Thursday, January 29, 2009

For Monday

Please do about a page (single spaced) reaction to the handout on profile stories. Tell me what elements of these story examples worked well. How did the writers use description, quotes, detail and facts effectively? What news values are there? After reading the profile, do you feel you know the person and why? Do the writers follow the criteria listed in the handout? You should critique at least two stories - about two different people.

Also, schedule an interview with your subject for your profile story and another person who knows him or her. Turn in on a half sheet of paper the time and place for your interviews and your list of potential questions.

Remember, next class we will have a short presentation on what's happening in journalism and media, and we will have a quiz on current events and the AP style rules on the blog.

I will also have a new calendar section for the syllabus with correct deadlines in place. These went haywire immediately due to the inauguration story.

I will work hard to return your inauguration stories with comments over the weekend.

A good and productive weekend to all! I liked your leads about me!
Professor Walker

Cool speakers open to you

  • Jose Antonio Vargas, the young reporter who covers the marriage of politics and the Web for the Washington Post. (He coined "clickocracy" as "one nation under Google, with email and video for all.") MGC 332 Friday, Jan. 30. *

  • Lynette Clemetson, managing editor of, who just made a big splash with their inaugural ball; she spoke to my IJ class and was fantastic. MGC 332, Friday, Feb 20.

  • Christina Pino-Marina, videojournalist. MGC 332 March 17

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Professor Walker's Rules to Write By

AP Style and Other Rules

The journalist who does not know AP style basics will be branded by coworkers as an amateur. Here are some bare basics you will find in the AP Stylebook. Plus, I’ve added some basic rules to write by. Please study these, learn them and use them. (These few rules right here will go a long way toward making you a writer the pros will pay attention to.)

--Avoid run-on sentences; one thought to a sentence.

--Don’t put a comma after the last “and” in a series.

--Don’t use titles on second reference. Always refer to people by their last names on second reference, even if it is the pope or the president.

--Avoid putting people’s names in leads (unless it is a feature that begins with an anecdote).

--Most leads are one sentence long.

--Avoid most adjectives, including examples such as “exciting” or “adorable.”

--Keep tenses in line with each other; don’t say “the group they.” A group is an “it” because it’s singular.

--Know the difference between plural and possessive. The cars were on the road (plural). The car’s tire was flat (possessive).

--Tell a story; don’t just relay facts. (This is hard!)

--Quote your sources in your story; don’t put a source list or cite references.

--Here is the form for quotes: “That Professor Walker is a real nitpicker,” said a student. Note that the quote ends with a comma, close quote, said and then source.

--Avoid using full quotes in leads; partial quotes are okay (even good sometimes).

--Trust your instincts as to what is interesting to you; remember, you are the voice for your reader, who likely knows nothing about what you’re writing about.

--Avoid clichés like the plague (cliché alert!); don’t write how you think it’s supposed to sound. Be straightforward.

--Show, don’t tell. Let your reader decide. For example, you could say, The dog was a mangy stray that could have bitten the child outside the pre-school. Or, you could say, The medium-size dog with matted, dirty fur and a hungry scowl approached the toddler as the tike stood unsteadily in his bulky jeans on the sidewalk outside the pre-school.

--In general, the rule for using numbers is this: Use words to spell out numbers from zero through nine; use numerals to refer to numbers 10 and above. So: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, etc. That stands until you get to 999,999. Then, it's a combination of numbers and words for 1 million, 1.5 million, 2 million, etc. Don’t begin sentences with numbers unless you spell them out.

--Spell out percent and cents, and use them with numerals, even if the number is smaller than nine: 1 percent, 8 percent, 12 percent, 300 percent. Also: 1 cent, 6 cents, 24 cents, 99 cents.

--Never spell out "dollars." Use the dollar sign, along with numerals: $1, $4.50, $16, $1,000, $100,000, $1 million.

--Capitalize titles when they come before a name: I voted for President Bartlett. But do not capitalize titles if they come after a name: Danna Walker, an American University professor, teaches classes online. Likewise, do not capitalize titles if they appear without a name: The vice president often wants to become president.

