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For the Sake of Argument: Writing Persuasively to Craft Short, Evidence-Based Editorials
Teaching ideas based on New York Times content.
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Overview | How can writing change people’s worldview? How can it influence public opinion? How can it lead to meaningful action?
The persuasive essay is a quintessential high school writing assignment. With the Common Core standards, it seems to have taken on a new urgency in many school districts and classrooms. But students should know that evidence-based persuasive writing is more than just an academic exercise — it is very much alive in the real world. Perhaps one of the best and most widely recognized examples of persuasive writing in action is the classic newspaper editorial, three to four of which The New York Times publishes every day.
In this lesson, we offer suggestions on how to guide students through the writing process when writing editorials — from brainstorming a topic to publishing their work — and all the steps in between. This lesson can be used in conjunction with our Student Contest on editorial writing, or with any argumentative writing project you do with students.
Materials | Computers with Internet access. Optional copies of one or more of these three handouts: Debatable Issues (PDF), Problem-Solution Organizer (PDF), and the rubric for our Student Editorial Contest (PDF).
Step 1 | Brainstorming: What Do You Care About?
Finding the right topic is essential. Students should pick something that a) they genuinely care about; b) other people would want to read about; c) they can make an argument about; and d) they can find evidence about to support their claim.
You might get students started brainstorming ideas by having them journal about or discuss with partners questions like:
- What would you like to change if you could? What problems or policies do you think should be addressed — whether something global, like climate change, or something closer to home, like a later start time for your high school classes? Make as long a list as you can.
- What issues, topics and fields are you passionate about? Make a list. Your list might included fields as broad as “music” or as specific as “the early days of hip-hop.” What questions or controversies in these fields do experts or fans often argue? Where do you stand?
- What do you do outside of school? What are some things you’re an expert on? What aspects of those hobbies or interests do you find yourself having to explain to others? Why?
- What issues or ideas do you often find yourself discussing or arguing about with friends, your family or online?
- What issues or controversies have you followed recently in current events? What are your opinions about them? What might you need more information about?
Students can then share their ideas and, as a whole class, compile a list on the board or on a class blog or wiki.
To open the class to even more ideas, you might then invite students look through our list of 200 Student Opinion questions that invite argument . Not only can this list help students pick a topic, but each question links to a relevant New York Times article, which may be very helpful when students begin to look for evidence.
A Note on Collaboration: The editorial writing process at The New York Times is done collaboratively . That means, a team of writers works together from choosing a topic through researching it and drafting the writing. Teachers may want to give students opportunities to collaborate on their editorials as well, whether for only one step of the project, such as research, or from beginning to end.
From the learning network.
- Student Contest | Write an Editorial on an Issue That Matters to You
- Skills Practice | Persuading an Audience Using Logos, Pathos and Ethos
- 10 Ways to Develop Expository Writing Skills With The New York Times
- Archive of Editorials
Around the Web
- Online Writing Lab | Conducting Research
Step 2 | Modeling: What Is An Editorial?
To help students envision what they will be writing, it is worth spending time discussing what an editorial is and looking at some examples.
Ask students: What is an editorial? Have you ever read any? Where would you find one? What do you think is the purpose of an editorial?
We selected three recent examples from the Times editorial page that students can look over as models, though you or your students may pick others from the thousands in the Opinion archives :
- Firearms’ Toll Among the Young (267 words)
- Zero Traffic Fatalities (277 words)
- The Globalization of Pollution (397 words)
Have students choose an editorial to read on their own or as a whole class. As they read, have them note:
- What is the opinion or call to action in this editorial?
- What evidence does it use to make its argument?
- How persuasive do you find the editorial? Is it effective?
- What do you notice about the language and tone of the editorial? About other choices the writer(s) have made?
Students may want make annotations or use highlighters as they read, then discuss their findings as a class.
Note: You may want students to look at the rubric you will be using to grade their editorials before they start the research and writing process. Here is our the rubric (PDF) that we are using for our Student Contest .
Step 3 | Researching: What Do the Experts Say?
Once students have selected a topic, they should begin their research by gathering background information. That might mean reading newspaper articles, consulting an encyclopedia, finding reliable websites or reaching out to an expert to make sure they have enough context about why their topic is important to write a strong persuasive essay.
As they do their research, students can take notes using index cards or in a notebook, or they can use our Debatable Issues (PDF) handout. Alternatively, if students plan to offer a solution to a problem in their editorial, they may want to use our Problem-Solution Organizer (PDF).
For more detail about the nitty-gritty of the research process, the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University provides a guide to conducting research that can be helpful with areas such as evaluating source reliability and doing Internet searches.
Students can find articles in The Times by using the search feature . For our contest, we ask that students have at least one Times and one non-Times source for their evidence, although of course we hope most will read far beyond that requirement as they learn about the topic.
Students might be grouped by common interests to work together during the research portion of this process, then write individual editorials, or they might do the entire assignment in partners or as a group.
How to Write an Editorial
The New York Times’s editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal provides seven tips for writing an effective editorial.
Steps 4 and 5 | Outlining and Drafting; Revising and Editing: How Do You Write an Editorial?
Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor at The Times, explains in this brief video that a good editorial consists of “a clear position that is strongly and persuasively argued.” He then goes on to recommend seven pointers for students.
1. Know your bottom line. “You have to know what you want to say. You have to have a clear opinion — what we call a bottom line.” 2. Be concise. “You need to get to the point of your editorial quickly. You have to state it clearly and you have to be concise.” 3. Give an opinion or solution. “There are basically two kinds of editorials. One expresses an opinion about a situation, like if you want to write about human rights abuses in some part of the world or the country that you’re concerned about. The other kind of editorial proposes a solution to a specific problem. For example, if you want to write about traffic congestion in northern New Jersey, where I live and there’s a lot of traffic, you should have an answer to how to fix the traffic problem.” 4. Do your research. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, you’re not entitled to your own facts. Go online, make calls if you can, check your information, double-check it. There’s nothing that will undermine your argument faster than a fact you got wrong, that you did not have to get wrong.” 5. Write clearly. “Good writing is important. Make your writing clear and easy to understand. Write as if you’re sending a letter to a well-informed friend who cares about what you think. But don’t use any slang. OMG — no. Use examples whenever you can. It’s better to use an example than just to use a word or an adjective that describes something. If you want to say that the mayor’s pre-K policy is wrong, explain how — don’t say it’s just stupid. In fact, never use the word stupid.” 6. Every writer needs an editor. “After you’ve written your editorial, give it to someone you trust to read and listen to what they say. If they don’t understand it, that means it’s probably not clear.” 7. Be prepared for a reaction. “When you write something and you publish it, be prepared for a reaction. If you write a good editorial, people are going to respond to it. And if you criticize people, they definitely are going to respond. So if someone writes you a letter, write them back. Be prepared to defend your position. Don’t get defensive, just explain why you said what you had to say. And if they question your facts, be ready to show that you were right.”
The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University has a guide to writing argumentative essays that may also be helpful for students as they think about organizing their editorial and developing a logical argument.
Step 6 | Publishing: How Can My Editorial Reach an Audience?
Students will have the chance to publish their editorials as comments on the Learning Network on or before March 17, 2014, as part of our Student Contest . Along with our partner, the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University, we will then choose the best to publish in a separate post. But even if your students aren’t writing for our contest, the genre is meant to have an audience. That audience can start with the teacher, but it ideally shouldn’t end there.
Students can read their editorials to the class or in groups. Classmates can have a chance to respond to the author, leading to a discussion or debate. Students can try to publish their editorials in the school newspaper or other local newspapers or online forums. It is only when editorials reach a wider audience that they have the power to make change.
Teachers: How do you teach the persuasive essay? Let us know, below. And if you ever use The New York Times to do it, consider writing in to our Reader Ideas column.
This resource may be used to address the academic standards listed below.
Common Core E.L.A. Anchor Standards
1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
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What a great lesson plan. I like the emphasis on writing as a tool to empower. The Debatable Issues PDF and the other links within this article are excellent resources. Using editorials as models is also important, as students get to see real-world application of argumentative/persuasive writing skills. The succinct list of 7 direct pointers is valuable as well. Thank you.
James Mulhern, //www.synthesizingeducation.net
We are looking at the articles that are linked to the topics on school computers. After reading a few of them, students are prompted to purchase a subscription to the Times to continue looking. Is this contest designed only for schools that have a subcription already? If so, this should be made clear in the lesson plan section. Can a short subscription be purchased?
Amy, All links to New York Times articles from the Learning Network are free, so even though your students are prompted to buy a subscription, they should still be able to click through to read the article. If students are going from article to article on the rest of NYTimes.com, however, they will be stopped after they have hit the limit of 10 free articles each month. Special subscriptions are available for schools (link: //www.nytimes.com/subscriptions/edu/lp2266.html?campaignId=3JU39 ), but they are not necessary since we only require one Times article for evidence. One way to find more free articles is to have students search their topic on our blog first, since we’ve likely done more than one post on the subject in the past. Since everything we write links back to The Times and does not “count” toward the 10-article monthly limit, that should give each reader a few more free links. Thank you for asking, and we’re sorry if these work-arounds are a bit awkward, but we hope your students will still participate. — Michael and Katherine
The article that I would like to discuss is titled “How Single Motherhood Hurts Kids”. The title itself is filled with an opinion all its own, which is understandable, but I also have an opinion on this topic as well. The article discusses the topic of transitions that the child may have to go through and the difficulties that they may have to face due to having a single parent. Though all of these are very reasonable accusations and worries, from personal experience and research there is proof that children with a single mother or parent can grow up just as good if not better than a child with both parents in the home. Divorce and parents separating is and unfathomable thing for a child to go through. So one point i would like to make clear is that I am not making divorce seem like a good thing or a good benefit for the parents or the child, but what I am going to point out is the benefits that can rise out of such a dark transition for a family. “unmarried parents here are more likely to enter into parenthood in ways guaranteed to create turmoil in their children’s lives.”(Hymowitz) Yes divorce is going to cause issues in a childs life, and cause issues that may change their life, but what people do not think about is the person that the child may become because the mother or father chose to get them out of a unhealthy relationship. The child is not doomed for unhappiness because their parents no longer live together. Another topic that came up in the article was the transitions that will occur in the childs life now that they live with only one parent now. Yes it is inevitable that the single parent in time will look to possibly remarry. But there is no problem with this fact. What people should view this as is showing that there is hope to the child. By the mother or father choosing a better life for both the child and them this will help show the child how to be independent, and help them later in life. “These children are more likely to build upon their own independence in a home where they may not always have one or both parents hovering over them” (Campbell) By this pushing them to be more independent it will help them make choices later on in life. Of course having both parents at home is ideal but in the case that they are not, it is important for people to know that there are single parents out there that have the best interest for their kids and can offer them just as good of a life as two parents.
We’re about to tackle this contest with some 300 students. I’m wondering how to search the student responses in order to determine whether or not our students uploaded a sample. Is there a way for the teacher to search in order to verify based on the “code” suggested in the instructions?
Hi Shane — I wish I could tell you it was easy to do that, but unfortunately it’s not. Short of having you search for the code on each individual comment page, what we’ve suggested in the past is that teachers make students responsible for reporting the unique URL for each of their comments in order to get credit. So, for instance, this ( //learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/06/student-contest-write-an-editorial-on-an-issue-that-matters-to-you/#comment-1498619 ) is the URL for the most recent comment on the contest right now, by someone called R.E. Thank you for participating, and, again, I’m sorry the system isn’t easily searchable. –Katherine
Nothing Is As It Seems It is undeniable that human beings are eager and desiring individuals who acquire a consuming craving to reveal the unknown. Uncertainty brings fear and anguish into the lives of people, which is not cured until the dilemma present is clarified. Sometimes, this intense ambition to uncover the unknown leads to false culminations and makes the unjustified, justified. One of modern society’s tremendous deceptions is found in the tragedy that happened at Columbine High School. On April 20th, 1999, fifteen gunshots echoed through the halls of Columbine High School, dreadfully ending the lives of fifteen people. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were two high school seniors who obtained a consummate anger toward the world, and proved it in a brutal and cold-blooded way. Many people perceive the Columbine disaster as being the baleful outcome of bullying. This, however, was not the case. According to David Brooks of The New York Times, “Most of these misconceptions have been exposed. The killers were not outcasts.” Klebold and Harris “laughed at petty school shooters, and they sought murder in a grander scale.” Dylan and Eric weren’t bullied, but simply rebellious, enraged, and vengeful. When this heartbreaking event happened, people all over the country began to attempt to determine the two boy’s reasoning behind this mass massacre that they executed. Since death and the media was involved, it seemed even more vital to make an immediate and reasonable closure. Furthermore, with an ongoing issue with bullying throughout schools in the United States, this catastrophic occurrence appeared to have an accessible blame. Teachers and education systems across the country used this calamity to promote an anti-bullying campaign. ‘Rachel’s Challenge’, which was named after Rachel Scott, the first person killed in Columbine, was advertised in many schools to address the importance of compassion and human kindness. By turning the story of a tragic death at Columbine High School into a mission for change, Rachel’s Challenge is helping create safer learning environments and making a world-wide impact (“Rachel’s Challenge”). Although this movement immensely benefited and continues to benefit relationships between students, bullying was falsely proclaimed as the rationalization behind this movement. The calamity of the Columbine shooting serves as patent proof that humans’ craving for answers to obscurity ultimately lead to inaccurate acquisitions. Making the unjustified seem justified is a dominant characteristic of human nature. People are in constant strive for resolutions and vindication, because to us, the unknown is unbearable. It is crucial for a cessation to be made only after thorough observation and evaluation of the existent perplexity, for sometimes, nothing is as it seems.
