The Four-Way Test

The Rotary Club of Mechanicsburg NorthDistrict 7390
Juliet Pawelski, First Place
Grade 9, Cumberland Valley High School
Teacher:  Brian Martin

I must make moral decisions every day, whether as a student of Cumberland Valley High School or in relation to my family and friends in general. All of these decisions, as small as some are, can affect my life in many kinds of ways.  I must answer questions daily for others and especially for myself. Even the little choices about what I eat for breakfast this morning or if I start to do my homework at four or five o’clock tonight may affect my life in the future. In addition to using the Rotary’s Four Was test in my daily life, I can specifically use it in my job on the high school newspaper.

As a staff writer, I include the Rotary Four Way test when writing my articles, sometimes without even thinking. The first question is always a part of my writing and editing: Is it the truth? Since I am reporting and not narrating, the truth is of such extreme importance that I cannot stress it enough. I must ask myself if I write the complete truth or if I leave out any part of the story. While I write a news story, I ask myself more questions than who, what, when, where, why, and how. I have to think about the audience and the topic, and whether I am telling the whole story or not. The facts are what literally write the story in news writing. Vague, incorrect sentences and a few useless paragraphs do not equal a good article or an article at all. I do not write the news for fun. As part of the paper, I want people to know what is going on around them and, if the paragraphs are full of false information or no real facts, then I am not getting the real knowledge out to the readers. I am just giving them another three or four minutes of worthless reading material.

When I am presenting one of those debatable articles that can raise controversy if not written carefully, another of the Rotary Four Way test questions pops into my head: Is it fair to all concerned? I must present both sides of the story equally in my writing or the party not represented will be robbed of offering their side as well as the opposing section. I can not write a story on red versus yellow and cheer for yellow in the article. If I write with an opinion, I will not give the reader the chance to develop their own view on the subject. Unless you are writing an editorial, you are not supposed to show any feeling on the matter at hand while building your news report. It is one of the common writing ethics not to take sides, and to publicly judge someone on their views is awfully unfair. Sometimes it is incredibly difficult to restrain yourself from giving input on the topic, but your personal opinion is one decision you leave out of your newspaper writing.
The next of the Four Way test questions is a harder one to incorporate into writing. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Truthfully, I do not often think about this question while working on a lead. It is tricky to relate this particular question to the newspaper. In the future, however, I intend to think harder about whether this will strengthen friendships and goodwill. In a school paper, one often writes about problems or topics closely related to the school and its students, teachers and administrators. In an establishment as large as Cumberland Valley High School, many students do not know half of the other teenagers in the school. When I write an article including someone’s opinions or words, it gives them a chance to speak to their classmates about what they think and make themselves known to kids who have never heard of them. Students’ quotes are required in our school newspaper stories, and that means that many different people get their fifteen minutes of fame whilst sharing their outlook on each issue.

The last question of the Rotary Four Way test is, in my opinion, the other three rolled into one simple question. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? What I see when I look at this question are all of the important components of the other questions asked. For my article to benefit the people who read it, it must be something that will tell the story truthfully, present all sides of the story, and hopefully better inform all members of the Cumberland Valley High School community. To write a beneficial story, I must have a topic that will help the reader to better understand or learn about a topic that they can relate to. If I were to pick a story idea about squirrels instead of a story about a girl in Cumberland Valley that helps out in Third World countries, I would not be picking the most beneficial topic. News writing can also be beneficial to my writing abilities. I must try my best to write articles to the full extent of my abilities, and with the hope that the story will further improve my style and skill for the next time I write in the newspaper.

News writing is exceptionally important to me. I feel proud when a product of my hard work is laid out in print to be distributed throughout the school to the students and staff. The Rotary Four Way test lends me a hand when I have decisions to make about my article. If my story passes the Four Way test, I know it will be a first-rate account that I would be proud to print. All of the questions can relate to the ethics of good journalism, and I intend to continue using them in my daily writing. The Rotary Club must be proud to have such a respectable maxim upon their wall, and I hope all of the members of the Club have found their own special use for the Rotary Four Way test as a guide in their daily lives.


4 Responses to The Four-Way Test

  1. richard j curry sr January 8, 2009 at 9:45 am #

    I mentor some high school kids and I know this article will be very helpful for them to read and apply in there life. I must say thanks to the young man for realizing the benefits of making a moral choice in his daily living.

  2. neha sudhir January 20, 2009 at 9:01 am #

    i really loved how you presented yourself the essay. i was just surfing through the net for information about the 4-way test when i bumped into your story. i am student of grade 9, dps rourkela,india and i am having this essay competition in our town. so wish me luck!!!!!!!!

    neha(my real name)

  3. neha sudhir January 20, 2009 at 9:06 am #

    forgive my grammatical errors as i have missed it in 2 different places. 🙂


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