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American Journalism - COJR 2431

Research Paper Assignment: Analyzing Historical News Coverage

News coverage shapes the public’s perception of events, but different news outlets often cover the same events in different ways. In this paper, you will choose a significant episode in U.S. history and compare/analyze how three different newspapers covered it at the time.

Do some preliminary research into newspaper coverage of your topic at the time. Please use the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database.

Tips for analyzing news coverage

• Make sure you understand what type of article you are looking at. Is it a straight-news article by someone on the paper’s staff? Is it a straight-news article from a wire service or from another newspaper (e.g., Associated Press, United Press International, Washington Post-LATimes News Service)? Is it an editorial? Is it an opinion column?
• Consider the placement and “play” of the article. If you are using ProQuest Historical Newspapers (before 1980), you can see the placement by clicking on the tab that says Page View-PDF. If you are using ProQuest U.S. Newsstream (since 1980), you will see the page number right under the headline (after the byline, publication title, and date).
• Consider the angle and emphasis. What information goes in the lead? To which topics does the article devote the most space? What issues does the article address (or not address)?
• Where did the journalist(s) writing this article get their information? Which sources get the quotes/points of view presented first/last? Does the article express skepticism about the information/quotes/statements? Does it express approval?
• Analyze the headline. Does it accurately summarize the content of the article? Is it sensationalized? Boring? Does it seem more sympathetic to one side or another?