Pepperdine University

Journalism 469
Critical and Editorial Writing

Dr. Ken Waters

Office: CCB 147
Office phone: 310-506-4245


Critical and Editorial writing is a fun class. It is also a class that will challenge your writing skills and help you develop new skills as a critical thinker. 

There is no textbook for this class. For class notes, visit the class Blackboard site at by clicking here.

Click here for examples of class work contributed by those who have taken this class in past years.


Critical and editorial writing is an upper division course designed for journalism and creative writing majors who want to write editorials, opinion pieces and reviews that explore all aspects of the human existence. We will explore writing for a variety of media for a variety of purposes. The link that binds all this writing is the desire of the writer to persuade the reader. Thus we will also explore concepts of "the audience" and of persuasion--how it is done and how successful one can expect to be.

Those who write to persuade not only need to employ good reasons and to understand their audience; they also need to appeal to common values such as honesty, compassion and justice, values that are consistent with the Christian worldview. In an institution such as Pepperdine, those of you who want to write within a context of a Christian view of the world and who desire to target Christian publications for some of your articles, will be encouraged to do so.

The course will provide ample opportunities for you to work with others in determining an editorial position, to critique and encourage each other as you write, and to write a variety of articles suitable for publication in the Graphic or another off-campus publication.

The goal of this class is to introduce you to the field of critical and editorial writing, audience understanding and persuasion as you practice and demonstrate proficiency in writing opinion pieces and reviews of entertainment and cultural artifacts.


            1.  To introduce you to an understanding of how the diverse audiences for American media impact the theory and practice of persuasive writing in the 21st century. 

            2. To practice the principles of good editorial writing and group collaboration by creating a staff editorial suitable for publication in the Graphic. 

            3.  To practice and demonstrate the principles of good column and op-ed writing by creating two opinion columns suitable for publication in Currents magazine, the Graphic or another publication. 

            4.  To practice the principles of good letter to the editor writing by creating two letters suitable for publication in the Graphic, the Los Angeles Times, local Malibu papers, or other publications. 

            5.  To practice and demonstrate principles of good review writing by creating 500-800 word articles reviewing books, films, the theater, TV shows, concerts, CDs, software and restaurants. 

            6.  To practice important interviewing skills by interviewing a professional reviewer for a printed publication and learning how that reviewer approaches the art and craft of opinion writing. 

7.  To practice and demonstrate skills in critically evaluating the effectiveness of your classmates’ writing efforts, which not only helps them improve, but prepares you for future editing responsibilities in your career.  


1.  Each of you will be responsible for leading our class discussion and understanding of a different type of opinion or review writing.  (See Appendix) 

2.  We’ll write two letters to the editor.  One will be targeted for the Graphic, the other for a local newspaper or a significant magazine. 

3. You’ll be divided into teams to write a staff editorial for the Graphic.  Each team will write and research a topic you feel deserves consideration by the university community. 

4.  We’ll write two opinion essays.  The first essay of 400 words will be a personal essay or column written in first person; the second will be an op-ed piece of 800-1000 words, or a substantive critique of a particular genre of television, movies, or books. This will be written in third person. Rubric for op-ed and cultural reviews.  Rubric for final opinion piece. 

5.  In class, we’ll practice writing persuasive messages, and reviewing TV programs, in addition to taking field trips to a restaurant and the Weisman Museum, then reviewing those experiences. 

6.  We’ll write four other reviews of recent cultural works in the Los Angeles area or on campus.  These will usually run from 500 to 700 words.  These will include reviews of a newly-released movie, a play or opera currently appearing in Los Angeles or at Pepperdine; a concert or new CD release.  You will also have the opportunity to write a review of your choice.

7. We’ll read a substantial number of written opinion pieces from classmates and from professionals, and analyze those efforts using rhetorical theory, journalistic practice and technical considerations to better determine how well those writings “work” in their persuasive intent.

8. Our final effort is the creation of a portfolio with the best of your semester’s work, ready to post to our online class site.

9.  We’ll also have several quizzes in class and one or two papers in response to guest speakers.

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