Professor Barbara Nevins Taylor
Introduction to Journalism
Hybrid and In-Person in room 290 Shepard Hall
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This syllabus by Barbara Nevins Taylor is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0
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*This is a journalism class and I am a newsperson 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.
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 storytelling 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 news consumers seek out reliable news outlets. The New York Times has record high 10 million subscribers. Subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal were reportedly up 19% in 2022, according to AdWeek 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. Pro Publica is a non-profit investigative journalism organization. Capital B in Washington D.C. is a Black led non-profit. 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, Mexico, Venezuela, and 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 18 journalists were targeted during the Capitol riot. And 953 journalists were assaulted throughout the country. That’s up from 140 the year before. This includes a parent attacking a journalist at a Michigan school board meeting. In Mexico, 13 journalists were killed in 2022 and a report from Harvard’s Nieman lab says, “Being a journalist is becoming a heroic profession in the Americas.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that at least 41 media workers were killed in connection with their work in 2022. What does all this say? Many here in the U.S. 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 objectivity 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.
Journalists wrestle with issues about objectivity every day. Consider the work of the journalists who covered the January 6th insurrection. They had to tell it straight without taking it personally. That’s hard, but most understand the need to take a step back and try to report as objectively as we can. Our country appears to be at an inflection point.
Image by Wolfgang Dvorak, Creative Commons License via Wikimedia COVID-19 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, Photo by ConsumerMojo.com
Black Lives Matter Mural in Soho. Photo by ConsumerMojo.com T
he 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?
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 take care. 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 the best work from 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 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 and maybe The Guardian. Our students get internships there. Read City & State New York, which has excellent political coverage. Read The City and Gothamist. Both provide good coverage of New York City. Read the non-profits ProPublica for investigative reporting and The Marshall Project if you are interested in criminal justice issues. If you are interested in economics and business read Bloomberg and CNBC. You might try The Nation, a progressive publication, which runs seminars that our students attend. The Root covers Black issues and culture, Watch TV news, local and national including Telemundo and Univision News. Try PBS NewsHour. Read and watch Vice, VOX and Mic.com. Listen to the radio. Try WNYC FM 93.9 in the morning. Use a news aggregator like Google News, Yahoo, Apple News, or Facebook Trending.
There are other good, reliable news sources. Seek them out. 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 the book.
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 several 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.
We use artificial intelligence most days without realizing it. Autocorrect is AI. Grammarly is AI. Google docs remind you about grammar and spelling using AI. That’s all fine. You may find ChatGPT and other new AI apps useful for checking or finding information. That’s okay. But it is not okay to ask AI to write your stories or create your videos. While the university and college don’t have a clear AI policy, please maintain your own standard of ethics and integrity. Do not use ChatGPT and other apps to create your work.
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.
Assignments: 40 percent
Class participation and news quizzes: 30 percent
Final writing project 30 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.
Tuesday, August 29,
Getting to know you. Introduction to class. Observation exercise. What makes journalism. Objectivity and Bias. What’s the difference between opinion and news or facts. https://www.pewresearch.org/quiz/news-statements-quiz/
Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news. Check the AP app. It will help you with the weekly news quiz.
The rest may seem like a lot. But it really isn’t. 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: Wednesday, August 30
Get and begin to read “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.” Deadline for reading is September 19 and there will be a quiz on what you read.
Thursday, August 31
Types of stories: news, feature, profile, opinion or column, sports, entertainment, consumer, investigative, enterprise and how they all overlap.
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: 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. You do not have to submit it in advance.
Read, watch and listen to the news.
Read “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.”
Tuesday, September 5
Where does news come from?
Writing workshop. What’s the difference between a comp essay, or paper and a news story? How to write a sentence in the active voice. You can do it!
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.
Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news. Read “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.”
Thursday, September 7
Guest Speaker: TBA
What’s a news angle? How do you check facts? What’s a source? What’s a subject of a story? How do you find reliable sources for your stories? How can you follow developments to learn what’s going on? Stories about our communities. B
egin to think about a social issue story that you would like to report about: immigration, housing, homelessness, crime in your neighborhood, crime in the subway. Do you know an asylum seeker? How are they making it in New York?
