Critical Commentary Instructions

Critical Commentary Objective

This media analysis of religion encourages us to reflect critically on media coverage of world events and to apply critical thinking to our understanding of religiously related phenomena. The Critical Commentary project is intended to advocate creativity and personal strengths and interests when presenting your research. It is hoped that these skills will prove advantageous in future professional environments and reveal the personal transformative power inherent within individuals for social change and the promotion of shared values in a global environment.

General Instructions

Analyze media coverage surrounding a theme, story, or event that has occurred during the semester. You should be examining at least ten (10) different media sources on a given subject. Present your own critical analysis of the topic in light of what you have learned in class, referring to specific readings or class discussions. In your analysis students should critique media sources. This is not a research report or history of a given subject. Your goal is assess the reporting on a given narrative, critique the presentation of you chosen theme, and evaluate the possible consequences of the media’s presentation of your topic.

The Critical Commentary project is open to your own creative interpretation. Please do not let technology intimidate or limit you in your creativity but please do not bite off more than you can chew. If you are comfortable with your writing and believe that is your best form of communication than please feel free to write a final critical analysis of Islam in the media. However, communication is not only done through literary products and other mediums are often more effective in transferring meaning than traditional forms of written communication (e.g. A picture is worth a thousand words). I an encourage you to employ your own creative strengths if they do not inhibit a timely presentation of your analysis.

You are welcome to produce 

a written analysis (roughly 1500 words)

an audio podcast

geo-spatial map

video presentation

annotated infographic


digital annotated photo album

or any  another approved presentation


Syrian Civil War (Video New Report)

Malala Yousafzai and Nabila Rehman (Video)

The Hijab in the Media (Video & Essay)

Pervez Musharraf’s Return to Pakistan (Audio Podcast)


Possible analytical questions we should consider about individual articles:

(1) Content: What issues, people or events were covered? Who wrote this article? Which religions were covered? Which religions and issues are left out? What is the argument of the article?

(2) First Impressions: What impressions do the headline and first paragraph give? How do they define the situation? Are photographs or other illustrations used? Do they give a positive or negative impression of their subject? Why?

(3) Language: Which words or phrases are used repeatedly or are given emphasis? Are name-calling or stereotypes used? Are broad generalizations used or did the writer qualify his/her observations? What is the general tone of the coverage, especially about religion? Give examples.

(4) Sources: Is it possible to identify the sources of information used in the coverage? Are these sources reliable? Why? Can you differentiate between facts and opinions in the coverage? Give examples.

(5) Perspective: What point of view is being promoted? Who are the “good guys” and “bad guys” in the reporting? What emotions does the coverage stir up?

(6) Influences: What constraints of the news media business (economic, political, etc.) may have influenced the form and/or content of the coverage? How?

(7) Consequences: What general attitude toward religion does the coverage arouse?

(8) Coverage: How prominent is the coverage? (For example, does anything make the reporting stand out or easy to find?) Does the coverage attract your attention? How?


Possible analytical questions we should consider about a subject:

Why might this be an important topic for a media outlet to address?

How do the authors present the history of the issue, if at all?

What does each author emphasize?

Has anything been left out of the discussion? If so, what are the implications?

What patterns do you notice of religion coverage on this theme?

What implications might you predict for public knowledge on the topic? Future reporting on the topic?

What conclusions can you draw about the presentation of this religious theme?

What stories portray religion as divisive?

What stories portray religion as useful?

What issues do these stories focus on?

Do you think the authors’ analyses are grounded in academic and/or personal knowledge of the topic? Why or why not?

What are the differences and similarities between your sources on your theme?

What can you add to their understanding of this issue?

What religious issues or situations gain prominence in media (e.g. homepage or front page news)?

Overall, think about how the perspective of the author, publication source, rhetoric, evidence, and argumentation (or lack thereof) shape the presentation. You need not necessarily agree or disagree on all, or for that matter, any points that the source makes, as long as you justify your claims in terms of its success or failure in presenting a given religion.


I want to see you building sound arguments, which are backed up by strong supporting evidence. You will be graded on clarity of ideas and expression, demonstrated engagement with the readings, and sound argumentation. A detailed guide to success can be found on the grading rubric available here.

