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JOUR 271/272 Section 000 News Reporting Fall 2010
Instructor: Office: Office hours: Phone: E-mail: When and where our class meets: Class home page: COURSE DESCRIPTION: Semester course; 3 lecture and laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: JOUR 102. For journalism majors only. Detailed study in reporting and writing news stories for print publications, broadcast outlets and Web sites. Focus on interviewing, writing news and features and preparing for entry-level reporting assignments. Students also will learn online presentation skills, including photos, audio, video and interactive elements. JOUR 271/272 is an intermediate-level journalism course in which students report and write news stories. In this course, you will learn how to find story ideas, gather information, develop a beat, interview people and write effectively in a variety of story formats and styles. The course will integrate other journalism skills and concepts, including news judgment, ethics, diversity, copyediting, technological competence and mathematical abilities. A key goal in JOUR 271/272 is for you to get your work published or aired: in Ole Miss student media (such as the Daily Mississippian, Rebel Radio or Newswatch) or in other outlets (such as the Oxford Eagle or Enterprise). In addition, you will begin to develop a portfolio of media that will help you land an internship or job and launch your journalism career. You must make a C or better in JOUR 271/272 to continue in the journalism program, COURSE OBJECTIVES: In JOUR 272/272, you will write and publish professional-quality news stories. To achieve that goal, this course will help you: Recognize and articulate good story ideas Find and cultivate sources for a beat or a story Gather and organize information for stories Interview people – in person, by phone and by e-mail Write both hard news and soft news
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Write quickly and meet deadlines Understand visual literacy, including the importance of photos and graphics Understand the importance of diversity in reporting stories and selecting sources Apply journalism ethics and law, including the Freedom of Information Act Improve your use of news technology (including cameras and editing software) Master journalistic math and statistical skills Do basic computer-assisted reporting Apply copyediting rules for grammar, punctuation, spelling and Associated Press style Learn how to enhance stories for the Web Understand the values, culture and operation of newsrooms Build your résumé and portfolio for launching your journalism career
PREREQUISITES FOR JOUR 272/272: Before taking this course, you must pass JOUR 102 (Multimedia Writing). If you do not meet that prerequisite, you will be dropped from JOUR 271/272. REQUIRED TEXTBOOKS AND OTHER MATERIALS:
You will need three books for this course:
Associated Press Reporting Handbook. © 2002. Available at the VCU Bookstore, 1111 W. Broad St. Amazon.com and other online retailers may have cheaper copies. (Online, you can find used copies of the AP Reporting Handbook for as little as $5.) Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive. © 2007. Available for download (free) or purchase ($12 for two) at www.kcnn.org/resources/journalism_20/ The Associated Press Stylebook (© 2007 or © 2008). At APStylebook.com, you can buy the latest AP Stylebook for $18.95 or purchase an online subscription for $25.
For this class, you will need a binder or folder. In it, you will keep class handouts, printouts, background stories and other materials. You also will need a flash drive (at least 4 gigabytes) or portable hard drive (recommended, with 120 gigabytes or more) to store digital files of your work and course materials. Save all your work; keep a backup; and always work with the latest version of a story. The ability to manage information is a key to success in this course. I will not accept “computer problems” as an excuse for missing deadlines.
