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JOMC 753.

1, Reporting and Writing News Fall 2011 Assistant Professor Ryan Thornburg Classroom: Carroll 21 1-2:45 p.m., MW Office: 219 Carroll Hall Office Hours: on demand Email: Office: 962-4080; cell: I. INTRODUCTION JOMC 753 provides instruction in newswriting and reporting in an accelerated, graduate-level course designed to satisfy basic competency requirements for graduate students. Students will learn the fundamentals of newswriting during the first few weeks of the semester, then move into beat and general assignment reporting. They will apply those skills to a variety of practical reporting and writing assignments in and out of class. Each assignment will have a deadline. While the focus will be on writing for print, students will consider online structure as well as visual, audio and video reporting. Class topics include fundamentals of newswriting, story forms and organization, interviewing, reporting techniques, general news and feature writing, ethics, law, and the culture of news organizations. II. PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS JOMC 753 abides by standards the communications professions follow and expect of graduates of a professional school such as the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Writing ability Grammar and spelling; ability to tell a good story well; use of quotes, anecdotes and descriptive detail; use of active voice and strong verbs; ability to write leads that are inviting and that hit the point of the story; ability to write tightly and to organize information in logical, compelling sequence. Reporting ability Pursuit, digging, enterprise, diligence; ability and eagerness to see and pursue promising angles; ability to seek and obtain anecdotes, details and quotations that provide documentation and add liveliness to copy; ability to see the need for and to get both sides of the story; ability to cultivate good sources. Speed, productivity and efficiency Speed on deadline; speed and efficiency in completing nondeadline assignments; ability and willingness to manage more than one assignment at a time; ability and willingness to make frequent, substantive contributions to the content of the paper. Accuracy Skill with basic factual information such as names, addresses, dates and figures; ability to identify and make use of the best sources, whether they are documents, references or people.

Work habits Punctuality, reliability, readiness to go beyond the minimum requirements of the job; interest in assuming and ability to assume more than minimum responsibility; ability and willingness to anticipate and fulfill the demands of an assignment without prompting; ability to deal even-handedly with peers and supervisors, to accept constructive criticism and to offer constructive suggestions; interest in all areas of the news operation; knowledge of community, regional, national and international events; regular and thorough reading of the newspaper. Judgment Commitment to fairness and balance; ability to recognize and assess possible adverse consequences of actions; knowledge of, respect for and observance of the news department's policies. Potential Likelihood that the reporter is a candidate for a more challenging reporting assignment or a supervisory position; evidence that he or she possesses the characteristics of leadership and supervisory ability expected of supervising editors. The work in this course will be the basis for work in subsequent courses in the School, whether they are skills or conceptual courses. At the end of the course, you will be a better writer. III. GENERAL INFORMATION Required Textbooks: Jan Johnson Yopp and Beth A. Haller, An Introduction to News Reporting: A Beginning Journalists Guide, Allyn & Bacon, 2005. Ryan Thornburg, Producing Online News, CQ Press, 2010. The Associated Press Stylebook, 2010 edition JOMC School Stylebook Recommended Books: William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style. Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect, Three Rivers Press, 2007. Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation, Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2007. Blackboard: Material will be posted routinely on Blackboard and information sent periodically via email on Blackboard. If you want materials sent to an address other than what is listed on Blackboard, it is your responsibility to make that change. News Reading. You are expected to read The Daily Tar Heel EVERY DAY it published during the semester. You must also subscribe to a customized RSS feed of headlines that include stories posted to The News & Observers State & Local News page, Jim Romeneskos media column on, the homepage of The New York Times, and all stories from The Daily Tar Heel. The feed is at (For instructions on how to subscribe to an RSS feed, please visit If you are like most Americans, most of your news consumption comes from television. You may also get much of your news via Facebook or other online news sources. In this class you will learn to become a more critical consumer of news from all sources. As you begin to study journalism and mass communication, you may find it particularly useful to read the print edition of a national newspaper like The New York Times or Wall Street Journal as well as a local paper. If you read news critically, you will be circling words, writing notes and highlighting passages. Attendance. JOMC 753 is a professional course. You are expected to assume a professional attitude as a participant. Attendance is required, and punctuality is essential. To be excused, you must notify me in advance of your intended absence via telephone or email. If you cannot reach me, leave a message with the School receptionist at 962-1204. CLASSROOM COURTESY: Multitasking is an important skill for journalists to learn. However, you may not disturb the concentration of other students in class. And you are responsible for all information presented in class. Disturbing others or failing to participate in class discussions may result in dismissal from the room, confiscation of devices, locking of computer or other measures deemed appropriate by your instructor. Deadlines. All writing assignments must be typed, copyedited and turned in on time. Every effort is made to simulate realistic professional conditions in class. That means meeting deadlines. Most assignments during the first half of the semester are completed during class meetings, so missing a class often means missing the deadline for an assignment. You can have two late assignments without explanation. Additional late assignments receive an automatic 30-point deduction. Assignments are late if they miss the deadline by one second. No assignment will be accepted later than one week after its deadline. No excuses.

