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Answer the questions after reading the two files given.1.What artifact does the author analyze for the paper? (1 pt.)2.How do Sillars & Gronbeck explain the “critical claim”? What is the critical claim for this paper? Explain in 1-2 sentences why you say this. (3 pts.)3.What is a preview (for a paper)? Does the author provide a preview of the content of the paper? If so, provide the preview. If not, what could the author have said as a preview? (3 pts.)4.Sillars & Gronbeck make a specific recommendation in the second bullet of their discussion of the paper’s introduction. What is it? Explain it in your own words. (1 pt.)5.Does this author fulfill that recommendation? How? If not, what could the author have written about? Explain in 2-3 sentences. (2 pts.)6.What does the author conclude about the artifact? Explain it in your own words. Do you agree with the author’s conclusion/s, based on what the author said? Why or why not? Explain in 3-4 sentences. (2 pts.)7.Identify one of the author’s end-of-paper references. Paste it below, and then paste the matching in-text citation below. Explain the similarities and differences between the two styles of citation. (3 pts.)8.Choose one of the references, paste it below, and label each component (part) of the reference, according to the APA guidelines in this lesson. (4 pts.)


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Kathryn Heffernon
COM 101
Instructor Name
Date submitted
The Media’s Election
The 2016 presidential election cycle is unlike any in American history. Americans must
choose between a variety of candidates: two junior senators, a socialist, a woman, and a reality
T.V. star. I remember watching political pundits make their predictions over a year ago, before
any candidate entered the race. Most people presumed another Clinton-Bush showdown, and
neither Democrats nor Republicans expected much competition within their respective parties.
Well, they were wrong.
Perhaps the most surprising candidate is business magnate Donald Trump. He’s won 384
delegates and many think he will win the GOP nomination. However, others have said the fight
for the Republican nomination is a three-man race between Trump and Senators Marco Rubio
and Ted Cruz. No matter what side is taken, it’s clear that the other GOP candidates are not
going to win the nomination. At least, that’s how the media portrays it.
I chose to critique a photo from the Feb. 6 GOP debate because it demonstrates the role
of media in people’s lives, and how media influences people’s perspectives on events. In this
essay, I will describe what is happening in the photograph, interpret the meaning of the
photograph’s message, and evaluate its effectiveness.
Heffernon 2
I will first describe the artifact. Describing, which Auer (1981) calls reporting, is giving
the basic, factual information about the artifact. This artifact is a camera shot from the Feb. 6
GOP presidential debate, hosted by ABC and the Independent Journal Review. The three
candidates (from left to right) are Senator Marco Rubio, businessman Donald Trump, and
Senator Ted Cruz. David Muir and Martha Raddatz moderated the debate, and Raddatz is the
moderator in the photograph. In this debate, Trump was in center stage because he ranked the
highest in an average of five national polls. Cruz and Rubio are flanking him because they were
the two next highest, respectively. In this snapshot, Trump is answering a question and Cruz and
Rubio are listening to Trump’s answer.
This was the only GOP debate after the Iowa caucus and the only debate before the New
Hampshire primary. Cruz won the Iowa caucus, Trump won second place, and Rubio took a
close third. Many political pundits said that after the Iowa caucus, the race for the GOP
presidential nomination was between these three men, even though there were still six other
candidates running. ABC’s camera crew highlighted this thinking, as this was one of several
times when the three men were in the same image. There were very few shots taken of all the
candidates or any other small group of candidates.
Now that I’ve accurately described the artifact, I will interpret its meaning. According to
Sillars and Gronbeck (2001), the interpretation gives meaning to the artifact and it is the focus of
most criticism. This artifact relies heavily on context. For the casual observer, this snapshot
would mean nothing without the background of the Iowa caucuses, the debate, and the history of
GOP 2016 election cycle. I explained in the report how at this time, many thought that the GOP
nomination had come down to three candidates. ABC’s camera crew did something pretty tricky
Heffernon 3
when they centered on only these three men, and also by frequently going to this shot during the
This photograph makes it seem as if Rubio, Trump, and Cruz are the only GOP
candidates debating, or, at least, that they are the only candidates worth paying attention to. This
camera shot intentionally blocks out the rest of the candidates as if they are no longer worth
looking at, let alone listening to. The photograph accomplishes this meaning with psychological
The photographer utilizes the rule of thirds with the lines that the stage and lecterns
naturally create. Rubio, Trump, and Cruz almost perfectly fit within each implied third, and this
creates the psychological space that Evans (2013) discusses. According to Evans (2013),
psychological space arranges the image in a way that influences the viewer’s mind. The spacing
that followed the rule of thirds leads the viewer to think that these three candidates are the most
important people in the race.
