Monday, September 01, 2008

My Advanced Reporting Syllabus for the Fall. Suggestions Welcome, My Friends.

Advanced Reporting
Fall 2008
Dr. Michael Robertson
Office: Kalmanovitz 119
Phone: 666 6250 (office); 510 836 4870 (home); robertson@usfca.edu


OFFICE HOURS: Monday, 3:30-5:30; Wednesday, 3:30-4:30.

BOOKS: Ken Metzler's Creative Interviewing. You will be expected to own and use an AP Stylebook.

You will be expected to read regularly, and preferably subscribe to, the San Francisco Chronicle. That said, I have arranged to have the Chronicle’s electronic facsimile edition available to the class online. You also will read the Foghorn and watch the news segments of USF-TV. Articles may be assigned from various magazines and books placed on reserve in the library.

ATTENDANCE: No work missed through unexcused absence may be made up. Only absences for which a signed excuse is obtained will be considered excused. The course will meet at other sites at least once during the semester. Make arrangements as soon as possible to have free the evening of Tuesday, October 7, for the Oakland City Council meeting.

If you have any physical or emotional handicap or other problems that will affect your attendance or performance, inform the instructor by the end of the first week of classes.

ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT: Any student found to have plagiarized or fabricated work will be given a failing grade for the semester.

LATE ASSIGNMENTS: Stories will be accepted after deadline. However, such stories will not receive full credit unless accompanied by a medical excuse. Stories a day late will be penalized 2/3rds of a letter grade. Each subsequent day's lateness will result in a penalty of 1/3rd of a letter grade. In other words, a "B" paper turned in two days late would be lowered to a "C" grade. A story that is never turned in will be given a zero and averaged into your final grade on the basis of A/95, B/85, C/75, D/65 and F/55.

BEAT REPORTS: Starting the third week of the semester, students will be responsible for turning in a weekly beat report in addition to the assigned beat stories. The quality and consistency of those beat reports and of the final beat summary will count for 15 percent of the final grade.


*EXTRA CREDIT*: Stories printed in campus or other publications will be considered at grade time. Those stories may be assignments done for the class or other work. To obtain extra credit consideration, you must turn in a portfolio containing your published work for the semester by exam day.

BLOGS: Most of you created blogs when you had me for previous classes, so you have a head start. Every Monday you are responsible for posting on your blog a journalism-related question, statement or observation. Every class member will then vote by email in support of which question, statement or observation she/he finds most compelling. By the following Monday, every class member other than the winner of the vote will comment on that Q/S/O. Extra credit will be given to those students who do more posting on their blogs than this minimum – if it’s good work.

MULTIMEDIA: The “big story” must have a multimedia element. Any of you stories may have such an element, which means extra credit. Such work is not the focus of this class. However, I *urge* anyone in this class who is seriously interested in journalism to take the New Media course taught by David Silver and the Video Reporting course taught by Vicky Nguyen and Toan Lam, both of which will be taught next spring.

LEARNING OUTCOMES

Upon completing this course, a student should be able:

1. To write clear, accurate news stories of various types ranging in length from 250 to 2,500 words using correct grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax.
2. To explain the decision making process for making news judgments and the ethical
challenges therein.

3. To understand the how professional journalists understand the concept of objectivity
and to be able to address its limitations.

4. To apply news judgment to sets of facts and synthesize those facts into effective, concise leads and coherent, logically organized news stories.

5. To know when information must be attributed to a source to avoid editorializing and how to handle attribution smoothly in a story.

6. To understand the general sources for news (observation, interview, written reports), the necessity of skepticism in dealing with these sources; to master the process of verifying information; to exhibit that understanding in your stories. You will supply me with a mailing address and/or telephone number and/or email address for each person quoted in your stories. At least once during the semester, I will send a copy of your story to those used as sources to get their judgment of your accuracy and professionalism.

7. To use basic AP style rules in the stories written.

8. To prepare copy so that it is clean and conforms to standard copy preparation rules. (For instance, always double space.)

9. To create and maintain a personal blog.




GRADES:

A

This grade is for work of clearly professional caliber. Writing is clear and concise with only minor editing required. Reporting is complete and leaves no questions unanswered. The work is turned in on or before deadline.

B

This grade is for work that could be raised to professional quality without major editing. Writing is basically grammatical and requires only routine changes but lacks the sparkle of A work. The reporting manages to focus on the main ideas of the story -- but may have a few organizational problems and a misplaced emphasis. Work is in by deadline.

C

This grade is for work that does not measure up to professional standards but could be salvaged through rewriting. Work could not be used professionally without being returned to the reporter -- or assigned to another reporter! Writing has obvious rough spots. Grammatical errors are present. Reporting leaves questions unanswered. Work is usually done by deadline -- but is occasionally late.