All reading assignments must be completed before the appropriate class sessions for which they are assigned. You are responsible for all assigned readings. Outside Assignments. During the course, you will be expected to gather and write news about events outside of regularly scheduled class sessions. One story will require you to cover a local meeting of your choosing. That story is due within 24 hours of the meeting to force you to write under some deadline pressure. All other stories have specific deadlines. A list of those outside assignments is included later in this syllabus, and due dates are on the week-by-week guide.

Course Structure: Classes will be used to discuss newswriting and reporting techniques, specific searches and available sources as well as student work and any other issues. Classes in the first part of the semester will be used to write news stories under deadline pressure. Class lectures and discussions will be based on the textbook readings, periodic handouts, student papers and current events. Occasional guest speakers will supplement class lectures. Students will be tested on this material on one exam near the end of the semester. Participation in class discussion is a must. You are expected to read news articles and to bring in examples of reporters work for discussion. Again, be sure to do assigned readings in advance so you can contribute to class discussion. Spelling and Grammar. Students in the Schools professional masters program must pass the Spelling and Grammar Exam. Dates are posted in the Schools Student Records Office in Carroll 154. We will focus on spelling, grammar, punctuation and style in this class. Spelling words used on the exam are in the UNC-CH Stylebook. The stylebook also contains a good guide to punctuation rules. Other grammar books, such as Kessler and McDonald's When Words Collide, can be found in the School's Park Library on the second floor of Carroll Hall or can be purchased in the textbook division of Student Stores. Additional grammar help can be found at the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University at Another site to check are Both have grammar exercises. (Be aware, however, that the latter site puts commas in short series; AP style that we follow in this class does not.) You can practice taking the spelling part of the exam at, developed by then-student Andrew Gray to help him pass the test. (Thank you, Andrew.) Research. All computers are set up to access the Internet so that you can do research in class for assignments. School librarian Stephanie Brown is also available and can work with you on specific projects if you make an appointment. The library also has handouts to assist in research. To verify titles and names spellings for local officials, check out Honor Code. The University's Honor Code is in effect in JOMC 753 as in all other courses. At times professional reporters work together on stories, and under particular, limited circumstances, I will allow cooperation on assignments. I will announce those times. On all other assignments, you are expected to do your own work and abide by the Honor Code of the University. The Code of Student Conduct can be found at You should review it. Plagiarism is an increasing problem on this and other college campuses. You are to cite your sources appropriately and according to the assignment. The Code of Student Conduct states that expulsion or suspension can result from (a)cademic cheating, including (but not limited to) unauthorized copying, collaboration or use of notes or books on examinations, and plagiarism (defined as the intentional representation of another person's words, thoughts, or ideas as one's own). If you have questions about citations or usage on

