Assignment designed with help from Professor Shana Cooper of Harold Washington College
Read and Think
Research a controversial topic about which you are passionate and find two sources that present different messages about it. For instance, you might look at how the topic of immigration is covered by The American Prospect, a left-leaning publication, and by The American Conservative, a right-leaning publication.
You may want to look through the periodicals listed on the “Consider the Source” handout on the Harold Washington College Library webpage if you are uncertain about the political leanings of different publications.
Compare and contrast the presentation of information by each source, considering rhetorical strategies and framing techniques. You may also want to look at George Lakoff’s seminal work on Simple Framing (link begins download from the Rockridge Institute). Likewise, take note of any instances you find of information malpractice.
Compose a three to four-page essay comparing and contrasting the sources’ presentation of the topic. Use the first paragraph to offer background and context. Then take a couple of paragraphs to discuss the first source, analyzing it for the above grounds (framing, rhetoric, and negligent use of facts (if applicable)). Do the same for the second source. Finally, take at least one or two paragraphs to weigh the sources against each other for contrast.
You may choose to argue for or against one of the sources in this part, but do so carefully and on the basis of the source’s presentation of information, not on the stance it takes. Avoid agreeing or disagreeing with the topic, itself; your goal is to make a decision based on which source offers a more ethical and reasonable presentation of information.