Sunday, December 4, 2011

Presentation of Final Project

While the quality of the materials you have prepared for Thursday are important, the organization of the presentation itself will be almost equally crucial. You should give a role to each member of your team, and make sure they practice. If you can, hold a formal “rehearsal.”

Probably the easiest and most effective way to do the presentation is to have all of the material in written form that you can hand to the judges at the beginning of the presentation, and then have each member of the team explain part of it in his or her own words. The judges will be told that they should ask you questions, so be ready for that. If a team member is not comfortable with this, they can have something that they can read.

They should know it well enough that they can look up and make eye contact with the judges. And they should show enthusiasm and salesmanship. Remember – the idea is that you want the judges to hire you.  You are NOT just “giving a report.” You want to make a sale.

It seems to me that it makes the most sense for the leader to go first and read or explain the “strategy statement” spelling out what you think is causing the problem, and how you propose to correct it through public relations.

Then you “unveil” your slogan, explaining how it implements the strategy.

Next would come the presentation of the advertisement(s).  Here you explain how you intend to get your “message” across to the “recipients.” Tell who or what is the “source” of the message, and detail the ways in which you intend to present this advertisement. That is, what “channels” will you use (newspapers, radio, television, billboards, etc.)?   If you need help getting color copies of your proposed ad, send it to me, and I will make it (them) for you. In fact, I will give you whatever help you need in making copies, provided that you don’t give it all to me at the last minute.

Following that, discuss the press release. What is its purpose and how does it accomplish it? (The purpose, to review, is to tell journalists what they need to know about your campaign to prepare articles and reports about it. Make sure that the written version you give the judges gives the date of the release, the source (with contact information), and an indication of when the information can be released. In this case it should say, unless you have some special reason for delaying the release, “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.”

The last “required” item is the letter to community groups. What groups are you aiming at, and what do you want them to do? Note that even if you have prepared a letter aimed at only one group, you can tell the judges about other groups you will aim at in a similar, narrowly focused manner. (Think about the discussion we had on Friday. If you’ve forgotten it, ask me and I´ll tell you the suggestions I made again. That goes for any of the things we’ve gone through.)  

Finally, you can present any additional items you have added above and beyond those required. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Writing a Press Release

  The most important thing I want to tell you about writing a press release is that you apply the same principles that we have used in writing other things.
     As we did in writing advertising copy, we consider who is the "recipient," and what is the "message" we want that recipient to receive. 
      In the case of a press release we are sending this to editors at newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations, and often other people who are known in the trade as "CIs," or centers of influence. In Latin America (in my experience) press releases are usually sent out to announce and explain an event, usually a press conference, but sometimes a speech, or something else like that. It will be short.
     Unlike in the United States, an organization will rarely depend on a "press release" by itself to get the word out. Television stations will want pictures of something or somebody; radio stations will want "sound bites" they can record and put on the air. Often someone from the organization that is trying to get the story out will have to go to the stations and appear on programs.
     So to some extent, the press release you write for this class will basically be a test of how well you can explain your campaign because I do expect you to explain it clearly and concisely, providing all the facts that you want the various media outlet to include.
     It can, of course, also announce a press conference, or perhaps a speech by the mayor to an assembled group of business leaders, or some other such arranged event. (For example, the mayor could take reporters and Miss Santa Cruz on a tour of dirty spots in the city. But your press release will be graded on how good a job it does providing journalists with information they need to write stories and present reports -- much more than would be the normal case in a Latin American press release.  
    The press release is something you should be thinking about through the whole process, and you should probably designate the person who is going to write it early. But it is probably among the last things you will actually complete.  