your work, ask. IV. FORMAT AND STYLE OF WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Copy Preparation. Submit printouts of all stories written in class. Double-space all copy. Your name, slug (one-word label) and date should be in the upper left-hand corner of the first page. Copy produced outside of class should be typed and prepared the same way. As the writer, it is your responsibility to copyedit all stories before turning them in. Pencil in corrections clearly on copy, and use proper copy editing. I will evaluate copy as if you have made it ready for publication. No story will be accepted for grading unless it has been typed and edited and bears your name. Copyediting and Style. Latest editions of The UNC-CH Stylebook and The Associated Press Stylebook are the final authorities on style in JOMC 753. Websters New World Dictionary is the dictionary on which AP bases its stylebook and should be your reference when either stylebook fails to cover a point in question. If any of the stylebooks are in conflict on a point, the UNC-CH Stylebook will prevail, the AP is next, then the dictionary. You will need to become familiar with both stylebooks. Allow time to make both in-class and out-of-class assignments conform to style requirements. Points will be deducted from papers containing deviations from the stylebooks. I will give you periodic style quizzes early in the semester to help you learn the more common style rules. You are also responsible for learning and using appropriate and correct copyediting symbols in the preparation of each paper. The UNC-CH Stylebook, 11th Edition, contains copyediting symbols and a programmed exercise designed to reinforce the correct symbols for you. Points will be deducted for incorrect copyediting symbols on all papers. Editing is also critical for ensuring accuracy in your work. Any factual error will result in an F on an assignment (see the grading scale later in this handout). Factual errors erode writer and media credibility, reduce audience confidence and could result in libel suits.

V. WORK THAT CONSTITUTES YOUR GRADE The majority of your grade will be based on your writing assignments (60 percent). Your written exam will constitute 10 percent, class participation 10 percent, and final project 20 percent. All writing assignments should be professional, publishable quality. Refer to section IV for copy preparation guidelines. Va. Reporting and Writing Assignments (60 percent of the final grade) Each story reported outside of class must have three sources listed at the end. One source must be a person (that means a live interview in person or via telephone). One source in any story may be your observation of a meeting, public hearing, news conference,

etc., but none of the speakers or participants at such events may be used as individual sources unless the sources are interviewed separately before or after the event.

In-class quizzes and exercises will be averaged into one grade as part of this 60 percent. Quizzes on subjects such as language use, style and correct use of copyediting symbols will be given in the early weeks of the course. I will give you instructions on what will be covered on quizzes of the Associated Press Stylebook or UNC-CH Stylebook. All style quizzes are open book. Vb. Competency Exam (10 percent of the final grade)

This written examination will be taken directly from the textbook, lectures, class discussions, handouts and guest speakers. The exam will be given on Nov. 30. Vc. Class participation (10 percent of the final grade)

Just as it sounds. While lectures will be part of the course structure, student comment is essential. Because it is vitally important for communications professionals to be aware of what is happening locally, nationally and abroad, current events will be part of daily classroom discussion from broad knowledge of people and events to local happenings. Reading a daily newspaper or news site will prepare you sufficiently for the discussion. You need to bring in copies of stories along with questions on textbook readings, speakers comments and other issues relevant to the class. This grade includes sharing your source information and posting your reporting experiences on the Blackboard forum. Vd. Final project assignment (20 percent of the final grade)

You are required to write a comprehensive story from your reporting beat, which substitutes as the final exam for the course. It could develop from one of the stories you reported early in the semester, or it may be on a topic or issue of special interest to you. The assignment requires at least three human sources, each of which will be identified by name, title and telephone number at the end of the story, plus at least three documents (hard copy or online). The story can also use data analysis. The deadline is the regularly scheduled exam time at noon on Friday, Dec. 16. Stories may be turned in ahead of the deadline. They can be emailed. As part of the final project assignment, you must write a strategy that would serve as a memo to your editor (in this case, me) about how you as a reporter would carry out the final story project. The strategy must be carefully thought out, well written and well edited. You must state the news peg or reason for doing the story, potential sources and why each is a source, timetable for reaching sources and drafting the article, potential pitfalls and solutions. The final project strategy is due Nov. 16, one month before the final project due date of Dec. 16.

