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General Information | Grading | Class blog | Week-by-week | Useful links | Viking Code

Note: This webpage will change; please refer to it frequently. Do not merely print it out the first week of class.
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This course will make you a more effective communicator, no matter what your career plans. Of course, the focus here is on story crafting and journalistic writing, but these are skill sets that are highly sought after in industry, including the professional fields of journalism, public relations, marketing, institutional communication, and philanthropy and fundraising.

The design of this course reflects my experience as a storyteller, mostly in print and digital. I have been a writer, reporter, photographer and editor. Before earning a doctorate and getting into full-time teaching, I was an editor and reporter covering Internet-related businesses and technologies. Why bring that up? Because my goal is to make this course as real-world as possible. We'll be looking at real issues, real problems and real solutions.

During our time together, I plan to treat you as fellow professional journalists acquiring new skills. I expect you to respond in kind by the quality of your assignments, your ability to meet deadlines, and with active participation, impeccable class attendance and perfect punctuality. Since you already have acquired news writing skills as prerequisites for this course, our relationship is roughly analogous to orienting and training a reporter for the copy desk.

Journalism and the roles of journalists continue to evolve, particularly with the continuing evolution in digital, the advent of tablets and the ubiquity of smartphones. This course will introduce you to what is changing in editing and what is not. We will be discussing the fundamentals of editing that have been vital to newswork for generations. We also will be looking at how new technologies and new challenges are affecting journalism.

Several themes will guide our explorations, including:

Precision. If the information is not truthful and accurate, it's not good journalism. Our job as reporters and writers is to ensure the accuracy of everything we do and publish.
Basics. No matter how high-tech things get, good reporting requires the consistent, skilled application of fundamentals.
Imagination. Great reporting and writing requires creativity and flexible thinking.
Convergence. The walls have come down within and between media. We need to be able to operate in multiple domains, and to think for a mobile, geomapped, hyperlocal and increasingly personalized future. We need to think of our stories across several media, and to take advantage of each of those media.
Critical thinking. In journalism as in life, you will find that not every question has a clear, unambiguous answer, if it has an answer at all. Expect to be challenged to think on your feet, to analyze ambiguous information, to find answers on your own, and to evaluate the credibility and utility of various sources of information.
· Industry.
The first rule of good reporting: Get out of your chair. Leave the newsroom. Hit the streets. Talk to people. Get the documents.

In this course, it is critical that we communicate well. If there is anything you do not understand, please ask about it immediately. Do not be shy; do not wait, hoping it will all become clear; do not assume that you are the only one who does not get the material. There are no dumb questions. OK, there are, but better to ask anyway.

"Eloquence is an art of saying things in such a way that those to whom we speak may listen to them without pain and with pleasure; that they feel themselves interested, so that self-love leads them more willingly to reflection upon it." --Blaise Pascal, 1657

COM 250 Course Description: Students will learn non-fiction storytelling and story crafting primarily for digital media, from generating ideas and identifying the best media format(s) for delivery to producing the story or story package and publishing the content. Primacy is placed on the value of narrative and, therefore, on the skill sets of information gathering and interviewing, writing, and editing. Special attention is paid to ways of achieving a smart balance of graphical content, multimedia, and hypertextual, interactive elements.

Course Purpose & Objectives: To introduce students to the fundamentals of news reporting, journalistic writing, basic news judgment and digital publishing. To increase students’ knowledge of local, national and international news and events. To learn basic journalistic skills, such as information gathering, interviewing, source development, ethics and law.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution | The New York Times | The Guardian | Facebook Breaking News | Mashable


Caution: This calendar will change, and it will change often, so please refer to it frequently.
You should not merely print it out the first week of class.

Topics & Assignments

Week 1: Aug. 26

Introductions, syllabus, key course concepts: What are we doing?

What is AP Style?

What is or makes "news"?

