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The researchers asked participants to place groups of people on an “Ascent of Man” scale where people are ranked "from the knuckle dragging, ape-like human ancestor (0) through modern fully evolved upright human (100)." 

Photo: Luke Chen / The Daily Pennsylvanian

How can a class focus on food, politics, business and science?

Visiting scholar Zvi Reich answers that question with “Israeli News Coverage Through the Prism of Beat Reporting,” which he teaches in the School of Arts and Sciences in partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication. By emphasizing the study of many different areas of news coverage, he manages to hit on all of those subjects.

Reich — a senior lecturer of Communications at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, former journalist at Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper and a member of the Israeli Press Council — wants students to use Israeli news as a case study for beat reporting on a range of subjects.

He said his undergraduate seminar aims to illustrate that in order to effectively analyze news, students need to avoid thinking about ‘the media’ as a monolithic entity and rather recognize that it is comprised of domain-specific ‘news beats.’

“This is why the underlying theme of the course is to what extent journalists know what they are talking about, to what extent journalists have expertise in the fields that they are covering,” Reich said.

The seminar provides students with the opportunity to videochat with professionals. The class will have live Skype interviews with nine Israeli national news reporters in fields such as politics, business, the Arab world and Jerusalem affairs.

College freshman Daniella Wirtschafter, a student who enjoys following Israeli news, is pleased that this course is being offered.

“As someone who is planning on majoring in communication and minoring in consumer psychology, this course is a very valuable opportunity,” she said. “It’s also an interesting way to learn about real-world media and how media is used as ... a form of communication.”

Especially recently, Americans have grown more skeptical of the media. As a journalist himself, Reich said such skepticism is healthy, since different news sources have their own inherent objectives and biases.

Reich says when he shows students texts or articles in his classes, he always makes sure to inform the class of the political leaning or bias of the author of the piece.

College freshman Caroline Okun thinks it’s important to form an opinion from more than one news outlet.

“Many different news stations will report the same event in such different ways, so you should consult multiple sources before deciding anything,” Okun said.

Reich said he believes the media has been failing the public recently because journalists do not have enough specific knowledge about the topics they are reporting on.

“The crisis in the media today is partly because of problems of knowledge and expertise of journalists. There is not enough knowledge, not enough expertise,” he said. “In [an increasingly] complex society ... some kinds of journalism may lose their relevance to the broader society because of the lack of knowledge.”

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