VI. GRADING Grading Policy Instructors in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication are known for their high standards and their fair but rigorous grading. The following statement sets forth the School's grading standards, which are followed in evaluating work in all of its writing and reporting courses. Instructors consider each assignment as a professional editor would, applying the same professional guidelines and standards that any good editor would in accepting or rejecting stories from reporters. News professionals must be able to report and write and produce newsworthy, accurate, fair, complete, interesting, readable and mechanically clean stories. Thus, grades reflect a student's performance as a reporter, as a writer and as one who uses the language correctly. In evaluating the writing, the instructor considers the quality of the lead, use of language, economy of expression, readability, organization of material and transition, among other factors. In evaluating the mechanical dimension, the instructor considers spelling, grammar, punctuation, conformity to AP and UNC-CH style and similar factors. In evaluating the reporting, the instructor considers news judgment in gathering and selecting information used in the story, accuracy, approach to the story, choice and use of appropriate sources, thoroughness, use of appropriate information-gathering methodologies and related factors. Grading Scale Grading throughout the semester in JOMC 753 and in other writing and reporting courses in the School is conducted on a numerical scale. Each student begins each assignment with a raw score of 100. Points are added or subtracted from that according to the standards listed below. You may determine your approximate grade standing in the course by converting your numerical grades to letter grades on your assignments according to this scale: 90 and above 80 - 89 70 - 79 =H =P =L

Under the definitions established by UNC-Chapel Hill, students who receive the following letter grades are considered to have reached the level of attainment defining that letter. Thus, letter grades received for reporting and writing courses may be interpreted this way: H = highest level of attainment; ready for publication by a professional news organization. P = high level of attainment; could be published in a professional news organization after a thorough edit L = minimal level of attainment; unacceptable for publication You are expected to produce acceptable work at a P level at least. Failure to make a P- means

the course must be repeated if it is a requirement for graduation. Evaluation of Writing Assignments I will devote a great deal of time and effort to evaluating your papers. I will return graded papers as soon as possible, often before assigning a new writing exercise. Review your papers immediately and thoroughly. Its an important part of your learning. I turn papers around rapidly in the expectation that you will learn from your errors and avoid repeating them. Grades are determined by plus and minus points on each assignment. Plus points are added when the work is above the ordinary, but not when the work is at an average level. Superior papers containing few errors can achieve scores above 100. Minus points will be deducted for each error and from work that falls below the minimum level of acceptability. Below is a grading guide to three main areas I will consider in deducting or adding points to your stories. 1. Writing In evaluating writing, the instructor considers the quality of the lead, use of language, conciseness, completeness, readability, organization of material and transition, among other factors. +5 for an exceptionally effective lead and supporting material +5 to +10 for exceptionally effective organization and treatment of material +2 for effective transition or introduction of material +2 to +10 for excellence in quality of information gathered and used -2 for ineffective or missing treatment of transition or introduction of material -2 to -10 for ineffective organization or treatment of material, including but not limited to, wordiness; use of jargon or clichs; unnecessary, non-newsworthy or obvious information; repetition; redundancy; inappropriate choice or use of quoted material; incorrect word choice -5 to -10 for an ineffective lead that needs work or for lack of supporting material for a lead -15 to -20 for missing the lead entirely or burying it 2. Mechanics Some otherwise good writers fail to communicate clearly because they are weak in grammar, punctuation or spelling skills. That is unacceptable in any communications profession, and that is why such fundamental language skills are emphasized. Points are deducted for style, spelling, grammar and punctuation errors according to this scale:

-2 for each error or inconsistency in style -2 for excessively long or complicated sentences or paragraphs -5 for each spelling error (a typographical mistake (a typo) is considered a spelling error) -5 for each punctuation error, such as incorrect use of a comma, semicolon, colon or dash -5 for each grammatical error, such as improper subject-verb agreement or noun-pronoun agreement, or misplaced modifier -10 for a minor factual error, such as an inaccurate street address or the time element if the effect on the story is relatively insignificant -50 for a misspelled name of a person, business, agency or institution on first reference, a misquote or other major factual error. Writing the School of Journalism and Mass Communications would be a 50 because there is no s on the end of Communication. Until the fourth week of class, each major factual error will result in a deduction of 25 points, not 50, from a paper's total grade. This grace period will allow you to become familiar with standards of verification and accuracy expected of communications professionals. After the first competency exam, such errors will receive the 50-point deduction. This deduction is not an arbitrary punishment. Such errors go to the heart of credibility for you and your media organization. Errors can also have serious legal ramifications, such as libel suits. -10 for misspelling a person's name on second or later references (e.g., Brown on first reference, Brwon on second reference) 3. Reporting These reporting criteria apply to stories for which you gather the information, including outside-ofclass assignments and also to your selection of material furnished for in-class assignments: + or - 5 to 10 for source selection quality and number of sources used; appropriateness of individual sources for the topic, including the level of expertise or authority involved (you could lose points here for relying too heavily on Internet sources and not having a variety of sources) + or 15 to 20 for failure to establish a clear news peg or reason why you wrote the story; be sure to answer so what as to why the story was written + or - 5 to 20 for thoroughness of story existence of loose ends, holes or unanswered questions; development of significant angles; inclusion of needed detail; information to make story fair and complete

