Syllabus Fall 2020

Introduction to Journalism

Syllabus Fall 2020

MCA  233-4PR-28707

Online Via Zoom

You’ll receive a link for every class

Professor Barbara Nevins Taylor

917 678 6069

barbaranevinstaylor@mac.com

bnevinstaylor@ccny.cuny.edu      ConsumerMojo.com

@consumermojo

This syllabus by Barbara Nevins Taylor is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

COURSE DESCRIPTION

So many things seem uncertain and chaotic right now and yet our country appears to be at an exciting inflection point.

Inflection point curve
Image by Wolfgang Dvorak, Creative Commons License via Wikimedia

The coronavirus upended the way we live our lives, took family, friends and neighbors from us and highlighted racial and economic inequities. The murder of George Floyd showed us the cruelty of systemic racism and indifference to human life.

George Floyd Mural in Soho
George Floyd Mural in Soho, Photo by ConsumerMojo.com
Black Lives Matter Mural in Soho. Photo by ConsumerMojo.com
Black Lives Matter Mural in Soho. Photo by ConsumerMojo.com

The Presidency of Donald Trump has showed us that he, and some others we entrust with our votes, lie and think we will believe whatever they say if they say it loudly and repeat it over and over again.

Screen shot of Washington Post, Trump lies

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/07/13/president-trump-has-made-more-than-20000-false-or-misleading-claims/

Yet the chaos and heartbreak we have experienced sparked a movement for change in racial justice, healthcare reform, the way we treat our environment and our economic safety net.

Where does journalism fit in here? Are you asking that question.

Journalism is at the center of it all. It is at the heartbeat of our nation and the world.  Journalists report on what is going on around them and provide the context. They give readers, viewers and listeners enough information to make informed decisions. That’s the point of journalism and that’s what you will learn and practice in this class.

This course aims to give you a theoretical and practical understanding of what it takes to become a journalist and the importance of journalism to democracy.

Screen shot of two reporters on CNN

Despite attacks on reporters and news organizations by President Trump and others, the right to practice journalism is embedded in the United States Constitution. The law of our land highlights the importance of honest reporting about government and those in power to ensure that they are accountable to the people.

The digital revolution transformed the way we consume and deliver news, but the important principles of reporting remain the same. Every day, we see that journalism comes in many forms and appears on different platforms from traditional print newspapers and magazines, to online sites that offer broad content or specialize in niche information, to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Local TV news and network broadcasts continue to use traditional formats but also use social platforms. Podcasts and public radio have become go-to sources of information for millions. And like a surprise in a stack of Russian dolls, you’ll also find carefully reported news stories within the noise of some cable TV news programs.

Serious journalists who work for serious news outlets continue to share the age-old principles of journalism. Whether we report about politics, events of the day, culture, sports or entertainment, we share the same goals. Our curiosity drives us. We carefully observe situations and people and record or make note of what we see. We analyze, synthesize and lay out the facts to provide information. We tell the truth.

Police Chief Terrence Monihan Takes a Knee With Protestors
Police Chief Terrence Monihan Takes a Knee With Protestors. Screen shot.

At this challenging time in our country’s history, we need accurate reporting and talented journalists willing to dig deep, write, record, shoot, produce and give unbiased context to what happens in our communities, the nation and the world.  Here in New York and elsewhere, we need committed journalists willing to go into our neighborhoods and report at ground level about what’s going on now. That’s what you’ll do for your class assignments.

HarlemView Homepage

We use HarlemView as our platform to post social justice stories about our community.

In this class, you’ll learn how to write using the active voice to give your stories energy and power. You’ll learn how to identify what makes news, find, report and follow stories and gather information to craft into stories that can appear on multiple platforms.

Get ready to follow your curiosity, roll up your sleeves, put on your running shoes and practice journalism. Please make sure that you always wear a mask and maintain at least a six-foot separation between you and anyone you interview.

We use HarlemView as our platform to post social justice stories about our community and the best class work is posted there. The best of the best is often picked up by Dateline CUNY, the website that publishes work from all the CUNY colleges.

All of our classes will be on Zoom and I will provide links the day before the class and again the day of the class. This is an Open Educational Resources class and that means you will not have to purchase a textbook. All of the class material will be posted on our class website: CCNY Introduction to Journalism-Truth Matters.

ome page CCNY Intro to Journalism

I also hope that you’ll write for The Campus and share your work with the class and The Paper.

*This is a journalism class and I am a news person and that means we follow the news. The syllabus can change to reflect what’s happening on campus, in our communities, the nation and the world.

