Syllabus Spring 2023

Professor Barbara Nevins Taylor

Introduction to Journalism

Spring 2023

MCA  233-4PR-28707

In-person in room 274 Shepard Hall

917 678 6069


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

*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.

Afghan Media worker

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 added 2.3 million digital subscribers in 2020, bringing its readership to over 7.5 million. Subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal were reportedly up 18% in 2022.

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.  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, 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
George Floyd Mural in Soho, Photo by

George Floyd Mural in Soho, Photo by

Black Lives Matter Mural in Soho. Photo by
Black Lives Matter Mural in Soho. Photo by

Black Lives Matter Mural in Soho. Photo by

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?

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 Buzzfeed. Read and watch Vice, VOX and 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 at least two 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.


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.


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,  January 26

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

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

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

Observation exercise.

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: Tuesday, January 31st at 5 p. m.

Get and begin to read “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.”

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 2

News quiz

Guest Speaker: TBA

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.

Review of what you know about your elected officials.

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!

Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news. Read “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.”

Week Three 

Thursday, February 9

News Quiz

Guest Speaker: TBA

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?

Stories about our communities. Begin 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?

Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news.  Read “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.” The deadline is February 16, our next class.  There will be a quiz.

Week Four

Thursday, February 16

News quiz including questions about “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.”

Guest Speaker TBA

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

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

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.

Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news.

Week Five

Thursday, February 23

News quiz

Guest Speaker TBA Covering City Hall and politics.

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

How to write a pitch for a story.

How to conduct interviews. What makes a good interview? We’ll try a few.

Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news.

Read the story or stories provided.

Find your story and write your pitch.

Week Six

Thursday, March 2

News quiz

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

We’ll  review your pitch and talk about how to turn your ideas and reporting into stories.

Active writing exercises


Read, watch and listen to the news.

Read the story or stories provided.

Begin to report your story.


Week Seven

Thursday, March 9

News Quiz

Guest lecturer/TBA

Visual journalism using photography and video to tell stories.

You’ll have exercises and you’ll shoot photos.

Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news.Take more photos based on what was discussed in class. We’ll give an exact assignment at the time.

Read the story or stories provided.

Review of where you stand with your story.

Week Eight

Thursday,  March 16

News Quiz

Guest Speaker TBA

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.

Review of your photos

Review of your stories. Story workshopping.


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

Week Nine

Thursday, March 23

News Quiz

Guest Speaker TBA

Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news.

Week Ten

Thursday, March 30

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.

Think of an idea for your second story.

Week Eleven

Spring Break April 5 – 13

Week Twelve

Thursday, April 20

News quiz.

Guest Speaker TBA

Discussion about your second stories and 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.

If your pitch is approved begin to report your second story.

Week Twelve

Thursday, April 27

News Quiz

Guest Speaker TBA

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 finding the crime statistics for your community’s police precinct.

How do you use the data and hyperlinks.

Homework: Read, watch and listen to the news. Work on your second story. Look at The New York Times obituaries and pick one that seems interesting. We’ll talk about them in the class after Thanksgiving.

Week Thirteen

Thursday, April 27

No class

Week Fourteen

Thursday, May 4

News Quiz

Guest Speaker

What obituaries tell us about culture and history. Discussion of the obituaries that you liked.

Review and workshopping of second stories.

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  December 6 at 5 p.m.

Week Fifteen

Thursday, May 11

Last class: Pizza!!!

Thank you for a great class!



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


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