Friday, January 16, 2009

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.

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