers never met them. This story touched me differently, I think, because it reminded me that there was a world before 9/11 and that within seconds, we were thrust into a world that was thousands of miles away. The problem is, though, that these children will never know that. Their lives were marked, were changed before they were even born. They never even had a chance for things to be different. I think of everything that they’ve missed and everything that they’ve lost, and I wish I could change it. I wish we could all go back to the world before 9/11, the world where terrorism didn’t seem to exist, when I was a shy student in a sixth-grade classroom, with no worries to have in the world.

In the years after 9/11, once we grew and realized what 9/11 meant, the world not only looked different, but it looked at us differently. We were the outsiders. We were the potential terrorists. We were the believers of a jihad-touting religion. No one even knew what jihad meant, but it was an accusation nonetheless. It was an insult thrust at us as though we were all one. As though we all stood behind the acts of the terrorists. But they were the terrorists, not us. Few noticed what repercussions 9/11 had on us, and the confused identity it left us with. We were fragmented in how we were viewed and how we viewed ourselves. The phrase American Muslim may have even struck some as a paradox; we could not possibly be both, and certainly not without being a threat to those around us. As I’ve wrote in numerous essays before–though I never, I realize now in retrospect, even mentioned 9/11 in these essays–I would walk around with a smile glued upon my face, just to divert any potential suspicion, any unfriendly gazes. I didn’t like the way people stared, but I quickly knew to expect it and I knew I couldn’t change it. It was a new life, after 9/11, for many people. But it wasn’t an easier life for anybody.

Three paragraphs later, and I feel like I am still wandering in the dark with outstretched arms but nothing to hold on to. I’ve put my thoughts all down, but they make no more sense now than they did when they were in my head. I wish I could think of something poignant to write in order to commemorate each and every life that was lost that day, but it feels like I’m searching for water in a desert. I know there is plenty out there in the world, but I don’t have anything with me now. Sometimes, silence is all we have.

On Nellie Bly’s “Ten Days in a Madhouse”

The lede for Nellie Bly’s article captivated me immediately. It struck me as a near-perfect example of the narrative lede: it begins in medias res (a technique, when used properly, seems practically fail-proof in securing a readership), employs precise diction (“livid with cold”), and leaves the now-curious reader questioning, “What exactly is going on here?” Unlike other narrative ledes I’ve seen so far, though, this one seemed unique in that it makes mention of the writer. It uses “I” and by doing so, the reader demands to know why the writer is there (and where precisely “there” is), why she is  surrounded by “attendants who sat with coats on at the table,” and why no one seems to be doing anything to help the freezing Miss Mayard.

My only wish with this lede was that it was a bit more specific. Rather than simply state “One morning,” would it be better to say, for example, “On that September morning in Illinois”? Depending on where and when the story took place, it may have impacted the reader more to include these details. For example, if it is in the middle of June in Florida and Miss Mayard is “livid with the cold,” the reader would have a better sense of the peculiarity of the situation, further motivating them to continuing the story. If, on the other hand, it is December in Maine, it may seem more predictable and less unusual that someone is cold, and thus, it may be better to leave those details out.

As the reader moves into the second paragraph, we get more of a sense of where and who the writer is through her quote: “It is cruel to lock people up and then freeze them.” The writer’s humanity is revealed here, in stark contrast to the attendants apparent lack of humanity. Not only did they lock up Miss Mayard, but it seems they need to be told that allowing her to freeze is inhuman. The description following the quote further hardens their image to the reader; they refuse to give her more clothing because “she had on as much as any of the rest.” The rest of who? Why are they allowed to determine how much she can wear? And who are these attendants in the first place? These are the questions the reader is left asking, but they can sense, from the additional knowledge they gained in the second paragraph, that more knowledge is to come if they keep reading. The lede mystifies, the quote clarifies, and the description re-mystifies to keep the reader reading.

A good lede is like a mousetrap…

“Nisreen looks younger than her age — 19. But as a member of the female unit of  Moammar Gadhafi’s militia, Nisreen says she was forced to execute 11 Libyan rebels.” (full article here)

After scouring the internet for a good lede, I felt this was the best one I was going to find the moment I saw it. Even though it’s physical location on the CNN News homepage (top and center) may have helped in capturing my attention, it is a lede so captivating, I think it could have held its own no matter where on the page it was placed. What works so well with this lede is the fact that it makes use of each word. The first sentence piques our interest as to why we should care about a girl who looks younger than her age. From her Arabic-sounding name, our preconceptions are brought to the forefront of our mind: this must be an article concerning a sweet, innocent young girl who has a heartfelt story to tell about her disheartening experiences as a woman growing up in the Middle East.  The next sentence, though, knocks us off our feet entirely: she did what? Every preconceived thought in our mind becomes void when we realize this is a story as much unexpected as it is captivating. It sounds as personal and intimate (use of first name and age) as it is political (Gadhafi). The effective juxtaposition of women/youth/innocence with violent murder is so jarring, so concise and unsatisfying, readers simply must know more. They click the link, read the article, and just like that, we have witnessed the allure of a successful lede.

 

Damon, Arwa. “Libyan teen says Gadhafi’s troops forced her to execute rebels.” CNN 31 Aug. 2011. Web. 31 Aug. 2011.