--Abbreviate state names when they follow a city in a sentence. Note that AP abbreviations are different from postal abbreviations: The University of Maryland is in College Park, Md. There are eight states that you should never abbreviate: Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah. Example: I traveled from Arlington, Texas, to Boulder, Colo., for my vacation.

--Abbreviate "avenue," "boulevard" and "street" when they follow a numbered address: I live at 444 Kenilworth Ave. Do not use the abbreviation if there's no number: I live on Kenilworth Avenue. Do not abbreviate "road," "terrace," "circle" or other addresses.

--Abbreviate months when they are used with a date: I was born on Aug. 16. Do not abbreviate if there is no date: I was born in August. There are five months you should never abbreviate: March, April, May, June, July: I was born on July 4.

--Use commas sparingly. Generally, you use them to enclose clauses. Do not use them in a series: red, white and blue. Avoid colons, semi-colons and other formal types of punctuation.

--The AP Stylebook is a guide to consistency, which is important in any printed piece. Inconsistencies look like mistakes, and mistakes kill your credibility.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Your profile subjects

I am enjoying talking with you face-to-face about your inauguration stories. Your next drafts are due by noon Wednesday or a time to be worked out, if you have not yet talked to me by then. I graded the first attempts based on the criteria of word count, number of quotes, etc. -- not so much on the structure/lead/writing. You will receive specific feedback on the structure/lead/writing for the next draft.
For your profiles, see the syllabus and the blog for specific instructions. Try to find someone to profile who is compelling to you or whom you would want to know more about. Try to get permission from that person for the profile. If you can't, try to have a backup person. This continues our journalistic investigation into writing for an audience.
See you Thursday!

Advice from Sean Blanda, recent J school grad

many thanks to Ethan Klapper for this! see Blanda's RSS feed now on blog.

4 things I would tell a freshman journalism student

Looks like she read another newspaper article about newspapers dying

Looks like she read another newspaper article about newspapers dying

I remember the exact moment when I decided it was time to get a job. Chris Wink and I were winding down some travels and we had to set ourselves up with a grown-up job to come home to. So in a hostel basement we propped open the laptops and starting firing off emails to everyone who would listen. Throughout our four years at Temple and The Temple News we had amassed a respectable list of contacts and friends in the industry, and we began to ask them if they knew of any openings. Slowly the responses came back. The responses slowly spiraled from “Sorry, no” to “Why the hell are you trying to work for a newspaper now?”

At the same moment, a member of my family was preparing to enter college and was considering some sort of media field. As I gave him advice and pondered my own employment future, the same advice came up again and again.

1 - Don’t create content, manage it.

The sad reality is, nobody is hiring basic content creators. No one needs writers, and there are thousands of them that were just laid off that are more talented and experienced than most recent grads. No matter what happens to the industry, you can be sure that content creators will continue to be treated like pieces of meat as long as the business is suffering. There is no scarcity in people willing to write, shoot video, or report. To further the problem for grads, there is a huge crop of veterans floating around in the talent pool while editorial staffs are getting cut daily. Yet journalism schools continue to pump out thousands of new entries into the market every year. Simple supply and demand would dictate that in the off chance someone is hiring, they are going to take the best talent for the cheapest cost. Ninety-nine percent of the time, that talent is not you.

If my younger brother came to me today and told me he wanted to do any of the jobs I listed above I would tell him to avoid being the grunt that creates the content, and instead be the person that controls it. If you step back and look at some of the most successful companies in the sphere of media, they aren’t the Philadelphia Inquirers of the world. They are the Googles or the Apples. That is, companies that organize and make sense of the huge amount of content out there and sells it to the consumer.

It may seem as if I am advocating the repurposing of content instead of the creation. Creating content is the most important function in media and journalism. But there are a large amount of people capable of doing that fighting for a very small amount of jobs. I think it behooves members of the media to either increase the amount of jobs available through entrepreneurship, or maximize the productivity and impact of the small amount of paid content creation that is happening.

2- Be prepared to be untraditional

Throughout my professional life, my friends and I mostly had the following plan: go to a good college, intern at some newspapers, make contacts at said papers, get a journalism degree, use aforementioned contacts to land entry level newspaper position. Several links in that chain have since become unreliable. As a recent grad you must be flexible in your vision of your future. Don’t be afraid to work for a small upstart news company, or a business to business publication, or a Web site.