       Your recipients, then, are the journalists who will assign and write the story. Your message is the information you hope they will put in it explaining the problem, and offering solutions. Give them the facts they need. And -- at the risk of being obvious -- give them the facts you hope they are going to use, and put them in the perspective in which you want them to view those facts. The press release (and press conference) is where you try to take charge of setting the agenda. 
        In terms of writing, you keep in mind the "Rules for Writing Anything," which are to get the reader's attention, tell him what the story is about, and why it is significant (i.e., why he should write a big story about it).
       Quite often the standard news lead -- what we have been calling the "5Ws and an H" lead will work very well for this purpose. Tell the media who is going to do what, where, when, why, and often how,
       But you can consider other ways of starting off. The bulk of the story should be arranged in a logical chain, with the more important information coming first. (Usually it is not possible to make it a chronology, but telling the history of how they campaign evolved is often interesting to include.
         It is NOT necessary to try to be cute and original. Journalists believe that that's their job. Your job is to give them the facts. They'll supply the clever touches. The tone should be practical, down-to-earth. You should be concise. Don't waste the journalist's time with extraneous information. If you have some extra added details, put them at the bottom (the end). 
         Often, as is the case in the material you read for today, the press release is accompanied by a "fact sheet" that an editor or reporter can use as a ready reference tool. Sometimes, a "Question and Answer" sheet is added, for the same purpose. In any event, you should have prepared for your own use the answers you will give to the questions you think reporters will or might ask.

There are three things that a press release must have. And it will cost you points if you do not include them. They are:

*  The date the press release was sent out (and sometimes the time, if that's relevant)

* The source of the press release and the name of a contact (or contacts) there, with phone number(s) and e-mail address(es). 

* An indication of when the information be released. Nowadays this is almost always immediately, and the release will state at the top (as in the case from the textbook) "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE." Only in very rare cases, usually involving information that will affect stock prices, will information be "embargoed" for release at a specified time and date.     

Monday, November 21, 2011

Final Project: Clean Up Santa Cruz Campaign

The Situation: Santa Cruz Mayor Percy Fernandez decides that as his last amyor act in office he is going to try to clean up Santa Cruz – fix the gardens in the median strips of the big streers, fix the sidewalks, control the billboards in public places, and, most of all, get the garbage off the streets.  In connection with this last goal he intends to hire a communications company to conduct a multi-pronged “public relations campaign” to make citizens more aware of the fact that Santa Cruz is one of the world’s dirtiest cities and, hopefully, do something about it.The city government is willing to enact almost anything in the way of new laws – including punishments and fines – to assist the campaiugn. 

To get the multi-million-dollar contract, public relations companies must submit a proposal for a campaign that will include at least the following:  
·        * .A slogan
·         * A description of the strategy the company plans to use
·         * An press advertising campaign (consisting of one or more ads)
·         * A press release
·         * A letter to community organizations asking for their help and offering support
(It may include much more, such as scripts for radio and televisión public service announcements, a proposed newspaper story (to place in smaller newspapers, a billboard campaign – whatever your company thinks is needed to get the job done.

ALL OF THIS WILL BE PRESENTED during class on Thursday, December 8  during our last class to a team of judges, who will pick a winner.The winners (assuming there are no major complaints about their proposal will get a “A” on this exercise, which is the equivalent of a final exam. The losers will get a lower grade, depending on how close they came to winning. (In addition, the Project leaders will be asked t orate the participation of team membersa, which could affect the grade.

THE STRATEGY. Naturally, your company’s “campaign” will be determined on the basis of why you think the city is so dirty, and what strategies and tactics are most likely to get people to change their ways. In other words, what do you think the problema is? We are going to discuss this today, and I hope the discussion will help me with the extremely difficult task of dividing the class into two companies, or “teams.”

In the real world you would go out and do a lot of research, and you would “test” the effectiveness of differrent approaches. You will not have the time or the opportunity to do this, I don’t think, in a formal way, though you certainly can “try out” different slogans and messages on other students, your parents, friends of your parents, and so on.But keep in mind thatb this kind of a “simple” for your market research is weakened by the fact that these are probably not the people who are throwing trash in the street. To do really effective research you would have to find them and talk to them. Still, you may get some interesting ideas.

There are, no doubt, lots of different reasons why Cruceños are such slobs, but I am just going to suggest two, for the purpose of getting a discussion started. You will immediately see, I think, how if you decide one is correct (or mostly correct) that will influence everything you do in your campaign.

