MCOM 257.101 (MC110)
Tuesday, 6:30–9:10 p.m.
Instructor: Greg Rienzi
Office: SA 150 (adjunct room)
OFFICE HOURS: By appointment. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions about the class and/or to schedule a meeting.
COURSE DESCRIPTION: An introduction to the writing skills required in print, broadcast and online journalism, and emerging news media formats. This course is designed for students choosing the Journalism/New Media track in the Mass Communication major. The course is a gateway to the first of two in a convergence journalism sequence in which students will learn to report, write and present news for all major media platforms used in contemporary journalism.
COURSE OBJECTIVES: To prepare students to:
- Learn news values and news judgment, i.e. “what makes the news.”
- Identify and use appropriate news style, grammar, spelling and punctuation;
- Learn the basic writing style for online news media and emerging news media formats.
- Learn the basic style for print media.
- Learn some basic concepts of image use and multimedia creation
- Become aware of some of the commercial, ethical and legal issues affecting converged journalism and develop and understanding of how to create accurate and fair news reports in that environment.
Graded assignments will include:
- Your WordPress site
- In-class lead practice
- AP Style quizzes
- Grammar/Punctuation quiz
- In-class news brief/story. I will likely give you some basic information to build a story from. For example, I might give you details, quotes and other pieces of information and you’ll do the rest.
- On-campus news brief/story. Word count TBA. A story about a campus event or other newsworthy acticity. Your assignment is to find a news item that hasn’t been covered in the Towerlight or other university news source. Conduct at least one interview and include at least one quote.
- A Q&A: At least a five-question interview with intro (lead-in copy), photo, headline. You will identify the subject. Look for someone with an interesting story to tell, someone in authority, someone making news, etc.
- News story(ies)
- Feature story with photo and cutline.
- Photo slideshow with cutlines
- A StoryCorps-style audio clip and brief: A one-minute (at least) audio with photo, headline, blurb and cutline. This is a short interview that delivers a brief slice of life and history. Take a photo of your subject. Edit the audio to around one minute to focus on the most compelling story and details of the interview. A headline, blurb, intro, thumbnail and the audio should appear on the main page of your portfolio.
OR a Audio/Photo slideshow: One minute of narrative audio with at least 20 photos exhibiting photo composition basics: rule of thirds, fill the frame, action/reaction, and wide/medium/tight.
- A midterm exam demonstrating your knowledge of basic grammar, AP style, punctuation and story-writing skills.
- A final exam demonstrating your knowledge of overall course content and writing under deadline conditions.
We will begin the course with some lectures and classroom discussions to familiarize ourselves with all the terms and aspects of news. We will quickly move onto assignments, expect one due each week. I’ll try to sprinkle in some guest speakers, experts in the various journalistic mediums that we’ll cover in class. The second half of the semester will focus more on multiamedia creation.
The Associated Press Stylebook, 2015
- Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark, college edition.
- Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon’s Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print–and How to Avoid Them, by Bill Walsh
- The Elements of Grammar, by Margaret Shertzer
- Writing for the Mass Media (9th edition) by James Glen Stovall
- All The Newsby Thom Lieb
- A flash drive
- A computer (either at home or in a campus computer lab) with access to the Internet
- A digital camera
- A digital video recorder. A Flip video camera, or you can use the video function on your digital camera. I really don’t care as long as you know how to edit and upload the footage to your desktop or website.
A can-do / figure-it-out attitude.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must warn you: I do not know the answer to every question. This leads me to two points here: 1) Your job is to get the story. So, for example, if one source isn’t calling you back, it’s your job to figure out another source for your story. I can give you suggestions, but I won’t reduce the number of sources required for your story. 2) There’s a lot of technology in this course. If you’re having problems with your Samsung Galaxy, for example, I may not be able to help since I use an iPhone. If you’re having a problem that we haven’t addressed in class, your first duty is to Google it, search the help docs, and look through the help forums. Chances are someone else has already figured out a work around.
A WordPress blog. All of your stories will be published to your WP site. Also, this site will be the basis of your professional portfolio and identity. You have two options here: 1) Register for a free blog on WordPress.com. The blog name should be your professional name, as in: marysmith.wordpress.com. You can buy themes, a custom URL, a site customizing option, and other add ons. 2) Buy your own domain and hosting (as in http://www.marysmith.com) and install WordPress.org. I recommend BlueHost.com, which will automatically install WordPress for you. The sites should look clean and professional. Choose a “Theme” that will show off your stories, photos and multimedia. You don’t want a busy-looking page, flush with color and design. The copy and photos should be the stars of the show, not the backdrop.