Works Cited Brooks, David. “The Columbine Killers.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Apr. 2004. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. “About Rachel’s Challenge.” Rachel’s Challenge. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
Enroll yourself in all honors and AP courses. Get A’s in all of your subjects. Get that GPA up. But be well-rounded. Colleges won’t like you if you’re not well-rounded. Do a sport; do a few sports and a few clubs too. Go to those practices and meetings every week. Volunteer at the soup kitchen, and at your church. Every week. But do make sure you get your nine hours of sleep every night. Teenagers are supposed to get nine hours of sleep every night. And if you do it right, colleges will love you. But don’t forget to throw those SAT classes into the mix, because if you have a low SAT score, the colleges won’t accept you. Then, with no college acceptances, your life has been a waste for the past 18 years and you are going to have no job and live in a cardboard box. These statements constantly echo in the average teenager’s mind. Everything we do sets us up for college… SO, we better not mess up. But is the stress and the pressure really justified? Alfie Kohn states, “…students suffer intellectually as well as psychologically because the pressure to succeed academically leaves little room for exploring ideas…” The high expectations of teens, as Kohn explains it, leave little to no room for teenagers to breathe and think, thus causing an unbearable amount of stress. Alright, point noted. But this stress doesn’t really affect anyone; it’s just one of those myths everyone tells you about high school before you’re finally there…right? “Almost 40 percent of parents say their high-schooler is experiencing a lot of stress from school, according to a new NPR poll…In most cases, that stress is from academics…Homework was a leading cause of stress, with 24 percent of parents saying it’s an issue. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that nearly half of all teens — 45 percent — said they were stressed by school pressures…” as well, according to Patti Neighmond of NPR. I’m guessing that earlier assumption was wrong, then. Students, as well as their parents, experience stress due to a heavy work load. The problem has been identified. Now where’s the solution? Do we lower our academic standards as a society in order to help students achieve better grades, or do we let them suffer? Do we shorten the school day so that students have more time to do homework, study, and sleep, or do we keep it the way it is? Do we give less work to ease the stress, or do we stay with the same work load to prepare the students for college? Now, is college really anything like high school? No one really knows, do they?
Works Cited Kohn, Alfie. “Reconsider Attitudes About Success.” New York Times. N.p., 12 Dec. 2010. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. < //www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/12/12/stress-and-the-high-school-student/reconsider-attitudes-about-success>. Neighmond, Patti. “School Stress Takes A Toll On Health, Teens And Parents Say.” National Public Radio. N.p., 2 Dec. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. < //www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/12/02/246599742/school-stress-takes-a-toll-on-health-teens-and-parents-say>.
Jessica Bowman Mrs. Otto English II Pre-AP 16 March 2014 Is Dance a sport Or an Art? Dance – “To move one’s feet or body, or both, rhythmically in a pattern of steps, especially to the accompaniment of music.” Dance is neither defined as a sport or an art. Why do people think that dance does not fall into the sport category and is only an art? The wonderful thing about dance is that it is not a sport or an art. It is both. Sport – “An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature”. Art – “The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.” There is a fine line with any activity between sport and art. An activity requiring a person to be active and on their feet, like basketball for instance, is truly a sport. But, is shooting a ball through a hoop aesthetic and beautiful? Not really. Art is something that a person can be creative and expressive with. I’m not talking about just painting a picture. I’m talking about different ways to express one’s self, whether it be singing, or even playing an instrument. So, where does dance fit in to all of this? Why is it that when people hear the word sport, they automatically think of football, or soccer, or baseball? Dance is an athletic activity that requires much skill and can be very competitive. For instance, in the Olympics, rhythmic dancers must work diligently in order to be better than anyone else? If competing for an Olympic gold medal isn’t competitive then I don’t know what is. Dance also requires one to be physically fit. A perfect example of this is a drill team. The dancers may make all of those high kicks look easy, but coming from a drill team girl herself, no matter how much you run you will always be out of breath after a kick routine. It takes stamina to be any kind of dancer. It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer. Dance isn’t just all about running dances over and over again for a competition. It is so much more than that. Dance is a place where you can express your feeling through your movement. It’s a place where you can let all of your stress out and just move. Dance allows one to fully use their creativity and create shapes with their body. You can tell a story through gestures and mobility. You can translate your words through your body. Dance is both beautiful and powerful. Even though it requires strength and skill, it is also appealing to look at and very enjoyable to watch. Therefore, dance is both and art and a sport.
Work Cited Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
Jamison, Judith. “The Ecstasy, and Agony, Linking Dance and Sport.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 01 Dec. 2001. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
“Dance.VS.Sports – Dancers: Artists or Athletes?” Dance.VS.Sports – Dancers: Artists or Athletes? N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
Steven S Block 2 Mrs. Otto English II Pre-AP 17 March 2014
Should IPhone/IPads be in youth? In this day in age, technology is at our fingertips, kids and adults having easy access to information. Technology has grown rapidly all over, but mainly in the United States. With this excessive amount of technology, teachers try to use devices such as IPads and using their phones in order to do an activity in class. Especially in the Elementary schools, kids should not be using iPad to learn. This equipment is too expensive to have for children as young as second, third, or fourth grade to be accessing. These young of kids even have iPads for themselves just to play games on them! Instead of playing outside and doing something constructive, they are wasting their time on their iPhone or IPad doing pointless things for their age. Using them to learn is one thing, but playing mindless games for hours at the age of seven? Plus, kids do not need IPads in schools to learn about the real world, how do you think other people did it? Steve Almond, a writer from the New York Times in his article about technology in youth states “Frankly, I find it more disturbing that a brand-name product is being elevated to the status of mandatory school supply. I also worry that iPads might transform the classroom from a social environment into an educational subway car, each student fixated on his or her personalized educational gadget.” I believe to that when you provide technology to kids that young, they will get distracted and not actually learn. I got my first phone about five years ago and I loved it! But today, when you have third graders with the iPhone 5c, while I didn’t even get a phone until last year and I’m sixteen, it’s just ridiculous. It really isn’t the kids fault; after all, they’re not buying the phone. The Parents are really the ones to blame in my opinion. It really all depends on the kids, if they are independent or not, but it’s up to the parents really to decide. Liz Perle from The Common Sense Media claims a reminder for parents “When you hand kids phones today, you’re giving them powerful communications and production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to Web sites. They can broadcast their status and their location. They can download just about everything in the world.” This really puts the pressure on the parents to know when their child is mature to handle these expensive, and possibly dangerous devices.
Works Cited Almond, Steve. “My Kids Are Obsessed With Technology, and It’s All My Fault.” NY Times. N.p., 21 June 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. < //www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/magazine/my-kids-are-obsessed-with-technology-and-its-all-my-fault.html?pagewanted=all&action=click&module=Search®ion=searchResults%230&version=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollection%3DHomepage%26t%3Dqry721%23%2Fchild+technology> Perle, Liz. “When Should You Get Your Kid a Cell Phone?” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014 < //www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia/article-when-should-you-get-kid-cell-phone.html>
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, since 1976 has killed 1,099 people as of 2008. 57% of these people were white, 34% were black, and the other 9% were other races, according to Capital punishment is not sending out a good message to the world. It is basically saying depending on who you killed and how many you killed, your right of life is taken from you. Capital punishment is known to be biased towards a race and biased towards the value of the family economically. Capital punishment takes the right of life away unnecessarily. Truman Capote, author of In Cold Blood, agrees that the capital punishment should not be used. He thinks that because that the main characters, Dick and Perry, killed four wealthy people in cold blood, they don’t have to be killed in cold blood as well.¬¬¬ “… four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives.” This book shows that this case touched many people because the Clutters were loved by many and because of that the case gave too harsh consequences. This sends a wrong message to the world, it is basically saying if a person is low on the hierarchy then not many people care what happens to them as much as someone who is high on the hierarchy. Though lots of people executed may have deserved the death penalty in some eyes, a very serious problem in capital punishment is executing an innocent person. If the government convicts the wrong person and that person is executed, then an innocent person has lost their right of life for no reason and can’t be given back. There have been around 10 cases in which there has been strong evidence of innocence, yet these 10 human beings were killed. The government took these people’s rights from them and they cannot give it back. Capital punishment takes rights from people that they don’t have the right to take away. Capital punishment should be abolished and so far 18 states have come to their senses and realized that the capital punishment is wrong.¬¬ ”Capital punishment is a fundamentally wrong as a cure for crime as charity is wrong as a cure for poverty.” Capote, Truman. In cold blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences. New York: Random House, 19661965. Print. Cuomo, Mario. “Death penalty is dead wrong: It’s time to outlaw capital punishment in America – completely.” NY Daily News. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. “Death Penalty Focus.” Death Penalty. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. “The Slow Demise of Capital Punishment.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 29 Dec. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
Graffiti IS an art in itself
Opinions on what is considered a work of art are vast. Just ask Mark Quinn, the British artist, who created a famous piece of work by taking a mold of his head and dunking it in his own blood. He called this piece “Self”. Oh and Quinn didn’t stop there. “The first blood head was made in 1991 and shown in the Sensation exhibition in Brooklyn. Since then the artist has made a new cast every five years, documenting his own transformation and ultimate deterioration. The three earlier blood heads are all in overseas collections. The Gallery wants to present the latest series in London, as a centerpiece in its contemporary collection and as a way of engaging with issues of representation of the human figure in contemporary culture.”(National Portrait Gallery) So what makes this piece of artwork so intriguing? Well, it depends on the audience. Some people may not consider a blood dipped cast of ones head very artful. The same argument arises when discussing graffiti’s position in the art world. Art, by definition, is a word for self-expression. It’s a way for a person to communicate with others without having to use voice. Clearly art can be shown in many different forms. Just because graffiti isn’t often hanging in museums with a little red rope surrounding it doesn’t mean that its not valuable. In fact, a rather large piece of the Berlin Wall is in the Newseum in Washington D.C.. The graffiti covered stone is viewed by thousands of people every day. The attraction is not just the stone but the incredible history that is actually documented on it, in the form of graffiti. The best part about graffiti is that its free! In the New York Times article (Graffiti finds its place in contemporary art) they described a street artist “Haring, chalking his drawling’s in the subway, saw himself as bringing art to the people, according to Lewinsohn, quoting the New York art dealer Tony Shafrazi. “Twenty Million people traveling through the subway got to see his work, “Lewinsohn quoted Shafrazi as saying. “Keith considered that world to be almost a museum of its own kind. “He thought that many of those people didn’t have the means or the knowledge to go museums, so he was bringing the art to them.”(Barbieri) It’s not being made for money, but for the enjoyment of the artist themselves. Just because it is in word form or plastered on the side of a train doesn’t mean its not a form of artwork, it just means its an unpublicized creation made for all’s enjoyment. Is Graffiti art, yes it is. Like Raymond Salvatore Harmon once said ” Art is an evolutionary act. The shape of art and its role in society is constantly changing. At no point is art static. There are no rules.” So next time you hear the names Jr from France, Jaz form Argentina, or even Gaia from the U.S.A, maybe we should thank them for a more entertaining and artistic walk home.
National Portrait Gallery. “Accessibility.” National Portrait Gallery -. National Portrait Gallery, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. < //www.npg.org.uk/footer/accessibility.php>.
Barbieri, Claudia. “Graffiti Finds Its Place in Contemporary Art.” Editorial. New York Times. Claudia Barbieri, Friday May 2008. Web. < //www.nytimes.com/2008/05/31/arts>.
Raised In Fear Exploitation and sexual violence against women is a plague terrorizing women as it becomes more acceptable every day. Young women are taught to cover up and be on guard from a young age as it would be their fault for triggering an attack on themselves by being “too exposed” or “too flirtatious.” Everyday sexual violence is glorified in the media and vulgar acts towards women are praised on television and in movies leaving the world in a state that can only be described as a “rape culture.” Rape culture is teaching young men that it’s okay to dehumanize women and conquer them without consequence. Not only are rape victims becoming more abundant, the victims and their attackers are becoming younger. Most of these young men aren’t creepy outcasts but they are the charming, athletic stars. Just last year two football stars are charged with the rape of a fellow female classmate and found guilty (Oppel). A guilty verdict was the move in the right direction but all too often charges are dropped because no one is fighting for the victim, such as the Montclair case where the prosecution suddenly dropped all charges against the two attackers (Gettleman). This especially dangerous because when there is no consequence the attackers continue raping and assaulting and often become more violent. Many people will argue more particularly in a younger attacker’s defense that they have their whole life ahead of them and so much potential. The gaping double- standard comes into play as the attackers are defended, but their victims are told by respected adults, friends, peers, even the police that they are at fault for being promiscuous and bringing the attack upon themselves. They are scrutinized, called vile names, and bullied to recant if they do speak out about the despicable acts that were carried out on them. Even with the abundance of survivors speaking out and thousands participating in walks to stand against sexual violence with the statistics that 1 in 3 women are victims of sexual violence and 600 women in the United States alone are raped every day, a plenty of people still say that “rape culture” against women doesn’t exist. They claim that it is a false feminist outcry, however their ignorance is the reason 40% of rapes aren’t even reported as they put the blame on the victim. This sexually violent culture needs to be eradicated. Instead of teaching young women to always be on the defense, young men should be taught that conquering and dehumanizing is wrong. No means no under any circumstance needs to be enforced. Once everyone takes a stand and stops trying to cover up the problem by supporting victims and punishing attackers, the world will be safer for everyone. Little girls should never be raised to live in fear of sexual assault.
Gettleman, Jeffrey. “Rape Case Against 2 Montclair Football Players Is Dropped.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 Nov. 2004. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.
Horowitz, Alana. “Steubenville Rape Trial Verdict: Trent Mays, Ma’lik Richmond Found Guilty.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 17 Mar. 2013. Web. 17 Mar.
Marshall University. “Women’s Center.” Womens Center. Marshall University, 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
Oppel, Richard A., Jr. “Ohio Teenagers Guilty in Rape That Social Media Brought to Light.”The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Mar. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
Order of the White Feather. “Rape Culture & Statistics.” The Order of the White Feather. Order of the White Feather, 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
WOAR. “Resources & Information.” Sexual Assault Statistics – Sexual Violence and Rape Statistics. WOAR, 2005. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.
Raised In Fear Exploitation and sexual violence against women is a plague terrorizing women as it becomes more acceptable every day. Young women are taught to cover up and be on guard from a young age as it would be their fault for triggering an attack on themselves by being “too exposed” or “too flirtatious.” Everyday sexual violence is glorified in the media and vulgar acts towards women are praised on television and in movies leaving the world in a state that can only be described as a “rape culture.” Rape culture is teaching young men that it’s okay to dehumanize women and conquer them without consequence. Not only are rape victims becoming more abundant, the victims and their attackers are becoming younger. Most of these young men aren’t creepy outcasts but they are the charming, athletic stars. All too often charges are dropped because no one is fighting for the victim, such as the Montclair case where the prosecution suddenly dropped all charges against the two attackers (Gettleman). This especially dangerous because when there is no consequence the attackers continue raping and assaulting and often become more violent. Many people will argue more particularly in a younger attacker’s defense that they have their whole life ahead of them and so much potential. The gaping double- standard comes into play as the attackers are defended, but their victims are told by respected adults, friends, peers, even the police that they are at fault for being promiscuous and bringing the attack upon themselves. They are scrutinized, called vile names, and bullied to recant if they do speak out about the despicable acts that were carried out on them. Even with the abundance of survivors speaking out and thousands participating in walks to stand against sexual violence with the statistics that 1 in 3 women are victims of sexual violence and 600 women in the United States alone are raped every day, a plenty of people still say that “rape culture” against women doesn’t exist. They claim that it is a false feminist outcry, however their ignorance is the reason 40% of rapes aren’t even reported as they put the blame on the victim. This sexually violent culture needs to be eradicated. Instead of teaching young women to always be on the defense, young men should be taught that conquering and dehumanizing is wrong. No means no under any circumstance needs to be enforced. Once everyone takes a stand and stops trying to cover up the problem by supporting victims and punishing attackers, the world will be safer for everyone. Little girls should never be raised to live in fear of sexual assault.