SYMPATHETIC APPROACH – In this view the main problema causing trash to accumulate all over the place is that a great number of Cruceños have just moved here from little towns where, basically, everyone was a slob and nobody much cared. This explains, among other things, why you see men taking a leak more or less anyplace they feel like it. That’s they way they did it in the campo; that’s they way they do it hjere. When you gotto go, well, you gotta go. In this analysis, what’s needed are gentle, educatioinal reminders that in a big city we need to do things another way, ori t will be, well, a mess. Bag your trash . . . (or better still, put it in a can) . . .  put it out when and where it will be picked up . . .  don’t throw trash out of your car (it adds up) . . . . neighborhood “clean-up days” can help your neighborhood look nice. . . .  fixing the sidewalks is something the city government can do to help you . . . use trash cans (which the city will make more available, as in Sucre) don’t ne a “litterbug” . . . .”a cleaner Santa Cruz is up to you.” . . . . “Be a good neighbor.”

THE ENFORCEMENT APPROACH – Cruceños for many reasons including their “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” approach to life, and frequent condition of intoxication, are incurable slobs and the only thing that is going to shape them up is a recriminatory campaign that emphasizes punishments for slobbiness – fines, arrests, confiscations of licenses, and a very stern, authoritarian attitude. (Most dictatorships have very clean streets.)  If a policeman sees you throw a piece of inorganic trash out of a car window there should be a 200 Bs fine collected on the spot. A truck that dumps garbage in an unauthorized place (like the road beside my barrio) would lose its license plates. Special police would go through garbage to find out where it comes from, and make appropriate arrests. The ads would emphasize the penalties, and that trashing the city is bad behavior that must be changed – or else.

Probably these two approaches (and others you may think of) can be blended together somewhat, but you probably have to decide what your basic philosophy is. Let’s talk about it, and see if perhaps the class divides naturally into different “camps.”      

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Writing a Great Lead for a Great Story

In the article I gave you earlier about sports writing I said that from time to time sports writers sometimes use allusions from the classics, from the Bible, and from literature to open a story and capture the drama and emotion of an event that, while not really all that important, still inspires the deepest feelings of the human heart and soul.
The example I gave you was the famous quote from sportswriter Grantland Rice about a football game in which Notre Dame had, somewhat unexpectedly, defeated the US Military Academy (Army) in a football claim played in New York City. The story of the game, basically, was that four principal Notre Dame ball carriers couldn’t be stopped. Rice went to the Bible to find a metaphor to illustrate this. (Note: Notre Dame is located in South Bend, Indiana.):
"Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore their names are Death, Destruction, Pestilence, and Famine. But those are aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below."

That “lead” is frequently cited as one of the great example of how, sometimes, media writing comes close to being literature. Some people, to be sure, must think Rice overdid it. But note that Rice did cover who did what, when, where, why, and how.
Whatever the case, I want you to write an opening paragraph for a story summing up the recently concluded Friendship Games in La Paz that will both  tell (more or less) what happened, and capture the grandeur, the scale, and the immensity of the event for SCCS, using some grand metaphor or simile or “rhetorical device.”
Let me give you an example of what I mean. If you had studied Latin (which I know you have not) you would have encountered Roman Emperor Julius Caesar’s famous phrase describing his conquests in what is today France (then known as Gaul). “Veni, vidi, vici,” he wrote.  That translates as, “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
This is a pretty good description of what the Jaguars did in La Paz. If you cannot think of anything else, you may use this as your “rhetorical vehicle” (your method of getting into the story).
You might keep in mind that it is possible to go too far with an exercise like this. There is a famous story of a reporter who was sent to cover a disastrous flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889, and in an effort to capture the immensity of the tragedy in which thousands of people drowned, started his story, “God sat on a hillside overlooking Johnstown today and looked at the destruction He had wrought.” The reporter’s editor, clearly unimpressed, telegraphed back, “Forget flood. Interview God.”
Your assignment on the opposite side of this sheet (or any other piece of paper you have handy) is to write an opening paragraph for a story about The Jaguars triumphant sojourn in La Paz at the Friendship Games. I will put the best one on the weblog. Take your time. You are writing about a Great Historic Moment. It’s OK to take a few tries, but your deadline is 8:30. This will count as a quiz grade. So do the best you can.   

