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Drake University School of Journalism and Mass Communication Public Affairs Journalism Online JMC 103 / CRN 1049

Fall 2011 Tuesdays / Thursdays 12:30-1:45 p.m. Meredith 124B Instructor: Office: Hours: Email: Jill Van Wyke Meredith 114 Monday, Wednesday 1-4 p.m. Phone: 271-3867 (office) “The primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.” — Bill Kovach, Tom Rosenstiel, “The Elements of Journalism”

“Still, a good newspaper is a citizen’s best resource for exercising his rights and responsibilities in this Republic. It provides the broadest and, on occasion, deepest look into the affairs of the society and its government. Books and magazines can provide more concepts, perspectives, and history, and television and radio can bring you closer to the actual event. But a good newspaper has both immediacy and


perspective that foster the discussion and judgment so essential to the dialogue of democracy.” — David Broder, “Behind the Front Page” Introduction The focus of Journalism 103, your third (or perhaps fourth) reporting course, is on coverage of public affairs. You may think of “public affairs” reporting as coverage of the workings of government at all levels, but it is more than that. Public affairs reporting encompasses the institutions and issues that involve public life: religion, business, the arts, environment, medicine, science, and so on. Public affairs reporting is imperative to what Broder calls “the dialogue of democracy.” This class will improve your writing and reporting skills and acquaint you with government agencies and other public institutions. It will introduce you to covering a beat. It will increase your confidence in navigating public agencies and dealing with public officials. It will strengthen your understanding of how government works (or doesn’t work) and how to unearth news about public institutions and how to use public records and open meeting laws to inform citizens so they can be “free and self-governing.” Of course, all this must be set against the backdrop of the tectonic shifts occurring in our industry. Traditional newspapers are declining in readership, financial health and prestige. What will replace them? Future journalists, even “print” journalists, must be skilled in multimedia storytelling (audio, video and photography for Web and mobile publication, along with smart use of blogging and social networks). The more tools you have in your tool belt, the more prepared you’ll be to adapt to whatever changes await. All of our stories will be written for and posted to the Web. “Story” will be broadly defined to include the traditional text article, as well as photography, audio, video, graphics, links, etc. Uncertainty, though sometimes frightening, can result in unforeseen opportunities. I am optimistic enough that good journalism, practiced well and practiced ethically, will always be necessary. How can a democracy function without it? You stand at the cusp of a great adventure. Who knows what journalism will look like in five or 10 years? Buckle your seatbelts. You’re in for a ride. Course Objectives This semester, we will: • • • • • • • write a variety of stories about national politics, local government, education, courts/law enforcement, and other institutions identify and dig into public records, documents and databases to find information and story ideas master basic mathematical concepts commonly used in public affairs reporting cultivate a diverse pool of sources polish our interviewing skills develop newsworthy story ideas examine and wrestle with ethical and legal issues in public affairs reporting


• • • • • •

practice writing for the immediacy demanded of the Web and for the context and perspective demanded of the printed newspaper explore the different ways to tell a story across the media, especially using photos, slideshows, video and audio to complement our stories learn how to organize more complicated stories, and to create a coherent package of information focus on writing well and on self-editing and rewriting. respect, honor, admire and defend the press’s role in, and obligation, to a thriving and functioning democracy. affirm journalism’s primary loyalty to citizens in that democracy, not to community institutions, local interest groups, parent companies, shareholders, advertisers or other interests.

By the end of the semester, you should be able to report and write at a professional level. You should be prepared to step into an entry-level beat covering local government or institutions at a newspaper or other news outlet. You will also have a portfolio of Web-published stories to show prospective employers. J103 Philosophy The point of this course is not teaching; it is learning. Your minds are not empty vessels into which the all-knowing professor pours knowledge (and which you drain in December to make room for next semester’s knowledge). Much of what we learn in J103 will be of your own construction: You will learn by doing, by making mistakes, by exchanging feedback with your peers, by being challenged and by challenging each other and me, by considering ideas that are new or run counter to our opinions and beliefs, and by being intellectually curious. I gladly and seriously accept my responsibility of instruction, coaching and guidance, but I also demand that you bear substantial responsibility for your learning. There is no room for complacency, apathy, laziness or excuse-making in our classroom. SJMC Core Values Our students will: 1. Understand and apply First Amendment principles and the law appropriate to professional practice. 2. Demonstrate an understanding of the history and role of professionals and institutions in shaping communications. 3. Demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of groups in a global society in relationship to communications. 4. Understand concepts and apply theories in the use and presentation of images and information. 5. Work ethically in pursuit of truth, accuracy, fairness and diversity. 6. Conduct research and evaluate information by methods appropriate to the communications professions in which they work.