Those in the job market willing to get outside of that traditional path will get to the new opportunities first. Sitting around and lamenting the loss of the traditional reporter job won’t help. Or, even worse, it will force you to miss some budding fixes to the journalism industry.

3- No one loves Journalists more than themselves

This was something pointed out to me by a friend during inauguration coverage. Journalists are among the most self-referential trades in the world. Industries come and go regularly. But because the media has the soapbox, you would think the end of the world was in store when a local newspaper stops printing.

For sure, there is nothing light-hearted about the loss of jobs and the end of a business. But it is disgusting how much coverage the death of newspapers receives in newspapers. Maybe I may feel this way because I have an ear out listening for such news, but the journalists-covering-journalism angle taken in many publications leads the common person to roll their eyes. Don’t get caught up in the cycle, as it doesn’t do anyone any good. Leave the stories about journalism to Romenesko and move on.

4- Multimedia won’t save journalism.

In j-school it is a common belief that journalism students will be most marketable possessing multimedia skills. For the most part that means slideshows, short videos, and flash animation. But how many of your friends family members spend more than five minutes on a news site? Considering the amount of education and man power that goes into some multimedia presentations, the multimedia model is not practical.

Journalism students should learn multimedia for sure, but not in a dabbling capacity. It would be wise to learn one aspect of multimedia in depth so, if need be, the student could do that full time. For example. don’t just learn enough Flash to get you by, learn enough Flash to be a professional Flash animator. Most people can write and taking photographs to some capacity, and those talents have a limited application in a limited set of industries. If you learned Flash, not only can you use that talent to land a media job, you can freelance with that talent. Or create your own content. Or work for a non-media corporation, as well as being part of smaller talent pool.


I’m aware that the above points contain an overabundance of generalities, but when we are discussing a turbulent industry’s state in four years, that is the only language this conversation can take place in. Is there anything radical or unconventional you would tell an incoming journalism class?

Many thanks to Brian James Kirk for lending ideas about this post.


Bashing the news since 1641!!

From New York Times...
January 24, 2009
When the News Was New

WASHINGTON — The good lady Opinion sits perched in a tree, wearing the weighty towers of the town as her hat, which blinds her eyes. On one of her hands a chameleon sits, doubtless changing its spots to accommodate the surroundings. Held in her other hand is a wand used to shake the tree’s branches, from which leaves fall: leaves of books and papers, which offer not knowledge but libel and foolishness, which “in everie streete, on everie stall you find.”

Such is the cynical vision of the news business put forward by Henry Peacham in 1641 London, as journalism, in its earliest forms, was becoming a major force during some of the most tumultuous decades in England’s history: no wisdom, he finds, just much posturing and gossip.

More than 360 years later, as advance obituaries are being prepared for the very forms of printed journalism born during Peacham’s era, Lady Opinion is on display, along with far more reverential examples of news and opinion, at the Folger Shakespeare Library on Capitol Hill in the exhibition “Breaking News: Renaissance Journalism and the Birth of the Newspaper.”

NYT photos:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Guidelines for your profile story

From the syllabus:
*Your subject could be someone who works within AU or outside of it but is related somehow to AU. For example, you might choose to interview an administrator, a professor (not one of yours) or a groundskeeper. You could focus on a healthcare worker or a reference librarian. For a subject who works outside AU, you might choose a vendor or the director of a partnership or someone who drives an AU bus. Other suggestions:
• Someone who started a new association or charity on campus
• Someone who studies avian flu or another interesting topic
• Someone who updates the Web site for a campus department
• Someone who works at WAMU

The basic idea is for you to write a profile that focuses on a person whose job could only be done in relation to AU. No restaurateurs, bartenders or food service workers.

Think of your story as part of a bigger package that will show the variety of people, interests and careers that converge on campus and how people view their role working in or with the university.

I require you to use a minimum of three human sources, at least two of whom must be interviewed in person. As in the first assignment, this doesn't mean you'll only interview three people; it means you'll find three people among all of those you interview who give you the best quotes to back up the focus of your story. Lesser interviews may be conducted by telephone. E-mail interviews should be limited to sources outside the Washington area. If you do an e-mail interview, the article should say that.