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In terms of technology, you must have a digital audio recorder with a USB connection and a digital camera (or access to one). A cell phone and a laptop computer also would be helpful. Bring your binder, flash drive, textbook and AP Stylebook to every class meeting. Also bring headphones or earbuds; some assignments require listening to audio from your computer. And, of course, no reporter would be caught dead without a notebook and pen. SUPPLEMENTARY TEXTBOOKS: To help you improve your writing skills, you might buy Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark, a scholar and writing coach at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. You will learn these tools in class by taking a module from a free online university called NewsU.org. This course assumes that your grammar skills are pretty good. If they aren’t, you must sharpen them, quickly. You should consider obtaining one of the following books: When Words Collide: A Media Writer’s Guide to Grammar and Style Working with Words: A Handbook for Media Writers and Editors NEWSPAPER READING AND KNOWLEDGE OF CURRENT EVENTS: As journalists, it is crucial for you to keep up with what is happening on campus, in the Richmond area, in the United States and around the world. Every day, you should read, or at least skim, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and The New York Times or The Washington Post – if not on paper, then online. You also should monitor campus media and alternative papers, such as the Richmond Free Press. And you should listen to NPR and watch news on television (including 60 Minutes on CBS and Frontline on PBS). By following the news media, you will sharpen your news senses, and you will learn from good (and perhaps bad) examples of journalism. I may give you occasional news quizzes to check your news consumption habits. CLASS WEB SITE: We will use the Blackboard course management system [http://blackboard.vcu.edu] for MASC 303. After you log in, you will have access to these key areas of our Blackboard Web site: ♦ Announcements. Here, I will post reminders about assignments and other matters. I will e-mail this information to you, too, but Blackboard’s Announcements page will have a permanent copy. ♦ Assignments. Here, I will occasionally post online readings and other documents that I want you to read or links to online activities that I want you to do. ♦
Story Queue. We will use this area to budget and file stories.
AP Style. This folder contains resources for learning or polishing your copyediting skills – and especially your knowledge of Associated Press style rules. ♦ Contact South. Here, you will find my home and cell-phone numbers, office hours and other contact information. ♦ Syllabus & Docs. This includes the syllabus, class schedule and other key documents for the course.
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Communication. This function lets you send e-mail to me and to your classmates.
♦ External Links. Here, you will find hyperlinks to resources for learning and practicing journalism. IMPORTANT RULES ABOUT E-MAIL: VCU gives each student an e-mail account, and that is the address Blackboard uses (and I will use) for this class. You may access your VCU e-mail over the Web at: http://www.vcu.edu/vcu/email.php We will communicate frequently in this class by e-mail. Therefore, you should check your e-mail regularly for messages about MASC 303. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are receiving e-mails from me. When you send me e-mail, begin the subject line with “MASC 303:”. Otherwise, my spam filter may delete your message. CLASS ATTENDANCE: Attendance at all class meetings is mandatory. Do not schedule interviews or plan to attend news events during class times without my prior approval. I require and take attendance at all classes. Attendance will be taken at the start of each class; if you are more than 15 minutes late, you will receive only partial credit for attendance. If you have three absences, your final grade will be lowered by one letter grade; if you have four or more unexcused absences, you will receive an F in the course. DEADLINES: For journalists, an essential skill is the ability to work against a deadline. Therefore, in this course, you must turn in work on time – at the start of class on the day the work is due. Plan ahead, organize your time and do not procrastinate. If you miss a deadline, you will receive a zero for that assignment. You may submit the assignment later for a “rewrite” grade. I then will average the “rewrite” grade with the zero in giving you a final grade for the assignment. REWRITING: Writing for a newspaper or other publication involves writing, rewriting and rewriting again. You will be asked to revise stories until they are polished and publishable as professional work. When you submit a story, I will edit it and give you an initial grade. I then will set a deadline for you to revise the story. In making revisions, you will be expected to go beyond “cosmetic” corrections (e.g., fixing typos or spelling errors). Your rewrite should fundamentally improve your story; it may well require additional reporting. When you submit your revised version, I will give you an “rewrite” grade. I then will average your initial grade and your “rewrite” grade to compute an overall grade for the assignment. For example, if you make a “C” on the initial version of a story and an “A” on the revision, you will receive a “B” grade for that assignment overall.