Course Learning Outcomes

This course will help you learn:

How to work ethically to find the truth, pursue accuracy, fairness and diversity, and report strong news stories.

How to use your analytic skills to determine what makes a news story.

How to think creatively, independently, and critically about local and world events.

How to gather information, synthesize complicated details, and craft a succinct, logical story with a beginning, middle and end.

How to write stories of 300 to 500 words for print, digital and other platforms.

How to gather information using photographs, video and audio effectively.

How to use math and statistics to provide context.

How to understand the changes in the media industry and what they mean for journalists and news consumers.

How to meet deadlines.

Required Reading

Download the AP app. It’s free. You must keep up with current events and the news. This will help you do it.

Get a free subscription to The New York Times. Read the NY Daily News online. Watch TV news, local and national. Try PBS NewsHour. Watch Vice. Listen to the radio. Try WNYC 93.9 in the morning. Use a news aggregator like Google News, Yahoo, Apple News, Gothamist, or Facebook Trending. Use Twitter.

Add news sources, elected officials and newsmakers to your Twitter feed. Associated Press @AP, @Reuters, @Bloomberg, @NYT, @WashingtonPost, @theroot, @fusiontv
Look for mainstream and diverse sources that offer different points of view. They can keep you up-to-date and engaged in the news.

Articles and links:

I will post articles, links and essays for you to read regularly on the class website and will include questions about the stories in the quizzes.

Writing Assignments

You will have at least three reporting and writing assignments that we’ll peg to what’s happening in the city, country and the world. You have the option to report and write more for extra credit. The best stories from the class will appear on HarlemView, our journalism website.

Attendance

Our class meets once a week. We have a lot of ground to cover and that means you need to come to class and show up on time.

Two unexpected absences will mean you get a lower grade. If you must miss a class, email or text me in advance.

If you miss more than four classes, we’ll ask you to withdraw from the course. Please don’t do this.

Three instances of lateness will count as one unexcused absence.

Please get into the excitement of journalism and come to class on time.

Grading

Assignments: 30 percent

Class participation and news quizzes: 20 percent

Midterm exam: 20 percent

Final grammar exam: 10 percent

Final writing, photography, video or audio project: 20 percent

Class Conduct

Please put away your digital devices and other distractions. We need your full attention. Multi-tasking and concentration don’t mix.

Journalism requires collaboration. We depend upon one another in newsrooms, in the field and in the classroom, and we need to play nice.

Students will present their work in class for review and we want to provide positive feedback that helps them move their work forward.

Analyze the work before you speak up and then offer constructive criticism. Try to start with something positive and then explain your criticism.

Please use a word processor and double space your assignments.

Assignments

I’d like to keep you close to the news and our assignments may vary depending upon what happens in the news cycle.

I’ll edit your work so that you can improve week by week and you’ll be expected to rewrite and submit several drafts, if necessary. I will not grade your early work because you will get better and better as you continue to write.

Class Calendar

***This may change as we move through the semester.

Week One

Thursday, August 27

Getting to know you. Introduction to class. What makes journalism.

Objectivity and Bias. What’s the difference between opinion and news or facts.

https://www.pewresearch.org/quiz/news-statements-quiz/

Video of an arrest.

What the United States Constitution guarantees and what journalists need to know to fulfill their mission.

Covering the Ahmaud Aubery story for the local paper. Larry Hobbs, Brunswick reporter.

https://www.gpb.org/news/2020/06/05/georgia-today-reporting-on-ahmaud-arbery-the-rest-of-the-world-caught-on

How much do you know about your government?

How you can follow developments and report what’s going on.

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Check the AP app. It will help you with the weekly news quiz.

Write a 300-word essay to answer the following questions:

Who am I?

Where am I from?

Where am I going?

Include a selfie or photo to illustrate your About Me.

Deadline: Tuesday, September 1 at 5 p.m.

Find out and write down the names of your city council member, assembly member, state senator, mayor, county executive, U.S. senators, U.S. representative, the police commissioner.

Find out the number of New York City council members and U.S. representatives to Congress. How many representatives does New York State have? New York City?

Bring the information to class.

Week Two

Thursday, September 3

Where does news come from?

Anatomy of a news story. The basic elements and how we construct stories. The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of Journalism. How to incorporate that in your story.

What’s a news angle?

How do you check facts?

How do you find reliable sources for your stories?

How can you follow developments to learn what’s going on?

How to distill information quickly. My quick and dirty guide.

Writing workshop. We’ll review grammar and begin to understand active writing. Active writing exercises. How do we write numbers, time, addresses, quotes?