Works Cited Gettleman, Jeffrey. “Rape Case Against 2 Montclair Football Players Is Dropped.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 Nov. 2004. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. Horowitz, Alana. “Steubenville Rape Trial Verdict: Trent Mays, Ma’lik Richmond Found Guilty.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 17 Mar. 2013. Web. 17 Mar. Marshall University. “Women’s Center.” Womens Center. Marshall University, 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. Oppel, Richard A., Jr. “Ohio Teenagers Guilty in Rape That Social Media Brought to Light.”The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Mar. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. Order of the White Feather. “Rape Culture & Statistics.” The Order of the White Feather. Order of the White Feather, 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. WOAR. “Resources & Information.” Sexual Assault Statistics – Sexual Violence and Rape Statistics. WOAR, 2005. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.
Money is something that many people believe is just an object, but an object that should be treated with respect. While others think that money is not only an object but one that should be thrown around and squandered at will. But the real question is;
“Can money buy happiness?”
Technically only you can make yourself happy, money will only occupy you for so long until you realize that it cannot buy you happiness. Students and professors like Carol Hyman at the Berkley College in California have been studying whether money is something that in fact does make people happy. And have concluded that;
“Employees that are primarily motivated by the love (of work) become less happy the more money they make.”
When explained, people tend to be fooled by the things that money can do. Although it can buy you exotic trips, fancy cars, and designer clothes it will never buy the best things in life. You can’t buy laughs, making people feel good, and long hugs. Don’t be fooled by money’s desirable appearance.
The best things in life are free, the second best things in life are expensive. May you never find happiness with money, love of a pet, or share a laugh with a friend. Money can be wicked, barbaric, it can eat your soul away, till all that is left is a relentless wanting, a constant aspiration for more, and when more is not not enough, you become relentless.
“Maybe it is more about expectations, desire and a constant “wanting” than it is about actual income.”
No matter the money that you make, can u really be happy? Happiness should be a feeling we find within ourselves as human beings, not in the amount of money we contain. As katherine Schulten vocalizes, the more money you make, can only make you want more, though the less money you make, the more contained on sanity you are.
Ultimately, money should come as an object, after all, it’s only just paper, thin, green, paper. Obsessions can be developed, but only when money takes you for granted. And if you want to feel rich, just count all the things money can’t buy, the list will be eternal. Merry moments, don’t have price tags on them, they have everlasting smiles attached to them. Although money can do majestic things, money will never take the place of the best things in life.
I Love You, Don’t Hate Me She should love him, but she loves her. There is nothing wrong with the girl who loves her girly best friend, or the boy who dreams of marrying the guy who sits next to him in algebra. Homophobia is a form of discrimination, like someone being a racist; it’s unnecessary. People have an idea that homosexuality or being gay is a “mental illness” that can be cured through “therapy and prayer.” “Empirical evidence and professional norms do not support the idea that homosexuality is a form of mental illness or is inherently linked to psychopathology.” Homosexuality isn’t a sickness that can be made better; it is a way of life, part of the genetic makeup of a human being. People saying that having sexual feelings for the same sex is a hint that something isn’t right in the head is disconcerting for the individual that is a homosexual. To say that is wrong, there is no evidence to say that homosexuality is an illness, nor does it make sense. Religion has no place in a political argument like homosexuality. It is incorrect for someone to say that it is “unholy” to be gay or that “our Lord said it is a sin that will grant you a one way ticket to Hell” because not everyone is religious or has the same religious believes. If someone who is gay doesn’t believe in that a god like figure, then the person arguing that god said it’s unruly just lost the battle because his argument is now invalid. It’s as useless as a Christian going against a Muslim, trying to convert the other because he doesn’t believe what the other says. The arguing and name-calling is intoxicating. The amount of hate homosexuals get is enough to lead them down the path of suicide, self-hatred, and thinking that they are sick. To discriminate a human based on their love for others is inappropriate. “September 9: Billy Lucas, age 15, of Greensburg, Indiana, hanged himself from the rafters of his family’s barn… September 23: Asher Brown, 13, of Houston, Texas, shot himself in the head.” These boys didn’t know each other, but they were both bullied to the point where they believed that if you’re gay, then life isn’t worth living. If people can look past the color of another’s skin, then they should be able to do the same about another’s sexual orientation. Those kids should be in classes, not caskets. Being gay is normal. It’s more of a blessing than a sin. Words hurt and they feast on a person until there is nothing left but a hollowed out carcass. Discriminating people on their sexual orientation only kills; it helps no one.
There are around 7,219,307,200 humans alive in the world and that number is growing. Each person in this world is unique and there is no one person who is like another person. But every person on planet Earth has one thing in common. Our parents chose life. Unfortunately, some people decide to abort their child. Essentially, denying the child a life and an opportunity to thrive. All murder is seen as unlawful. So if murder is unlawful, then why is it lawful to end the life of an unborn child? Abortion is a painful and inhumane method of murder that violates the basic right of life that should be extended to all human beings. It is obvious that some people don’t think that the unborn child is a child. That became clear to the Pro-life Community when our political representatives denied the Unborn Child Awareness Act, which stated mothers who wanted to abort their baby had to first learn about what would be taking place. It also entailed that the mother could then give her child some drugs to lessen the pain, should she choose to continue with the murder. Although babies are beloved outside the womb, an unborn child has less legal protection than commercial livestock. This means that the slaughterhouse have to follow laws stating, “…killing animals is only deemed “humane” if “animals are rendered insensible to pain….” (Pain). Another argument that is used frequently in debates concerning abortion is ‘the child isn’t a child until birth. It is a zygote and cannot feel the abortion going on.’ Yet in reality, “the zygote is composed of human DNA and other human molecules, so its nature is undeniably human and not some other species.” (Schwarwalder2). This proves that science is on the side of pro-life because it proves that the unborn child is that; a child. In a perfect world, everyone would know what horror abortion brings to not only the child but also, in some cases, the mother. Childbirth, in many cases, is now safer to the mother because of recent technology that has rapidly reduced the number of deaths during delivery to almost nothing. And to add onto that, a mother who decides to abort her child can get infected, can lose the ability to have child, and will have to always live with the horror of murdering a child. Abortion is a worldwide issue, and the problem is that everyone knows the term ‘abortion’; but no one knows what abortion really is. That is where we as Pro-life citizens have to start. The problem needs to be put out to the people who are pro-choice. This is where we can start out task of saving lives.
Highschool Killed The Teenager The monster is crushing. He is excruciating, and his effects are great. He claws at skin as teachers scream “the colleges, they will love this!” He churns stomachs as work piles up, and pounds a steady beat in heads as parents whisper “don’t forget about this.” He reports back to dreams each night, reminding the subconscious mind to hold onto what the conscious brain so wants to let go. But worst of all, the monster is fed by a mandatory aspect of 3.3 million peoples lives (“Fast Facts”). High school. Coined “the best years of a teenagers life,” high school comes with high expectations and low tolerance. Homework is piled on, because the U.S needs to get better; at math and science and reading and writing, and the only way to tell if you are an adequate member of society, is by passing a standardized test. A test, truley, of your tolerance of stress and ability to memorize facts. The monster is fueled by standardized tests. The monster is also fueled by phrases such as “in the real world,” and “this is the easy part.” This monster does not only gauge out insides, but ravages outsides. Hair begins littering the floor, bones stick out, and food loses its appeal. Skin turns white, the final stage of surrendering to the monster. Signs like those are apparent on countless students all over the country, and “a survey by the American Psychological Association found that nearly half of all teens — 45 percent — said they were stressed by school pressures” (Neighmond). But high school continues to feed the monster. He dines on essays, snacks on applications, and feasts on homework. The monster is even beginning to invade little kids, because elementary and middle school wants to be as much like high school as little brothers and sisters want to be like their siblings. But he thrives in high school students whose heads are stuck in a book, because they care; about college, about grades, friends and family. He cannot live without care. The monster is crushing. The monster is stress. High schools serves stress as a side every single day, along with other high expectations. Nancy Kalish, of The New York Times, calls parents to action, stating “[w]e all know how badly we react to nonstop stress — why would we expect our children to be any different?” (Kalish). There are ways to save students, to kill the monster, to relax the stress. Shorten days, limit number of AP classes a student can take, lessen the homework load. The monster does not have to be crushing. Instead, the monster should be crushed. //www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/12/12/stress-and-the-high-school-student/it-starts-before-high-school //www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/12/02/246599742/school-stress-takes-a-toll-on-health-teens-and-parents-say //nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372
Thank you so much for hosting this fantastic activity. It was exciting to watch the flurry of activity in my classroom yesterday as students worked to meet the 5:00 deadline.
Now we’re wondering about what is next. Can you let us know the timeline for review and selection? I want to create a follow up lesson where the students review the editorials you selected, especially when they can look at how they responded.
Hi Shane — We were so delighted, and so taken aback, by the response! This contest set a Learning Network record, and we’re still figuring out our timeline for judging. But yes: sometime this week we’ll publish next steps, and put a link here. Thank you for assigning it and your students for participating! –Katherine
Technology does have us become more alone because personally there is a life story about that however to cut it short, I used the computer because I did not have any friends in school and as now my friends may slightly increase, my best friend is still the computer. It is a time waster and I have learned people do not have very interesting life so they do things, both good and bad online. Play video games, research, and other thing people can consider being good or bad. Now the reason why I say technology can make us more alone is because there is sadness to the computer, because I admit I do use the computer a lot and sadly like it a little too much. However due to recent discover and realization, the computer is numbing and can lack of intelligent ideas and facts that can grow into a myth where people create ideas and theories inside which are not, always true. People are becoming also, less creative because their minds are too lazy to think and daydream about something to do. In short the negatives can be balanced however as I like to say: “people have different ideas of how computer can be good and bad”.
Heya! I know this is sort of off-topic however I needed to ask. Does managing a well-established website such as yours require a lot of work? I am completely new to writing a blog but I do write in my diary on a daily basis. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my experience and thoughts online. Please let me know if you have any recommendations or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Appreciate it!
excellent points altogether, you just gained a new reader. What might you recommend about your put up that you made a few days in the past? Any sure?
Eliminate Vaccination Loopholes “Herd immunity” is critical to a healthy society. Without a sufficiently vaccinated population, our communities could be overwhelmed with preventable viruses like the measles. In 2015, we are facing a measles outbreak due to a lack of immunized people and the contagiousness of this disease. Currently, our “herd immunity” is threatened by low vaccination rates in 17 states. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is even a school in California that has a shockingly low immunization rate of 30%. For measles, “herd immunity” means that 90% of the population is immune to the virus. Parents are using the “personal exemption” loophole allowed in 48 states, to opt out of required vaccinations for their children. Parents can easily deny or delay vaccinations based on personal beliefs. This is too easy. States should not allow the personal exemptions regarding vaccinations. “Personal exemption” laws provide a loophole for parents who are looking for a reason to opt out of vaccinations. Parents opt out for many reasons. Some believe that vaccines are dangerous, can cause serious side effects, or contain harmful ingredients, while others don’t trust safety assurances made by the FDA or the CDC. All scientific studies confirm the safety and effectiveness of the shots. Still others opt to delay some vaccinations so their kids don’t get as many shots in one visit. The risk of getting measles is much worse than a sore shoulder for a day or two. By delaying, the children are off the suggested schedule and therefore some vaccines are less effective. In a period of 20 years, ending in 2014, an estimated 732,000 American children didn’t die due to vaccinations preventing illnesses like the measles. Another main reason why people opt out of their vaccinations is because they expect everyone else to get vaccinated so they don’t have to. This does not work when more and more people think this and are able to exempt their children from the required vaccinations. For children to be safe from preventable horrible, even deadly diseases, they have to get vaccinated, at the right, scheduled time. The effectiveness of vaccines has made some people doubt the need for them. By working so well, vaccines have all but extinguished the flame of preventable diseases. Since people now have not had measles affect their life, they don’t know how bad it is, which helps them with the decision to not vaccinate their children. People have to get vaccinated for the sake of the entire community. By allowing “personal exemptions”, states are putting their communities in jeopardy. We need to eliminate vaccination loopholes for the good of everyone.
The Associated Press. “Oregon Considers Banning Most Vaccine Exemptions.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Feb. 2015. Web. 03 Mar. 2015. Oshinsky, David. “Return of the Vaccine Wars.” Wall Street Journal [Seattle] 21 Feb. 2015: C3. Print. “Vaccines ProCon.org.” ProConorg Headlines. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
Lolita: A Slave for Entertainment Is it really ok to lock up an animal and use them as a slave to entertainment? At only 4 years old, Lolita was torn away from her family. 80 Orcas were corralled in the largest orca capture ever. Lolita was kidnapped. Ripped away from her family and sold to Seaquarium for only $6,000. The 48 year old Orca whale is currently living sadly in Miami Seaquarium. Lolita should be released from Seaquarium after over 40 years. Miami Aquarium has become one of the most popular and famous aquariums in the country. Each year they profit millions of dollars off animals. However animal rights activists say Lolita’s 80 x 60ft. wide and 20 feet deep tank is one of the smallest whale enclosures in the world. Their report gives evidence of Lolita’s deplorable living conditions. Of the 160 captive killer whales that have died in captivity, more than 70% didn’t make it beyond 10 years in captivity. The feeling of being locked up, with limited space, and no family is awful. This is exactly how Lolita feels. To pay money to Aquarium to see this is wrong. She has been alone without a companion of her species since 1980 after Hugo, another whale, died after crashing his head repeatedly on the enclosure. “She has no opportunity to socialize or interact with other members of her species, which is excruciating for such a social and intelligent animal,” PETA says. It is unfair to keep a beautiful animal like this held solitary. This proves the sad living conditions for Lolita, who has spent the past 35 years alone in her tank. Orcas are extremely intelligent animals. To be alone like this is much different environment than usual.”They’ll be able to communicate, and begin reforming that bond that was broken 40 years ago,” said Howard Garrett, director of the Orca Network who says the release of Lolita is long overdue. The operation is to release Lolita and return her near the San Juan Island. There, she will be kept in a pen to catch fish naturaly Seaquarium staff says the plan is unsafe and risky. Curator Robert rose, who works with Lolita says, “This is a non-releasable animal” If freed, “she’s going to die without question.” The staff also say she will end up like Keiko. Keiko was released in 2002 and died the following year after being rejected by wild orcas. Although she will have different knowledge of the ocean, Lolita would return into her home, where her family is waiting. Researchers say that her family is off the coast of Washington and has a call that Lolita still remember. The captivity of Lolita and other orca whale should stop. REUTERS. “After 44 Years, Miami Orca May Edge Closer to Freedom.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 Jan. 2015. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.
