Category Archives: Meta

‘Blogging and public intellectuals’ follow-up questions

The panel. Photo borrowed from @Arendt_Center

The panel. Photo by @Arendt_Center

This post is a response to “Blogging and public intellectuals,” a panel discussion featuring NYU’s Jay Rosen and The Atlantic’s Megan Garber. I considered asking these questions by email, but I’m placing them here instead, in the spirit of the event.

Dear Dr. Rosen and Ms. Garber,

I attended your panel at Bard College on Sunday and found it challenging in the best way. Thank you for volunteering your time for it.

Two sets of questions have stuck with me since then. If you ever have the time and interest to respond to them on your blogs or another outlet, I would enjoy reading it.

The questions:

  1. Who are some of today’s public intellectuals you think are worth following? What do they do that you admire, and how can journalists apply those things to their work?
  2. In your work as bloggers and public intellectuals, how do you decide what to read day-to-day? What intellectual habits are you striving to improve? Dr. Rosen, has your routine changed since you were featured in “What I Read” in 2010?

Thanks again,
David

Argument and journalism: theory, practice, personal goals

Howard Finberg summarized a recent debate on an AEJMC* listserv about the value of the academy, and academic research, to everyday journalism.

There is, Finberg writes (I confess to not having worked through most the thread), a space between theory and practice that is abnormally wide for the field’s history. The practice crowd wants academia to become more accessible and produce more usable research. Finberg frames the problem in terms of a “customer”: So long as the customer of academic research is academics, there is little hope for narrowing the gap.

I try to not write about myself here, but Finberg’s post resonated with me. I wanted my thesis research to be useful professionally and academically, besides being interesting personally. I hoped it provided both groups something to think about; that it generated questions. I still want and hope those things (it’s in the “About” page, even).

Next month is a test for whether I am progressing on my goals. I will be presenting work at the annual AEJMC conference that is based on my thesis (I can’t post it here yet, but I hope to).

In my presentations I try to be pretty clear about wanting their content to be both academic and practical. But can I defend that claim in front of a crowd, next to scholars I have studied and admire?

At the same time, I am trying hard to not let the conference feel like a referendum. I know that in the long run, facing a series of difficult questions — struggling with them out loud, in public — is intellectually valuable.

* Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication

My thesis

Last week I posted my graduate thesis, Argument quality in Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting, to this website. The posts to date and in the future on this blog are directly related to my research for the thesis, which was accepted at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in December 2011.

The Theoretical framework and literature review provides an argument for why theory in argumentation, informal logic, and critical thinking can be applied to journalism. The Results chapter summarizes what I found in testing my argument by analyzing stories from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism from the Los Angeles Times, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Discussion chapter provides some further comments.

I sincerely hope you have time to browse a chapter or two and offer some criticism.

About this blog: ‘How strong is the argument?’

When someone wants to convince you of something, you usually go through a few steps before accepting what they say.

You try to understand what their conclusion is. You look for the reasons and evidence they use to support it. You ask questions about how strong the evidence is, what assumptions the conclusion entails, what alternate conclusions are possible, and so on. You explore counterarguments. Finally, you decide whether you can accept the conclusion given what you know.

In other words, when someone wants to convince you of something, you ask, “how strong is the argument?”

Every day, journalists try to convince people of something about the world. What happens when we ask, “how strong is the argument?”

I’m David Herrera, and I’m a master’s student at the Missouri School of Journalism. My thesis asks of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism: “How strong is the argument?”

I think that if the topic of my thesis has any practical utility to people who read journalism and try to use it as part of their lives in democracies, then the only way to find out is to share it publicly.

So this blog is a place for ideas, questions, and concerns that I encounter as I research and write. When I finish my thesis, I’ll post it here.

Earlier this year I posted about this topic on my website; those posts have been copied to this blog for the sake of keeping everything in one place.

You can find me on Twitter as @dlh01. My home base online is dherrera.org. Email: david@dherrera.org.