7. Think critically, creatively and independently. 8. Write correctly and clearly in forms and styles appropriate for the communications professions, audiences and purposes they serve. 9. Critically evaluate their own work and that of others for accuracy and fairness, clarity, appropriate style and grammatical correctness. 10. Apply basic numerical and statistical concepts. 11. Apply tools and technologies appropriate for the communications professions in which they work. 12. Take ownership of their own academic experience. 13. Be engaged with the community: the university, the local community, professional groups. 14. Cope and thrive in the workplace. Values in boldface are the primary focus of JMC 103. Requirements If you aren’t in the habit already, you MUST begin to read the Des Moines Register every day. The Register is your community newspaper while you are at Drake, and stories you do in your classes will frequently be based on information you read in the Register. If you are going to be a journalist (and a well-informed citizen), you must become passionate about news. You will be expected to keep up-to-date on current events through the mass media. Read newspapers and news magazines frequently, either in print or online. Inattention to local, national and international news will torpedo the reputation of an intern or beginning reporter. It’s a deadly sin. Required texts • Cuillier, David; Davis, Charles. The Art of Access. CQ Press, 2010. • Christian, Darrell; Jacobsen, Sally, Minthorn, David, eds. The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, 2011.

Other requirements: • a USB flash drive or external drive large enough to hold media files • access to a digital camera, video camera and audio recorder (available for checkout in Meredith basement) • access to a car to travel to public meetings and money for gas Assignments This class works best when we treat it less as a class and more as a newsroom. That means we’ll collaborate to determine what stories to do (and who will do them). Each of you will be writing different stories on different topics, with different deadlines. In addition to in-class writing and reporting exercises, each of you will write at least eight news


stories this semester. 1. One must be a school board election story that will be part of a class project covering the Sept. 13 election. 2. One must be a police/courthouse story based on public records you acquire from a local police station and the Polk County Courthouse. 3. One must be deadline coverage of a local city council or school board meeting. 4. Three will be national election stories about the race for the GOP presidential nomination. a. Two must be deadline coverage of a political event, speech, rally or press conference. b. The third should be a feature or analysis story, such as a profile of a candidate, summation of an issue, a trend, a color story, an analysis of strategies or political movements, an examination of finances, etc. 5. One must be an enterprise story of your choice. This story could address an issue in education, the environment, public safety, criminal justice, or any other realm of government affairs. Or, it could address an issue in health, religion, science, medicine, technology, sports, entertainment, business, arts or any other realm that intersects with public life. • The enterprise stories must include: o use of public records o interviews with official sources who are knowledgeable of the issue o interviews with ordinary citizens affected by the issue 6. A longer, in-depth story that will be part of a larger class project built on a common theme. This story will be worth twice the other stories. Except for the police/courts and school/city hall stories, all story ideas must be approved by me in advance. All stories must be multiplatform. You must give careful thought to which media can enhance your storytelling. Your choices will vary by story, but over the semester, you should have experimented with audio, photography, video, slideshows, graphics and Web interactivity. All stories must be written for the Web. You’ll be expected to write headlines, summary grafs, leads and subheads that are SEO-friendly. You’ll be expected to include relevant links. You’ll be expected to write cutlines for photos and slideshows. You’ll be expected to properly prepare all your files and upload them to our site. Don’t worry; we’ll cover all this in class before you’ll need to do it.

Deadlines Many of our deadlines will be determined by the events we cover, especially our political coverage. We will collaborate in class to establish a publication schedule.


Grading Accuracy! Accuracy!! Accuracy!!! Factual errors, including the misspelling of a name or place (even if it’s a typo), will result in the “ slash-F ” grade. You’ll receive the grade for the story, followed by a “ / F .” You are allowed one slash-F grade this semester. After that, the two grades are averaged. An “A / F ,” then, would average to a final grade of “C” for that article.
Here’s how I grade your stories: A = Outstanding performance. Story is publishable with little or no editing. B = Superior performance. Story is publishable with minor editing and revisions. Story is thoroughly and originally reported. Focus may not be thoroughly developed. Story may contain minor structural/organizational flaws. C = Adequate performance. Portions of story would need to be rewritten and closely edited before publication. Some minor additional reporting may be necessary. Story may lack objectivity. Story may not be thorough enough or may not answer obvious questions. Story may lack focus. Story may contain minor factual or usage flaws or substantial structural/organization flaws. D = Marginal performance. Story contains major factual, structural, writing or usage flaws. Story may contain numerous or substantial inaccuracies. Substantial additional reporting may be necessary. It is doubtful whether it could be published. F = Unacceptable performance. Copy fails to meet even minimum standards for the assignment.

