Newspaper Reflection Prompt


Goal of the assignment

Each week, you will write a 450-600 word reflection demonstrating an engaged reading of current events as they relate to our course readings. The goal of the assignment is to provide you with a structure for completing the reading and to cast a critical eye on widely read sources of mainstream journalism. My not-so-secret agenda is to inspire you to continue paying rigorous attention to current events for the rest of your life, and to make connections between what is happening in the world and the persistent social inequalities that galvanize you to act.

How to complete the assignment each week

Step 1:
First, decide on a concept for your theme. This will be limited by the syllabus; the theme you pick should be a topic that we discussed in class during the current week that the reflection is due. In other words, since the reflection is due each Sunday night, you should be writing about the readings due during the week leading up to that Sunday.

Step 2:
Choose a minimum of three of our assigned readings from that week. You will be referring to and citing these readings in your reflection.

Step 3:
Find one news article that relates to your theme. The article should be ideally less than a week old, but in no case more than two months old. Your article must be from your New York Times subscription.

Step 4:
Start by giving a brief synopsis of your article (no more than 3-4 sentences). Then, use the remaining space in the paragraph to write a critical analysis of the article, incorporating at least two quotes and/or paraphrased ideas from each of the three course readings you chose. (A good discussion on how to approach this can be found at

Make sure to describe the connection between the article and your three course readings in such a way that you demonstrate that you have thoroughly read and digested the readings: for example, if we are talking about housing inequality in class, explain the relevance of your article to understanding the nature of contemporary forms of housing inequality as described in Evicted, which we will read during that unit.

Questions to consider:

• Is there information missing from the article that, if added, would change the way a reader might perceive the nature of the inequality?
• Is there an obvious bias or perspective that the journalist promotes through their use of language or framing?
• In what way do you see the article contributing to or shaping the public conversation around the issue?
• Does the article align with or diverge from the sociological theory you read on the topic?

Alternative Assignments

If you wish to experiment a bit with other forms of thinking and expression, you can! I’d like you to stick with the basic assignment format outlined above most of the time. However, if you want to cut and paste your article links but then produce your analysis through other means – poetry, song lyrics, visual art, collage experimental writing, etc. – you may do so up to two times during the quarter. Visual art can be submitted by scanning your work into a PDF. If you think your work requires a bit of explanation, please include that explanation to give me some context for understanding it.

Recap of required components:

• A recent NYT article with title, author, date, and source listed at the top of your paper.
• A long paragraph for each news article that includes a 3-4 sentence synopsis and the integration of at least two direct quotes from the three class readings that you have selected to focus on.
• Demonstrable understanding of the main ideas and theoretical implications of the course readings (i.e., make it 100% clear in your writing that you have read, digested, and understood the readings, as opposed to just pulling a convenient quote without actually doing the reading).
• An analytical section in which you critique and make observations on its validity and on the way it is likely to be interpreted in the public sphere.
• A Works Cited list (not to be included in the word count) in ASA format citing the course readings you chose.
• A word count at the bottom.