+ or - 5 to 15 for story backgrounding research necessary to make the story complete or to provide needed explanations; preparation for interviews or meetings; shows understanding of the general topic + or - 20 for legal errors, such as libel, violation of privacy, copyright violation and others - 10 for failure to list sources at the end of outside reporting assignments -5 for failure to use a real person as a source NOTE: Many of these plus and minus points may be applied to the same story for recurring errors or for continual superior performance. Key to Writing Assignment Comments ag awk gr red sp tr wc wordy = agreement error AP or UNC = awkward phrasing ce = grammatical error pct = redundancy rep = spelling error tense = transition problem = incorrect or inappropriate word choice = excessive language that could be tighter = style error = copyediting error = punctuation error = repetition = incorrect verb tense


Week-by-Week Guide for JOMC 753.1 Fall Semester 2010

I. Weeks 1-5: Establishing Competencies At the end of five weeks of classes, students should be able to demonstrate certain competencies when writing a news story based on a set of facts, specifically how to: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Determine the news values and news peg for a story; Write a variety of lead types; Organize stories properly, accurately and completely; Develop basic research skills using the Internet and other resources; Use interviewing techniques; Include quotes and attribution appropriately; Apply knowledge of libel and its protections; and Copyedit the story using AP and UNC-CH style and proper spelling and grammar. Dates Aug. 24 Topics Introduction; What is news? AP Style; precision; brevity Readings Syllabus posted on Blackboard AP Stylebook; UNC Stylebook; Text, Ch. 1

Week # 1

Aug. 29, 31

Sept. 5 Sept. 7

No class; Labor Day Leads; organization of stories; Research and interviewing; quotes and attribution Police reporting; public records; libel AP Stylebook; UNC Stylebook; PON 1-3 Text, 2, 3, 14

Sept. 12, 14

Sept. 19, 21

Text, 4, 10, 11

DUE: Brief Profile. Start of class, Sept. 21

II. Weeks 6-16: Competencies At the end of 16 weeks of classes, students should be able to demonstrate certain competencies on short-answer and writing exams, specifically how to: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Week # 6 Research, organize and write a variety of types of news stories; report public affairs stories, including poll stories and numbers; Be skilled with interviewing and research techniques; Apply techniques of good writing and editing; Ethics and legal issues in newsgathering; Have .familiarity with public records and documents and how media interact with local government; and Cconceptualize stories for broadcast and online sites. Dates Sept. 26, 28 Topics Covering events, using multiple sources Readings Text, 3, 5; Handouts

DUE: Crime Briefs. Start of class, Sept. 26 7 Oct. 3, 5 Linking; sourcing; ethics; narrative choices Covering live news PON, 5-7

Oct. 10,12

PON, 10

STORY 2: Attend University Day events on Oct. 12, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; write story in class 9 Oct. 17, 19 Writing and reporting with social media PON 11

5 p.m., Wed. Oct. 19 Fall Break Begins 8 a.m., Mon., Oct. 24 Classes Resume 10 Oct. 24, 26 Polling; surveys Text, 13

STORY 3: Polling story due at 3 p.m. Oct. 26

Week # 11

Dates Oct. 31, Nov. 2

Topics Money stories

Readings Text, 6, 7, 9

STORY 4: Campaign finance story due at 3 p.m. Nov. 2


Nov. 7, 9

Beat reporting; feature stories

Text, 12


Nov. 14, 16

Organizing and writing investigative reports



Nov. 21

Writing for audio/video



Nov. 28, 30

Refining organization, packaging of final project stories



Dec. 5, 7

Final project work in class

Final project paper due by noon on Friday, Dec. 16