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GRADING STANDARDS: In evaluating your work, I will apply the standards of a professional news editor. An A, for example, means your story required little if any editing and is ready for publication. It is rare for an initial submission to meet that standard. I will critique each version of a story that you submit and give you feedback. In my critique, I will evaluate your reporting skills (such as accuracy, completeness, objectivity and multiple sourcing), writing skills (the story’s lead, organization, use of quotes) and mechanics (spelling, grammar, AP style). I also will look for elements that compliment the story – photos, graphics and sidebar material, for example. If the final version of your story rises to an A or B, I will give you approval to submit the story to a news outlet for publication. Unless you have such approval, you may not submit your story for publication. Stories that have been published or accepted for publication will receive extra consideration when I calculate your final grade in the course. Here are the standards for specific letter grades: A = Substantially error-free and ready for publication B = Solid effort; only minor editing errors C = Average work; needs some reorganization and rewrite D = Multiple errors; needs major rewrite F = Gross factual errors; unsuitable for publication 0 = Missed deadline; ignored assignment CALCULATION OF FINAL COURSE GRADES: On each story or other assignment, you will receive a numeric grade (the number of points out of 100). For your final grade, these gradebook items will be weighed as follows: Component of final grade Story #1 (draft May 21; revision due May 28) Story #2 (draft due May 28; revision due June 2) Story #3 (election guide story; due June 3) Story #4 (homelessness project; due June 11) Breaking-news story Audio slide show (will do in class June 9) Beat report (due June 10) FOIA assignment (due June 16) Résumé and portfolio (will do in class June 16) Twitter postings Final exam (June 18) Percent of final grade 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 5% 5% 5% 15%
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Here is how I will calculate your final grade: Weighted total 90% or more 80-89% 70-79% 60-69% Below 60% Final grade A B C D F
INCOMPLETES: No incompletes will be given in this course, except for dire emergencies. All assignments must be completed by the end of the semester to pass. ETHICS: Fabricating material or using another’s work without attribution is an extremely serious offense, and your name will be turned in to appropriate university officials. In this course, as in the journalism profession, plagiarism is not tolerated. This means you must not use direct quotes or verbatim material from any published source without giving credit – this includes information published online. BEHAVIOR IN THE CLASSROOM AND THE FIELD You are entitled to receive instruction free from interference by other students. If you believe that another student’s behavior is disruptive, tell me and I will deal with the situation. During class, you may use the computers only as I allow; you may not read e-mail, browse the Web, play games, write letters or do other activities without permission. Turn off your cellular phones before class begins. You may not sleep, wear headphones or use electronic devices (such as computer games) in class. You must not conduct side conversations or create other disruptions. It is disruptive to arrive late and/or pack up early. Be on time for class and plan on meeting for the entire class period. Be polite; respect your classmates, your instructor and others with whom you will interact during this course. If you engage in any behavior that I deem disruptive, you will get a verbal warning for the first incident and a written warning for the second. A third incident could result in your being administratively withdrawn from this class. In reporting stories for JOUR 102, you will interact with news sources and other people. You must act in a professional manner at all times: in interviewing people, talking to them on the phone and communicating with them by e-mail. This means being respectful, polite and nonargumentative – in short, acting as a professional and ethical journalist. It also means dressing appropriately for interviews and other meetings. Your behavior and appearance reflect not only on you but also on Ole Miss and the School of Journalism & New Media.
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COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY: It is vital that students in this course broaden their journalism experiences, with guidance from the instructor, by including in their course work people and subjects such as ethnic, racial and religious minorities, people with disabilities, gay men and lesbians, and other groups. The intent is to ensure that students are exposed to diverse ideas and perspectives. In this class, it is the responsibility of the instructor and students to foster an environment that supports free expression. The School of Journalism & New Media is committed to diversity in the classroom, in its publications and in its various organizations. Faculty and staff recognize that the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of their colleagues and students are best served through respect toward gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, culture and other personal characteristics. In addition, the School is committed to taking a leadership position that calls for promoting a commitment to diversity in and out of the classroom and in the practice of journalism. STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: It is University policy to provide, on a flexible and individual basis, reasonable accommodations to students who have disabilities that may affect their ability to participate in course activities or meet course requirements. Students with disabilities, which have been verified through the Office of Student Disability Services, should feel free to meet with me to discuss specific needs and how we can address them.
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Schedule of classes, readings and assignments
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