Using the Reuters’ Style Guide.

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Hold for closer to the election. No homework assignment.  Update 9/9/2020

Choose a presidential or vice-presidential candidate and write 400-500 words about the way they are campaigning this week. Interview at least 3 people about the candidate.  Please make sure that you wear a mask and maintain at least a six-foot distance between you and anyone you interview. This should be a story that reflects the news. You want a photo to go with the story.

 

Week Three 

Thursday, September 10

News Quiz

What’s a news angle?

How do you check facts?

How do you find reliable sources for your stories?

How can you follow developments to learn what’s going on?

How to distill information quickly. My quick and dirty guide.

Writing workshop. We’ll review grammar and begin to understand active writing. Active writing exercises. How do we write numbers, time, addresses, quotes?

Using the Reuters’ Style Guide.

Hold for next week:

Ethics and copyright. Creative Commons licenses and how you find information, photos, video and music that you can legally and ethically use in your own work.

History informs journalism. We look at White Supremacism and extremist groups.

Why you should get in the habit of reading the obituary pages.

Guest Speaker TBA

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news. Work on rewrite of your story.

Week Four

Thursday, Thursday September 24

News Quiz

Telling stories with images. How to make every story better with photos and video.

Guest instructor.

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Read the story or stories provided.

There may be a reporting and writing assignment that follows the news cycle.

Week Five

Thursday, October 1

The art of the interview. How to conduct an interview with the President of the United States, a grieving mother, a celebrity, a child and anyone else. We look at examples in the news.

Election Watch 2020.  Mail in ballots and early voting.

COVID Watch 2020

How is the news cycle influencing the campaign?

Homework:

Read the story or stories provided.

Write a 300-500 word story about early voting or mail-in-ballots. Base the story on interviews with at least three people about how they have voted or plan to vote. Please make sure that you wear a mask and maintain at least a six-foot distance between you and anyone you interview.

Week Six

Thursday, October 8

News Quiz

Election Watch – Count down to the election.

COVID Watch – Where do we stand and what is on the horizon?

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Read the story or stories provided.

There may be a reporting and writing assignment that follows the news cycle.

Week Seven

Thursday, October 15

News Quiz

Using data in your stories and how to find it.

We’ll workshop some examples.

Election Watch –

COVID Watch –

Guest Speaker TBA

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Read the story or stories provided.

There may be a reporting and writing assignment that follows the news cycle.

Week Eight

Thursday, October 22

News Quiz

We tune in to a news conference and cover it as reporters.

Let’s discuss.

Guest Speaker TBA

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Write 300 to 500 words about the news conference. Your report is due at 5 p.m. October 27.

We need at least one photo.

Week Nine

Thursday, October 29

News Quiz

Election Watch. Preparing to cover the election.

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

On election day go to a polling place close to your home. Interview people about voting. Maintain a six-foot distance and ask them about voting and if they will reveal the presidential candidate they voted for. Write a 300 – 500 word story about the election and include a photo of the polling place or someone with you whom you spoke. Please make sure that you wear a mask and maintain at least a six-foot distance between you and anyone you interview.

Week Ten

Thursday, November 5

News Quiz

Reviewing the election

Covering a story that’s important to you.

How do you find information to make it a broad story?

How to write a story pitch. Who looks at the pitch in a newsroom and who gives you approval to report a story?

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Write a pitch for the story you want to cover. If I give you the go-ahead, you might want to begin reporting. Please make sure that you wear a mask and maintain at least a six-foot distance between you and anyone you interview.

Pitch due: at 5 p.m. November 10.

Week Eleven

Thursday, November 12

News Quiz

Review of your pitches. Solving problems in research and writing.

Review of your pitches. Solving problems in research and writing.

Guest Speaker TBA

Homework:

Report and write your story. Please make sure that you wear a mask and maintain at least a six-foot distance between you and anyone you interview.

 

Week Twelve

Thursday, November 19

News Quiz

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Report and write your story. Please make sure that you wear a mask and maintain at least a six-foot distance between you and anyone you interview.

First draft of stories due Tuesday, December 1 at 5 p.m.

Week Thirteen

Thanksgiving Break November 26 – November 29

Week Fourteen

Thursday, December 3

News Quiz

Review of stories.

How can you improve your writing and reporting?

Advocacy journalism and when it works for the public good.

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Work on your stories. Please make sure that you wear a mask and maintain at least a six-foot distance between you and anyone you interview.

Week Fifteen

Thursday, December 10

We review our stories and share a couple of pizzas. Will it be online or in person?

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