Your grade will be based on the enthusiasm, diligence and depth you bring to the assignment. In other words, don’t settle for the first subject you come across. Find someone who has a story to tell. And tell all subjects the article will be published on your class-related blog.

You may not: interview a relative, friend, employer, student, one of your own professors or an acquaintance. You must base this story on a stranger who works in an area with which you are not intimately familiar. You must also go beyond the obvious.

Your story must include statistical information that puts your subject’s job in perspective. For example, if you choose a building security guard, how many security guards work on campus? If you choose a professor, how many other professors with that title are in that department, on campus overall? If you do an administrator, how many are in that office – on payroll generally?

Look for profile stories in The Washington Post and The New York Times for inspiration.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dr. Walker's pet peeves

In the real world of journalism, there are no excuses. The reporter either gets the job done or doesn't. That's not to say that reporters don't fail or can't compromise. They do -- all the time, and they may have to apologize for things they fail to do or do wrong. But they take responsibility for their work. They don't use excuses.
Here are some of the excuses that students sometimes use that make me wince:
--I overslept.
--My computer broke.
--I couldn't reach my source.
--I don't have a printer so I couldn't bring the story in time.
--My Mom booked my flight before the test/final, so I can't be there.
--I had to take a friend to the doctor.
--"They" gave me the wrong information so I couldn't find where I was going.
--I didn't have time to follow up.
--I didn't find anyone to interview.
--The meeting/event was boring and I couldn't find a story.

Professors make excuses, too. What are your pet professor peeves? I encourage you to post a comment, anonymously if you wish.

First rough draft grading rubric

Here is the rubric for the rough draft I am currently grading (percentages are attached to the elements of the directions that you had before the story):
Word count minimum, 10 percent
Included multimedia aspect (photos and/or video OR Twitter feed), 30 percent
Quote three people and fully identify them, 10 percent
Include background and context, 5 percent
Found trends that told a story, 10 percent
Did not write in first person or include opinion, including summing up at end, 15 percent
General writing/usage/style, 20 percent
I am enjoying your stories! I will have comments for you when you come see me so that you can ready your rough draft, which is due Wednesday at noon. (If you are not able to talk with me before then, we can discuss the deadline.)
As a reminder on deadlines, the official rough draft is due to me via e-mail by Wednesday at noon (unless we couldn't schedule a meeting). Your half page name/background of a person to profile is due in class Thursday.
I apologize for diverting from the syllabus so early. I'll adjust and amend the syllabus once we get through next week.
A happy weekend to all!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Me Bragging About You!

The dean's office asked for a couple of sentences describing what, if anything, our classes did for the inauguration. I was proud to say this: For the inauguration, my beginning Reporting students took their notebooks and Flip video cameras and did stories on the inauguration, ranging from security snafus to what type of food people brought with them to the Mall to how an Ohio family experienced bunking in at a college dorm. One student got poignant quotes from an attendee from Kenya about what the Obama swearing in meant to his country. The students also contributed Twitter feeds to the NPR/CBS/AU Twitter project and submitted video and photos to The Eagle. They will post their final stories and multimedia on their own blogs, which are linked on our class blog:
--And, that's just the second week!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cheap Flip Ultra 30-minute version

Flip Ultra 30-minute version - cheap.

No class Monday 1/26!

Great class today hearing about your experiences at the inauguration. I'm really looking forward to reading your stories. So far, they look great.
To reiterate, I'll grade your stories that you turned in today, along with your Twitter feeds and/or photos/video, for ability to follow instructions. There was a lot to keep up with, so this is a legitimate area for grading.
Remember, NO CLASS ON MONDAY. This will give you time to work on your official rough drafts, which will be due to me via e-mail by noon Wednesday. I will return those with feedback as soon as possible and will give you the final deadline in class (which will probably be Friday at midnight.)
ALSO due Thursday, your choice of a subject for the next assignment, which is a profile of a person. You will need to turn in the person's name, who they are in about three paragraphs, and contact information. I will approve your choices.
DON'T FORGET to come see me in my office sometime before class next Thursday. Shoot me an e-mail to make sure I'll be in. I'll try to be available for much of the day tomorrow (I have a lunch appointment at noon), Tuesday and Wednesday.
We're getting off to a great start! I look forward to talking with you one-on-one.