D

This grade is for work that is clearly unacceptable in a professional setting. The writing is confused and ungrammatical. The reporting is weak and often misses the point entirely. The work is often late.








COURSE OUTLINE


Week One: September 3

What is news? The nature of news and newswriting. Why you are here. The assignment for the first week is to produce a back-to-school story, which will be due next Monday. It must be 250-300 words. You may choose to submit a longer version. But if it is longer, it must be accompanied by an edited version of 250-300 words.


Week Two: September 8

Covering a beat. What a beat is and how it works. What makes news on a beat? Writing on deadline. How you can get it done by the time it's supposed to be done. The why's behind getting it done on time. San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Nanette Asimov will be in class on Wednesday to describe her work as a beat reporter. Read chapters 13 & 15 in Metzler.

Due Monday 9/8: Back-to-school story.

New assignment: You will be given a campus beat. For Monday in two pages, explain why the beat is important enough to warrant coverage. Include who you anticipate will be your primary sources and the kinds of stories you believe will come off that beat. For Wednesday: Your first beat story. Minimum length 250 words.


Week Three: September 15

Interviewing review. Review chapters 1-12 in Metzler.
Due Monday 9/15. Your beat description.

Due Wednesday 9/17. Your first beat story.

New assignment: For next Wednesday your second beat story. Minimum length 250 words.



Week Four: September 22

The meeting story. The basic outline of the meeting story. Prepare for coverage of a meeting of the Oakland City Council in two weeks. A consideration of “Civic Journalism,” its dangers and opportunities.

Due Wednesday 9/24. Your second beat story.

New assignment: For next Wednesday your third beat story. Minimum length 600 words.



Week Five: September 29

Required conference with instructor. Class will not meet Wednesday.
Continue preparation for meeting of Oakland City Council.

Due Wednesday 10/1. Your third beat story.

New assignment: Tuesday October 7 we will leave USF at approximately 6 p.m. and travel to Oakland, where we will cover the weekly meeting of Oakland City Council. Class will not meet Wednesday, though I will be in the classroom available for discussion. A story covering the meeting is due Thursday 10/9 by 5 p.m.


Week Six: October 6

Tuesday evening lab, October 7. Please clear your schedule. We will attend an Oakland City Council Meeting 7:30 p.m.-? Story is due by 5 p.m. Thursday. No Wednesday class, but I will be in the classroom if anyone want to talk about the meeting story.

Due Thursday 10/9. Your meeting story.


Week Seven: October 13

The business story. The basics of business. Net and gross. Reading business reports. What makes a business story. Reading the business newspapers. What stocks and bonds are. Where PR and journalism meet.

Due: Nothing.



Week Eight: October 20

The final project, a 2,000-2,500 word story on a topic of campus interest derived from your beat. Read chapters 16 & 17 in Metzler. The Big Story is due Friday, 12/15, by 5 p.m.

Due Friday 10/24. Your business story. No minimum length.


Week Nine: October 27

Using the AP Stylebook.

Due Wednesday 10/29. Proposal for your final project.

New Assignment: For next Wednesday, your fourth beat story. Minimum length 250 words.

Week Ten: November 3

AP style test on Monday. Required conference with instructor. At those conferences you will turn in your project proposal for your Big Story. Class will not meet on Wednesday.

Due Wednesday 11/5. Your fourth beat story.



Week Eleven: November 10

The science story.

Due: Nothing

New assignment: For next Friday, your science story. No minimum length.



Week Twelve: November 17

Resume preparation. Job hunting skills and what an employer looks for. Ideas about hunting for jobs.

Due Friday 11/21. Your science story.


Week Thirteen: November 24

Working on final projects.

Due: Nothing

Reminder: Big story is due Friday, 12/5. Minimum length 2,000 words.


Week Fourteen: December 1

Feature writing. The anniversary story. No minimum length. Writing in class for practice and a grade.

Due Friday 12/5. The Big Story.

New assignment: The anniversary story is due Friday, 12/12.


Week Fifteen: December 8

Last things.

Due Friday 12/12. The anniversary story.

Final assignments: Fifth beat story and the final beat summary, a description of sources that would be useful to the next person assigned the beat, are due Friday, 12/19.

2 comments:

david silver said...

this looks excellent.

i like the constant assignments: write a story; good, now write another one; and now another one.

i love the field trip to the Oakland City Council Meeting.

and i like the way you've integrated the blog assignments - i'll be eager to see how your students take to their blogs.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

The early stories will probably be lame, probably under-reported, closer to press releases than good journalism. But the point is for them to gradually dig in and learn what's going on on the beat and then do some stories that matter, drawing on all their new sources with whom they have established trust, even friendship. And how will they negotiate writing about people they've come to like if they get incomplete or evasive or flat-out deceitful answers in response to questions concerning issues about which our young reporters now know something?