The American Dream Feature Story ASSIGNMENT REQUIREMENTS

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The American Dream Feature Story ASSIGNMENT REQUIREMENTS


  • Write a news feature story on the state of the American Dream at least 1200 words base on seven to ten interviews and online research
. Please read this whole document carefully! Each paragraph should not exceed 40 words (write at least 30 paragraphs). The lead should not exceed 35 words.
  • **Important Requirement: At the end of your story, please list the names and contact information for all of your interviewees. Be sure before the interview that your interviewees are willing to provide this information. Failure to include this information will result in a ten-point deduction.
  • Your central task is to combine interviews with research and take stock of the American Dream. What your interviewees share with you—their experiences, their views and their hopes—will form your story’s core.
  • This is not an academic paper, but rather a current portrait of how people feel about the American Dream and, by extension, how the country is doing and likely to fare. That will be your focus.
  • Your first step is to conduct a bit of online research. That will provide the foundation and background for the story. Next step is to talk to a good cross-section of people about the American Dream.
  • Don’t make this a story that dwells on what happened, but rather on the current situation and how people view the future. Your reporting, however, should include research on the American Dream and the economy. Several news reports and studies have been posted. They provide excellent background and may even be cited, but sparingly, please. Do not make the mistake of recycling the posted research into your story. You are expected to do your own digging.
  • Thus, take care to chat with professionals, blue-collar workers, students, old people.
  • Be mindful of not starting your story in classic academic fashion, with loads of data only to introduce your first interview subject after several paragraphs.
  • The most effective way to write this story is by organizing it thematically. Your research and interviews will unearth themes: The American Dream’s golden years, when anyone who worked hard would achieve it; the classic success stories; immigrants who came to these shores and struck it rich; those who left their homeland only to fall short of the dream; younger Americans with no realistic hope of acquiring the comfortable and secure middle class life their parents enjoyed.
  • Don’t make the basic mistake of presenting interview summaries in random fashion. That would produce a terribly disorganized story with no narrative thread.

As we know, the American Dream holds great meaning in the United States. Historically, it has been a firmly held belief that separates the United States from the rest of the world. Making the dream reality means a comfortable and secure middle class life, complete with home ownership, college educations paid for with family college funds, great vacations and a host of other perks. It has long been an article of faith that if you worked hard enough the American Dream could be yours. For many Millennials and even younger Americans the dream has become less about money and material possessions, and more about achieving personal and professional goals.

Yet today there is disturbing evidence that realizing any version of the dream has become impossible or at minimum a daunting task. This fundamental change is reflected in widespread voter disaffection.

Fairly recently, the Pew Research Center released a study showing conclusively that the middle class is shrinking. Many other studies and journalistic report shave reached the same conclusion.

What made the American Dream become elusive for so many? There is little question that the 2008 recession was the basic cause. It marked the bleakest time in American recent history since the Great Depression. The toll was reflected in the flood of mortgage defaults and the army of newly unemployed. Still others who managed to stay employed saw their household incomes plunge as spouses lost jobs. According to some analysts, the erosion of the American middle class began years before the recession. Officially, the recession is over. Mortgage defaults are down, as are unemployment rates. However, few would argue that the economy is truly robust. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that full economic health has not been restored. A slightly dated Wall Street Journal story reflects that.

And so there is the accompanying conclusion that the American Dream is in danger of dying or, in fact, has already died.

A New York Times analysis (posted on the class site) finds that the American middle class is no longer the world’s wealthiest. Canada holds that coveted spot. The middle class in several other countries have seen their incomes increase considerably since 2000, while here at home it has stagnated.

Nonetheless, the United States remains the number one destination for immigrants. The promise of the American Dream for many of them is very much alive and still realized.

Has your interviewee suffered from the effects of the recession? If so, how? Is he or she doing well today? Does he or she feel optimistic, pessimistic or uncertain about the future?


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