“Life Expectancy of Orcas in Captivity.” Life Expectancy of Orcas in Captivity. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.
We Should Have Background Checks Kyle Petrie We should have background checks in all of USA. Did you know that roughly 16,272 murders were committed in the United States during 2008. Of these, about 10,886 or 67% were committed with firearms. Think about how many of these could have been prevented if we had background checks. Many criminals wouldn’t have gotten their hands on guns and many innocent people’s lives could have been saved.
Also, based on survey data from the U.S. Department of Justice, about 5,340,000 violent crimes were committed in the United States during 2008. These include simple and aggravated assaults, robberies, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders. Of these, about 436,000 or 8% were committed by offenders visibly armed with a gun. That’s right, 436,000 violent crimes were committed with people who had guns. A 1997 survey of more than 18,000 prison inmates found that among those serving time for a violent crime, “30% of State offenders and 35% of Federal offenders carried a firearm when committing the crime. If we had background checks then many of these criminals wouldn’t have been carrying firearms which would have made them probably not do the crime saving lives and keeping them out of jail at the same time. In the 10-year period from November 30, 1998 to December 31, 2008, about 96 million background checks for gun purchases were processed through the federal background check system. Of these, approximately 681,000 or about 1% were denied. 1% may not seem like a lot but 681,000 denied, that means that 681,000 bad people could have had guns in their possession and it only takes one person to attack a school or shoot a lot of people. Though some people say criminals would just get guns other ways like the black market, or private unauthorized dealers, just look back at the fact that background checks stopped 681,000 possibly bad, dangerous people or criminals from getting guns. Background checks are getting more popular, especially in Oregon were private transactions don’t require a check, but sellers have an incentive to do them. If a gun they sell is used in a crime, they can be liable if no check was done. They are protected if a check was done. We should have background checks for all of the reasons above, it would stop criminals from getting guns, it would protect more citizens, and it would keep more people out of jail.
Who is better; Robinson Cano or President Obama? John P Editorial
The President takes out his pen and is about to sign a law just as Robinson Cano hits a home run. What event is more important? Who do you think deserves a bigger salary? Robinson Cano is arguably one of the best second basemen in MLB history but he still shouldn’t make 43 times the money President Obama makes per year. Being a baseball player, I do have a lot of respect for the amount of work MLB players put in to get to the MLB, but I still believe that they make too much money. “Out of the 912 players in the MLB, the average salary was 3,014,572 dollars.” This is way too much money for a baseball player to make. Many people say that MLB players put in so much work and they deserve to get all this money but I disagree. I do believe that MLB players do put in a lot of work but I disagree about their salary. People who entertain other people shouldn’t make more money than someone who runs the whole United States. “Last year baseball players with a .230 to .239 batting average (which is very bad) were paid 937, 756 dollars. This is 4.7 times the salary of the president, 9.4 times the salary of the members of the cabinet and 7.6 times the salary of Chief Justice.” Baseball Players make more than the people who keep America from falling apart! Without the President and Chief Justice we wouldn’t be what make us America and yet we decide to give baseball players a lot more money than these people. Alex Rodriguez signed a contract with the New York Yankees that gave Alex Rodriguez about 29,000,000 dollars for 10 years. Do you think someone should make this much money? Is one baseball players worth so much more than the president? We need to lower the amount of money MLB players make and increase the Presidents salary. Next time you’re at a baseball game look around at each player who steps onto the field and ask yourself; Are they worth more than the President? Gray, Matthew. “Should Major League Baseball Players Get Paid This Much Money?” Sports Networker. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2015. Herman, Louis J. “Of Course, Athletes Are Paid Too Much.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 05 Apr. 1991. Web. 05 Mar. 2015
The Heroes of My School As a student myself, I know that we can always use more friendly faces and open-ears in schools and more understanding and empathetic adults roaming the halls. I know that we can always use more counselors. Why? Take Leelah’s story, for example. Leelah Alcorn was 17 when she took her own life. Born with the name Joshua, Leelah was transgender and treated like an outcast in her own home. She was surrounded by deeply religious parents and forced to attend conversion therapy, an attempt to change Leelah’s sexual orientation. Leelah was bullied. Not by her classmates, not by her teachers, but by her parents, the people sleeping in the room next door. The people who’d promised to love her and accept her and teach her. It may be difficult to recognize this type of bullying when America’s youth has been taught to respect and listen to our elders, but it is terrifyingly real. According to a study done by the NYU School of Medicine, twenty-four percent of high school students have seriously thought about attempting suicide and 90% of suicidal teenagers believe their families do not understand them. Where do these kids turn to for help? If they don’t feel like they can trust an adult at home or that adult is the problem, what are they supposed to do? Some may suggest the counselor’s office as a welcoming place for students. They’d be wrong. The national student-to-counselor ratio is 478 to 1. This means the counselors are always busy, and their doors are always shut. It’s not that the counselors don’t want to give students 100% of his or her time and attention, it’s just that they can’t. There’s practically a three month wait list just to talk to one, let alone get a solid solution to someone’s problem. It’s first come, first serve. School counselors are heroes. They give teens support and care when others do not. We need to hire more counselors so every student can feel safe, happy and healthy at home and at school.
Works Cited Harris, Elizabeth A. “Where Have All the Counselors Gone?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 29 Dec. 2014. Web. 02 Mar. 2015. “Suicide Note of Transgender Ohio Teen Inspires Call to Help Others.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2015. “Teen Suicides Statistics – Yello Dyno.” Teen Suicides Statistics – Yello Dyno. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2015. “Reasons for Teen Suicide.” Teen Suicide (Teenage Suicide, Teenager Suicide). N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
How We Redesigned the New York Times Opinion Essay
When a team of editors, designers and strategists teamed up to talk about how times opinion coverage is presented and packaged to readers, they thought of a dinner party..
The NYT Open Team
By Dalit Shalom
Picture a dinner party. The table is set with a festive meal, glasses full of your favorite drink. A group of your friends gather around to talk and share stories. The conversation swings from topic to topic and everyone is engaged in a lively discussion, excited to share ideas and stories with one another.
This is what we imagined when we — a group of New York Times editors, strategists and designers — teamed up last summer to talk about how to think about how our Opinion coverage is presented and packaged to our readers. We envisioned a forum that facilitated thoughtful discussion and would invite people to participate in vibrant debates.
The team was established after a wave of feedback from our readers showed that many people found it difficult to tell whether a story was an Opinion piece or hard news. This feedback was concerning. The Times publishes fact-based journalism both in our newsroom and on our Opinion desk, but it is very important to our mission that the distinction between the two is clear.
The type of Opinion journalism our group was tasked with rethinking was the Op-Ed, which was first introduced in the Times newspaper in 1970. The Op-Ed was short for “opposite the Editorial Page,” and it contained essays written by both Times columnists and external contributors from across the political, cultural and global spectrum who shared their viewpoints on numerous topics and current events. Because of the Op-Ed’s proximity to the Editorial Page in the printed newspaper, it was clear that published essays were Opinion journalism.
Then The Times began publishing online. Today, most of our readers find our journalism across many different media channels. The Op-Ed lost its clear proximity to the Editorial Page, and the term has been used broadly as a catch-all phrase for Opinion pieces, leaving the definition of what an Op-Ed is unclear.
To learn more about the friction our readership was describing, we held several research sessions with various types of Times readers, including subscribers and non-subscribers. Over the course of these sessions, we learned that readers genuinely crave a diversity of viewpoints. They turn to the Opinion section for a curated conversation that introduces them to ideologies different than their own.
In the divided nature of politics today, many readers are looking for structured arguments that prepare them to converse thoughtfully about complicated topics. Some readers said they want to challenge and interrogate their own beliefs. Others worry that they exist in their own bubbles and they need to understand how the “other side” thinks.
And across the board, readers said they are aware that social media platforms can be echo chambers that help validate their beliefs rather than illuminate different perspectives. They believe The Times can help them look outside those echo chambers.
Considering this feedback, we took a close look at the anatomy of an Op-Ed piece. At a glance, Opinion pieces shared similar, but not necessarily cohesive, properties. They had an “Opinion” label at the top of the page that was sometimes followed by a descriptive sub-label (for example, “The Argument”), as a way to indicate a story belonged to a column. That would be a headline, a summary and a byline, often accompanied by an image or video before the actual text of the story.
By looking at those visual cues, it became clear to us that they could be reconfigured to better communicate the difference between news and opinion.
We created several design provocations and conducted user testing sessions with readers to see how this approach and a new layout might resonate. Some noticeable changes we made include center-aligning the Opinion label and header, labeling the section in red and providing more intentional guidance and art direction for visuals that accommodate Opinion pieces.
While many readers could tell the difference between news and opinion stories, they didn’t understand why certain voices were featured in the Opinion section. They wanted more clarity about the Op-Ed, such as who wrote it and whether the writer was Times staff or an external voice. In the case of external contributors, readers wanted to know why the desk chose to feature their voice.
These questions took our team back to the drawing board. We began to realize that the challenge at hand was not solely a design problem, but a framing issue, as well.
We had long philosophical conversations about the meaning of Op-Ed pieces. We talked about the importance of hosting external voices and how those voices should be presented to our readers. The metaphor of a dinner party figured prominently in our conversations: the Opinion section should be a place where guests gather to engage in an environment that is civil and respectful.
We began to sharpen how we might convey the difference between an endorsement of a particular voice and hosting a guest — one of many who might contribute to a lively debate around a current event.
The more we thought about the Opinion section as a dinner party, the more we felt how crucial it was to communicate this idea to readers.
As we approached the designs, we set out to create an atmosphere for open dialogue and conversation. Two significant editorial changes came out of our group conversations.
After many iterations, we decided to introduce a two-tiered labeling system, so that readers could understand unequivocally the type of Opinion piece they were about to engage with. For external voices, we added the label “ Guest Essay ,” alongside other labels that indicate staff contributors and internal editorials. The label “Guest Essay” not only shifts the tone of a piece — a guest that we are hosting to share their point of view — but it also helps readers distinguish between opinions coming from the voice of The Times and opinions coming from external voices.
The second important editorial change is a more detailed bio about the author whose opinion we are sharing. With the dinner party metaphor in mind, this kind of intentional introduction can be seen as a toast, providing context, clarity and relevance around who someone is and why we chose them to write an essay.
Some of these changes may seem subtle, but sometimes the best dinner conversations are nuanced. This body of work signals an important moment for The New York Times in how we think about expressing opinions on our platform. We believe that one of the things that makes for a healthy society and a functioning democracy is a space for numerous perspectives to be honored and celebrated. We are confident these improvements will help further Times Opinion’s mission of curating debate and discussion around the world’s most pressing issues.
Dalit Shalom is the Design Lead for the Story Formats team at The New York Times, focusing on crafting new storytelling vehicles for Times journalism. Dalit teaches classes on creative thinking and news products at NYU and Columbia, and in her free time you can find her baking tremendous amounts of babka.
Written by The NYT Open Team
We’re New York Times employees writing about workplace culture, and how we design and build digital products for journalism.
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The Case Against Travel
By Agnes Callard
What is the most uninformative statement that people are inclined to make? My nominee would be “I love to travel.” This tells you very little about a person, because nearly everyone likes to travel; and yet people say it, because, for some reason, they pride themselves both on having travelled and on the fact that they look forward to doing so.
The opposition team is small but articulate. G. K. Chesterton wrote that “travel narrows the mind.” Ralph Waldo Emerson called travel “a fool’s paradise.” Socrates and Immanuel Kant—arguably the two greatest philosophers of all time—voted with their feet, rarely leaving their respective home towns of Athens and Königsberg. But the greatest hater of travel, ever, was the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa , whose wonderful “ Book of Disquiet ” crackles with outrage:
I abhor new ways of life and unfamiliar places. . . . The idea of travelling nauseates me. . . . Ah, let those who don’t exist travel! . . . Travel is for those who cannot feel. . . . Only extreme poverty of the imagination justifies having to move around to feel.
If you are inclined to dismiss this as contrarian posturing, try shifting the object of your thought from your own travel to that of others. At home or abroad, one tends to avoid “touristy” activities. “Tourism” is what we call travelling when other people are doing it. And, although people like to talk about their travels, few of us like to listen to them. Such talk resembles academic writing and reports of dreams: forms of communication driven more by the needs of the producer than the consumer.
One common argument for travel is that it lifts us into an enlightened state, educating us about the world and connecting us to its denizens. Even Samuel Johnson , a skeptic—“What I gained by being in France was, learning to be better satisfied with my own country,” he once said—conceded that travel had a certain cachet. Advising his beloved Boswell, Johnson recommended a trip to China, for the sake of Boswell’s children: “There would be a lustre reflected upon them. . . . They would be at all times regarded as the children of a man who had gone to view the wall of China.”
Travel gets branded as an achievement: see interesting places, have interesting experiences, become interesting people. Is that what it really is?
Pessoa, Emerson, and Chesterton believed that travel, far from putting us in touch with humanity, divorced us from it. Travel turns us into the worst version of ourselves while convincing us that we’re at our best. Call this the traveller’s delusion.
To explore it, let’s start with what we mean by “travel.” Socrates went abroad when he was called to fight in the Peloponnesian War; even so, he was no traveller. Emerson is explicit about steering his critique away from a person who travels when his “necessities” or “duties” demand it. He has no objection to traversing great distances “for the purpose of art, of study, and benevolence.” One sign that you have a reason to be somewhere is that you have nothing to prove, and therefore no drive to collect souvenirs, photos, or stories to prove it. Let’s define “tourism” as the kind of travel that aims at the interesting—and, if Emerson and company are right, misses.
