Professor Reid Teaches Journalism

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Breaking: @SenatorReid to chair new school of journalism at UNLV; will teach course called “No Confirmation Needed.”
– tweet from @RalstonReports.

“Good morning, and welcome to spring semester 2017. I’m your professor, Harry Reid. You all have the syllabus, so you know about the assignments. But I see by the enrollment sheet that the class includes students with the last names of Paul, Cruz and Rubio—I know you don’t read, so I’ll summarize the course requirements.

“First, the reading. Every day, you are expected to read a newspaper before coming to class. Now, I wear sunglasses and quote Bryce Harper, so you know I’m hip, but I’m still in my 70s. So don’t just rely on the Internet. You need to be well-rounded, well-informed citizens. If necessary, my teaching assistant will check your fingers for ink stains and, if you don’t have any, I’ll lower your grade. And watch out for my TA. It’s Ms. Cortez Masto, and she means business. Questions?”

“Yes, Mr. Reid. We can read any newspaper, including the Review-Journal?”

“The Review-Journal isn’t a newspaper, so, no. Now to your grades: I grade on a 100-point scale. If you get 60, we then discuss your grade and vote on it. Just kidding; I got that joke from Mitch McConnell.

“Your first task will be to write a website analysis to evaluate the sources you rely on as journalists. You’ll go to the Brookings Mountain West and the Nevada Policy Research Institute websites. You will then write an essay contrasting the backgrounds of their staffs. You will be expected to analyze which group should get more attention from the Las Vegas media (based on their degrees and publications), and which group actually does get more attention. Question?”

“Yes. Will your opinion of our answer affect how we are graded?”

“That should not be a problem. There’s only one logical answer.

“You’ll also write several news stories. One of them must be based on an interview with an elected official. If the officeholder—say, a Republican senator from Nevada—opposes the confirmation of a U.S. attorney general because the senator claims he’s concerned about the candidate’s position on online gaming, your story will be expected to include something called background. Meaning, you will explain how he has claimed to be bipartisan and ask him to reconcile these contradictions.

“You’ll be expected to write an essay on ethics that will include making up a news story in the spirit of Mark Twain in Virginia City. Suppose a U.S. senator suffers injuries while exercising. You get upset with how right-wing media speculate about what really happened and how the non-right-wing media are too busy going to lunch with one another and covering everything but the issues. So you create your own version in which the senator’s brother beat him up. Then you’ll do a story about what the mainstream outlets are saying about your version. That will be a short story, though. There’s a new website——that might help you craft it.

“In addition, you will do a book review to help you understand how incestuous politics and journalism have become, and some of the pitfalls you may face in your careers. I would suggest This Town by Mark Leibovich of The New York Times. Another possibility is Game Change, by Mark Halperin and John Heileman. Oh, a question?”

“Yes, Professor Reid. According to Game Change, your source of information on Mitt Romney’s taxes was Jon Huntsman Sr., who denied that he was the source.”

“Well, Nevada is one of 40 states with a shield law, and now I’m in journalism, so I’m not saying. But ask yourself: if you were Huntsman, wouldn’t you deny it; and if you were the politician who said it, what would you do? Just Google ‘Bloomberg Romney Avoids Taxes Mormon Donations,’ and it’ll all make sense. Any other questions?”

“Yes. Does journalism still exist?”

“That’s a clown question, bro. Class dismissed.”

Michael Green is an associate professor of history at UNLV.