Course Primary Source: New York Times

Our primary source for the course is the New York Times. In order to receive credit for this course, you need to bring the print copy to class — every class — unless we made other arrangements during Week 2.

When academics and writers refer to a primary or secondary sources,

… what constitutes a primary or secondary source depends on the purpose of your research. A critic’s evaluation of a film, for instance, serves as a secondary source if you are writing about the film but as a primary source if you are studying the critic’s writing. (Lunsford, 13a, “primary and secondary sources”)

For most readers and subscribers of the New York Times the paper is a secondary source, because it reports on and analyzes events that have already happened, or analyzes texts that already exist, or represents people, events, politics, and culture mediated through reporting and opinion. Since we are studying and analyzing the writing and mediating in the New York Times, however, the newspaper is our primary source.

Why Study and Analyze the Writing and Mediating in the New York Times?

Your instructor has a few assumptions about this; he assumes that,

  • Educated, intellectually engaged, curious, culturally aware citizens read, or should read, the New York Times every day (you’ll be allowed and encouraged to disagree with the instructor)
  • The New York Times, for various historical and cultural reasons, has become known, rightly or wrongly, as the “paper of record” in the U.S.. It seems, therefore, that we — no matter our political preference and persuasion — have an intellectual obligation to read the New York Times every day
  • After this course is over and you take more writing- and research-intensive courses, you will be able to establish credibility as a writer by integrating the New York Times and exploiting its secondary-source research capabilities

  • One of the most pressing questions in contemporary academic- and professional-writing contexts and in higher education is about the role of technology in our work. (These questions also extend to our creative and non-academic aspirations.) Some people argue that an increasing dependence on communication technologies is decreasing our collective sense of effective communication; others argue that our literacy practices are just changing and have always changed and been in flux — that “effective communication” is deeply contextual and rhetorical.

The New York Times is an interesting primary source in this context. We will compare the writing, editing, and technologies in both the print and digital versions —