Syllabus

SPRING 2016
JOURN 301, Section 2: Intro to Multimedia Reporting
Tues. & Thurs. 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., ILC S407

Instructor: Brad Tuttle
E-mail: tuttle[at]journ[dot]umass[dot]edu
Phone: 413-545-1376
Office: ILC Fourth Floor
Hours: By appointment arranged via e-mail

COURSE DESCRIPTION: In this course, students will build on reporting and writing skills learned in Journalism 300, while also developing skills to produce multimedia stories. Students will create their own blogs using WordPress, and will post weekly (sometimes, daily) throughout the semester. Discussion will focus on what kinds of content, headlines, and storytelling work best on the web, along with the ethical, creative, and economic future of journalism.

COURSE MATERIALS:
Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency, by Mindy McAdams (free, linked to at course blog, intromultimediatuttle.wordpress.com)
• Handouts, web links, and other readings posted on the course blog
• Daily keeping up with the news via sources such as nytimes.com, bostonglobe.com, and masslive.com

COURSE GUIDELINES:
Attendance is mandatory. Treat the classroom as a workplace. If you must miss class due to an emergency, let me know via e-mail that you won’t be in class as soon as you know—before class, not after the fact, if at all possible. Final grades will be based not only on each student’s work, but also by the overall sense of professionalism. You might not think it’s a big deal if you show up or not, but in the future your boss will.

Deadlines must be met. Journalists who don’t meet their deadlines lose their jobs. Missing deadlines in this class will hurt your grade.

Participate. Help make this the best class you’ve ever taken by contributing with ideas, observations, constructive criticism, and insightful analysis of the day’s news, work produced inside and outside the classroom, and issues affecting journalism today. Lack of participation demonstrates lack of interest and professionalism. All assignments will be discussed at length in class before they are due, so ask questions before deadlines arrive.

Develop a thick skin. Don’t take critiques personally. To improve as a reporter and writer, you must accept criticism and learn from mistakes. The editor-reporter relationship is a partnership; it is not adversarial. My goal as an editor is not to pat reporters on the back but to generate the best possible stories. That should be your goal as well. The only way to reach that goal is with honest assessments of the work produced. My comments and edits are designed to help you eliminate mistakes and push you to do your very best. Student work should improve as the semester progresses, and students should try extremely hard to never make the same mistake twice.

CLASS ASSIGNMENTS:
Multiple blog posts. Students will create their own WordPress blogs and write multiple posts throughout the semester. Expect at least one post per week.

In-class presentation. Each student will be responsible for one in-class presentation. Hopefully, presentations will be more like class discussions rather than straightforward lectures. The presentation will be an analysis of a popular website that produces content daily, and include some attention to one of the site’s writers. A list of acceptable sites will be provided at the course blog. Presentations will analyze things like the choice of content, typical length and style of posts, and how much reporting is involved in various posts. Students must create a blog post with links to at least three posts for presentations.

Two news packages. Each student will report, write, and produce two multimedia stories of approximately 1,000 words each. Students must conceive of their own newsworthy ideas, and take photos to accompany the text. There will be two separate deadlines—one for an official pitch, and one for the final draft completed as a Word document and as a blog post—and both steps factor into the grade. To help with reporting for the news packages, and also to expose students to what it’s like to be a blogger, you will blog daily for five days in a row before each of the news packages is due. All blog posts should somehow be related to the subject of your news package. We’ll discuss this at length.

GRADING:
Final grades will be determined based on the following breakdown:

Blog and blog posts: 30 percent
Two news packages: 40 percent
Participation and presentations: 30 percent
Total: 100 percent

INITIAL SCHEDULE & BIG DEADLINES:

1/19 – 1/21
Review of the syllabus, overview of the class, coursework, and expectations. Read Tom Walsh’s column in the Detroit Free Press, and we’ll discuss what it is journalists are supposed to be doing today.

DEADLINES: By 1/21, look over the websites possible for the first presentations. Come to class with a first and second choice for what you’d like to cover. We’ll talk over the options, and before the class is over, we’ll nail down everyone’s subjects.

1/26 – 1/28
READING: “5 Tips for Blog Beginners,” “Google Doesn’t Laugh,” “Confessions of a Clickbait Victim,” and “Adele and the Death of Clickbait.” Also, get in the daily habit of checking out the topic of your first presentation.

DEADLINES: By 1/26, your blog must be ready to go, including an About page with a photo of you (professional-looking head shot).

DEADLINES: By 1/26, visit the home page of the subject of your presentation and glance over all the headlines. Click on the headline that intrigues you most. Then, write a post about why that headline was most interesting to you, and tell us about the post—including whether or not the post lived up to the billing in the headline. (NOTE: Come up with your own, fresh headline for this post. Do not repeat the headline in the post you are discussing.) Your post should be at least 300 words. We will review blogs in class.

DEADLINES: Come to class on 1/28 with at least two ideas for the first news package—a newsworthy feature story that’ll involve reporting and research, along with a multimedia presentation. Be prepared to explain aloud to the class what the story is, who your sources are likely to be, what kind of reporting and production work you envision to complete the assignment, and what images (photos) you might incorporate into the story. The bulk of the reporting for this story should be conducted in person, and at least one photograph (taken by you) is required for this first news package. Also, while blog posts can be casual and “bloggy,” the two news features should consist of well-crafted prose on par with magazine writing. Factor all of this in when considering ideas.