“A tourist is a temporarily leisured person who voluntarily visits a place away from home for the purpose of experiencing a change.” This definition is taken from the opening of “ Hosts and Guests ,” the classic academic volume on the anthropology of tourism. The last phrase is crucial: touristic travel exists for the sake of change. But what, exactly, gets changed? Here is a telling observation from the concluding chapter of the same book: “Tourists are less likely to borrow from their hosts than their hosts are from them, thus precipitating a chain of change in the host community.” We go to experience a change, but end up inflicting change on others.
For example, a decade ago, when I was in Abu Dhabi, I went on a guided tour of a falcon hospital. I took a photo with a falcon on my arm. I have no interest in falconry or falcons, and a generalized dislike of encounters with nonhuman animals. But the falcon hospital was one of the answers to the question, “What does one do in Abu Dhabi?” So I went. I suspect that everything about the falcon hospital, from its layout to its mission statement, is and will continue to be shaped by the visits of people like me—we unchanged changers, we tourists. (On the wall of the foyer, I recall seeing a series of “excellence in tourism” awards. Keep in mind that this is an animal hospital.)
Why might it be bad for a place to be shaped by the people who travel there, voluntarily, for the purpose of experiencing a change? The answer is that such people not only do not know what they are doing but are not even trying to learn. Consider me. It would be one thing to have such a deep passion for falconry that one is willing to fly to Abu Dhabi to pursue it, and it would be another thing to approach the visit in an aspirational spirit, with the hope of developing my life in a new direction. I was in neither position. I entered the hospital knowing that my post-Abu Dhabi life would contain exactly as much falconry as my pre-Abu Dhabi life—which is to say, zero falconry. If you are going to see something you neither value nor aspire to value, you are not doing much of anything besides locomoting.
Tourism is marked by its locomotive character. “I went to France.” O.K., but what did you do there? “I went to the Louvre.” O.K., but what did you do there? “I went to see the ‘Mona Lisa.’ ” That is, before quickly moving on: apparently, many people spend just fifteen seconds looking at the “Mona Lisa.” It’s locomotion all the way down.
The peculiar rationality of tourists allows them to be moved both by a desire to do what they are supposed to do in a place and a desire to avoid precisely what they are supposed to do. This is how it came to pass that, on my first trip to Paris, I avoided both the “Mona Lisa” and the Louvre. I did not, however, avoid locomotion. I walked from one end of the city to the other, over and over again, in a straight line; if you plotted my walks on a map, they would have formed a giant asterisk. In the many great cities I have actually lived and worked in, I would never consider spending whole days walking. When you travel, you suspend your usual standards for what counts as a valuable use of time. You suspend other standards as well, unwilling to be constrained by your taste in food, art, or recreational activities. After all, you say to yourself, the whole point of travelling is to break out of the confines of everyday life. But, if you usually avoid museums, and suddenly seek them out for the purpose of experiencing a change, what are you going to make of the paintings? You might as well be in a room full of falcons.
Let’s delve a bit deeper into how, exactly, the tourist’s project is self-undermining. I’ll illustrate with two examples from “The Loss of the Creature,” an essay by the writer Walker Percy.
First, a sightseer arriving at the Grand Canyon. Before his trip, an idea of the canyon—a “symbolic complex”—had formed in his mind. He is delighted if the canyon resembles the pictures and postcards he has seen; he might even describe it as “every bit as beautiful as a picture postcard!” But, if the lighting is different, the colors and shadows not those which he expects, he feels cheated: he has arrived on a bad day. Unable to gaze directly at the canyon, forced to judge merely whether it matches an image, the sightseer “may simply be bored; or he may be conscious of the difficulty: that the great thing yawning at his feet somehow eludes him.”
Second, a couple from Iowa driving around Mexico. They are enjoying the trip, but are a bit dissatisfied by the usual sights. They get lost, drive for hours on a rocky mountain road, and eventually, “in a tiny valley not even marked on the map,” stumble upon a village celebrating a religious festival. Watching the villagers dance, the tourists finally have “an authentic sight, a sight which is charming, quaint, picturesque, unspoiled.” Yet they still feel some dissatisfaction. Back home in Iowa, they gush about the experience to an ethnologist friend: You should have been there! You must come back with us! When the ethnologist does, in fact, return with them, “the couple do not watch the goings-on; instead they watch the ethnologist! Their highest hope is that their friend should find the dance interesting.” They need him to “certify their experience as genuine.”
The tourist is a deferential character. He outsources the vindication of his experiences to the ethnologist, to postcards, to conventional wisdom about what you are or are not supposed to do in a place. This deference, this “openness to experience,” is exactly what renders the tourist incapable of experience. Emerson confessed, “I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated.” He speaks for every tourist who has stood before a monument, or a painting, or a falcon, and demanded herself to feel something. Emerson and Percy help us understand why this demand is unreasonable: to be a tourist is to have already decided that it is not one’s own feelings that count. Whether an experience is authentically X is precisely what you, as a non-X, cannot judge.
A similar argument applies to the tourist’s impulse to honor the grand sea of humanity. Whereas Percy and Emerson focus on the aesthetic, showing us how hard it is for travellers to have the sensory experiences that they seek, Pessoa and Chesterton are interested in the ethical. They study why travellers can’t truly connect to other human beings. During my Paris wanderings, I would stare at people, intently inspecting their clothing, their demeanor, their interactions. I was trying to see the Frenchness in the French people around me. This is not a way to make friends.
Pessoa said that he knew only one “real traveller with soul”: an office boy who obsessively collected brochures, tore maps out of newspapers, and memorized train schedules between far-flung destinations. The boy could recount sailing routes around the world, but he had never left Lisbon. Chesterton also approved of such stationary travellers. He wrote that there was “something touching and even tragic” about “the thoughtless tourist, who might have stayed at home loving Laplanders, embracing Chinamen, and clasping Patagonians to his heart in Hampstead or Surbiton, but for his blind and suicidal impulse to go and see what they looked like.”
The problem was not with other places, or with the man wanting to see them, but with travel’s dehumanizing effect, which thrust him among people to whom he was forced to relate as a spectator. Chesterton believed that loving what is distant in the proper fashion—namely, from a distance—enabled a more universal connection. When the man in Hampstead thought of foreigners “in the abstract . . . as those who labour and love their children and die, he was thinking the fundamental truth about them.” “The human bond that he feels at home is not an illusion,” Chesterton wrote. “It is rather an inner reality.” Travel prevents us from feeling the presence of those we have travelled such great distances to be near.
The single most important fact about tourism is this: we already know what we will be like when we return. A vacation is not like immigrating to a foreign country, or matriculating at a university, or starting a new job, or falling in love. We embark on those pursuits with the trepidation of one who enters a tunnel not knowing who she will be when she walks out. The traveller departs confident that she will come back with the same basic interests, political beliefs, and living arrangements. Travel is a boomerang. It drops you right where you started.
If you think that this doesn’t apply to you—that your own travels are magical and profound, with effects that deepen your values, expand your horizons, render you a true citizen of the globe, and so on—note that this phenomenon can’t be assessed first-personally. Pessoa, Chesterton, Percy, and Emerson were all aware that travellers tell themselves they’ve changed, but you can’t rely on introspection to detect a delusion. So cast your mind, instead, to any friends who are soon to set off on summer adventures. In what condition do you expect to find them when they return? They may speak of their travel as though it were transformative, a “once in a lifetime” experience, but will you be able to notice a difference in their behavior, their beliefs, their moral compass? Will there be any difference at all?
Travel is fun, so it is not mysterious that we like it. What is mysterious is why we imbue it with a vast significance, an aura of virtue. If a vacation is merely the pursuit of unchanging change, an embrace of nothing, why insist on its meaning?
One is forced to conclude that maybe it isn’t so easy to do nothing—and this suggests a solution to the puzzle. Imagine how your life would look if you discovered that you would never again travel. If you aren’t planning a major life change, the prospect looms, terrifyingly, as “More and more of this , and then I die.” Travel splits this expanse of time into the chunk that happens before the trip, and the chunk that happens after it, obscuring from view the certainty of annihilation. And it does so in the cleverest possible way: by giving you a foretaste of it. You don’t like to think about the fact that someday you will do nothing and be nobody. You will only allow yourself to preview this experience when you can disguise it in a narrative about how you are doing many exciting and edifying things: you are experiencing, you are connecting, you are being transformed, and you have the trinkets and photos to prove it.
Socrates said that philosophy is a preparation for death. For everyone else, there’s travel. ♦
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Argument, Genre and Style
Valuable lessons learned by using the times to study composition..
Instead of assigning a supplementary reader with essays or fiction, I use The Times as a living, constantly changing, unpredictable and highly relevant textbook that provides both models for writing and subjects to write about. The unpredictability of the daily newspaper is both the major advantage and the major challenge. Although my course has a clear outline and a defined sequence of papers, I have to be prepared to modify whatever we are doing if something jumps off the page in the morning. This potential for spontaneity keeps both teacher and students alert. No one can work off old notes, old papers or old habits and I have to be prepared every day to find examples to illustrate (or alter my understanding of) every principle I want to teach.
Using The Times as a textbook allows me to teach students about three things: argument, genre and style. One of the most important lessons of any writing course is that arguments are all around us, even in places where we don’t think to look for them. Clearly, the pages of The Times are full of arguments: the editorials, the letters to the editor, the regular columns, the essays submitted by interested citizens, even the advertisements in the lower right-hand corner of the Op-Ed page. But there are also arguments on the front page, both implicit and explicit. Many articles try to convince readers that a state of affairs or a trend exists: New York is or is not a safe place to live; the economy is prospering or faltering. Other articles contain strong implications about values: A breakthrough has occurred in the treatment of cancer; a public official is in serious trouble. There are also arguments in every section — arts, style, sports, science, business — and in advertising. Students need to become sensitive to the nuances of language and the nature of evidence in order to understand why certain choices are made in the presentation of stories and what those choices imply about what we think is significant.
We begin by following a front-page news story for a week (one selected by the students) in order to become more conscious of language and choice, then move on to the more structured and direct arguments on the editorial pages, then broaden our interest to take on the rest of the paper. We analyze arguments short and long for logical, ethical and emotional appeals and students respond to, critique and imitate them in their own writing.
I also use The New York Times to teach students how the constraints of genre affect writing. The Times is full of different prose genres, forms that have evolved to fulfill readers’ expectations about the requirements of different kinds of situations. We always stop and pick out generic characteristics in what we are reading. We look at the shape of news stories, the common characteristics of letters to the editor, the distinguishing features of analysis pieces. One assignment very important for the identification of genre features is the obituary: Who gets a Times obituary, what are the common elements of obituaries, how are they structured, what kinds of topics are developed in them and what are people praised for? After the class spends time reading obituaries, I ask them to write an imaginary obituary for a living person whom they admire. This assignment teaches the class about what is valued in our culture and how one goes about praising the admirable.
The discussion of genre is very important in writing pedagogy, but it is easily neglected in writing courses that read mainly fiction or familiar essays because the distinctive features of the most common prose genres often go unnoticed by both teachers and students.
The third element is style and we examine style carefully all over the newspaper by asking questions like the following: Why are quotations and information attributed in certain ways in news stories? Who gets to be an agent, a doer of action, in news stories? What kinds of technical language do we see on the sports pages? How common is figurative language? What kinds of figures of speech do we see in various kinds of writing? Why, for instance, do we rarely see irony in news articles but often find it in Op-Ed pieces? How formal or technical is the writing and how does it vary in different sections? What does that variation tell us about audience? I often assign students to identify 30 or 40 different figures of speech used in the news so they can learn how powerful and ubiquitous figurative language is. We also discuss the distinctive registers of music reviews, science, business and sports reporting.
All students are required to read the newspaper every day, with special concentration on the part we are focusing on for the next paper. I expect students to be reading the paper when I walk into the classroom and to bring the previous day’s paper as well as the most current one to class. We begin by commenting on and analyzing the part of The Times we are most interested in and then spend some time refining the current writing assignment to adapt it to the unfolding news.
One cannot give exactly the same assignments every time, but I try to follow a rough order: The first assigned paper asks students to follow a news story for a week or so and analyze the coverage; the second concentrates on editorials in order to learn the elements and structures of argument; the third examines obituaries; the fourth discusses reviews and asks students to write one themselves; the fifth takes on a cultural analysis of the sports pages in order to determine how the culture of sports reflects or differs from the rest of the paper; and a final assignment offers the opportunity to repeat or revise one of the earlier ones. Depending on the class and the salience of certain kinds of issues, other assignments may be substituted.
I have found that using The Times as a textbook has both direct and indirect benefits for a writing class. In addition to facilitating instruction about argument, genre and style, the newspaper offers students the opportunity to become immersed in fresh and relevant subjects to write about and allows the class to observe how stories develop and issues are formulated. As we discuss emerging events, they learn to distinguish what’s at stake in any given case — whether issues of fact, definition, value or policy — and how each of these questions gives rise to a different type of argument. Writing instruction comes alive when it is connected to actual, immediate writing.
But there are larger educational benefits as well. Part of what should happen in a college course is a broadening of horizons, an awareness of a larger, more significant world of trends, events and subjects of interest to an educated person. First-year students especially need to become engaged in a world less cloistered than the campus and this course can help establish the lifetime habits of newspaper reading and intellectual curiosity. Finally, speaking from the personal and professional perspective of the teacher, I find that using the newspaper as a textbook keeps my teaching of writing fresh and forces me to question and clarify my pedagogical and disciplinary assumptions. My field is rhetoric, which preaches the significance of audience and context and there is no greater challenge than dealing with writing as it develops and changes before our eyes both in the newspaper and in the texts produced by my students.
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August 1, 2013 | bookmark this article, marie j. secor, course title, course description, bring the times to your campus, the new york times in education.
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Commentary: Cultural Appropriation Is, In Fact, Indefensible
K. Tempest Bradford
Elvis Presley, in the studio in 1956 — Presley's success was undoubtedly driven by the material he appropriated from black musicians. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images hide caption
Elvis Presley, in the studio in 1956 — Presley's success was undoubtedly driven by the material he appropriated from black musicians.
Last week, the New York Times published an op-ed titled "In Defense of Cultural Appropriation" in which writer Kenan Malik attempted to extol the virtues of artistic appropriation and chastise those who would stand in the way of necessary "cultural engagement." (No link, because you have Google and I'd rather not give that piece more traffic than it deserves.) What would have happened, he argues, had Elvis Presley not been able to swipe the sounds of black musicians?