Citing Materials and Sources

When possible digital projects should link directly to sources (embedded in the wording – like this)

However, at the end of your blog post you should include a digital bibliography. Please include all bibliographic sources and dates of publication. Citations should look something like this (author, “title of article,” New York Times, MM/DD/YEAR (url link)).

e.g. Karen Zarindast, “Free food for fasters in Jakarta mosque,” BBC, 8/26/2011 (

e.g. Karen Zarindast, “Ramadan celebrated off the main road in Islamabad,” BBC, 8/17/2011 (

e.g. Unknown author, “Indonesia Ahmadiyah attack: Outrage over victim jailing,” BBC, 8/15/2011 (

Copyright & Creative Commons – Make sure you do not use any Copyrighted material.

Blogging Instructions

Blogging can be easy, fun, and provide an avenue for our own creative expression and analysis. By following a few tutorials we can learn to be as familiar with blogging as we are with other types of media. One of the most popular free blogging tools is WordPress. The easiest way to learn how to use a blog is watching a video tutorial as you follow along (and do it yourself). If you have questions please ask for my assistance.

Posts – Posts show up in our blog roll. Make sure to (1) title your post,  (2) add an image, audio, and/or video, and  (3) check appropriate categories. Finally click publish. You can always edit your posts if you forget something or need to change it after publishing.

Images – Each blog post should include an image (if applicable), which can be found on places like Photopin under Creative Commons license. Make sure to add appropriate attribution for your photo. “photo credit: So and So under Creative Common License”

Categories – Please check any categories that apply to your post. Please feel free to add broad categories that are not already listed.


1. Add new POST – DO NOT add new PAGE

2. Title – Make sure you add titles to your posts

3. Categories – Be sure to check all categories that apply to your post. You can find the categories on the right hand side of the dashboard.

4. Images – Pleas include an image on written pieces to pull readers in.

5. Hyperlink – Be sure to link the sources you are discussing in your projects. Select text and click on the chain icon in the dashboard. This will allow others follow where you found your resources.

6. Author – Be sure to clearly indicate who the author(s) of the post are. If you don’t you may not get credit.

7. Publish – Make sure you publish your posts. If you do not you can lose your work. Also, click “Save Draft” periodically if your are working for a long time.

8. Share – Be proud and share your work – Twitter with our hashtag, Facebook, Mom and Dad, Grandma, your resume. Let others know what you are doing and show them how smart and creative you are. I know I will be sharing!

9. Have fun – Remember this is intended to be an enjoyable project. Don’t stress out – ask for help if you need it. Have some fun with it and be creative!

Podcasting Instructions

Podcasting is actually pretty low tech. All you need to create a podcast is a microphone and recording software. Most computers and smart phones have both of these features built in.

The two easiest programs are Audacity (free download for PC or Mac) and GarageBand (Mac). Once you have completed your podcast save it somewhere (USB drive, Dropbox, etc.), upload it to Soundcloud (or similar site), and publish.

If you have any problem uploading your podcast before the due date please contact me and immediately provide me with a copy on a USB drive. If this is not done before the due date it will be considered late.


How To Podcast  –  Audacity – Video

GarageBand – Video


1. Create a Soundclound Account

2. Upload your podcast to Soundcloud

3. Link your Soundcloud podcast to your blog post

4. Publish

Student Examples

Pervez Musharraf’s Return to Pakistan

Video Instructions

Video creation requires a computer or smart phone and video editing software. The easiest program is iMovie (Mac). If you use one of the school’s computers please make sure you have time to compete your assignment in one sitting as it is difficult to stop and start the process due to larger file sizes. Feel free to think outside of the box to create a video project. It does not need to consist of video footage but can use pictures, screenshots, drawings, etc. to convey your message.






1. Create a Vimeo or Youtube Account

2. Upload your video

3. Embed YouTube, Vimeo on your post

Student Examples

The Syrian Situation: An Analysis of Media and Religion in the Syrian Civil War


Comparison of Media presence of Malala Yousafzai and Nabila Rehman


The Hijab in the Media

Alternative Instructions

Other projects or project elements are welcomed. Here are a few tools or examples that may communicate your finding in a more productive manner.

Digital Annotated Maps & Geo-Spatial Mapping

Google Maps

Annotated Infographic or Charticle



Google Charts

Google Drive

Student Examples

A Big Time for Buddhism


Good luck! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.