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Promoting Santa Cruz and Bolivia Tourism

The next assignment will be for you, working in two-person teams, to create two different ads about Bolivia. You can work on them simultaneously. Both will require some research on your part.  

Economic Development Ad

 The first will aim at encouraging economic development in Santa Cruz. Basically it will urge business owners to either start their business here, move it here, or expand it here. Your “copy” will need to make the case that Santa Cruz is a dynamic new commercial center that is a great place to do business in.
 You need to think about what makes an area attractive to a business. What do they need? Well, workers to start with. Santa Cruz has them, It is (and I have to check this out) supposedly the second fastest-growing city in South America. They also want well educated workers. You could point out that in addition to UAGRM, Santa Cruz has 18 private universities, up from none 25 years ago. And it also has a network of fine high schools (including this one).
Businesses need good transportation links: Santa Cruz is astride (more or less) the new “Bioceano” highway, the first direct transcontinental highway. It has good roads to Argentina and to most other parts of Bolivia (with the exception of Sucre). We have a very efficient little airport that functions as a ¨hub¨ for South America, and also has intercontinental flights to North America and Europe. We have a railroad to Brazil. We have a river – but perhaps the less said about that the better.   
Economic development requires a pro-business political environment, and I think we have that, at least in the region. It needs electric power, industrial parks, adequate water supplies, first-rate hotels. Good housing . . . . we do well on all those counts.
An important source of information is likely to be your parents or their friends, many of whom have businesses here. Ask them why they’re here. What are the advantages? (We’ll skip the disadvantages.)
One added challenge is to include in every ad in big type this slogan:
Santa Cruz, Bolivia  OUR FUTURE IS NOW  
It needs to be this size, and use these type faces, which are Freestyle Script for “Santa Cruz, Bolivia,” and Franklin Gothic Demi C for “OUR FUTURE IS NOW.”  The copy should be in Times New Roman 12 pt. There should be a separate headline dealing with the particular aspect of Santa Cruz that you are “selling.”
The reason for this uniformity is that we are constructing a “campaign,” We want people to be able to recognize these ads, and, hopefully, be attracted to them because they find them interesting and persuasive, with lots of new, interesting information.
You need to identify the source of the ad and give people a way to get further information. Let’s all say that these ads are from the “Santa Cruz Economic Development Agency,” and tell people to go to for more information.

For this, you need to pick out an attraction in Bolivia, and make an ad that will make people want to come and see it. Make things easy on yourself by picking one you know well and like.
There are any number of choices, and I will just name a few of the more obvious ones – the salt flats of Uyuni, the Jesuit Missions, Sucre, Cochabamba, and (maybe) La Paz. Bolivia is also a Mecca for bird lovers, and you can learn a lot about that by going to the website, which also has some great images. Another attraction along this same line are the large number of Hunting Lodges.   
I do not think Santa Cruz is now, or ever will be, a tourist attraction in and of itself, but if you think it could be and have a way to “sell” the idea, by all means go for it. Santa Cruz does have at least one world-class attraction, which is Guembes Butterfly Center, and it does have Aqualand, but I think it’s hard to get people to fly in from the US or Europe just for those attractions.   The same can probably be said for the narco traffickers’ plane on the first ring.   
The three big national parks – Amboro, Noel Kempff, and Madidi --.might be a good attraction, but would need, I think, a clever angle. There is one nice lodge in Madidi called the Chalalan Lodge that offers a real jungle ecology experience. ( Alas, it doesn’t have a website of its own, but if you Google it you can get travel agencies that book stays there, and have information and some pictures on their websites.)
But, hey, this is your country. Certainly you must know some place here you would like to show off to a foreigner.
I have not decided yet whether to have a distinctive typographic logo that will identify this as a campaign. Or, to be more accurate, I haven’t thought of one. Can you? Maybe we can figure one out together
In any event you will want to do some reasonably thorough research on the location you have chosen so that you can write some engaging, fact-filled copy about it. Images are easy to come by through Google and other sources.
The same rules are in effect as on the previous advertising assignment for both of these assignments. Have a strong image that will stop the recipient, an engaging headline to get him or her to read your “message,” and a compelling message to “make the sale. The message should start with a short sentence that gets the reader’s attention, explain what your “pitch” is, and say why that’s important or interesting. Then the remainder should unfold in logical fashion.  
Identify the source of the ad as the “Bolivian National Tourist Board.” And give people a place they can go for further information, probably a fictitious website like      

Sunday, October 16, 2011

How to Create an Effective Ad

     What makes a good advertisement?