Overview of current events/affairs

Copyediting symbols

LAB: setting up Twitter, blogs; writing a tweeted cliche poem, a mystery; reverse outlining; using word clouds  

Read: WEDM Ch. 1

Start up: Register for a New York Times subscription via the library

Read for Friday: Bullet in the Brain; Paul Muldoon's Symposium; Joan Acocella's Blocked

Week 2: Sept. 2

Newswriting 101: The five Ws


Writer's Workshop (guidelines | report to turn in | reading on how to give feedback)

Beats (or realms or bureaus)

Ledes (or leads) and the inverted pyramid

No class Monday: Labor Day

Due Monday: 750-word writing sample (Here's a great example of how to do this, from the New York Times).

Read for Wednesday: WEDM Ch.1; Fanfare for the Comma Man; Semicolons: A Love Story; Talking (Exclamation) Points

Week 3: Sept. 9

Basics of reporting and newsgathering

Quotes and attribution, paraphrasing

Due Wednesday:

  1. Submit five questions for current events quiz/discussion.
  2. Submit writer's workshop partner reviews and completed report.
  3. Scan AP style primer (.doc download)


  1. Current events quiz
  2. WEDM Ch. 2

Week 4: Sept. 16

Writer's Workshop, continued

Developing story ideas and identifying sources

First look at AP Style

Berry hierarchy

Due Wednesday: 3 story ideas submitted hard copy (follow model but tailor the ideas to your beat)

Due Friday:

  • 5 current events Qs and their answers
  • Revised writing sample based on feedback received from workshop partner
  • Scan Digital Age Sourcing

Week 5: Sept. 23

Brites, follos, roundups, sidebars; story structures

Mapmaking & Layering


AP Style, continued

LAB: Ledes, AP Style, Current Events, and much, much more

Due Monday: AP Style quiz, lede exercise

Read for Wednesday: WEDM 3, 5; bring back ledes and style quiz no. 2

Due Friday: 5 current events Qs, their answers, and news values.

Also due: Ledes II

Week 6: Sept. 30

Style, ledes, interviewing, quoting, attributing

LAB: Continuing to work on ledes; budget meeting with COM 303 in Fusion studio, preliminary story assignments and helps from editors

Due Monday: Style quiz III

Due Wednesday: Story sources

Due Friday: 5 current events Qs and their answers; notes on your stories (possible angles, sources, questions you want to ask your sources)

Week 7: Oct. 7

Monday: assignments for reporting projects; how to interview sources

Working with quotes, attribution, paraphrases

Writing ledes, continued

Lab Friday: Reporting workshop (collaborations); WEDM 3-6, hopefully, so bring your textbooks


Due Monday: ledes II; revised source lists (names, numbers)

Due Wednesday: in-class interview 'stories' (shorts); questions for your sources (one list, not one for each source)

Due Friday: 5 current events Qs and their answers; ledes III submission

Read for this week: WEDM 4, 6

Week 8: Oct. 14

Transitions, narrative arcs, features

Lab Friday: Reporting workshop, Photoshop for sizing, intro to blogging, HTML

No class Monday: Fall Break  

Due Monday: Smooth drafts of collaboration stories to Dr. Carroll

Due Wednesday: all requests from editors to reporters; typeface voice exercise

Due Friday: Bring books and reporting projects, maybe a photo

Week 9: Oct. 21

Finish Grammar Slammer

Friday: Writing for broadcast & intro to video

Due Wednesday: completely finished collaboration stories; finished lab exercises -- a map and an infographic

Due Friday: 5 current events Qs/As; three broadcast news story ideas

Week 10: Oct. 28

Monday: Video news budget meeting with COM 303A

Wednesday in the lab: Steven Hames on video; reporters assigned video packages

Due Friday: current events Qs/As

Week 11: Nov. 4

Blogging | Broadcast  

Due Monday: Live blog event ideas (2; see emailed instructions); read Reasons to Liveblog and Ch. 7 (chapter reading quiz probable)

Due Wednesday: short broadcast news script (assignment in VW under "resources")

Week 12: Nov. 11

Journalism in a Digital Age

Friday in the lab: video projects, current events

Social Media Guidelines (Associated Press); 10 Best Practices for Social Media (ASNE); Buzzfeed listicles  

for Monday: Chapter 8 (reading quiz possible)