Not Again!!!!!

Quiz 2 - Reporting – Dr. Walker – Spring 09
1. Name two ways audiences have changed in the last 20 years.

2. Who predicted the media glut more than 25 years ago?
a. Walter Cronkite b. Marshall McLuhan c. Stephen Colbert d. Wendell Cochran

3. What has the result of all these changes in media been on mainstream or traditional news media?

4. What are the three steps to having success with audiences?

5. Why is the lead of an article so important?

6. Ranking your information in order of importance is one way to start crafting a lead. T / F

7. What are the six news elements?

8. Name five news values

9. Most journalists go by one or two rules in writing leads because sticking to a formula leads to success. T / F

10. This type of lead is over-used and often is an easy way out for writers.
A. Summary lead
B. Anecdotal lead
C. Question lead


Who swore in Barack Obama, flubbing a line and causing the new president to later re-do taking the oath of office?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More syllabus highlights for your reading pleasure!

How to Measure Your Progress (Otherwise known as course requirements):

 Be prepared for quizzes on either the content of the front pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times (print or online) and/or the online journalism sites linked on the class blog.

 Be prepared to lead a short class discussion on a development within journalism, as found on the sites linked on the class blog.

 Most class sessions include reporting and/or writing. Weekly class assignments, whether completed in class or due the following week, will make up 30 percent of the grade. I cannot predict the number of assignments because often they are based on news events. All assignments must be double-spaced and no longer than four pages. All assignments must have the list of sources and contact information attached, or your grade will be lowered automatically.

 In addition, you are required to deliver three articles that will require planning and tight deadlines: one deadline “profile” story, one “meeting story” from a local agency meeting and one deadline story based on a campus news event. These three articles comprise 40 percent of your grade. The on-campus deadline story should be focused on an official meeting, panel, news conference or other on-campus event (these must be approved by me). It is due in class the first class after the event.

 The meeting stories are due by 5 p.m. the day following the scheduled meeting, with the agenda attached. Do NOT wait for the few days before; you will want to find a meeting long before then. Deadlines for the news feature idea will be announced.

 NOTE: I am mindful that you need some time to conduct your reporting (reaching people, having interviews); three classes are open for reporting needs; the first scheduled reporting time is soon – Mon., Jan. 19, for your profile story. That means you should set up interviews for that day; no class session will be held.

 As noted, there will be quizzes, potentially each class period. AP style and grammar will be graded. Tip: Bring your AP Stylebooks to class. Quizzes and class participation, including 10-minute discussions on journalism developments, make up 10 percent of the grade.

 The final project will be a multimedia news feature. This is 20 percent of your grade.

 You need to visit me in my office at least twice over the semester. This will count toward your participation grade.

 Due dates/deadlines for graded assignments are TBD.

General info:
You must meet all deadlines and attend class unless you have an excused absence. Any article delivered after deadline automatically drops down a grade level. (Review class dates and make travel arrangements now.) Missing more than two classes, unexcused, will automatically lower your grade. You may not interview friends, employers, current instructors, colleagues, roommates or relatives for articles. All article content must be accurate. Any misspelled names, titles or names of organizations automatically will lower your grade. You must submit a list of sources, phone numbers and e-mail addresses with every outside-the-classroom assignment.

Experts and journalists will speak to the class. You’re reporters! Come with questions! In some instances, you will write about their visits in a quick-turnaround article.

Check the class blog daily.

All assignments should follow AP style. Bring your Associated Press Stylebook to class. Or, you can use the online version:

* The syllabus may be subject to change. Most changes will be in YOUR favor; I also will modify as I review class strengths

Required Text/Equipment:

 Associated Press Stylebook (in hard copy or online)
 Flip Ultra video camera or comparable equipment

Recommended Texts:

 Reaching Audiences: A Guide to Media Writing, Jan Johnson Yopp & Katherine McAdams
 News Writing and Reporting for Today’s Media, Bruce Itule and Douglas Anderson
 The Elements of Journalism, Bill Kovach & Tom Rosenstiel (paperback)
 The Elements of Style, Strunk and White
 Journalism 2.0, Mark Briggs

Grades and Grading:

A 95-100
A- 90-94
B+ 86-89
B 83-85
B- 80-82
C+ 75-79
C 72-74
C- 70-71
D 69
F 68 or fewer points

Class assignments and participation 30 percent
Three deadline articles 40 percent
News quizzes/participation 10 percent
Final project 20 percent
Total 100 percent

For inspiration and background...