     For cynics, a good advertisement is one that the client approves.
      However, Leo Burnett, a famous advertising man, said, “The best identification of a great advertisement is not only that its public is strongly sold by it, but that both the public and the advertising world remember it as an admirable piece of work.”

     David Ogilvy, another famous adman (there is an Ogilvy and Mather agency in Santa Cruz), put it a little bit differently: “A good advertisement is one that sells the product without drawing attention to itself. It should rivet the reader’s attention on the product. Instead of saying, `What a clever advertisement,' the reader says, 'I never knew that before. I´ll have to try that product.' ”

      But the main thing, in all cases, is that the ad must sell the product, which is not always as easy as it sounds. Advertising people are fond of saying enigmatic things like, in the case of an ad selling steaks in a restaurant, “You don’t sell the steak. You sell the sizzle.”


      While we are going to keep things very simple, it will help to know some of the language advertising people use in analyzing a situation for which they are going to create an ad. They consider fours aspects in deciding what approach to take:

       The recipient – Who is the person (or persons) we want to get this message to?.

      The channel – What is the best way to get the message to the recipient – TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, Internet, billboards?. (This will not be a big issue for us because we will be basically creating magazine ads since they’re the easiest to conceptualize. Of course, if someone wants to try to make a TV or radio ad, they are welcome to try.)

      The message – What, exactly, is it we want to tell the recipient? (How do we communicate the “sizzle” to the recipient?)

       The source --. Who or what is communicating the message. The source might be a person like a celebrity, or just an ordinary citizen. It could be an organization, like a school. Usually it’s the company that makes the product. But in a pet food ad, it might be a dog or cat. We want it to be someone who can influence the recipient.

      After we come to an opinion on these points we then begin to construct an ad, and as a general rule we are going to start with doing a rough draft of the message we want to get across. In our first case, a restaurant,  it will be something very basic like “Come to my restaurant. The food is good and the price is right.” But we will also want to tell the recipient why we are a better choice than all the other restaurants making basically the same claim.

      Let’s stop here and do Step One: Designing Our Restaurant.  Use this sheet I´m giving you.


      Next comes Step Two: What message do we want to channel to recipients about this restaurant. Who do we want to attract to this restaurant? Why do we think they will come?

       The basic principles are the same ones we have been using in all our writing.  At the start we have to get the reader’s attention. Many of the techniques we have used before still apply. We can set a scene for the reader/recipient. Or tell him or her some amazing fact. Promise that going to this restaurant will be in his or her best interest, that it will make him or her a better human being. 

       Supposedly there are several words that never lose their power, no matter how often they are used. They include “amazing,” “new,” “free,” and  ”improved.” If you have a chance to use one of them, do so.

       Then the rest of the “body copy” should be arranged in a logical order. The message can be put into mouth, so to speak, of a celebrity, the company, an ordinary citizen, or anyone else. Some advertisements include, or consist entirely, of “testimonials,” which are statements from clients, patrons or consumers of the product or service being advertised. 

      (To review the basic principles of writing, re-read “How To Write Anything,” which is still on this weblog (
       Keep it short. No more than 200 words, probably. Maybe less. But they have to be good  words: Think about them very carefully. Don’t waste any. Don’t put in any that aren’t needed. In the past there have been famously successful advertisements that have had 700. 900, and even 1400 words, but the feeling seems to be that people won’t read that much any more. You should write, and then re-write several times, making it better each time.

      Keep it simple.  Don’t try to be literary or fancy. Write in the way that people speak to one another in everyday conversation. (If you’re looking for a way to get started on the restaurant project, imagine you are at a party and someone has just asked you, “What is your restaurant like? Would I like it?”)  You should, once again, “dictate” your text --“copy” in advertising lingo – to yourself as you write it. And read it back to yourself to “test” it for clarity, coherence  and smoothness. A famous book on writing, Rudolph Flesch’s “Art of Plain Talk,” urges writers to use short words, short sentences, short paragraphs, and highly personal copy.