2/2 – 2/4
READING: “You Won’t Finish This Article,” “Lazy Eyes,” “Why ‘The Atlantic’ No Longer Cares About SEO,” and “A Second Look at the Garbage Pile That Is Online Media, 2014.”

DEADLINES: By 2/2, absorb this week’s readings, and give some thought about what exactly it is that online journalists are supposed to be doing. Address the question in a blog post: Is the goal simply to generate the most clicks? Or is it something else? If the goal is something else, then what? This post should be 300 to 500 words.

DEADLINES: In-class presentations begin.

2/9 – 2/11
READING: McAdams, Chapters 7-9 (all about digital photography)

DEADLINES: Official ideas and outlines for news package #1 due in writing on 2/9.

DEADLINES: Blog post due on 2/11 linking to a piece of inspiring online journalism that features digital images. A couple examples that I find inspiring: “Urban Jungle on the Reservation,” “Rattlesnake Capital of the Country.” In your blog post, explain why you like the images, in at least 200 words. Describe specific images, why they are powerful, and why they resonate with you. We’ll be reviewing the images in class.

DEADLINES: In-class presentations continue.

2/16 – 2/18
MONDAY SCHEDULE ON 2/16, NO CLASS

DEADLINES: From Monday to Friday this week, students must create at least one blog post daily (a total of five posts). All posts should be related to the subject of the student’s first news package.

2/23 – 2/25
READING: Read through the blog posts created during the previous week by your colleagues in class. Take note of what subject matter, writing style, and formatting is most engaging, and also note what seems boring, lackluster, uninspiring. Pick and favorite headline and post and be ready to share it in class. We’ll be discussing student blogs at length in class; be ready to chime in with thoughts, observations, and analysis.

READING: Nate Silver’s Journalism Day Henry Pringle Lecture.

DEADLINES: By 2/25, create a blog post relate to your news package subject that incorporates numbers/statistics in a way that would make Nate Silver proud.

DEADLINES: In-class presentations continue.

3/1 – 3/3
READING: McAdams, Chapter 3-6; “Sound in the Story” by J. Carl Ganter & Eileen Ganter; “Gathering Audio” by Brian Storm; “Recording with the Zoom H2” by Steve Fox

WATCH: “Getting Started in Audacity” and “Editing Basics in Audacity” by Brian McDermott; “Instructions for Zoom H2 Recorder”

DEADLINES: Photo blog post due on 3/1. For this assignment, you must create a post that includes six or more photographs of the same subject. The title of this assignment is: “The most ___________ in __________.” You fill in the blanks. The idea here is to portray something exceptional, such as the ugliest urinal in my dorm bathroom, or the most peaceful spot on campus, or the cutest animal in some pet store, or the filthiest part of some dive bar. Each image should show a different side of the subject, and you should include photos taken at different times of day. This way, we’ll be able to see how different lighting affects images. It’s up to you to find a subject that’s visually interesting, and you should get different perspective, expressions, angles, distance from the subject, etc. Your copy, which can be simple captions for each photo, should explain some basics about the subject (who, what, where, when, why).

DEADLINES: By 3/3, create a post that addresses the following question: Of all the sites we learned about in student presentations, which one which would most like to work for, and why? What do you imagine doing for the site on a day-to-day basis. The post should be at least 300 words.

3/8 – 3/10
DEADLINES: News package #1 due (in print and posted on blogs) on 3/8.

DEADLINES: On 3/10, come to class with at least two ideas for the second news package—a newsworthy feature that’ll involve reporting and research, and a multimedia presentation. This package must include images, and ideally also includes audio.

3/15 – 3/17
SPRING BREAK: HAVE FUN, BE SAFE

3/22 – 3/24 
READING: “The Twitter Trap”; “Twitter Isn’t Journalism”; “News as a Process: How Journalism works in the Age of Twitter”; “The Growing Power of Tumblr–for News”; “Newsrooms Grapple With How to Avoid Twitter Bloopers”

3/29 – 3/31
READING: “To keep or ditch the comments?”; “Online trolls are narcissists, sadists and psychopaths”

DEADLINES: Blog post featuring audio is due on 3/29, so we can listen to them in class.

DEADLINES: Official ideas for news package #2 due in hard copy on 3/31. For a reminder of the format, see here.

4/5 – 4/7
DEADLINES: From Monday to Friday, students must create at least one blog post daily (five posts total). All posts should be related to the subject of the second news package.

4/12 – 4/14
DEADLINES: BY 4/12, create a blog post related to the subject of your news package that incorporates numbers/statistics. Do as deep an analytic dive as possible.

DEADLINES: BY 4/14, create a blog post related to the subject of your news package featuring audio—basically, an interview of someone for your story, edited.

4/19 – 4/21
READING: “Is there really any money in blogging?—with Matt Kepnes,” “The Reality of Earning Money Online,” and “Facebook Is Eating the Media.”

DEADLINES: News package #2 due on 4/21.
UPDATE: Final draft of news package #2 due on Tues. 5/3. Email me the story as a Word doc and post the multimedia version to your blog by that date.

4/26
DEADLINES: This our last day of class, and it’s time to have some fun. Write a post that’s a list, and most especially has a snappy, fun headline that people will click on. (Reread Michael Agger’s “Lazy Eyes” for insight on why lists work so well online.) The idea here is attract clicks and be purely commercial, so it’s OK to be shallow and/or salacious. Just don’t be boring. Give us something we just have to check out. Stuff like 5 Psychology Studies Every Awkward Teenager Should Read and Apocalypse Marketing: Top 10 Products and Services for the End of the World are fair game.

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