Read The Washington Post coverage of Inauguration Day and all that it entailed.

Post-inauguration class tomorrow!!!!!

Hello Everyone,
I hope everybody survived Inauguration Day and got lots of great stories!
For tomorrow, please bring in a rough draft of your story ready to hand in. If your focus changed slightly from your original idea, no problem. This happens in the real world.
Also bring in a digital version, so we can work on it in class. Bring your notes -- hand-written, whatever, doesn't matter. We'll do a workshop after a brief discussion of the reading, which is the rest of the packet handout.
ALSO, please bring in a printout of your tweets on Twitter and/or photos that you took for the Eagle. The photos can be printed in black and white on regular paper. If you submitted video, please turn in a piece of paper with either the Youtube url or another way that I can see it (and your name, of course).
YOU MUST BRING ALL THIS TO CLASS tomorrow in order to get credit for your work. This is your first major graded assignment and I will be grading for your ability to follow instructions. The instructions for the story are on the class blog and on Blackboard. This is your chance to demonstrate that you are a self-starter with the determination needed for journalism! (Talent is much less important, especially at this stage of the game!)
I will grade this rough draft but you will get a chance to improve it in the rewrite.
Heads up: No class on Monday to give you time to polish (see syllabus). I will be available via e-mail for personal, one-on-one help with your final story.
See you tomorrow!
Professor Walker

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blog posts

I have really had a great time reading your introductions more closely. For those of you who related your anecdote to who you are as a person and connected that to your quotes, my hat is off to you! You have written a story -- a true piece of journalism. Good journalism writing is focused, and all the information in each story relates to that focus.
These were a great read! Almost all of you had wonderful writing "voices" -- that is you wrote conversationally in your own style, which is fantastic.
I took points off only if you did not have an anecdote (a brief description of an event) or a quote about you (that you got recently just for this piece).
Anyway, good work all!

Inauguration story guidelines

Inauguration assignment guidelines (These can also be found under Course Information in Blackboard)

Look at the lead Washington Post story on the Mall concert yesterday for inspiration: Jamming on the Mall for Obama.

Some specific guidelines for the inauguration assignment:

The stories should be ABOUT 500-600 words, but that's a minimum requirement. If you do exactly 500 words, I'll assume you were more interested in counting words than telling the story you found.

Do look for stories. That is, be open to what you find that's interesting and makes a good narrative. You're not doing a "report" on your activities, but looking to be a reporter on the human stories that are out there. Of course, you'll have an idea of the focus of your story before you start out but be open to what really exists; don't force a point of view. Go toward the surprising and the interesting, not the mundane or expected.

Even though we haven't spent time on how to craft a news story, many of you have been exposed to that, and you'll find information on that in the rest of the reading packet you have. Part of your assignment is to finish reading that packet.