      Give lots of facts. “The more you tell, the more you sell,” says one of the old axioms of advertising. This is how you get the reader to say, “I didn’t know that. I´ll have to try this.” Don’t be afraid to use facts that also apply to competitors. One airline (KLM) built a reputation as a safe airline by telling in its ads about all the safety checks it performed, even though all airlines did the same checks.

      Also give the recipient information and advice he or she can use. If you’re advertising a restaurant, make sure people know how to get there, and how to call to make a reservation.  If you’re selling laundry detergent, give people hints on how to get certain kinds of difficult stains (using your product).

       OK, enough advice. Write it out and send it to me. We’ll consider this a “first draft.” So it doesn’t have to be perfect.


      Step Three is to come up with a slogan (lema), or headline to go on top of the message.   This is the most important element in many if not most advertisements. (Some people think the image is what attracts the recipient initially, but the headline is  what makes the recipient decide whether to read the rest of the copy. On average only 20 percent of readers who read the headline read the “body copy.” A good headline can boost that percentage several times over.

       David Ogilvy always wrote at least 16 different headlines before picking the best one. You should write at least several before picking one. They do not have to be short. Twelve words is not too long. One of the most famous ad headlines had 18 words: “At 60 miles per hour the loudest sound in the new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock.”
      Using specific, concrete nouns, and active verbs can be especially important in the headline. Words that tend to attract attention  include: “HOW TO,” “ANNOUNCING,” “INTRODUCING,” Don’t be afraid to use emotional words:”DARLING,” “LOVE,” “FEAR,” ”FRIEND.” A restaurant, for example, could be a place “WHERE FRIENDS GET TOGETHER.”    


      Step Four is the image. Some people would say that this should come first, and maybe it should, but this is a writing class, not an art class, so we are picking the image to go with the headline and message, rather than the other way around. Ultimately they must all work together synergistically so that the whole is greater than the parts. (Remember that word for the SAT.) You should prepare yourself for the possibility that the image you choose may cause you to change the text.

      In the real world we could think up and image, and then go out and create it  In class we are going to stick to images available on the Internet, with the best source probably being Google Images.  You want to look for a picture – and photographs are almost always more potent than drawings – that attracts the recipient; that fits with the message (and headline); and that “sells the sizzle.”


      This is the fun part. Put everything together on a single page. You can play with the size of the image, the headline, and the body type. You can try different fonts (styles of type). Do make sure the type size is big enough to be read easily. Generally speaking it is supposed to be easier to read “serif” type like this type face (Times New Roman), than it is to read “sans serif type like this, which is Arial. However, designers seem to prefer sans serif type. Don’t use a hard-to-read “script” like this, unless you have a really good reason. The elements in the ad should form a design that feels balanced, like a Mondrian painting, if you are acquainted with that artist.  

      Be sure to add in all the needed  information like address, phone number, days and hours the restaurant is open, etc. 

      Go do it. Send it to me as an attachment when you are done.        


