The BBC, The Indianapolis Star, Orlando Sentinel and The Salt Lake Tribune have been added for the first time to the 30 or so websites assigned during previous semesters. Last week, the class and I engaged in a lengthy review of the assignment's opportunities (for example, learning to do media critiques and cover a beat) and challenges (being mindful of not needlessly offending anyone given that blogging is so public and rife with journalistic dangers).
A few students have made it clear they wish to cover a site that interests them personally. I want to be sensitive to such concerns. Aspiring journalists must learn early on they won't always get to cover what they want. Indeed, it's how they apply themselves to lesser beats that determines how quickly they advance to more choice assignments.
Anyway, what follows is a long-overdue effort to help #loweclass produce better media critiques. Unlike with most other journalism education assignments, there isn't definitive help on the Internet concerning rubrics for evaluating individual student blog posts. This is what I have come up with – I'm still tweaking this rubric, but hoping it helps:
CONTENT (3 points): Either excellent (focused and well organized analysis; succinct and confident writing; engaged with the topic; demonstrates appreciation/awareness of course/assignment objectives); or satisfactory (reasonably focused and or organized analysis; moderately engaged with the topic; fewer connections between ideas; writing for the professor, not a greater audience or community); or unacceptable (unfocused or disorganized analysis; limited engagement with the topic; post consists of one or two disconnected paragraphs or sentences; not really interested or interesting). Excellent, of course, means 1 point, while satisfactory and unacceptable are 2 and 1, respectively.
MECHANICS (1 point): Avoids errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation or Associated Press style; no form errors or obvious layout concerns (line breaks, errant spacing, widows or orphans); demonstrates quality proofreading.
HEADLINE (1 point): Clear and able to stand on its own with no other context; contains likely search words; compels readers to risk a click. Lacks wordiness; avoids puns and oblique references, obscure words or orphans. Mindful of style issues, creativity and variety; written for people, not Google.
VISUALS (1 point): Proper use of image(s) or screenshot(s) or embedded media (video, interactive graphic, etc.); effective caption(s) — see headlines; hyperlinked to content elsewhere for additional engagement.
HYPERLINKS (1 point): Four minimum. Where do they link to? Relevance? Organization? Appearance? Everything that should be linked is. They add to the story without being too wordy. Show – don't tell.
(Each student must do 14 media critiques this term; each post is worth seven points toward a possible total of 98.)
That's it. My students' first indications are that they appreciate it. We'll see what happens. What do you think?