Course Grade Your course grade will be determined by your performance on the eight reporting assignments, in-class writing exercises, and any quizzes or written reflections on the reading. There is no final exam. Students must earn at least a “C” to meet the pre-requisite to enroll in JMC 171, the newsInternet capstone.

Course Policies Academic dishonesty I will not tolerate plagiarism, fabrication, cheating or any other kind of academic dishonesty. Nor will I tolerate helping somebody else plagiarize, fabricate or cheat. Such acts are a betrayal of this community of scholars, which is committed to the highest professional and personal standards. If you are academically dishonest in JMC 103, you will fail the class and I will recommend you be expelled from the SJMC. A fuller discussion of what constitutes academic dishonesty is in the SJMC Honor Code, part of which is attached to the syllabus. Ethics Students are expected to be familiar with the Society of Professional Journalists ethics code and to abide by it. Deadlines Journalism is a deadline profession. Late stories are not accepted and will receive a grade of

F. Don’t ask for extensions of deadlines. Plan ahead. Don’t procrastinate. Technical difficulty is no excuse for missing a deadline at a newspaper, nor will it serve as an excuse here. Back up your story, notes, audio files, photos and video. We will turn in stories, photos and audio electronically, either to me via e-mail or to the class’s group folder, accessible on the classroom computers. I will also have you turn in hard copies of your stories. Sources and conflicts of interest Sources are the people you interview to compile information for your news articles. In the real world, news reporters follow strict ethical guidelines to guard against conflicts of interest. In J103, you are forbidden from using as sources roommates, floormates, classmates, fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, teammates, co-workers, etc. You may not cover a story about any organization of which you are a member. Exceptions to this rule are rare; come see me about specific cases. Representation to sources As you are reporting, you may be asked whom you represent. Identify yourself as a Drake University journalism doing an assignment for a class. Tell sources that your story will be published online. Critiques We will critique our own writing and that of our peers. The craft of reporting and writing develops through practice and feedback. In a newsroom, you will receive plenty of feedback from your editors. Such feedback will be useful and will advance your skills. On occasion, some of it will be off the mark. It will almost always be painful. In JMC 103, we will develop our ability to give and receive feedback that will be productive. Worthwhile critique is a balance of courtesy, thoughtfulness, honesty and the ability to listen to things you would rather not hear. Accommodations If you have a disability and will require academic accommodations in this course, I would be happy to discuss your needs. Accommodations are coordinated through Student Disability Services. Please contact Michelle Laughlin, Student Disability Services coordinator, at 281-1835 or Blackboard: I will use Blackboard to post grades. Please make sure you have access to this class in Blackboard and notify me of any difficulties you encounter. Extra credit Nope, not a possibility. You’ll have enough to do with the required assignments. However, for stories that are graded down because of content problems (accuracy, newsworthiness, quality of reporting, organization, structure, focus, lead, fairness, thoroughness, etc.), I will let you revise your story and submit it to be graded again. The rewrite must be a significant improvement from the original story. Revised stories must be turned in within one week of the day I return the graded original to you. I will not accept for resubmission stories that are graded down because of Associated Press style, spelling, grammar, usage or punctuation. By our junior year, mistakes in mechanics should be exceedingly rare. The most I will raise your grade is two steps, but no higher than a B+. In other words, an “F” story can only become a “C” story. A “C+” story can only become a “B+” story.


Incompletes “Incomplete” final grades are available only for emergencies and only if a student is averaging at least a “C” grade. Incompletes are not given simply because you have fallen behind, missed too much class, are doing poorly or are overwhelmed by the normal stress of college life. Attendance Your presence or absence in class affects us all, not just you. Much of our learning this semester will come from the creative “perfect storm” that results when curious, intelligent, inquisitive minds engage each other. Under SJMC policy, more than two absences in this class is considered excessive and will lower your grade. Absences may be excused if you are sick or have a family emergency, but I don’t expect that to be necessary more than twice a semester. Call or e-mail me before you miss class. Quizzes and in-class work missed during unexcused absences receive “F” and may not be made up. Quizzes and in-class work missed during an excused absence must be made up within one week of the absence. Athletes, musicians and others who plan official travel must finish assigned work before they leave. I note late class arrival and early departure times. Every 50 minutes of missed class counts as an absence. Absences: Students who miss class are responsible for getting notes from a classmate. I will not “re-teach” a class session to an audience of one. It is not my responsibility to provide notes for missed classes or to review missed material. And please, if you miss class, do not ever ask if you “missed anything important.” You did.

