Hundreds of Newspapers Defend Free Press, Trump Responds


The Boston Globe editorial board wrote,  “A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press. Journalists are not classified as fellow Americans, but rather “the enemy of the people.” And the Globe invited newspapers and magazines around the country to join them in reminding Americans of the value of a free press.  More than 350 responded.  The Denver Post announced, “We tell the truth: Denver Post decries Trump’s attacks on journalists.” The Hartford Courant asked, Reporters As “The Enemy”? Take A Closer Look And You Decide.”  The South Bend Tribune agreed: “Nothing fake about our mission.”  See links to all the responding editorials here.  In response, President Trump tweeted that the Globe is “in collusion with other papers on free press” and that many of the media are “pushing a political agenda.”


Read some of the newspaper editorials and decide for yourself whether or not the papers have made a compelling argument for a free press.





We Don’t Believe Fake News Because We’re Dumb

DumbHumans rely on cognitive shortcuts known as heuristics.  When you go to the grocery store, you don’t try every brand of yogurt.  You choose ones that look familiar, thus using what psychologists call the familiarity heuristic.  Relying on familiarity or another cognitive shortcut may work with grocery shopping but not with determining what is fake news on the Internet.  Time’s article, “How Your Brain Tricks You Into Believing Fake News,” discusses a number of common techniques for analyzing Facebook feeds, for example, and why the techniques don’t work.  It also examines some of the research being done on ways to help Internet users to be skeptical of information in ways that might be more effective.

Source:  “How Your Brain Tricks You Into Believing Fake News.”

Social Basis for Right and Wrong

Bullying stock photo

Stock photo from the New York Times “The Interpreter Newsletter” 3 Aug. 2018

How do students decide what is bullying behavior?  Turns out that the answer to that question is less based on moral teachings and parental examples than we might want to believe.  According to recent research, students decide whether a certain behavior is bullying or not based partially on what they think “social referrents” (people they watched for cues) believe.  Moreover, Dr. Betsy Levy Paluck mapped out the social referrents and their followers in multiple schools and found that by shuffeling the networks, the incidence of bulling decreased 30%.  Dr. Paluck’s research on this topic won her The McArthur Foundation Fellowship, commonly called a “genius award.”

Note:  Students in search of a research topic might take a look at the web pages for other McArthur Foundation grant recipients at



New York Times Publishes Obituaries for “Overlooked” Women


Ida B. Wells, one of the nation’s most influential investigative reporters, in 1920. Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

In recognition of the International Women’s Day on March 8, the New York Times published obituaries of 15 women it had “overlooked” when they died.  Says the Times, “Since 1851, The New York Times has published thousands of obituaries: of heads of state, opera singers, the inventor of Stove Top stuffing and the namer of the Slinky. The vast majority chronicled the lives of men, mostly white ones; even in the last two years, just over one in five of our subjects were female.”

These are among the 15 women highlighted today:

The Times even provides a form you can use to nominate for better-late-than-never obituaries for people from underrepresented minorities, including women.


Why Does”Black Panther” Matter?


Chadwick Boseman, left, and Michael B. Jordan lead a mostly-black cast.

A flurry of articles celebrate the release of the Black Panther.   Why?  What are the rhetorical explanations for its appeal? Audience awareness?  Visual rhetoric?

Among the reasons the articles cite are the following.  Can your students add others and explain how they relate to rhetoric?

  • Black Panther radiates a “near subzero-temperature sense of cool…T’Challa is accessible, awe-inspiring and perhaps most importantly, human.”
  • Black Panther is poised to break Hollywood box office records, dispelling the notion that block-busters cannot come from black cultural roots.  To do this, it draws on a wide, multi-racial fan base.
  • Black Panther provides a lasting visual role model to children of color.

Resources: “A Different Kind of Superhero’: Why ‘Black Panther’ Will Mean So Much to So Many,”

“‘Black Panther’ Poised to Shatter a Hollywood Myth,”

“Black Superheroes Matter: Why a ‘Black Panther’ Movie Is Revolutionary,” “


Atomic Scientists Tick the Doomsday Clock Closer to Midnight




It’s now two minutes to midnight, according to the Doomsday Clock which is maintained by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Midnight on the clock would be nuclear war.  Founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project scientists, the Bulletin uses the powerful visual rhetoric of a clock clicking down to detonation to call attention to the world’s closeness to atomic annihilation.  When the scientists change the clock’s position either forward or backwards, it attracts media attention worldwide.


Clock timeline and history,

“Keepers of The Doomsday Clock Say We’re Now Only 2 Minutes to Midnight,”


Conflicting Reviews of ‘Blade Runner 2048’ Fuel Discussion of Audience

blade-runner-box-officeBlade Runner 2048 opened to generally good reviews.  For example, Katie Walsh of the Tribune News Service calls it “a meditative and moving film, sumptuously photographed by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins in the finest and most astonishing work of his career.”  Yet, 2048 did not do well in theaters. Lauren Jernigen of The Mary Sue tries to explain why:  “Throughout the nearly three-hour philosophy lesson [of the film], we are presented with the idea that women are only there to help move the story of men forward, rather than act as protagonists in their own right in a story very much about oppression against them.”  Simply put, suggests Jernigen, many women didn’t like the film, and some men didn’t like the film’s treatment of women. 

Analyzing two conflicting review of the same film creates the opportunity to discuss how two writers can have such different perspective on the same topic. Moreover, the contrast fuels an analysis of audience.   In addition to discussing the two reviews, students might examine other articles and reviews posted by the two publications.  Likely, readers of the Tribune News Service have characteristics that differ distinctly from that of The Mary Sue, and articles in those publications will reflect the writers’ audience awareness. 


“Blade Runner 2049: Bad Representation Is Not Representation,”

“Blade Runner 2049 is a Wondrous Spectacle,”