Syllabus Fall 2022

 

 

Professor Barbara Nevins Taylor

Introduction to Journalism

Syllabus Spring 2022

MCA  233-4PR-28707

In-person in room 274 Shepard Hall

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

*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 DESCRIPTION

Welcome to journalism. Whether this is really your introduction to journalism or if you have practiced journalism in some way, get ready to jump in, learn the basics and begin to report and write.

We share a mission with journalists in New York City, throughout the U.S. and the world to report and tell stories that have meaning and impact. This is a difficult time for all journalists and it’s important to remember the challenges that we face and I’ll talk more about that in a minute.

But first understand that there is so much that you can do with journalism. It offers you a chance to explore whatever interests you, to ask questions to frame a story as you see it and then tell the story in writing, video, photography, audio, and graphics. The possibilities for truthful storytellling keep expanding and providing opportunities.

Yes, the print world has lost newspapers, magazines and readers. There are news deserts in many states and small towns where people do not have honest, unbiased local news to relate the events of the day and keep them truthfully informed. In November 2021 the Washington Post reported that since 2005 about 2,200 local newspapers across America closed. That is bad for journalism and democracy.

Yet many seek out reliable news outlets. The New York Times added 2.3 million digital subscribers in 2020, bringing its readership to over 7.5 million. Subscriptions to the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal also increased by millions.

That is encouraging and so is that fact there are new platforms and outlets that showcase diverse journalism. The Marshall Project covers criminal justice. The Root, now owned by Univision, covers African American issues. Vice is a mini-empire. Vox Media is magazines, video, audio and more.  Pro Publica is a non-profit investigative journalism organization.  Buzzfeed covers culture and a lot more.

There are also initiatives like Report for America, which puts young journalists in communities where reporters are needed and there are many local news projects. For example, The Current is a non-profit that covers the coastal area of Georgia including Savannah. And there are more.

The point is that there is optimism for the future of journalism and your place in it as a journalist or a news consumer.

Yet we also must acknowledge the skepticism about journalism in some communities, attacks on journalists and the webs of lies, misinformation and disinformation that make it tough for us to do our work sometimes.

From the Philippines to Russia, Venezuela to Myanmar where a military coup essentially criminalized independent journalism, journalists face danger and still struggle do their jobs.

Here in New York during the summer of 2020 at least one video journalist was a target of protestors.

And on January 6, 2021, reporters doing their jobs covering the Capitol insurrection were attacked.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker found that at least 16 journalists were targeted during the Capitol riot. And throughout the country in 2021, 140 journalists were assaulted. This includes a parent attacking a journalist at a Michigan school board meeting.

What does all this say? Many continue to pursue careers as journalists and fulfill the mission enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution to inform the public and hold the powerful to account.

So many things seem personal.

Objectivity may seem impossible when it feels like events conspire against us. But it is a basic of principled journalism and I ask you to do your best to keep it in mind and put it into practice in your reporting. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) offers an excellent code of ethics.

But journalists on the scene had to report about the events of the day and tell it straight. That’s hard, but most understand the need to take a step back and try to report as objectively as we can. So many things seem personal.

Our country appears to be at an exciting inflection point.

 

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

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 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.

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

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

Screen shot of two reporters on CNN

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 the 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.

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.

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, as long as covid remains with us, that you always wear a mask and maintain at least a six-foot separation between you and anyone you interview.

We use award-winning 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.

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.

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

 

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 and the Wall Street Journal by using your CUNY email.  Read the NY Daily News online. Watch TV news, local and national. Try PBS NewsHour. Watch Vice. Look at Mic.com. Listen to the radio. Try WNYC FM 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.

Book to Read:

The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. You do not need to buy this book. I donated at least 11 copies to the City College Library and you can borrow it.

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. Please do not chat, or eat in the classroom.

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. The assignments listed on the syllabus are likely to change.

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,  February 3

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/

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

How much do you know about your government?

How you can follow developments and report about 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.

Start to read The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

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, February 8 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, February 10

News quiz

Guest Speaker – Jon Christopher Bua, a freelance reporter who covers the White House. He is a City College graduate and will talk about his work.

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 review active writing. Active writing exercises. How do we write numbers, time, addresses, quotes?

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Week Three 

Thursday, February 17

News Quiz including questions about The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.

Types of stories: news, feature, profile, opinion or column, sports, entertainment, consumer, investigative, enterprise and how they all overlap.

Speaker: Rima Abdelkader is part of a diverse team of reporters at NBC News and MSNBC that discover, verify, and report breaking news stories and enterprise pieces globally. As a digital media literacy instructor, Abdelkader teaches team courses at NBC on data verification and the use of social media in human-interest storytelling.

 

How to pitch a story.

Writing for digital. Style and what you need to know.

Using the Associated Press Stylebook

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

Write a pitch for a 350 word news story. Deadline Tuesday, February 22 at 5 p.m. Once it gets approved, please begin to report and then write. Submit by or before Tuesday, March 1 at 5 p.m.

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Week Four

Thursday, February 24     

News quiz

Guest speaker: Maya, a student trainer from The Poynter Institute, will help us learn to spot disinformation and lies.

Guest speaker: Brahmjot Kaur a recent graduate who works for NBC Asian America

History informs journalism. We look at White supremacism, historical anti-Asian bias and extremist groups.

How is your story going? If you have it ready, let’s workshop and review in class.

Week Five

Thursday, March 3

News quiz

Guest speaker Stewart Kampel, former New York Times editor and writer, will talk about editing and working with teams of journalists. He is also a City College graduate!

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.

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Read the story or stories provided.

Finish revising your story if necessary.

Week Six

Thursday, March 10

News quiz

Guest speakers covering sports. Gerry Ezkenazi, former New York Times sports reporter, talks about writing sports stories.

Chris Sheridan, sportswriter specializing in covering sports gambling, will talk about how he does his job.

Writing a pitch for a sports or feature story.

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Read the story or stories provided.

Pitch due March 22, at 5 p.m. Once your pitch is approved please begin work on your story. First draft due Tuesday, March 22.

Week Seven

Thursday, March 17.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day

News Quiz

Visual journalism using photography and video to tell stories.

Guest lecturer

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Take photos based on what was discussed in class. We’ll give an exact assignment at the time.

Read the story or stories provided.

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

Week Eight

Thursday, March 24

News Quiz

Guest Speaker TBA covering local news

Covering your local government. Where do you begin?

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

Let’s discuss.

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. March 29.

We need at least one photo.

Week Nine

Thursday, March 31

News Quiz

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

Elements of a profile

Writing workshop

Homework:

Pick a subject you would like to profile

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Week Ten

Thursday, April 7

News Quiz

Covering a story that’s important to you.

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

Homework:

Read, watch and listen to the news.

Write a pitch for either someone you want to profile, or a story that you want to cover. story you want to cover. If I give you the go-ahead, you might want to begin reporting. This will be your last assignment.

Week Eleven – April 15 to April 22 Spring Break

Week Twelve

Thursday, April 28

News Quiz

Using data and visualization to add to your stories.

How to find data. How to create charts, graphs and graphics that tell a story.

Guest Speaker TBA

Week Thirteen

Thursday, May 5.  Happy Cinco de Mayo

News Quiz

Review

Solving problems in research and writing.

Deep dives in research. How to find if a building has housing code violations, or if a company has a record of safety breaches, or what the statistics are in your police precinct.

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 Fourteen

Thursday, May 12

News Quiz

Guest Speaker. Aural Journalism

Audio journalism. The podcast boom and what it means for journalists.

Last class: Pizza!!!

 

 

 

 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International License.

 

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