Professionalism: Now is the time to establish good professional habits (or break bad habits). • Digital etiquette: I am a strong proponent and advocate of using the latest technology to enhance teaching and learning. I frequently use my laptop and smartphone in meetings and in class to access or share information. You are welcome to do so, too, if their use is for legitimate educational purposes and is not distracting to others. We will frequently use our laptops and tablets for writing and research during class. They will be essential tools. That said, a few ground rules: o Unless you are taking notes, your attention and eyes should be focused on whoever is speaking, not on a screen. Certainly in one-on-one conversations, your laptop and phone should be set aside and your full attention turned to whoever is speaking to you. o Phones: Silence or turn off your cell phones during class. Don’t text during class unless it is for a related purpose. o Laptops, phones and tablets: You are welcome to use them to take notes in class or access the Web for class-related purposes. Using them to check Facebook, play games or idly surf will result in the loss of this privilege. Devices should be set aside during discussions.


o If you visit me in the office or we stop to chat in the hallway or on campus, I promise that I will give you my full attention, and I expect the same from you. We shouldn’t have to compete with phones, tablets and iPods for each other’s attention. Chitchat: Please finish any extended personal conversations before we start class and resume them after class. If you simply can’t avoid chatting with a friend during class, then sit elsewhere. • Sleeping: If you’re sleeping in class, you might as well be absent. Learning is more than just being a body in a seat. Please take care of your physical and mental health so that you can be in class in both body and mind, not just body. In addition to hampering your learning, sleeping is rude to me and to your classmates. • Class begins at 12:30 p.m. You are expected to be ready to start learning then, not arriving then. • Discussion and debate: I love a lively debate, and we’ll discuss numerous controversial topics. Please remember in these divisive times that good people can and will disagree. Keep an open mind, and maintain civility and respect for differing opinions at all time. Food and drink: I recognize that students can have frantic schedules and that class may be the only time you have to squeeze in a meal, snack or caffeine fix. Please don’t bring messy or smelly food. Mind your manners. Drinks must have lids. Clean up your mess. Always keep all drinks safely away from anybody’s laptop, tablet or other electronic gear.


Excerpted from the Honor Code School of Journalism and Mass Communication Drake University

“Promoting student moral development requires affirming shared values … [O]ne value goes to the heart of the academic enterprise: a commitment to honesty in the pursuit of truth.” — Gary Pavela “Applying the Power of Association on Campus: A Model Code of Academic Integrity”(1997) I. Principles and students subject to Honor Code The Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communications (“SJMC”) is a community of scholars committed to the highest professional and personal standards. Members of this community accept responsibility for honesty and excellence in all of their interactions. Such integrity is the foundation of our academic and professional careers, and of our lives as ethical people. Cheating, plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty by SJMC students, whether it occurs in class or in extra-curricular activities related to the journalism profession, will not be tolerated. Academic dishonesty on the part of any student of another college or school enrolled in an SJMC class will also not be tolerated. Academic dishonesty constitutes grounds for penalties, ranging from failure in an academic exercise to suspension or dismissal from an SJMC class, the School and/or the University.

II. Definitions and examples A. An act of academic dishonesty is a violation of the SJMC Honor Code. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to:

Fabrication — intentional falsification or invention of information, data, quotations or sources. Plagiarism — presenting another’s ideas or work as your own. Cheating — the act, or attempted act, of giving or obtaining aid or information by illicit means. Facilitating academic dishonesty — intentionally helping another commit an act that would be a violation of the Honor Code. B. Examples of academic dishonesty include, but are not limited to, the following: 1. Copying from another student during an exam.


2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

Using unauthorized notes, study aids or other materials, or receiving other unauthorized help, during an exam or other graded work. Collaborating with others on an assignment in a manner not permitted by the instructor. Claiming as one’s own work, or using without proper citation, material copied from the Internet or from another person. Fabricating quotations or sources for a journalism assignment or data for a research assignment. Deliberately obstructing another student’s completion of an assignment. Submitting identical or substantially identical work for credit in more than one course without permission. Falsely representing one’s presence, or another student’s presence or absence, on an attendance sheet in a class. Falsely representing one’s academic or professional credentials on a job application or resume. Failing to report an incident of academic dishonesty of which one has actual knowledge. Knowingly providing material to a person who the person knows will use it to violate the Honor Code. Cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating or other academic dishonesty or misconduct in connection with any SJMC activity, any campus organization or activity, or any employment.


For SJMC students, this Honor Code applies, not only to classroom work, but also to extra-curricular activities related to the journalism profession, including, but not limited to, SMJC-related clubs and University-related media, such as the University newspaper, magazine(s) and broadcast outlets.