Malik is not the first person to defend cultural appropriation. He joins a long list that, most recently, has included prominent members of the Canadian literary community and author Lionel Shriver.
But the truth is that cultural appropriation is indefensible. Those who defend it either don't understand what it is, misrepresent it to muddy the conversation, or ignore its complexity — discarding any nuances and making it easy to dismiss both appropriation and those who object to it.
At the start of the most recent debate , Canadian author Hal Niedzviecki called on the readers of Write magazine to "Write what you don't know ... Relentlessly explore the lives of people who aren't like you. ... Win the Appropriation Prize." Amid the outcry over this editorial, there were those who wondered why this statement would be objectionable. Shouldn't authors "write the Other?" Shouldn't there be more representative fiction?
Yes, of course. The issue here is that Niedzviecki conflated cultural appropriation and the practice of writing characters with very different identities from yourself — and they're not the same thing. Writing inclusive fiction might involve appropriation if it's done badly, but that's not a given.
Cultural appropriation can feel hard to get a handle on, because boiling it down to a two-sentence dictionary definition does no one any favors. Writer Maisha Z. Johnson offers an excellent starting point by describing it not only as the act of an individual, but an individual working within a " power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group ."
That's why appropriation and exchange are two different things, Johnson says — there's no power imbalance involved in an exchange. And when artists appropriate, they can profit from what they take, while the oppressed group gets nothing.
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Dear white artists making music videos in india: step away from the 'holi' powder, author lionel shriver on cultural appropriation and the 'sensitivity police'.
I teach classes and seminars alongside author and editor Nisi Shawl on Writing the Other , and the foundation of our work is that authors should create characters from many different races, cultures, class backgrounds, physical abilities, and genders, even if — especially if — these don't match their own. We are not alone in this. You won't find many people advising authors to only create characters similar to themselves. You will find many who say: Don't write characters from minority or marginalized identities if you are not going to put in the hard work to do it well and avoid cultural appropriation and other harmful outcomes. These are different messages. But writers often see or hear the latter and imagine that it means the former. And editorials like Niedzviecki's don't help the matter.
Complicating things even further, those who tend to see appropriation as exchange are often the ones who profit from it.
Even Malik's example involving rock and roll isn't as simple as Elvis "stealing" from black artists. Before he even came along, systematic oppression and segregation in America meant black musicians didn't have access to the same opportunities for mainstream exposure, income, or success as white ones. Elvis and other rock and roll musicians were undoubtedly influenced by black innovators, but over time the genre came to be regarded as a cultural product created, perfected by, and only accessible to whites .
This is the "messy interaction" Malik breezes over in dismissing the idea of appropriation as theft: A repeating pattern that's recognizable across many different cultural spheres, from fashion and the arts to literature and food.
And this pattern is why cultures and people who've suffered the most from appropriation sometimes insist on their traditions being treated like intellectual property — it can seem like the only way to protect themselves and to force members of dominant or oppressive cultures to consider the impact of their actions.
This has lead to accusations of gatekeeping by Malik and others: Who has the right to decide what is appropriation and what isn't ? What does true cultural exchange look like? There's no one easy answer to either question.
But there are some helpful guidelines: The Australian Council for the Arts developed a set of protocols for working with Indigenous artists that lays out how to approach Aboriginal culture as a respectful guest, who to contact for guidance and permission, and how to proceed with your art if that permission is not granted. Some of these protocols are specific to Australia, but the key to all of them is finding ways for creativity to flourish while also reducing harm.
All of this lies at the root of why cultural appropriation is indefensible. It is, without question, harmful. It is not inherent to writing representational and inclusive fiction, it is not a process of equal and mutually beneficial exchange, and it is not a way for one culture to honor another. Cultural appropriation does damage, and it should be something writers and other artists work hard to avoid, not compete with each other to achieve.
For those who are willing to do that hard work, there are resources out there. When I lecture about this, I ask writers to consider whether they are acting as Invaders, Tourists, or Guests, according to the excellent framework Nisi Shawl lays out in her essay on appropriation . And then I point them towards all the articles and blog posts I've collected over time on the subject of cultural appropriation , to give them as full a background in understanding, identifying, and avoiding it as I possibly can.
Because I believe that, instead of giving people excuses for why appropriation can't be avoided (it can), or allowing them to think it's no big deal (it is), it's more important to help them become better artists whose creations contribute to cultural understanding and growth that benefits us all.
K. Tempest Bradford is a speculative fiction author, media critic, teacher, and podcaster. She teaches and lectures about writing inclusive fiction online and in person via WritingTheOther.com .
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- v.22(12); 2020 Dec
Rhetorical Appeals and Tactics in New York Times Comments About Vaccines: Qualitative Analysis
1 Department of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, United States
Heidi Y Lawrence
2 Department of English, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, United States
Improving persuasion in response to vaccine skepticism is a long-standing problem. Elective nonvaccination emerging from skepticism about vaccine safety and efficacy jeopardizes herd immunity, exposing those who are most vulnerable to the risk of serious diseases.
This article analyzes vaccine sentiments in the New York Times as a way of improving understanding of why existing persuasive approaches may be ineffective and offers insight into how existing methods might be improved. We categorize pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine arguments, offering an in-depth analysis of pro-vaccine appeals and tactics in particular to enhance current understanding of arguments that support vaccines.
Qualitative thematic analyses were used to analyze themes in rhetorical appeals across 808 vaccine-specific comments. Pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine comments were categorized to provide a broad analysis of the overall context of vaccine comments across viewpoints, with in-depth rhetorical analysis of pro-vaccine comments to address current gaps in understanding of pro-vaccine arguments in particular.
Appeals across 808 anti-vaccine and pro-vaccine comments were similar, though these appeals diverged in tactics and conclusions. Anti-vaccine arguments were more heterogeneous, deploying a wide range of arguments against vaccines. Additional analysis of pro-vaccine comments reveals that these comments use rhetorical strategies that could be counterproductive to producing persuasion. Pro-vaccine comments more frequently used tactics such as ad hominem arguments levied at those who refuse vaccines or used appeals to science to correct beliefs in vaccine skepticism, both of which can be ineffective when attempting to persuade a skeptical audience.
Further study of pro-vaccine argumentation appeals and tactics could illuminate how persuasiveness could be improved in online forums.
Improving persuasive techniques when communicating with the public about vaccines is a long-standing concern. Although vaccination rates across the United States remain high, pockets of elective nonvaccination remain, which facilitate dangerous outbreaks [ 1 , 2 ]. Although newer movements that expand mandates appear to be successful in some locales [ 3 ], there is a continued need for persuasion in communities that resist such mandates and in cases where mandates are less viable, such as in the case of adult vaccinations.
This article asks specific questions related to online communication and vaccines: How do commenters, as readers of online newspaper articles, argue about vaccines? How might those arguments be better attuned to opportunities for persuasion? Finally, how can we better understand pro-vaccine arguments within a subset of both supportive and skeptical comments about vaccines? The study presented here analyzes 808 vaccine-specific comments posted on the New York Times (NYT) website’s online comment section. This analysis reveals two primary findings: (1) Both pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine comments rely on a thematically similar range of tactics, including appeals to children, science, and risks, though often drawing opposing conclusions. (2) Pro-vaccine comments rely on a set of appeals that offer uneven opportunities for audiences to be engaged and persuaded by pro-vaccine arguments.
As a space where people have active and agonistic arguments, online newspaper comment sections offer important insight into the persuasive contexts of vaccination discourses in real-world settings. Developing knowledge about persuasive tactics online can help researchers develop categories for persuasive appeals that users deploy when they discuss vaccines from pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine perspectives. In this study, vaccine comments were categorized according to pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine sentiments expressed, with common strategies and tactics used across comments identified. Critically, this work also addresses an important gap in online health communication by further documenting and analyzing the rhetorical appeals and tactics of pro-vaccination argumentation. While pro-vaccine websites [ 4 ], anti-vaccine websites [ 5 , 6 ], and anti-vaccination discussion forums [ 7 - 9 ] have been studied, to date no extensive studies have been conducted about the rhetorical appeals and argumentation strategies of pro-vaccination comments within a context of both pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine comments.
What is known about vaccination sentiments and how they are communicated across a variety of spaces, including on the internet, is largely confined to understanding those who express skepticism about vaccines (eg, anti-vaxxers, vaccine refusers, or elective nonvaccinators). Existing studies locate sources of skepticism about vaccines in a broad range of concerns; the well-known yet refuted concern about the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, “toxic overload” caused by vaccination, appeals to “natural” immunity and forms of disease protection, and personal choice/freedom are some of the primary reasons that parents refuse vaccines [ 8 , 10 - 17 ]. Other bodies of literature focus on the reasons for low uptake of flu vaccine and the rationales that adult patients have for not accepting the vaccine, including perceived constraints, concerns about a range of side effects, and lack of efficacy [ 18 - 20 ].
Still more articles focus on the deficits of those who refuse or question vaccines, examining “reasoning flaws” associated with vaccine concern [ 21 ], arguing for the ethical grounds for mandating vaccines [ 22 , 23 ], and counseling physicians and other healthcare providers on how to respond to vaccine concerns [ 24 , 25 ]. These studies frequently use analyses of hesitancy as a basis for these findings. These studies exist alongside popular press publications articulating the scientific and ethical problems associated with vaccine refusal or an “anti-vaccine movement” [ 26 - 28 ]. Another body of literature has studied specifically how these “anti-vaccination” beliefs are articulated online: typologizing skeptical sentiments that are popularly expressed online [ 5 , 6 ]; examining how risks are weighed and articulated in online chat forums [ 29 ]; and looking at ways skeptics use differing media platforms to spread anti-vaccination beliefs [ 7 , 30 ]. These studies offer a broad sense of the arguments and beliefs that parents present as rationales for not vaccinating or at least harboring concerns and skepticism about vaccination.
Newer research in this area has addressed differing tactics for online engagement [ 4 - 6 , 31 - 33 ], thereby widening the scope of analysis to both “pro” and “anti” sides of the issue on social media platforms. These studies demonstrate how online communication affords researchers new opportunities for: understanding how people communicate about vaccines; understanding a wider range of vaccine sentiments (outside of negative or skeptical ones only); and identifying new opportunities for persuasion or education about vaccines in online sites for public communication and interaction.
The work reported here contributes to this body of research by examining vaccine sentiments in online spaces, first categorizing pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine arguments and then discussing the ways in which their appeals and tactics interact to offer an understanding of the argumentative context in comments. This research also adds in-depth analyses of appeals and tactics in support of vaccines. Such understanding is important for gaining a broader sense of what the public thinks about the issue of vaccines in formats of online newspaper comments and how persuasive discourse works in online spaces. This article offers possible alternate sources of persuasion when those who support vaccines interact with those who are skeptical.
The NYT was chosen for its established presence in the United States as a space of debate (it is a “paper of record”). The newspaper has a fourteen-person moderating team as well as machine learning technology from Google called Jigsaw. These tools work to keep comments relatively civil insofar as they filter out explicit language, egregious name-calling, and solicitation posts. We hypothesized that commenters from this newspaper would have a pro-vaccine inclination, a hypothesis that was borne out in our qualitative coding (see Qualitative Analysis Methods section).
In order to develop a targeted data set, we used a larger data set of comments (445,441) made on the NYT from May 1, 2015, to August 31, 2015. Comments were web-scraped using the newspaper’s application programming interface directions [ 34 ]. Comments were collected during the month of September 2015. Our rationale for this time period was to collect all comments for 4 months, which we believed to be a large enough sample to be representative of larger trends in commenting behavior. We then searched for the words “vaccine” and “vaxx” using a wildcard operator: vaccin*, vaxx*, vax*. This process yielded a final data set of 1101 comments about vaccines from the original 445,441 comments gathered. We have placed these comments into a publicly accessible database [ 35 ]. In 2 cases, a pro-vaccine comment was repeated, but as the repeated comments were on different threads, we included them in the data set. To develop a deeper analysis of this data, we conducted a qualitative analysis on the data. We note that these comments, whether pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine, are generally civil, meaning they avoid name-calling and offensive language and are articulated in ways that do not employ heated exchange (capitalizations, use of multiple exclamation points, etc). This civility is likely a product of the NYT’s moderation of the forum but could also be indicative of civility concerning this topic in this space during this timeframe.
Qualitative Analysis Methods
We coded the comments as pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine, or not applicable. To classify anti-vaccine comments, we decided comments needed to be against vaccines or demonstrate some skepticism toward them. To classify pro-vaccine comments, we looked for comments that advocated the use of vaccines, broadly conceived. The two authors of this paper initially coded the first 100 comments separately and then met to discuss whether we thought this was a productive schema. We confirmed that we were in general agreement about the schema and then proceeded to code the remaining comments. All coding was done separately. We then compared the coding. We disagreed on 21.80% (240/1101) of comments. We did not code these comments thematically due to rater disagreement. The remainder of the comments, which had been agreed upon, broke down as follows: 602 (54.68%) were pro-vaccine, 206 (18.71%) were anti-vaccine, and 53 (4.81%) were neither pro-vaccine nor anti-vaccine and were not coded thematically.
This process yielded 808 comments that we categorized thematically. After the previous categorization schema, we then coded for themes, appeals, and tactics, drawing on a version of guided grounded theory and specifically looking for rhetorical appeals or arguments that speakers used in their posts. We separately coded the initial 100 comments according to appeals and argumentation. Comments could be coded multiple times to account for multiple appeals. We then met to discuss this coding. We eventually settled on three primary appeals as emerging from the data: dissoi logoi , appeals to science, and appeals to the “public good”; these appeals were shared by pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine comments yet were obviously used to achieve different ends or conclusions about vaccines. We subsequently proceeded to thematically code the remaining data set, assigning individual themes for the authors to code. We also made notes of less frequent appeals and tactics as they emerged in the data. Within this context of understanding the appeals and tactics used across vaccine comments, we pursued additional, in-depth analysis of pro-vaccine comments because of their novel abundance in this data set.
Below are the pro-vaccine ( Textbox 1 ) and anti-vaccine ( Textbox 2 ) appeals and tactics. The numbers in parentheses are the numbers of comments expressing each appeal or tactic. The appeals and tactics were not mutually exclusive, and many comments contained multiple appeals and tactics. We do not list appeals or tactics that occurred fewer than 5 times.
Appeals and tactics of pro-vaccine comments (n=602).
