Major Essay 1: An Unobvious, Interesting Idea

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Major Essay 1: An Unobvious, Interesting Idea

The Goal: To write 3-5 pages where you say something unobvious and interesting about CBS Nightly News or Democracy Now or PBS NewsHour – to have an idea and develop that idea through the paper.

Some provisos: You may refer to the other shows in your paper, but your point (your thesis) should be clearly about one show (DO NOT do a simple compare and contrast essay). Also, please focus on just one episode of the show you choose. Your idea may certainly apply to more than one episode, but your essay will be more successful if you focus on an episode that supports your thesis particularly well. You can choose any full episode that is available online (but please don’t pick single segments posted on YouTube, for example).


To figure out what you want to say, go through the analysis process. Make some literal, concrete observations to figure out what the show is (summary), then start to ask some questions (to lead you to analysis). Here are some things you might consider to get you started: What’s something interesting about the show? What’s something strange about the show? What’s something revealing about the show? What’s the purpose of the tone of the show? Is there a message? Is it entertainment, or something more? How does the role of the host contribute to the overall purpose of the show? What is one possible deeper purpose for the show (NOT the obvious purpose)? You might also think about just one part of the show: the opening segment, or the closing segment, or the set, or the interaction of the host with other “correspondents” or reporters. How do any of those things show something interesting about the show that a casual viewer might not notice? And, crucially (this applies to all the questions): how do you know? What about the show makes you think whatever it is that you think? What specific moments in the show can you point to in order to prove your point to someone who hasn’t watched it?


One more thing: Whatever claim you come up with, make sure that it’s specific enough (small enough) to develop well in 3-5 pages.  (For instance: a thesis that says “[Your show] is the best news show in the history of America.” would be hard to adequately support in 3-5 pages. But something like “[Your show] uses (some technique) to do (some interesting, unobvious thing).” would be fine.

BIG, IMPORTANT NOTE: you must include an MLA-style Works Cited page with the full citation information for the episode of the show you’re using in this paper! To do this, check out the “MLA Resources” folder and follow the instructions on the handout you find there. I will not read essays that don’t include this important step! (But it doesn’t have to be perfect — make your best attempt, and I’ll tell you how to correct it if needed.)


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