Things to keep in mind:
-- don't make it first-person. This won't be a first-person, personal essay. You can have lots of quotes and observation, but leave your personal opinion out. The watchword here is: "Show, don't tell." Describe and focus on facts and let your reader draw conclusions. Try to take a neutral tone; don't cheerlead.
-- interview at least five people and quote at least three in your story. Again, these are minimums. This does not mean that you should only interview five people. You should interview lots of people, and hopefully at least five will have interesting stuff to say, and three will be worth quoting. You want the best stuff from a whole lot of other stuff. Find out more information than you need.
-- look for background and context questions that you can answer with a little research on your topic.
-- don't sum up your story at the end, with comments like: "With all the diversity at the parade, it was heartening to see Americans coming together for such a moving experience." This is your opinion. If you are summing up what you've been telling your reader throughout your story, your reader already gets it, so you don't need to hit him or her over the head. Respect your reader for the intelligent person he or she is, and for appreciating all that you have told him or her in your enlightening story. Often, just ending with a good quote is the perfect way to go.
-- try to find trends among your interviewees and concentrate on those. Avoid leads that say there were a variety of opinions or a wide range of activities. Remember your audience. Find meaning and trends that tell your reader a story, not just a list of information or a "report."
--one way you can focus your story is by keeping it to the geographic location you were in. Be sure to spell it out in your story.
-- do your best with AP style. Some basic rules can be found in a link to the right on this blog.
-- watch out for grammar and usage, as well as run-on sentences -- one thought to a sentence.
-- you may NOT interview family and friends for your story.
-- always get the full name, spelled correctly, of your subject, along with where he or she is from, age (if appropriate) and other identifiers such as occupation (especially if it's pertinent to the story). Write down what they say exactly. Get them to repeat, if necessary. Record it, if possible.
--identify yourself as a journalism student from American University who is writing a story that will be published online.

Ok, I've said my spiel. Now, for the Eagle and Twitter stuff: To participate in the Twitter feed, simply Tweet from your own log-in and at the end of your comment, put this: #inaug09, and it will go to the site. To see if it's working, put in your tweet and then search for #inaug09 at For the Eagle, you may e-mail photos and video to Andrew Tomlinson at or take them via flash drive to the Eagle office on the second floor of MGC -- either Tuesday or Wednesday. You should do either the Twitter feed OR the Eagle contribution in addition to your story.

As for deadlines, bring a rough draft of your story to the next class. Also bring your notes, and we will try to do some work on the stories in class. search

If you're not sure if your #inaug09 tweets are showing up on, go to and search for #inaug09 - that should show it.Things are moving slowly.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Follow Darthcheeta on Twitter for #inaug09 Updates

Please, everyone, follow Professor David Johnson (darthcheeta) on Twitter for updates on the inauguration Twitter project.

Washington Post Inauguration Survival Guide

Here is a link to The Washington Post inauguration site. You can do research for your stories for background info and perspective, and get useful tips on surviving inauguration day! I wish everyone good luck and great story karma!

Syllabus Excerpt - please read!

Every few days, I'll post excerpts from our syllabus, so you can focus on small sections. That way we'll all be clear on policies and grading and I can take any questions you may have. I'm also willing to negotiate some of these points and to work out mutually acceptable. reasonable deadlines. If you have questions on these sections, you can ask them as comments on the blog or ask them in class, or e-mail me, or ask me in person. I covered the first part of the syllabus on the first day of class. Here is the next section:


What you'll be doing and why

Each week, you will research, interview and write articles because the best way to learn is through hands-on experience. You will post most everything on your own blog that is linked to the class blog. This activity will naturally lead you to explore journalism’s mission and role in society. Remember to stay flexible: Assignments will pop up weekly based on current events – just as they do in the real world. Not all assignments are announced ahead of time.

As you build your portfolio of skill sets, remember that understanding basic journalism is the key to any job in the news media field. If you don’t believe me, go to and take a look!

Below, I share a list of competencies you will have when you finish this course. The skill sets cover everything from how to write news leads and gather information effectively to how to structure a story, cover live news events and ensure accuracy in your reporting. I believe that investing you in the expectations will make the course not only more clear, but more enjoyable.

Conceptually, think of the progression of the course this way: You will be reporting and writing in consecutively wider geographic circles as the semester moves along. This means at first we will have reporting and writing exercises in the classroom; then we will write articles on or about campus; then we will cover stories in the community and at local meetings. Finally, we will work on “enterprise” news features, which can take place anywhere in Washington, D.C.

This course in reporting is required of all journalism majors (print and broadcast). It is the first course in the professional sequence. Students must have satisfactorily completed Comm. 200, Writing for Mass Communication, or its equivalent, prior to enrolling. Students will learn specifically to:

• Recognize newsworthy issues and events
• Cover public meetings, speeches, panel discussions, police records (and other public records), local government documents
• Identify appropriate sources (human and documentary) for information
• Conduct basic interviews with news sources
• Verify the accuracy of facts and information to be included in stories
• Write a variety of news stories, including breaking news and enterprise (news features on topics students develop) on deadline. Stories must meet professional standards for broadcast or publication (print or Web), including proper use of AP style and mathematical accuracy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Twittering Tips

Twittering tips for beginners.