Expectations: This course meets once a week, meaning not only is the time we spend together important, but how you allocate your time the rest of the week. Here are some rules of the road.
- Read assigned materials (handouts, chapters, stories) and comment or ask questions dealing with their content.
- Attend and actively participate in classroom meetings.
- Allocate an appropriate amount of time outside of the classroom for assignments and consultations with the professor.
- Read news publications (NY Times, Washington Post etc.), online news sources (CNN News, BBC News, NPR.org etc.) and non-traditional news sources such as blogs, Twitter, news through phone apps and ISP sites and others. A course like this demands that you’re familiar with current events and savvy with various news formats.
- Meet deadlines. This is EXTREMELY important. News moves faster than ever and you can’t be late. Not to mention the wrath you will suffer from editors. (Deadlines for each of these assignments is 9 p.m. the day the story is due. Meaning, even if you will not attend class for an excused reason, you are responsible for getting it by the above time. A later paper will lose a letter grade each day it’s late and I will NOTaccept papers beyond one week of their due date. Failure to do any assignment will result in an “F” or a Zero for that paper. Even if you miss a class, there are no excuses not to hand in an assignment. It is your responsibility to contact a fellow classmate or me to find out what you missed. Always assume something is due and verify with someone you trust.
College of Fine Arts and Communication Civility Code
All COFAC students, staff, and faculty are expected to exhibit and practice civil behaviors that exemplify: (1) respecting faculty, staff, fellow students, guests, and all university property, policies, rules and regulations; (2) taking responsibility for one’s choices, actions and comments; (3) delivering correspondence – whether verbal, nonverbal, written, or electronic – with respectful language using professional writing standards and etiquette; and (4) accepting consequences of one’s choices and actions.
The use of offensive, threatening or abusive language, writing, or behavior will not be tolerated and can lead to academic dismissal. Further information about civility can be found in Appendix F of the university catalog, or at this link:
Quizzes/In-class work: 10 percent
Briefs/short homework assignments: 10 percent
Multimedia: (WordPress site, photo slideshow, StoryCorps) 20 percent
Stories: 30 percent
Midterm: 12.5 percent
Final: 12.5 percent
Participation/Attendance: 5 percent
90 -100 (A-, A, A+): This is publishable work. The story meets and/or exceeds assignment objectives. The copy is clear, interesting and well written. The lead is effective and the body of the story is organized well. An assignment that receives grades in this range would have properly identified the news element and, when applicable, provided a variety of sources that represent both sides of an issue. In addition, the copy is clean, meaning there are no spelling, grammar or accuracy errors.
80 – 89 (B-, B, B+): Publishable with some editing and has met the general assignment objectives. There are some minor spelling and grammatical errors. While the lead is effective and the body well organized, the story could be more engaging and cohesive.
70- 79 (C-, C, C+): The story requires extensive editing to be considered publishable. It does not completely meet assignment objectives. The lead may be buried or fails to emphasize the newsworthy issue(s); the human element was not identified. The body of the story is disorganized and contains many errors. Stories that fall in this grade range will need to be revised.
60 – 60 (D-, D, D+): The story does not meet assignment guidelines and needs a complete rewrite to be published. The story may be superficial, confusing and not represent the facts effectively. The story contains an unacceptable number of spelling, grammar, or accuracy errors.
Below 60 (F): The story contains major factual errors and is so distorted that it cannot be revised for publication. It may also contain a misspelled name and libelous statement.
0 (FF): The assignment was never turned in.
FX: This is an administrative failure for non-attendance or failure to withdraw. If you stop attending class and do not withdraw from the course by Towson’s preset deadlines for the semester, this is the grade you will receive.
I: Incomplete. Students may only receive an incomplete when “verifiable medical reasons” or “documented circumstances” beyond their control “prevent students from completing a course within the term” (Towson University Undergraduate Catalog, p. 23).
Students with Disabilities:
If you are registered with DISABILITY SUPPORT SERVICES (DSS) please see your instructor during the first two weeks of class to arrange your specific accommodations. If you believe you may need accommodation and have not registered with DSS, please do so by calling ext. 42638.