- The public good (234)
- Science and expertise advocacy (166)
- Dissoi logoi (constructing opposing viewpoints) (102)
- Personal experience or personal ethos (79)
- The social good (68)
- Accepting small risks (50)
- Attributing vaccine denial to the other political spectrum (31)
- Direct (use of username or name) or indirect (use of second person) address of vaccine refusers (129)
- Ad hominem (name-calling) (79)
- Debunking autism-vaccine connections (48)
- Referring to evidence (use of hyperlink, typically to government websites) (39)
- Asking anti-vaccine proponents to conduct research (17)
- Debunking mercury-vaccine connections (6)
- Debunking thimerosal connection (6)
Appeals and tactics of anti-vaccine comments (n=206).
- Skepticism: toward institutions (56); toward science (22); toward vaccination rates (14); toward herd immunity (8)
- Concern over money in “big pharma” or “big money” (the money in the pharmacy industry; used either phrase) (33)
- Risk to pregnant individuals (31)
- Personal freedom (29)
- Concern over number of vaccines administered (28)
- Appealing to “complex issues” (some form of the word “complex” without a specific issue mentioned) (22)
- Concern over thimerosal, mercury, and additives in vaccines (17)
- Criticism that vaccines are often for preventable diseases (14)
- Concern over thimerosal in general (12)
- There needs to be more market competition for testing and developing vaccines (11)
- Attempts to connect vaccines to non-autism diseases (7)
- Risk is logical (6)
- Children at risk of vaccines (5)
- Claiming not to be 100% against vaccines (31)
- Referring to evidence (use of hyperlink, typically to commercial websites) (20)
- Scientific terminology used incorrectly (17)
- Direct or indirect address to pro-vaccine commenter (use of username or second person) (16)
- Asking other commenters to conduct research (11)
- Against ad hominem (8)
- Ad hominem (7)
- Criticism of “other side” (7)
- Direct address to author of article (use of author’s first name, last name, or both) (5)
Qualitative analyses demonstrate that there were common appeals and tactics used across pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine discourses, but also some notable differences in the arguments and argumentative patterns of different positions. This analysis focuses in particular on a number of trends in pro-vaccine argumentation that make opportunities for persuasion problematic and that, if addressed, could help improve the persuasive quality of pro-vaccine discourse online.
Pro-vaccine comments drew on a narrower range of appeals, tactics, and themes whereas anti-vaccine comments had a broader range of appeals, tactics, and themes. We attribute this difference to at least two causes. First, our binary coding schema of pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine led us to categorize many comments that expressed skepticism over some vaccines or approaches to vaccination as “anti-vaccine.” Comments that were vehemently, completely anti-vaccine were lumped into the same category as comments that were pro-vaccine for childhood vaccinations (eg, MMR, chicken pox) while being anti-vaccine for newer vaccinations (eg, human papillomavirus [HPV]). Moreover, we found many comments that expressed hesitation over vaccination scheduling. Second, being pro-vaccine involves advocating for something. Conversely, anti-vaccine comments simply need to cast skepticism on that something. Therefore, the wider set of appeals, tactics, and themes used by anti-vaccination comments makes sense: skepticism involves creating some level of doubt, even if minor. Anti-vaccine comments thus need only discuss a concerning issue, no matter how small or insignificant it is.
In broad strokes, anti-vaccine comment strategies are more diverse and heterogeneous than pro-vaccine comment strategies. Anti-vaccine commenters appealed to science’s fallibility, the minute presence of risk, and freedom of choice. Anti-vaccine commenters appealed to the debunked research conducted by Andrew Wakefield and others. Anti-vaccine commenters used hyperbole frequently, notably in increasing the number and frequency of vaccine shots. The concept of risk is particularly illustrative. On the one hand, pro-vaccine comments discuss risk in a relatively homogeneous way: it is something to be minimized, and comments recognize the low level of risk. On the other hand, anti-vaccine comments were concerned over realistic types of risk and radically untrue types of risk, including overstatement and hyperbole, which was dramatically uneven in the data set. Some anti-vaccine commenters argued that physicians wanted to give babies dozens of vaccines and argued that all vaccines had high risks. Other commenters expressed less hyperbolic concerns, such as worries about spacing of the MMR vaccine and a desire to discuss risk with a practitioner before accepting a vaccine.
We noted early in our analysis that the data set included a novel quantity of pro-vaccine comments. We suspect this number of pro-vaccine comments is a product of the NYT’s typical readership as well as the effect of comment moderation. However, as noted in the literature review above, with the typical focus on anti-vaccine comments and deficit approaches to correcting this stance, less information is established in the literature on the argumentative patterns of pro-vaccine advocates. We report on these trends below to add novel findings to the literature, but also to point to spaces where pro-vaccine advocates could improve the persuasiveness of their commentary.
Overall, we found that pro-vaccine comments included three dominant appeals and tactics. The first category was appeals to science and expertise. Science and expertise advocacy includes appeals to science as a black box (eg, advocating for trusting “the science”, as in the words themselves). These appeals also include trusting scientists and experts in general (most frequently the “medical community”) as well as specifically by a proper name. These appeals included advocating for rationality and logic and attacking anti-science viewpoints (eg, “science-deniers”, lack of “scientific links”, “anti-science ignorance”). Less frequently, commenters in this category mentioned scientific concepts such as controlled studies, falsifiability, and hypothesis testing. Comments that used this appeal were heavily anti-anecdote and requested evidence. They corrected scientific inaccuracies (such as the number of required vaccines, side effects of vaccines, and use of mercury). We note that this operates in opposition to skeptical comments about trusting individual forms of knowledge, such as personal experience. This creates a clash between these two perspectives, wherein the concept of science becomes a stand-in for trustworthy forms of expertise, and skeptical perspectives denounce or diminish that perspective through—often incorrect—critiques of science. Although such corrective forms of communication might seem like a helpful, even persuasive, intervention, previous studies of vaccine sentiment have indicated that such measures can have a “backfire effect,” causing people to more firmly believe incorrect beliefs upon having them corrected [ 36 ].
Second, for vaccine proponents, vaccination is associated with the common good or what is generally perceived to be good for the public. A remarkable number of pro-vaccine comments focused on appealing to the public and social good of vaccines. Public good took multiple forms, including herd immunity, the safety of children and older adults, and the sickness and deaths of young children from vaccine-preventable diseases. These comments often mentioned legal liability for those who do not vaccinate; the extension of this logic implies a prevention of epidemics and increase in herd immunity. Comments that appealed to the public good of vaccines frequently made other non–vaccine-related claims about the public good, including climate change and economic equality.
Comments that focused on what we label the social good , while related to the public good, made use of historical statistics and information to discuss the quality of life that vaccines brought about. We note that this appeal is often used in conjunction with personal experience and ethos . Commenters frequently recall their childhoods, often detailing the suffering of other children from vaccine-preventable diseases. They do so in order to discuss the social good (and social progress) that vaccines have society. These appeals, though they offer the potential for persuasion through their use of anecdote and narrative—devices that can be more persuasive for a skeptical public—also operate in direct opposition to skeptical appeals to individualism rather than collective good. Thus, the ideological gap between the “good story” these conflicting narratives tell (one of protecting individual rights versus achieving collective good) lessens their potential to operate persuasively for skeptical readers.
Third, vaccine proponents construct opponents’ arguments as a way of establishing their position and amplifying their support of vaccines, an appeal called dissoi logoi , or construction of oppositional or contrasting arguments [ 37 ]. Dissoi logoi in classical argumentation originated as a mechanism for understanding and examining opposing sides. In its best form, dissoi logoi allows the speaker to see and articulate an issue from someone else’s perspective, but it can lead to specious arguments as well when oppositional arguments are misunderstood, weakly constructed, or incorporate their own fallacies. When pro-vaccine arguments employed dissoi logoi , they used it to approximate or describe vaccine skepticism from within their own position of support, leading to reductive and ad hominem attacks associated with their estimation of the “opposing side.” These appeals are particularly potent sources of creating opposition, rather than opportunities for persuasion, since restated arguments frequently create opposing arguments not worthy of refutation.
For example, the following comment conflates concern about HPV vaccine with laziness or ignorance:
[Rick Perry, Governor of Texas who endorsed an unpopular mandate for HPV vaccine,] should have gone through with it for their own good. This vaccine, if taken early enough, will prevent cancer. The people in Texas who are opposed are a bunch of religious bozos who think that getting this vaccine will make it more likely that their children will have premarital sex. That is sheer ignorance.
This comment engages in dissoi logoi through constructing the argument of vaccine skeptics, invoking “the people in Texas who are opposed” to the policy. This comment features multiple ad hominem tactics insulting anti-vaccine perspectives or anti-vaccine commenters, including calling skeptics “bozos” and citing them as a danger to efforts to prevent cancer. Ad hominem was significantly more prevalent in pro-vaccine comments than in anti-vaccine comments and is classically problematic as a persuasive act, since personal attacks can cause defensiveness, thus diminishing persuasive appeal.
Finally, it is worth noting that there also appear to be ideological components to both the pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine comments. The ideology that undergirds pro-vaccine comments includes concern for public welfare and society as a functioning whole, whereas the anti-vaccine comments have an ideology of concern for individual welfare and autonomy. From our reading of the comments, these ideologies operate independently of typical US politics (conservative vs liberal) because many comments attribute the anti-vaccine perspective to the “other side.” Often, if a comment appears to have a traditionally conservative leaning, then it will attribute the anti-vaccine movement to liberals, noting that liberal places in California or Oregon have outbreaks of preventable diseases. Anti-vaccine perspectives were also attributed by pro-vaccine commenters to people who are anti-science, anti–genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and anti–nuclear power, and climate change deniers. For instance, one emblematic comment reads as follows:
I find it very hard to respect the resistance to empiricism common to the anti-GMO crowd, anti-vaccine fanatics and climate change deniers. The widespread popular refusal to come to conclusions based on evidence suggests a dim future for us all. We will need science, we will need technology, and GMOs will have to be one of the tools available to us if we hope to feed the nine billion people expected to share a warming and highly stressed planet at mid-century.
On the other hand, if a comment appears to have a liberal leaning, it will attribute the anti-vaccine movement to conservatives. These comments often noted that the concept of “personal choice” undermines herd immunity and the health of the public. As an emblematic example, one commenter writes the following:
Well, in large part because of the policies--family planning, vaccination, the Peace Corps, the green semi-revolution and so on--that the Right foight [sic] tooth and nail against spending any money on? By the way: that progress, and in many ways it IS [sic] progress, did come at a price, you know. Take a look at the bill, which includes warmong [sic] up the planet and polluting a fair old chunk of it.
We make this observation as a way of noting that, although varying ideologies are operating within each perspective, a clear political alignment cannot be discerned.
Limitations and Future Research
While there are several limitations of this study, we first address a strength of this study: the agreement between the two authors. We had not worked together before but came to surprising agreement (861/1101 comments, 78.20%) about whether to categorize comments as pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine (or not applicable). Following this degree of agreement, we believe that most vaccine-related comments in our data set ascribe to either advocacy of vaccines or skepticism of vaccines.
We urge caution with our findings due to the limited size of the data set (808 comments), the venue in which the comments were made (the NYT), and our own coding schema that did not analyze comments that we disagreed upon or comments that we categorized as neither pro-vaccine nor anti-vaccine. The greater number of pro-vaccine comments may be the result of the screening process by the moderating team at the NYT, the Jigsaw machine learning technology, or both. More conceptually, however, our method has not addressed the many other issues present in these comments, including US politics, local discussions, reader-to-reader relationships, and so forth. In this sense, we have focused our analysis to a particular theme at the detriment of examining how those themes intersect with other rhetorical moves made.
A more conceptual limitation is that, because the data we used were public comments, the commenters may not see themselves as attempting to be truly rhetorical (eg, persuasive). In this sense, these findings have qualifications, the most relevant being that the appeals and tactics are not necessarily geared at being highly persuasive. Nevertheless, the detail offered in these comments adds information to the online conversation around vaccination, notably the finding that the pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine comments deploy several similar strategies while providing foils to one another.
A major challenge about this project has to do with the heterogeneous debates under the broad term of vaccine. Within our data set, vaccines were discussed, many of which were childhood vaccinations (MMR, chickenpox, etc). However, other types of vaccines were discussed, such as the Ebola vaccine (the NYT ran an article about this in 2015). Further, vaccines were mentioned in tandem topics that were not directly related (for instance, vaccines were frequently discussed alongside genetically modified food topics). In our methodology, we have flattened the discussion focus in order to analyze the appeals and tactics surrounding vaccine debate.
As a result of these limitations, we have several suggestions for future research. These include increasing the number of comments analyzed, examining other venues, and running more advanced computer analysis (corpus linguistics and natural language processing). Analyzing vaccine-related comments outside the binary of pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine may be useful for future research. In this article, we have also not analyzed the comments about which we disagreed in our coding schema or the comments that we agreed were neither pro-vaccine nor anti-vaccine. Analyzing these types of comments may reveal additional rhetorical appeals or analytical tactics as well as nuanced relationships between the binary of pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine perspectives. Finally, because comments are an informal place where persuasion might happen, researchers could insert different comments that deploy varying levels of persuasive appeals in order to determine which appeals work more effectively than others. Research could then document reactions to these comments as well as survey and interview commenters to evaluate the effectiveness of specific appeals.
When it comes to vaccination, the stakes are high. With the urgent public health need to achieve high rates of universal vaccination, each encounter with a person about vaccines can be an opportunity to strengthen public trust in and acceptance of vaccines. We offer the previous analyses as a way for pro-vaccine commenters across public and professional spaces to consider how their tactics can be more persuasive to skeptics. Simply dismissing skeptics will not change their minds, and appealing to vaccine supporters does not actively engage with changing the status quo. Our analyses of the pro-vaccine comments may help to guide future studies attempting to identify how and why vaccine skeptics are persuaded in online, participatory environments.
Conflicts of Interest: None declared.
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“A New Voice for the Times ”: Is “The Morning” the Future?
By Charlotte Klein
New York Times reporters have long dreamed of seeing their stories on A1 of the print edition, preferably above the fold, and, more recently, atop the website. Sure, these goals still exist, but there are now two more coveted “front pages” of the Times, as top executives will tell you: the flagship podcast, The Daily, and the flagship newsletter, “The Morning.” “That’s how you get seen,” said one reporter. “It’s not a necessary evil, so much as something you have to care about now.”
