What effect does Oliver’s playing the Pat Collins report (about the graffitied car) have on you as a viewer?


As was implied on the previous page, John Oliver’s reporting on Last Week Tonight often employs the structure of academic essays with jokes thrown in. With that in mind, I’ve written the following questions, which are arranged in sections that guide you through the content and structure of the piece.

Answer the following questions about Last Week Tonight‘s piece on how the media goes about reporting crime. The video is embedded at the bottom of this page.

Because this assignment asks more questions than qualitatively similar assignments do, this assignment is worth 30 points.

Questions about the piece’s rhetorical strategy:

  1. List two examples of when John Oliver (the host) uses a secondary source for each of the following purposes:
    1. To give credence to what he’s just said.
    2. To argue against that source.
    3. To use that source’s words as a springboard to a larger point.
  2. What do you notice about the way that Oliver sets up/leads into quotations?
  3. Note the times that John reads a passage that appears on the screen verbatim. What part of an essay is this analogous with?

Content-based questions:

  1. What effect does Oliver’s playing the Pat Collins report (about the graffitied car) have on you as a viewer?
  2. In your opinion, how effective is Oliver’s reaction to the rainbow fentanyl reports? Why?
  3. Aside from the jokes, this piece is structured like an academic essay. Thinking of it that way, what is its thesis?

General approaches to covering crime:

  1. When it comes to news coverage, what notable change happened around the 1970s?
  2. What stands out to you about the CNN program on crime reporting that aired in the 1990s?
  3. How has crime reporting contributed to the public’s race-based fears?

The media’s sources in their coverage:

  1. According to the video, what are the problems with the media relying on police as sources of information?
    1. What are the shortcomings of the phrase “officer-involved shooting”?
  2. What is your reaction to the video’s discussion of the Minneapolis police’s handling of the George Floyd incident?
  3. What stands out to you about Oliver’s follow-up on Pat Camden (the Fraternal Order of Police spokesman)?

Greater harm caused by uncritical crime reporting:

  1. According to the piece, what are some of the effects of uncritical reporting of crime?
  2. What is the problem with news reports consistently saying “police say” in their reporting? What are some possible solutions that the piece offers?
  3. What other solutions to current crime reporting practices does the piece offer?