To Each Its Own, Even When It Comes to Media Reviews
Einstein once said that you cannot judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree. This being said, you cannot judge all articles the same way. Sure, it would be amazing to have only well-written, respectful articles that only present the absolute and verified truth. But then again, people love the sensational. They love to be introduced in the mystery of a case. In translation, they love to be informed even when there is not much to know about something and when everything is only second-guessing. This is the result of the transition of the press from its informational role to an entertainment one. However, it is nice to know that you can be both amused and informed, and that good journalistic practices require professionals to state their lack of confirmations and not sell it as a sure thing. Let’s see how much this helps you in your critical reviews of various types of articles.
How to Review 6 Different Types of Media Articles
1. An economic or political report
How do you critically assess a political or economic report? For starters, unless you have the time to review everything the author of the article has worked for, you can only review the external elements and see how much they weigh on the results presented in the analysis. This is how context, publication, author, and presented data will come together to present you with the big picture you were looking for. Keep in mind that you cannot look at one while disregarding all others.
Let’s give an example. In the context of political turmoil, a publication that usually sides with the ruling political party will issue an economic analysis saying that, in fact, the economy is doing great, but that people are too preoccupied with other things to notice. This is what everyone will notice about the article at first hand. However, a thorough review would also mean looking at who wrote the article, the information used, the objectivity or lack of it in presenting the information, and whether or not the information checks out after verifying it from other sources. This should not be that difficult because economic information must be made public by some state institutions and other journalists will tackle the issue at the same time.
In this case, you can at most decide whether the information is being used to get a false idea across, whether it is correctly presented although the conclusion of the article is not in tune with the rest, or whether there is a gross disregard for anything related to the truth.
2. An opinion article
This will be a bit tricky because you cannot review another person’s opinion. The good news is that opinion articles such as editorials, should be signaled as such and you know not to take a journalist’s personal views as facts. This being said, you go back to the same elements as before and analyze context, publication, potential biases, and check some of the information in the article. Apart from that, make sure that the article is not being promoted as an analysis or informative one and that the fact that it is an opinion is made clear. Otherwise, this is another case of information manipulation.
3. An informative article
This must be the ultimate objective article. Any way around it would be some writing skills that would make it look less like it was copied from a dictionary and that would make the information easier to read and digest. Other than that, any personal involvement, any nuance or tone other than neutral, is completely forbidden.
The role of an informative article is that of presenting the information as is, without altering it. This may imply rendering the subjects discussed in a press conference, mentioning a list of factories that are about to close down, or presenting the results of elections. No matter how emotionally invested the author is, there must be no mention of personal likes or dislikes and no side comments. It’s harder to do than it seems, but real professionals can stick to the basics of an objective presentation. If they do not, better put that in your review.
4. An analysis
Right between the report and the informative article we have the report. This is a combination between objectively presenting data and explaining it. Note that this is not an opinion article and the explanations must be based on specific facts and not on how the information can be interpreted in a certain way. The author is allowed to explain in the sense that he can detail on the use of some terms, can go into details on how some things impact on others. When reviewing an analysis, you need to make sure that the article meets its end: that is makes everything clear.
5. An instruction article
This is like an informative article, only that it depends a bit on the writing skills of the author. Without including personal beliefs and opinions, the author must explain as well as possible, a set of already sanctioned courses of action. The tone depends on the audience of the instruction article. For example, you could have an article on how children should behave in school during an earthquake, addressed to kids, or what should children eat during a stomach bug epidemic, addressed to parents. And to soften a bit the tone, how to pack for an exotic vacation. Your review must focus on how well the message is sent across.
6. A “scoop”
How do you assess an article in the category of “anything goes as long as it sells the newspaper?” From the point of view of the owners of the newspaper, it means selling as many papers as possible. From the point of view of the journalist it means being well-read. From the point of view of the audience it means being entertained. However, from the point of view of the person the article is about, it at least comes down to a desire for the information to be true and for the tone to not be too mean and ill-spirited.
You can give points for the entertainment value of the article, as long as it is not vulgar and exaggerated. The issue of verified information remains even when it comes to these tabloid articles, as well as the attitude of the author toward the subject and the issue. Open mockery, gratuitous insults, fabricated stories, and information obtained through unethical means should be sanctioned.