“The Morning,” with over five million readers daily, has become a key vehicle for Times reporters to blast their stories out to the widest possible audience, especially as traffic from search engines and social media is increasingly disrupted. “The most valuable thing we do for other parts of the newsroom is putting their journalism in front of our audience in people’s inboxes,” said David Leonhardt, a Times veteran whose past gigs include Opinion columnist and Washington bureau chief. Leonhardt, 51, serves as a Virgil-like guide through the day’s news, often writing a lead essay explaining everything from the hunger crisis in Gaza to Democrats’ shifting immigration policy views. “I think there is a huge audience of people who want journalism that is smart and makes them feel smart,” he told me.
The perspective of “The Morning,” unsurprisingly, tends to align with Leonhardt’s, which can be a source of tension in the newsroom. “It’s like putting him on the top of A1 every day,” said a second Times staffer, noting that “the idea of this conversational newsletter is a great idea, but the concept of it being the flagship” has been hard for some people to square. Through the flagship newsletter, Leonhardt has effectively served as the voice of the institution.
But Leonhardt is increasingly asking others to put their stamp on it, as “The Morning” recruits beat reporters across the newsroom—from the Times real estate desk to the congressional team—to write the lead column, an initiative that recently hired deputy Adam Kushner will spearhead and that Leonhardt described as the newsletter’s top priority for 2024. “If in the first incarnation, 1.0, of ‘The Morning,’ we would kind of go interview those experts and then almost translate their expertise into this new explanatory language, this next turn is really sharing the microphone,” said deputy managing editor Sam Dolnick. “There is just something about that newsletter platform which can build out a showcase of expertise,” executive editor Joe Kahn told me.
It’s a different tone than reporters typically use in the news pages—more conversational and straightforward and perspective-driven—that Dolnick and Kahn hope will filter back through the traditional paper. “It feels as though a lot of the analytical or explanatory writing that we’re doing, or even some of the breaking news reporting, can harvest some of that tonal difference from that direct addressing of readers and their needs,” said Kahn. “We haven’t seen any downside to featuring that more as a bigger part of the offering.” The gulf between how writers sound in “The Morning” and the paper is “going to start shrinking,” Dolnick suspects, “and we’re going to find something closer to the middle that is more like a new voice for the Times. ”
In January 2020, Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger thought Leonhardt had made a mistake. The paper was rebranding their flagship newsletter, then called “The Morning Briefing,” and Dolnick and Adam Pasick, who’d been hired a few months earlier to be the paper’s new editorial director of newsletters, had asked Leonhardt to be its host. He initially declined, content with his current gig in Opinion, where he was writing the department’s daily newsletter. Then the publisher urged him to reconsider. “This is a huge opportunity given the size of the audience,” Leonhardt recalled Sulzberger telling him, “and I think you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to speak in both an approachable and institutional voice.” Leonhardt said he “spent that evening stewing over it” and then threw his hat back in the ring.
It was a moment when high-profile writers were flocking to Substack and news organizations were leaning into more personality-driven material. The Times saw potential in their flagship, which had quietly amassed the largest audience of any Times product, and “partnered with the product side to figure out how we could meaningfully build this email list at the same time as we were going to meaningfully sharpen its editorial,” says Dolnick. The newsletter relaunched in the spring of 2020 with more than 17 million subscribers and at least three million daily opens. This was the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and readers were looking for an authoritative voice to explain what was going on. COVID helped shape the function of the newsletter’s lead, which is “to help people understand the very biggest stories in the world,” Leonhardt said. The most successful “Morning” leads pass the “one-sentence test,” as Leonhardt calls it, meaning they can be summarized in a single sentence that makes a clear, intriguing point. “Basic facts are relatively widely available relative to the pre-internet world,” he notes. “What people want is a more personal, conversational form of writing,” and “a more honest form.”
The Times, said Pasick, “created a different style guide for newsletters,” which, being a relatively new medium, have fewer stylistic rules. “We’ve tried to use that to our advantage,” said Pasick, and “have newsletters be a kind of test bed for different ideas.” He added: “In a strange way, I know that a lot of my bosses are interested in bringing some of those lessons back to the newsroom.”
On a recent Tuesday morning, I found myself in a conference room at the Times Manhattan headquarters, where the handful of staffers who work on “The Morning”—three in person, and seven, including the Washington-based Leonhardt, remote—were performing an autopsy on the newsletter sent out hours earlier. They do this every day, a postmortem on notable changes and potential lessons to glean from them. On the day I visited, this included seemingly minor edits made to eliminate “news speak” and a debate that photo editors had over the lead photo. After the postmortem, they look toward the rest of the week.
This meticulous, at times tedious, analysis of the daily digest suggests how seriously Leonhardt takes his role. Throughout the meeting he chimed in to connect a decision or finding to their broader mission, such as when an editor noted that of the 20 most-clicked links in last week’s newsletters, only three were from the news section. “I love that finding, right?” Leonhardt commented, “because we are deliberately writing our news bullets in ways to make them as information-full and clear as possible.”
“Sometimes picking up the newspaper can feel like you’re entering two-thirds of the way through a conversation,” Dolnick told me after the meeting. “The Morning” is able to “slow that down a bit without dumbing it down,” he said, a distillation that provides a “really useful service.” So much so that the Times has decided to launch an international version of “The Morning”—and is now looking for the writer to lead it. “International subscribers are a huge priority for us,” said Pasick.
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Readers’ relationship with Leonhardt has contributed to a “healthy conversion rate” from the newsletter to overall subscribers, according to the Times, particularly following the occasional appeals he’s made to explain why the Times is worth paying for. (The Times recently hit 10 million total subscribers.) The newsletter gives “people a sense of the full New York Times, ” says chief product officer Alex Hardiman, which is “news first, but we do have all of these lifestyle value propositions.”
Below the lead column, you’ll find lists of bullet points, organized by subject, summarizing (and linking to) other notable news stories and features across various sections of the paper. There’s also a “Morning Recommends” section (“Use a cast-iron skillet to make these thick, golden brown sourdough pancakes ,” or “Clean your humidifier ”), as well as a “ Games ” section, which includes a graphic of that day’s Spelling Bee grid and the answer to the previous day’s pangram. “The Morning” is “a gateway,” said Kahn, particularly for the “very fertile middle ground of people who are engaging with us regularly, often daily, but not yet thinking of themselves as subscribers.”
Inside the paper, reporters have complicated feelings about Leonhardt’s operation. On one hand, it can be a powerful amplifier for Times journalism. The newsletter has become “one of the biggest ways to launch a big project now,” says Dolnick, from investigations to new games or wellness challenges . Section editors can pitch “The Morning” on forthcoming stories to feature in the lead, as well as those that may have been overlooked . “Occasionally, ‘The Morning’ is responsible for more than half of an article’s online audience,” Leonhardt told me, with recent examples including Wirecutter advice on black tights and a politics story on how the cold weather was affecting the Iowa campaigns.
But Leonhardt’s approach has raised questions about how the paper distinguishes between analysis and opinion—and whether Leonhardt, an institutional star, has more latitude than others to toe that line. “He has an enormous amount of power, and it’s kind of stealth,” said a third staffer. The column is imbued with his positions, some of which have come under scrutiny by experts outside the Times (as well as within it). His pandemic coverage made progressive readers particularly uncomfortable, as Leonhardt, bucking what he called journalism’s “bad news bias ,” often broke with public health messaging in his push for normalcy. Leonhardt has “a little bit of that New Republic 1990s vibe of being skeptical of liberal conventional wisdom,” a fourth staffer said. COVID was “the thing he had the strongest position on that was a little bit out of step with the bulk of the paper,” they said, “but also time has kind of proven him a bit more right than wrong on that.”
Leonhardt agrees. “My coverage reflected what were, to me, the reading of the facts. And it doesn’t bother me that not everybody read the facts that way, and that people who didn’t criticized the newsletter,” he said. “I think that increased time and increasing evidence have suggested that our take on the pandemic looks a lot better in retrospect than some of the maximalist claims that people made in 2021 and 2022.”
What distinguishes that “take” from opinion, according to Dolnick, is that in opinion journalism, “‘you should’ is kind of the active verb: ‘Here’s what you should do.’ And I think here what we’re trying to do is, ‘Here’s how to understand,’” he told me. But how to understand can also be subjective. During the pandemic, for example, Politico reported “notable doctors and scientists have written to the Times, individually or in groups,” to say that Leonhardt “cherry-picks sources and data, giving too much weight to people who may have medical expertise but not on infectious disease.” More recently, Leonhardt has received pushback on how he’s tackled the debate over standardized test scores—first in an article , then in the newsletter and on The Daily —by citing data suggesting the test scores are a better predictor of academic success than high school grades and arguing that the move away from the SAT disadvantages lower-income applicants. Some experts challenged his analysis of the data. A few weeks later, Leonhardt again devoted “The Morning”’s lead to SAT scores, this time to explain why Dartmouth had reinstated the test requirement and “why other schools may follow Dartmouth’s lead.”
“David has become a great generalist, but his background was largely econ-focused,” one Times editor said. “So if you’re the person who is covering the Ukraine war and he’s weighing in on it one day, there might be some tension where people feel like this is my beat, and you’re taking it more on the opinion side.” Kahn doesn’t seem too worried. “I don’t think that David’s views add up to an ideology,” he said, but rather “a belief that the role of a leading journalist—and the leading newsletter of The New York Times —is partly just to challenge people to continuously look at the issues around them, the facts connected with the leading storylines, and reach an intelligent judgment that isn’t overly dictated by conventional wisdom or assumptions.”
Leonhardt says he views his role at “The Morning” as “querying the ideas of both political tribes in our country,” while acknowledging “that the things we write that ask liberals to confront evidence that doesn’t always align with their priors sometimes gets more attention.” He continued: “But I think the fact that we do that on both sides is, to me, a sign of what it means to be an independent news reporter in the current day and age…we are analytical journalism. I embrace that. It takes judgment, but that is different from opinion journalism.”
The tension is particularly relevant at a time when Sulzberger is writing 12,000-word essays making the case for journalistic independence, and Times journalists have taken internal stands appealing to the same principle. “The newsletter is working: having a little perspective is drawing the readership,” the fourth staffer said. “I think it can be aligned with independent journalism, but you just have to be careful.”
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By Erin Vanderhoof
2 Men Charged With Murder in Kansas City Super Bowl Rally Shooting
Prosecutors said two teenagers also face charges. More arrests are possible, they said.
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By Julie Bosman and Kevin Draper
Kevin Draper reported from Kansas City, Mo.
It began, prosecutors said, with one man accusing another of staring at him.
Groups of men, who appeared to be strangers, exchanged angry words and threats. A female friend tried to intervene. And then, surrounded by thousands of people at a rally last week celebrating Kansas City’s Super Bowl victory, at least two men pulled out their guns and began shooting.
“Just being stupid,” one of the men, Lyndell Mays, 23, told detectives later, according to the authorities, after admitting to firing his gun at least once or twice into the crowd.
Mr. Mays and another Missouri man, Dominic Miller, 18, were charged with murder for the death of a bystander, prosecutors announced on Tuesday. Ballistics tests revealed that a bullet from Mr. Miller’s gun killed Elizabeth Galvan , 43, a D.J. and radio host known as Lisa, who was at the parade on Wednesday with her family, prosecutors said.
Read the Charging Documents Against Dominic Miller
Two dozen people were wounded by gunfire, including nine children.
Prosecutors described how a seemingly mundane interaction spiraled into violence, then chaos. As shots rang out, spectators screamed, ran for cover and rushed to tend to the wounded. Ms. Galvan was lying on the ground, fatally shot in the abdomen. Elected officials in attendance, including the governor of Kansas, were quickly evacuated for their safety.
More charges were expected as the police continue to investigate the shooting, Jean Peters Baker, the Jackson County prosecutor, said. Prosecutors would not say how many guns were believed to have been involved.
“We seek to hold every shooter accountable for their actions on that day,” she said. “Every single one. While we are not there yet on every single individual, we are going to get there.”
Both Mr. Miller and Mr. Mays were shot and remain hospitalized. They each are charged with second-degree felony murder, two counts of armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon. They are each being held on a $1 million bond, and if convicted, could be sentenced to life in prison.
“Consequences must be swift, certain, and severe,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas of Kansas City.
Read the Charging Documents Against Lyndell Mays
It was not clear whether Mr. Miller or Mr. Mays were represented by lawyers, and the men could not be reached.
Separately, two days after the shooting, two teenagers were charged with resisting arrest and “gun-related” offenses. The teenagers have not been publicly identified and could eventually be tried as adults after a judicial process that can take days or weeks to decide how they should be tried.
The connection between the two men who were charged with murder and the teenagers who were charged with lesser offenses last week is unclear.
In a statement, Ms. Galvan’s family thanked the prosecutor and the Kansas City Police Department for their work in investigating the “senseless act of violence” that killed her.
“Though it does not bring back our beloved Lisa, it is comforting to know that the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office and the K.C.P.D. made it a top priority to seek justice for Lisa, the other shooting victims, those who had to witness this tragedy unfold and the Kansas City community,” the statement said.
The shooting erupted at the end of a parade and rally that drew tens of thousands of jubilant Kansas City Chiefs fans to the downtown area.
Surveillance video from the area, as described in charging documents from prosecutors, showed one group of people staring at one man, and a verbal argument ensuing. More people nearby joined the argument, and as it continued, the people who were involved began to produce firearms.
The authorities said that Mr. Miller was seen in the video appearing to fire shots, then was struck by a bullet in his lower back, causing him to fall to the ground. He then ran away, the charging documents say, shouting “I’m shot, I’m shot.”
A bystander saw that Mr. Miller was carrying a black firearm near his waistband, and tackled and disarmed him, the authorities said.
When interviewed by detectives at the hospital, Mr. Miller admitted that he was armed with a handgun at the rally and said that he fired roughly four or five shots, because he observed another man shooting at him, the authorities say.
Mr. Mays, the other man charged with murder, told detectives at the hospital that he had fired the first shots.
“He hesitated shooting because he knew there were kids there,” according to charging documents. Mr. Mays told the authorities that he only began firing because he believed that a woman in his group was going to be shot, the documents say.
Both the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office and the Kansas City Police Department said they had no previous contact with either Mr. Miller or Mr. Mays.
Julie Bosman is the Chicago bureau chief for The Times, writing and reporting stories from around the Midwest. More about Julie Bosman
Kevin Draper writes about money, power and influence in sports, focusing on a range of topics, including workplace harassment and discrimination, sexual misconduct and doping. He can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected] . More about Kevin Draper