Finally, I will evaluate the artifact’s effectiveness. An evaluation can also be called a
judgment. A judge considers language norms, consistency, generic appropriateness, and
coherence (Sillars and Gronbeck, 2001). The language, though minimal, supports the
overarching message of the GOP and democracy. “Your Voice” reminds voters that no matter
what the candidates say, the voter’s vote and the voter’s voice are still their own.
ABC and the Independent Journal Review’s logos also tell the viewer that the media has
an important role in the political process. This message of the media’s importance and that these
men are the three most important candidates is consistent, and there are no contradictory claims.
Heffernon 4
The genre is appropriate for a debate setting and reflects the importance of an election
year. According to Begin (2013), colors indicate the genre and mood of a situation. In this case,
the mood that seems to be conveyed is professional and patriotic, and the colors (red, white, and
blue) effectively captured that. This artifact has coherence and the message makes sense because
everything aligns with the sender’s message. Overall, this artifact is effective and easily gets the
message across to viewers.
Media plays an important role in citizens’ lives. I demonstrated this through the
description, interpretation, and evaluation of this artifact. This photograph from the GOP debate
is an example of media taking an event and spinning it to fit its perspective. As I reflect on how
this election cycle has played out, I wonder how many photographs like this have influenced my
opinions and my decisions. Undoubtedly, there have been many. Now, I hope that I become a
more critical observer of media and how it may influence my choices, and I hope that others will
do the same. After all, this is not the media’s election. It is the People’s.
Heffernon 5
Auer, J. J. (1981). What does a rhetorical critic do? Unpublished manuscript, Department of
Speech Communication, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.
Begin, M. J. (2013). Foundations of color.
Evans, P. (2013). Exploring the elements of design (3rd ed.). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar, Cengage
Raedle, J. (2016, February 06). Feb. 6 GOP Debate [Photograph found in Getty Images,
Manchester]. Retrieved February 11, 2016 from
http://www, (Originally photographed 2016, February 06).
Sillars, M. O., & Gronbeck, B. E. (2001). Communication criticism: Rhetoric, social codes,
cultural studies. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Heffernon 6
Malcolm O. Sillars & Bruce E. Gronbeck.
Communication Criticism: Rhetoric, Social
Codes, Cultural Studies. Prospect Heights, IL:
Waveland Press, 2001.
Writing Critical Essays
Writing is not easy. Deciding what to say and how to say it requires con­
siderable thought. You must sift through alternatives, discarding some and
modifying others. It is further complicated by the reality that different kinds
of writing require different strategies, and you must learn what the conven­
tions are for a particular type of essay. Scientific or social scientific writing,
newspaper editorials, novels, poems, and personal letters differ greatly in
what one expects to find in them.
Communication criticism is a type of writing with its own conventions.
Even more frustrating, there are differences within this context itself. The
forms of criticism found in popular sources such as magazines, newspapers,
and television talk shows are also used by academic critics. In recent years,
some academic critics have introduced other alternatives. However, many of
the conventions are the same for both traditional and alternate approaches
to critical analysis. We have chosen to organize this chapter around the gen­
eral principles of critical essay writing found in traditional communication
criticism designed to help readers understand how communication texts do
or do not make sense. We introduce the alternate conventions where they
differ from the traditional. Our examination will take you through (1) dis­
covering an argument for a critical claim; (2) structuring critical papers; (3)
adapting to readers; (4) understanding the writer’s role; and (5) some gen­
eral advice on writing.
In the first stage of your writing, determine your critical claim and how
well you can sustain an argument for it. This stage might be called the analy­
sis stage, and we discuss it here as the practical application of chapter 2
“Analyzing Texts.” If you haven’t already read chapter 2 you should do so
Part I: Contemporary Communication Criticism
now. From the analysis of messages comes the important act of finding a
critical claim and developing an argument for it.