Within the first two weeks of class, you must have a letter from the coach explaining your place on the team and a schedule of any away games or competitions during the semester. You must take any tests and prepare any assignments that conflict with this schedule before the test or due date, not after.
REVISIONS: A well-done rewrite will make substantive changes, not just cosmetic ones (just inputting the corrections I make on copy.) Revision is the key to good writing! You should be revising your work before you hand it in to be graded.)
I do not tolerate plagiarism or fabrication of any kind. Journalists and writers of all types value their integrity and strive to present the truth to their audiences to the best of their ability. You will be asked to live up to these standards as well. You should adhere to Towson’s policy on cheating and plagiarism. If you are caught breaking this policy, you will be prosecuted to the full extent that the policy allows.
What is Plagiarism in Print Journalism?
* Not citing the source of information used in a story.
* Using other people’s reporting notes. (You may, however, double check the accuracy of your facts and quotes with other reporters who attended the same interview or event.)
* Using sentences or paragraphs from other people’s stories or writings without giving credit or proper attribution. This means if you are using a press release as source material, you must cite the source and paraphrase it to put the release’s information into your own words.
* Turning in someone else’s story and pretending it is yours.
What is Fabrication in Print Journalism?
* Making up direct or indirect quotes in stories. Quoted material should be what a real person actually said.
* Making up people, events, or facts in a story.
* Making up an entire story from an event that never happened.
* Making up a story from an event you attended in the past. You must represent the information in a story accurately. For example, you must actually attend the meeting you are assigned to cover this semester.
* Making up a story from other people’s notes or other people’s accounts of an event.
- The penalty for plagiarism and/or fabrication of any assignment in this class is an automatic F. The case will be referred to the Office of Judicial Affairs hearing process as well. The penalty for these offenses is stiff in journalism because if you commit these in most media workplaces, you would be fired.
In all assignments, students must comply with all laws and the legal rights of others (e.g., copyright, obscenity, privacy and defamation) and with all Towson University policies (e.g., academic dishonesty). Towson University is not liable or responsible for the content of any student assignments, regardless of where they are posted.
- Come to class on time. Show respect for your professor, the class and your fellow students.
- Turn off and keep off all electrical devices (cell phones, iPads, etc.) in class.
- If you need to bring food or drinks in class, you are responsible for disposing of them properly before you leave and keeping your computer equipment clean. Do not eat during a lecture; you’ll have time during the break or before class starts.
- Do not disrupt class by leaving to get food, drink or go to the restroom.
- Unless told otherwise, you are not allowed to surf the Net or type during class. Keep your monitor turned off so as not to rouse temptation.
Attendance is mandatory and I expect you to arrive on time for class. If you plan to be absent or late, I expect you to notify me in advance, like you would an employer. The quizzes will be given in the first ten minutes of a class, and if you are late you will not receive more time. Since this class meets weekly, three or more absences will seriously impact your grade and endanger you from passing the course. It is your responsibility to make up any missed work due to an illness. If you miss a class, please contact me or a trusted fellow student to see what you missed.
If you are unable to take an exam on the scheduled date, it is your responsibility to let me know at least two weeks in advance of the scheduled exam so we can make other arrangements. In the event you miss an exam, it is imperative that you provide written documentation pertaining to the reason for your absence within one business day of the scheduled exam date (documentation can be left in my mailbox in the MCOM office or faxed to me at 443-287-9955, with attention to my name.) Providing documentation does NOT guarantee that you can receive a make-up exam, but no make-up will be allowed without it.
Excused absences: It is the policy of the university to excuse absences for illness, injury, religious observance, participation in university activities and compelling, verifiable circumstances beyond your control. If you are requesting an excused absence, you must provide documentation. Graded assignments, quizzes, tests, etc., may be made up in the case of an excused absence.
Unexcused absences: All other absences are unexcused. Students are allowed one unexcused absence per semester. Missing more than one class under these conditions will impact your grade in terms of material missed, assignments, and participation.
ACCURACY: In a media career, your reputation—and the reputation of the organization for which you work—is maintained by the quality of your work. Therefore, work that contains many grammatical, spelling, punctuation or style errors will negatively affect these reputations (and in the case of this class, your grade). Factual errors, including misspelling a proper noun, including incorrect information or misstating a fact–EVEN only a typographical error—will take off points and proper names a full letter grade—multiple mistakes earn a failing grade for that story or assignment. The moral of this tale? Fact check and read with the eye of an editor before you turn something in. In the real world, your career literally depends on it.