Monday, January 21, 2008

Assignment for Feb. 4 and Feb. 6

Assignment - California Primary Election (Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008)

This assignment is also being done by the Tuesday-Thursday class.

This is a two-part assignment:


  1. A set-up piece (700 words) due no later than the morning of Monday, Feb. 4.
  2. Coverage of the election (800 words), due on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
  3. All work must be typed, double-spaced and follow AP style. Accuracy, spelling and grammar count. If you wish, you may file by email at


Start researching the background to the primary in California.

You may wish to:

  1. Consult internet sites such as those of the Democrat and Republican parties, the various candidates who will be on the ballots and newspapers such as the Ventura County Star, Los Angeles Times and Daily News. (Remember: if you cut and paste from websites and store it on your computer as background string, always write down the source of the material right above or below it so you will be able to attribute it correctly if you later draw on that material. Do not plagiarize.)
  1. Begin reading a local news source daily, so you are up to speed when the big day comes.
  1. Write down questions you would like to ask in your advance interviews.
  1. Interview professors of political science, students on campus, local representatives of the various parties or important voter groups, acquaintances or whomever you think you wish to focus on in your story.
  1. Decide which polling station you wish to visit on voting day, make sure you know its hours and location and whether you need anyone's permission to interview people after they leave the premises. Knowing your own schedule, plan to do interviews for one hour at or near the polling station on Feb. 5th.
  1. Think about whether any photos, graphics or other visual material is appropriate to the story and if so, how you would go about getting it. Your photo or graphic assignments should accompany your stories.
  2. Decide who your reader is (for example: a Moorpark student, any resident of southern California, a resident of the area immediately around your chosen polling station). Once you know who your audience is, it will be easier to know which information to include and which to leave out.


A set-up piece (sometimes called an advance, an advancer or a situationer) is usually published the day of an event or even a day or two before. The reporter explains the event about to take place and its significance.


a) Interviews (face-to-face, telephone and/or Internet)

b) Monitoring television coverage

c) Reading news and organizational sources.


  1. Once you have finished your advance interviews and read up on the topic, decide what your angle is. Possible angles include: who the most important voter group may be in your polling area (women, youth, minorities), whether your area stands to differ from the nation as a whole, how the candidates have finished up campaigning in California, how the California primary fits into the total election process, whether the result looks like a foregone conclusion or an open question, what the most important voter issues in California are.
  2. Once you have decided what your angle is, choose what will be your lead, your nut graph, your background, and how your will structure the flow of your story
    [Do not write a lead that predicts the outcome of the vote even if you think there is a clear trend.]
  3. Include any practical information about voting rules in California that you think the reader may need, if it is appropriate. Also about propositions on the ballot that don't have to do with the primary candidates.
  4. Try to write a kicker that sums up your story and looks to the future.


Your news coverage article will report what the results of the voting are. Use the inverted pyramid and feel free to include analysis and context in the lead, nut graph and body. Your photo or graphic assignments should accompany your stories.


  1. Monitor the news as much as possible during the day. This includes listening to the car radio on the way to college, checking the web, and watching television coverage at home after the polls close. Note: if you hear a great quote on the nightly news that you wish to use, you must have the person's name and cite who interviewed that person, such as "TK, TK…, "s aid John Smith of Thousand Oaks, as reported on ABC television news OR "TK, TK…," John Smith of Thousand Oaks told ABC television.
  1. Write down the questions you would like to ask the voters (such as how they voted, whether they are members of a party, whether their vote was set for a long time or changed quickly, what their reasons were, what their most important issues are, details about their life, how they voted four years ago).
  1. Spend one hour interviewing people as they leave the polling station. (We will go over in class again how you make a 'cold' approach to people and get all the quotes and background you need. Review all the interview tips in Chapter 5 of the text.) Live interviews are always best. But if you feel you did not get satisfactory material in person, you may do follow up phone calls to acquaintances, after you get home (a local shop or restaurant owner, your barber, your parents' accountant. (Do not interview close friends or family.) Once the results are known, you may also wish to call up some people -- such as those you interviewed for the setup story – to get their reaction to the results.


1. Decide on your angle and your lead. The lead should definitely include who won and whether it was by a large or slim margin, even if you draft your wording as an interpretive lead.

2. With your angle in mind, transition from the lead to the nut graph, the body and background of your story (the import of those results or whether they demonstrated something interesting or different) Make sure the body of your story includes reporting what happened that day, voter interviews etc.

3. Please use the inverted pyramid structure as a guide, even if the body of your story contains analysis and context.

4. Finish your story with a kicker that sums up your angle and looks to the future.

5. Include information on the photos or graphics that you have chosen to include, if any.

Strive for accuracy, meet your deadlines and have fun!

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