New Paper Writing Paper- Men on The Street


Man on the Street(500 words paper)

Required AP style writing in this paper. Preferred News writing background writer.


As mentioned in the introduction, the Man on the Street assignment is a fairly structured news story that requires the reporter to go out into the community and, using conventional face-to-face reporting techniques, interview a number of people to get their take on an issue that has been in the news.


As such, the MOTS allows students to build on the reporting skills they developed by interviewing their partners in the lab to write their obits. (This time, however, you'll be interviewing a bunch of people to create a multiple-source story.) The MOTS also forces the writer to become more selective about the information they chose to quote vs. what will appear as a paraphrase.


Realize your MOTS story needs to be more than just a string of quotes in response to a single question. You'll need to draw out people's beliefs about an issue by asking them a series of questions that moves beyond a one-dimensional "yes/no" or "agree/disagree" format. You'll also need to weave in some background information about the issue itself to provide context for the comments. (Be careful, though, that the background doesn't overwhelm the "live" responses.) You'll have to provide adequate biographical information about the people in your story, particularly their connection to the issue you're exploring.


You'll work with your lab instructor to develop the topics you will report for the MOTS assignment. Realize this story will serve the public interest through your reporting; by summarizing an issue and providing the public's reaction to it, your readers will be able to form their own opinion about the topic. So, yes, your story will report the opinion of others -- but it should not contain your opinion.


(We are using the term "man" in the generic sense in naming this assignment, in accordance with AP style. Seemingly more inclusive terms such as "humans" or "humankind" on the street would lead to a rather unfortunate acronym: HOTS.)


Let's take a closer look at the basic ingredients of each of the series of interviews you'll conduct as you piece together your MOTS.


Interview ingredients

We'll start by getting the full name of interview subject – spelled correctly. If you encounter someone with a tricky name and you're having trouble understanding the source, you can even ask the individual to write it down for you in your notebook to make sure it's correct. (Or, have the source look at the spelling on the screen if you use a digital device to take notes.) Another tip: Use the "directory" function of Penn State's Webmail to verify spellings of university faculty, staff or students you might interview.


Next we want to nail down some basic biographical information (age, address and/or occupation) about our interviewee to avoid confusion with other individuals with similar names. For Penn State students, you need to get their class standing and major (junior, English) as part of their identifying information for the MOTS and any other COMM 260W assignments.


You will also need to obtain some facts about the individuals you interview that will establish their connection to the issue and credibility as a source.


Finally, you'll need to get the sources' comments about the topic itself, either as full quotes, a paraphrase, or a combination of both.


Connection to the issue

As mentioned above, you will need to learn some biographical information about the individual you are interviewing to establish his or her connection to the issue and credibility as a source.


Say you decide to focus your MOTS on the issue of continued U.S. military presence in Iraq or Afghanistan. Certainly, any citizen's comments can provide insight on this important topic, but learning that a particular interviewee is a member of ROTC, has served in the military or has family stationed overseas brings extra context to those comments when they appear in your story. Those are the kind of facts you need to uncover about your sources so you can share them with readers.


Let's brainstorm some "connection to the issue" factors that you'd try to uncover when reporting various MOTS topics.


Say you decide to interview Penn State students on whether they think the legal drinking age should be changed. Aside from the students' full name, major and class standing, what additional biographical fact should you include for each interviewee?


Click here for some suggestions.


Now, say we switch our MOTS topic to the cost of a Penn State education. Aside from the students' full name, major and class standing, what additional biographical facts should you include for each interviewee?


Click here for some suggestions.


Because the sources' connection to the issue speaks to their credibility, you want to ask these types of questions for all of your COMM 260W assignments, not just the MOTS.


Expanding the story

When interviewing a number of individuals about the same topic, realize that their responses might start to get a bit repetitive. That could lead to a boring story.


To help prevent that problem, make sure you're asking some broad, open-ended questions that will produce more than a "yes/no" or "agree/disagree" response. Be sure to ask your sources why they believe the way they do. Make sure you know enough about the issue itself so you can challenge your sources' assumptions and help stimulate a conversation.


If you end up with a bunch of people complaining about a problem, try asking them for solutions. (If they were in charge, what would they do differently?) When writing your story, you can blend the best "complainer" responses and the best "fixer" responses to help cover new ground. Consider asking subsequent interviewees to respond to ideas you gathered from individuals at the start of your reporting to help cover new ground.


And don't forget to close all of your interviews with the three "Magic Questions" we developed in the previous lesson. What? You forgot what those questions are! Click here for a refresher.


Writing/organizing your MOTS

Your reporting for the MOTS does not constitute a scientific poll or survey. That means you cannot extrapolate the results of your interviews to an entire population. If four out of the five students you interview say they favor lowering the drinking age, you cannot write something along the lines of Penn State thinks people younger than 21 should be allowed to drink alcohol. You can only say that most of the people recently interviewed for the story say they favor that change. Attribution is vital.


The lead can be especially tricky. It cannot just reveal the topic of the story. The lead must signal that the story contains people's reaction to that topic. You might try a summary lead that indicates the result of your reporting. Or, you might attempt a more of a feature lead that focuses on one particular individual, followed by a nut graf that explains the comment stems from recent interviews in the community on the subject. (In your story, be sure to indicate when and where the interviews occurred.)


You've also need to make decisions about how to organize responses and where to place the background or contextual information. Don't get too wrapped up in writing lengthy transitions. Keep the focus on your sources' comments. And watch out for the quote echo in your writing.


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