If you are interested in the arts or culture, think about an issue that might make a story. If you are interested in sports, think about an issue that has come up recently.
Tuesday, September 12
Trip to New York City Hall, tour and visit with council member and a journalist.
City Hall is a beat. What’s it like to work that beat? Covering City Hall and politics. Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news. Read the story or stories provided.
Thursday, September 14
Writing for digital. Style, using links and what you need to know. Using the Associated Press Stylebook Writing workshop. We’ll review grammar and do active writing exercises.
Writing a pitch.
Homework: Research a story that you would like to report and write a pitch.
Read, watch and listen to the news. Read the story or stories provided.
Tuesday, September 19
News quiz including a quiz on The Story of The Shipwrecked Sailor.
How to distill information quickly. My quick and dirty guide.
Reviewing your pitches.
Interviewing techniques. How to conduct interviews. What makes a good interview? We’ll try a few. Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news. Start reporting your story.
First draft due Monday, September 25
Thursday, September 21
Guest Speaker: Media Attorney Kay Murray Copyright and ethics. 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. Work on your story.
Tuesday, September 26
Review of your stories and writing workshop. Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news.
Thursday, September 28 News quiz
Covering a news conference.
We Zoom into to a news conference and write about it in class like a deadline story. Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news. Work on second draft of your story. Deadline: October 6
Tuesday, October 3 Investigative Reporting Special program: Guest speaker: Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Adam Rhodes
Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news. Work on second draft of your story. Deadline: October 6
Thursday, October 5
Continuation of IRE Special Program Guest speaker: Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Adam Rhodes.
Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news.
October 10 No class. Classes follow Monday Schedule
Thursday, October 12
Follow-up on IRE presentations How do you use the data and hyperlink.
Solving problems in research and writing.
Review of your stories. Writing workshop Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news. Work on the last draft of your stories. Deadline for the final, final draft of your story is October 20.
Tuesday, October 17 News quiz
Guest Speaker TBA Visual journalism using photography and video to tell stories. Y
ou’ll have exercises and you’ll shoot photos.
Thursday, October 19.
News quiz Guest Speaker: Gerald Eskenazi City College alum and former New York Times sports reporter.
Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news.
Election Day is November 7. Is there a race in your council district? Is there a story there? Write a pitch.
Tuesday, October 24
Review of pitches
Using data and visualization to add to your stories. How to find data. How to create charts, graphs and graphics that tell a story.
Homework: Start your election day story.
Thursday, October 26
News quiz History Informs journalism: Origins of white supremacism. Homework:
Read, watch and listen to the news
Tuesday, October 31
Happy Halloween. Let’s report a quick Halloween story this morning and write it like a deadline story.
Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news
Thursday, November 2
News quiz History
Informs Journalism II: Origins of discrimination against Asians.
Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news
Tuesday, November 7
Let’s visit a polling place and interview voters for a quick story.
Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news. Write three paragraphs using the interview(s) and what you observed at the polling place.
Thursday, November 9
Guest speaker TBA:
Covering criminal justice.
Discussion of final story pitches Homework:
Read, watch and listen to the news Write a pitch for your final story. Deadline is November 15.
Tuesday, November 14
News quiz Review of pitches Writing workshop Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news.
First draft of final story is due November 22.
Thursday, November 16 News quiz Guest Speaker- Peter Catapano, New York Times opinion editor, Opinion Writing Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news
First draft of final story is due November 22.
Tuesday, November 21 –Hybrid – Online
Reporting About Entertainment How do you report objectively even if you are a fan.
Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news First draft of final story is due November 22.
Thursday, November 23 Thanksgiving! Enjoy your family!
Tuesday, November 28
Review of your stories and writing workshop.
Thursday, November 30
News Quiz Guest Speaker: TBA.
Science Writing Reporting about climate and the environment.
Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news Second draft of final story is due December 1 at 5 p.m.
Tuesday, December 5
Work on final stories. Deadline for all rewrites December 5 at 5 p.m. Thursday, December 7 Last Class!! Review of final stories Donuts!!!
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