Monday, October 3, 2011

Opinion Writing Assignment

ASSIGNMENT: The requirements for the “opinion piece” are very simple. Write an essay of at least 500 words (it can be longer) giving your opinion about something and send me your first draft by midnight Wednesday as a Word document attached to a message. I will return it with corrections and suggestions as usual, and the final draft will be due at midnight Sunday. While I have been as flexible as I can on the deadlines, my advice is not to  leave it to the last minute. If you do the assignment  in a timely fashion you should find this to be  interesting and engaging..
Rules for Writing Opinion Pieces
Unfortunately, there are no rules, though I will give you the best pieces of advice I can in a minute. There are probably as many different ways of writing an editorial, a column or a review as there are people doing it. Nearly all of the people who write opinion articles for newspapers, magazines, Internet publications, television, radio, and so on are people who have been reporting in these field for many years, and have long since developed their own methods of approaching and writing about a topic.
 Nonetheless you are probably going to be called on to do more opinion writing in the next two or three years than you will be in the next twenty. You will be asked to present an argument in essays on the SAT, on AP English tests, and you can bet your house that it will be one of your assignments you get in English 1, which will undoubtedly be a mandatory course in whatever university you attend. Moreover, many of the questions asked on college-level essay exams require what is basically an “opinion piece” as the answer. So you may as well get started on them now.
The emphasis on expressing opinion in tests and college English courses is the result of the discovery in the United States a few years ago that the majority of high school students were incapable of presenting and supporting even a simple argument in writing. This assignment will give you a chance to show that this particular criticism does not apply to you – or, if it does, we can get started on correcting it. Up to now, however, I have felt that my major problem was getting many of you to leave your opinion out of the news and sports stories we have been doing. I don’t think that most of you will have any problem putting your personal opinions and attitudes back in.  
Happily, the advice for writing an opinion piece is much the same as writing anything else. (You may want to refresh your memory of the basics of writing by re-reading “How To Write Anything,” which was one of the first articles posted on, and is still there.) Your first task is to get the reader’s attention by saying something interesting and engaging. This is a little more important in opinion writing because most readers will feel that they don’t really have to read your opinion. (After all, they already have their own opinion – why do they need yours?) So it’s especially important to “hook them” in some clever way.
 Sometimes the best way to do this is the simplest: Start with a succinct statement of your opinion. (This is especially true when you are writing with a time deadline, such as the SAT essay, where you should usually start by responding to the prompt.) 
Then you have to tell the readers what your opinion is, and why your opinion should be important to them. (Usually you are arguing, basically, that your opinion is better informed, or in some other way superior to, the one they already have.)This is the equivalent of telling the reader what your article is about, and why it is significant.
That completes the first part, or “top” of your article.
The rest consists of presenting your argument in logical fashion, together with the principal evidence supporting it. Add a snappy conclusion -- and you’re done. Easy as that.
Maybe not quite that easy. I have glossed over one very important part of the process: Coming up with an idea. If you are a columnist writing a daily column, or even three a week, this can be the major problem. I am assuming that all of you already have at least one subject that you have strong opinions about (or could easily develop them). I am leaving the choice of the kind of opinion piece you could write as broad as possible. Here are some of the possibilities:
A column – This is a personal essay giving your opinion on some situation that is facing the school, the city, the nation, or the world. If you want to see some examples of columns, pick up an El Deber and to the section in the back entitled “Los Collaboradores.” But almost any publication you read will have some opinion columns in it. Some publications have opinion pieces that are written without by-lines and are intended to represent the position of the publication itself, as a corporate citizen.  These are called “editorials.”
You can pick virtually any topic – your opinion of how the government has handled the Tipnis situation, the war in Afghanistan, the decision to close schools in Santa Cruz because of the flu, the difficulty of finding a parking place in downtown Santa Cruz, the problem of how to reduce smoke in the air in and around Santa Cruz, the school uniform policy. Anything you have thought about and have an opinion on. (It will be easier and more interesting if you write about something you really care about.)   
 I have written several columns recently about life in Santa Cruz that might also give you ideas. They were for the “e-zine” of a website for people living here who are from another country. Here are the URLs:
 A review – This is an essay in which a “critic” gives his or her opinion about . . . well, almost anything.  There are reviews of movies, books, buildings, paintings, television shows, and the list goes on. If I were doing this assignment (and I might because it sounds like so much fun) I would go to a movie and then write a review or opinion piece saying what I thought of it. If you want to know what movie review is like go to the Internet Movie Data Base ( and look up the page for any movie, such as, perhaps, the one you just saw. Go to the bottom of the page to the “Learn More . . . .” section, and click on “external reviews” under “Opinion,” and – voila! – there are links to perhaps 50 different reviews. You will quickly see that there are as many ways to review a movie as there are reviewers. Don’t feel like leaving your house?   Write a review of one of the new TV series coming on now. Or, if worse comes to absolute worst, read a book and review that.
 WARNING – While you may do as much research as you wish on the Internet, do not under any circumstances download and present as your own work a review (or anything else) written by somebody else. This is plagiarism and the penalty for doing so is very severe

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Suggested Story Ideas

The following are suggested ideas for stories we would “cover” for the school website, all (or most) requested by webmaster Alex Adachi. You can sign up for any one of them to do either by yourself, or as part of a two-person “team.” Nor are the possibilities limited to this list. You can come up with your own ideas. The only limit is that the subject should be one that is of interest to the school community (students, teachers, parents).