Finding a Critical Claim
Chapter 2 tells you that a significant part of writing a critical paper hap­
pens before the pen hits the paper or the fingers touch the keyboard. Writing
begins with analysis.
In most cases you find the work to criticize first. You read a newspaper
article, view a sitcom, hear a speech, and you have a reaction to it. You like it
or you don’t, find it different from what you expect, find it unique, or are
struck by the fact that the work is representative of practices within the soci­
ety. “Friends is a very popular sitcom. Why?” “The press always emphasizes
the negative in our society and yesterday’s front page of The Atlanta Consti­
tution illustrates it.” “The portrayal of presidents of the United States in
disaster and terrorist films in the 1990s illustrates U.S. fears about their
leadership.” This type of general reaction is the basis from which you will
textualize an aspect of the work.
Don’t get frustrated if you don’t have an immediate reaction. Remem­
ber that you will reject quite a few objects in the process of finding the one
that arouses your interest. Every message is potentially the source of an inter­
esting critical claim, but that doesn’t mean it will be interesting to you. That
is an important reason why you should look for works in areas where you
have knowledge and interest. Are you a skier, biker, hiker, or cook? There
are magazines designed for those interests. There are sites on the Internet
and programs on television. There are cable channels that claim to empha­
size history, sports, biography, science, religion, women. What, for instance,
makes the afternoon lineup (Designing Women, The Golden Girls, Ellen) or
the special movies on the Lifetime Channel symptomatic of “Television for
Women”? Or is the Lifetime Channel “Television for Women”? What does it
mean to be “Television for Women”? When you find a work that arouses
your interest and leaves you with a general question, this is the start toward a
critical claim. You must refine that general question until you come to a crit­
ical claim.
Look carefully at the work and its context. What individual elements do
you find there that contribute to your ability to answer the general question?
What is your answer to the general question that attracted you to it in the
first place? Does the programming on the Lifetime Channel really represent
women only? Or does it feature women characters? Does it represent only a
narrow social stratum of women such as white, middle-class females? This is
the point where you can go through a single work from beginning to end.
You may want to do it for a representative sample in the case of multiple
objects such as a TV series or Stephen King’s novels. At each point of the
investigation of the work note each element that interests you. Then look at
those notes: to what general observations do they point?
Writing Critical Essays
These questions all lead you to some kind of critical claim about how
representative the programming is of women. To develop that critical claim
you must go into the context of the question. You must ask yourself back­
ground questions: “What does it mean to be a woman?” “Who has a right to
say who or what a woman is or how she understands herself?” “What partic­
ular issues about being a woman are prominent today?” Thus, the data in the
work and the context will lead you to a critical claim.
Your critical claim should be stated in a single sentence. Doing so will
provide focus and avoid a situation where the claim is too diverse, leading
your writing and your reader in too may different directions. For instance,
Cathy Sandeen’s critical claim about the long running television show PM
Magazine is unified even though its statement is rather detailed: “Despite …
brief nods to individuality, community, and compassion, the value system in
PM Magazine painted a picture of a world where personal success, in all its
permutations—recognition, achievement, financial success, excitement, physi­
cal attributes, and to a lesser degree, happiness, family, and relationships—was
given priority” (98).
That critical claim could have been much shorter. The advantage to a
detailed claim is that it helps you see what you will cover in your paper. The
above stated critical claim predicts that the argument in the paper will be
organized around “the permutations of personal success.”
Making an Argument
When you have a critical claim, you have the first ingredient of an argu­
ment. As we noted in chapter 1, all communication criticism is an argument.
You must make a reasonable case to the person who reads your criticism. On
page 26 of chapter 2 you can see the model of critical argument. It illustrates
validation of your critical claim by providing grounds from the text and con­
text that justify believing the critical claim. Therefore, to make an argument
you revisit the same data of text and context that you used to find a claim
and then reorganize those data to support sub-arguments that will support
the critical claim.