Quiz, Egads!

Quiz 1 (You may refer to your readings)
Your name: _______________________
1. The writer in the article has a common problem. What is he afraid of?

2. Why does this bother him on a deeper level concerning journalism?

3. Do you agree with the advice given? Why or why not?

4. Chapter 1 in Reaching Audiences describes Evelyn Hsu’s typical morning dealing with incoming information. Why is this relevant to a discussion of journalism writing?

5. According to the chapter, new technology and digital developments have made writing unnecessary and obsolete. T / F

6. Good writers are born, not made. T / F

7. List the five questions a media writer must be able to answer before writing begins:

8. List the seven stages of the writing process:

9. As a writer, who should get your utmost consideration when you write (and whom should you have the most sympathy for)?

10. Who faced confirmation hearings this week as Barack Obama’s choice for secretary of state?
Alum Praised for Mumbai Coverage

Journalism >> Alum Praised for Mumbai Coverage

"[Inayet] covered the crisis with authority and calmness."
During the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Marukh Inayet, MA Journalism, '03, reported live from the Taj Hotel for some 62 hours while the siege raged.

Inayet, foreground, covers the Mumbai terror attacks Inayet--who reported for Times NOW of India TV, the 24-hour live English-language TV channel in India--is also the deputy news editor for the TV channel. Time magazine captured Inayet reporting during the siege and published the photo on the cover.

Inayet's courage and professionalism throughout the crisis was singled out for praise by Indian media critics.

One reviewer for the Hindustan Times wrote, "It can't have been easy for reporters to camp out for days on end, without any sleep and barely out of range of the terrorists...The real stars were Marukh Inayet at the Taj and Bhavtosh Singh at Nariman House, the Jewish culture center. They covered the crisis with authority and calmness. In the case of Inayet, this is probably her Kargil moment."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Top 10 Things Every Journalist Should Know in 2009

Click here for the top 10 things every journalist should know in 2009.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Quotes about journalism

Journalism is a noble calling. The working journalist is to report, write and explain in accordance with the highest standards of the profession.
--World Journalism Institute

Despite everything, journalism remains a noble calling.
-- Jim Risser, director emeritus of the Knight Fellowships.

Dealing with the media is more difficult than bathing a leper.
--Mother Teresa

I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying. It's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off.
--Molly Ivins

If you have no real knowledge or skill set and you’re lazy and full of shit but you want to make a decent wage, then journalism’s not a bad career option. –Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone reporter

Monday, January 12, 2009

Homework - already?!!

Hello Everyone. Thank you for expressing your hopes and trepidations about Reporting! We'll have a great semester learning how to think like journalists, work like journalists and write like journalists.
Deadline alert: By Wednesday at noon, please e-mail me your url for your blog containing your 300-word profile of yourself, including an anecdote that will tell us who you are. Also, be sure to include at least one direct quote from a friend that says something fundamental about you. Also, add a photo (or short video). Remember, your audience is a general one. The goal: We will know you better as a person -- not just your stats -- after we read it.

ALSO, please read the short article, "I love journalism but I hate asking uncomfortable questions" (, and the first chapter in "Reaching Audiences: A Guide to Media Writing," both of which I handed out in class. There will be a short quiz on these.

AND, please think about how you would like to contribute to coverage of the Obama inauguration. The Eagle will need photos and video for its blog. At the very least, you can do an interview story for your own blog. Try to think of angles that interest you, other than general student reaction. Will you be going to the inauguration? You can document that. Are there issues that Obama has made an important part of his platform that interest you? Could you research that and write about what he might say about that in his inaugural address? Are there interest groups on campus that will be watching the speech, and can you get their reaction? Is anyone you know going to any of the balls? Think about a specific idea that you can accomplish.

See you Thursday!
Professor Walker

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


This is the class blog for Comm320, Reporting, at American University, spring 2009, taught by Dr. Danna Walker. RSS feeds from various useful journalism sites can now be found on the site. These can be used to lead class discussions on the revolution in technology, content and ownership now occurring in the field.