MAP Testing -- This year the school switched from the Iowa Tests of Achievememnt to MAP Testing, which is done on computers and is underway now. The story would explain the reasons for the switch, and what parents, students, and teachers can expect from the new program. Ms. Silke Schöler is the person in charge.

Prize Winning Elementary and Middle School Art -- The Elementary and Middle School art programs have compiled an impressive list of prizes in national and international contests over the past three years. Ms Lavintman is the contact person and I have a list of the hours when she is avalable.

 Game Attendance -- STUCO has various activities for this school year. One of them is to try to boost attendance at sports events. This would make a good piece. The officers of STUCO would be our best sources. Possibly also Dean Davis. School Play  -- Elementary has a play due

Iin October. Mrs. Rykowsky is the teacher to contact. Her e-mail is

Extra-Curricular Clubs like Gamers Club, the Recycling Club, Movie Club, etc. could each be a story on what takes place after school. The movie club would be particularly interesting in view of their recent field trip to meet with the director of a new movie about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Two '11s on school staff  - Two members of last year's senior class, who have delayed their entrance into college, have been hired by the administration to work at the school. Mateus de Carvalho is helping Analia Mostert wih her programs to help kids with reading problems (I think). Rainer Netzlaff is working in the information technology department. 

Plan for Medieval Day Story

(Here, admittedly a little bit late, is the suggested plan I gave to Lucia for constructing the Medieval Day story fom your memos. As I said in class, this represents an example of the "anedotal lead" style of opening, which is different from the simple "5Ws and and H" news lead that we have been talking about. Here we use a short "anecdote," or short story of something that happened, to try to get the reader's attention, and then tell the reader who did what, where, when, why and how. It also shows how you try to build into the plan an effort to explain the importance or significance of the story. And finally, it demonstrates how you want to have a logical framework for the rest of the maertial. It's also an example of how to use chronological order as an organizing device. (In the last part we tell what happened during the event in the order it happened. It´s an example of the principles enunciated in "How To Write Anything," an essay of mine that you read at the beginning of the year.)


Opening anecdote  -- two paragraph description of one episode that sort of summed up the day. One that might be good is the jousting match between Maid Natalia of Medina and Maid Moira of Rodriguez.
The “theme” paragraph that gives the “5Ws and an H”
Explanation, if we have it, of the larger purposes of the event
Summation of the results and reactions
·         Results of the competition
·         Quotes from students
·         Quotes from teachers  

(Don’t just “list” the quotes. Try to use each one to tell something new, or make some new point.)   
Explanation of where the idea came from (brief)
Summary of the events of the day
·         Opening ceremonies .. coats of arms, mascots, dances, etc
·         Medieval Fair activities and competitions
·         Afternoon events on the soccer field

(In doing the summaries of the activities it isn’t necessary to tell everything about everything. Some events can just be mentioned in passing. You can tell about the parts that seemed particularly interesting.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Portfolio Review: Have your webblog ready for inspection Oct. 3

     As explained earlier, I will review your personal weblogs starting next Monday, Oct. 3, and you will receive a grade on them equal to a test grade. The grade will be roughly 40% on quality, 40% on the quantity of your work, and about 20% on the quality of your presentation on the weblog. Everything you have written for this course up to this Friday, Sept. 30, other than tests and classroom exercises, and including your Medieval Day memo, should be on your weblog. You should even include any unfinished projects, with a notation as to what state they are in. (Are you still writing them, has this been submitted as a first draft, etc.)

      The presentation does not have to be fancy or include any "extras." But it should look neat and orderly. Each project should have a headline. (I haven't looked at them for a long time, but the last time I did look some of them were kind of a mess -- very disorderly.) If you need to retrieve your work from the SCCSOmelette or the SCISL weblog the URLs are and You will get some time in class on Thursday to work on them if you wish, but you may prefer to finish your current project so that you can include it..