Making an argument also requires that you have a warrant. On what
basis do the grounds you have found justify the critical claim? You may
never formally state the warrant in your paper, but you need to know that
you have such a justification. Take the Lifetime example. Suppose you dis­
cover that the Lifetime Channel has programs about women that emphasize
women’s problems, tell women how to define themselves, are watched pri­
marily by women, and even cater to women in its advertising. Then you
might argue, “The Lifetime Channel is ‘Television for Women’ because its
daytime and primetime programs provide women with identity models,
advice for living, feminized approaches to problem solving, and gendered
recommendations for product consumption.” This would be a claim war­
ranted by the accurate interpretation approach discussed in chapter 4. It
Part I: Contemporary Communication Criticism
makes an argument that the Lifetime Channel is an accurate representation
of women. Using the same text and context for grounds, you could argue
from an ideological approach that “The Lifetime Channel portrays women
in a way that reinforces their role in middle-class society as powerless beings
protected by men.” Whatever choice you make, the critical claim will be jus­
tified by an approach to criticism.
Thus, to make a critical argument, you need a critical claim, sub-arguments that are rooted in the grounds of text and context, and a warrant that
justifies linking grounds to claim.
The “So What?” Question
The critical claim is usable only if it can answer the “so what?” question.
This is the traditional way that critics have asked if the critical claim is signif­
icant enough to take up a reader’s or critic’s time. “MA.S.H. was a very long
running television show.” “Friends is a funny show.” “Abraham Lincoln and
Franklin D. Roosevelt were great speakers.” “Titanic was more popular than
any movie ever made.” All these statements could be argued, but are they
worth it? All are claims that either no one would argue with or no one would
find important. You don’t need an earthshaking claim, but you do need one
that some audience would find interesting, challenging, or unusual. We all
know that Abraham Lincoln is considered a great speaker. We also know
that about Franklin D. Roosevelt. That’s not news. Have you thought about
how they were different from one another? That analysis can lead to a claim
that “these two speakers illustrate that time, personality, and media change
our understanding of what a great speaker is.” Or, extend the statement that
Friends is funny. Is there anything that makes its humor unique? Does its
humor represent contemporary young adults, or is its humor being used as a
means of social critique? These claims tell a reader something that makes
presidential speaking and a contemporary sitcom socially significant. They
answer the “so what?” question.
The first stage in writing a paper comes before you begin the actual writ­
ing; it is in the analysis you make to find a critical claim, test it as a basis for
making an argument, and assure yourself that it will answer the “so what?”
question. When you have done that, you are ready to outline your arguments
and write your essay.
As we indicated earlier, there is no one way to write communication criti­
cism. However, there is a dominant form—the one you will find easy to use
until you are an experienced critical writer. We will begin with that form, which
is the one you are most likely to find in newspapers, magazines, the TV Guide,
and traditional academic criticism. Then we will look at some of the variations.
Writing Critical Essays
The Traditional Form
Traditionally, criticism is focused on a work and, therefore, emphasizes
what the critic thinks of it in its context. To achieve this objective, frequently
in limited space, these are the parts such an essay will have.
There are three key elements to consider when introducing your
critical analysis:

Arouse the interest of the reader with a story, quotation, visual
image, or other item of interest. The objective here is to focus that
image on the work under consideration.

Provide essential historical, textual, and cultural context necessary
for the reader to understand what the work is about. For instance, in
discussing a film, you may want a paragraph that familiarizes the
reader with the basic plot.
• Identify the critical claim.
The following is the introduction to a short communication criticism
from a newspaper about the film Pleasantville. Note how in two short
paragraphs the critic, Sean P. Means, does all three of these introduc­
tory tasks:
Every bowler makes the 7-10 split. The high school basketball team
never misses a shot. The marshmallow squares are always fresh. The
weather is always sunny: high 72; low 72.
Life is smooth sailing in Pleasantville, the ail-American setting for a fic­
tional 1950s TV show at the center of writer-director Gaiy Ross’ film
fable “Pleasantville.” But his mix of whimsical nostalgia and social mor­
alizing never quite sets.
The body of the paper develops the argument you will make in sup­
port of the claim. In the Pleasantville essay, the critic demonstrates that
the “mix of whimsical nostalgia and social moralizing never quite sets
[has formal weaknesses]” using three sub-arguments. Means argues
that the “message gets heavy handed,” has “poorly developed plot­
ting,” and has characters who are not “believable.”
In the much longer essay about PM Magazine discussed earlier, the
same principles hold. The values that constitute the personal success
value system (such as achievement, financial su …
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