Due Friday: Current events Qs/As

Week 13: Nov. 18

Monday: Finishing up our video projects

Wednesday: Journalism behind the scenes; data-driven journalism; self-editing

Friday in the lab: interactive press releases; fact sheets; media advisories 

Due Wednesday: Submit finished lab exercise

Due Friday: Current events Qs/As; live blog coverage, at least in raw note form; read through Ch. 9

Week 14: Nov. 25

Monday: Working with numbers

NO CLASS Wednesday, Friday: Thanksgiving

Due Monday: interactive press release & media alert, with a few supporting tweets (instrux in VW behind "Resources")

Week 15: Dec. 2

Monday: Ethics, including a linking dilemma (download) and a step-by-step process for making ethical decisions

Wednesday: Social media ethics & media law (bring textbooks)

Friday in the lab: Live reporting assignment, with press conference. Bring reporter's notebooks, textbooks.

Due Monday: beginnings of a financials news story on Shorter (instrux in VW behind "Resources" -- 3 documents: Powerpoint, chapter on working with numbers, and the Shorter financials assignment)

Due Wednesday: Ethics scenario decision and justification (hard copy, turned in); read WEDM Chapter 10; Scan New York Times Guide to Ethical Journalism



kkkpepp patty
Keep your eye on the prize!
Extra! Extra! Digital storytelling

"Frozen" bigger than "Lion King"? CPI calculator | Words Commonly Confused


General Information

Reading assignments are identified in the week-by-week schedule.

What you will need (required)

What you may want (not required, but recommended)

Tim Harrower, Inside Reporting
• George T. Arnold, Media Writer’s Handbook: A Guide to Common Writing and Editing Problems
• Lauren Kessler and Duncan McDonald, When Words Collide: A Journalist’s Guide to Grammar and Style
• Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism
• Andrea Lunsford, The Everyday Writer
• William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, The Elements of Style
• Lynne Trusse, Eats Shoots & Leaves

Class format

This course is hands-on. In the classroom and in the lab we will attempt to simulate a newsroom environment. Students will gather information, check facts, develop sources, use news judgment and write on deadline. We will have lots of small assignments, such as quizzes, in-class exercises and activities, and practice with elements of story development and publishing. In terms of content, we will generally follow the organization of the textbook, Writing & Editing for Digital Media, 3rd edition.


Attendance: Be here every day on time, just as you would for a job, surgery or even a haircut. Everyone gets one unexcused absence or late arrival, maybe two, with no questions asked. Stuff happens. After that, unexcused and/or unexplained absences (and/or lateness) will result in point deductions from the "professionalism and participation" portion of your grade. What is excused is at the instructor's discretion, so you are best served by discussing situations and extraordinary circumstances prior to class whenever possible. Chronic tardiness and/or absenteeism will result in whole letter grade deductions for the course, with “chronic” defined as five or more (latenesses and/or absences). If a student misses six or more class and/or lab sessions, that student might be administratively dropped from the course. An absence for medical reasons with documentation does not count toward this threshold. 

Professionalism in the classroom: The instructor needs your attention and your respect, as do your peers. And this instructor is easily distracted. So, no unauthorized device use, therefore, including Apple watches for texts. Put your phones away, and make sure they are silent. Do homework for other classes somewhere else. If your phone goes off on class, or if you are seen texting or reading texts, etc., you will be treated as absent. It’s a respect thing.

Preparation: Complete the assignments, do the readings and be ready to tackle the activities of the day. Be ready to discuss, even to debate, our course topics for the day. This means coming to class having already mentally prepared to participate. It’s a state of mind and an attitude toward learning.

Academic integrity: Because academic integrity is the foundation of college life at Berry, academic dishonesty will result in automatic failure on the assignment in question. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the following: cheating, unauthorized collaboration, plagiarism, fabrication, submitting the same work in multiple courses, and aiding and abetting. Students who are sanctioned for violating the academic integrity policy forfeit the right to withdraw from the class with a grade of “W.”

Assignment rules

While working in class, these parameters apply:

• Quizzes: What resources students may use will vary. Before each quiz, I will tell the class whether the quiz is open book. Students will be free to use the Associated Press stylebook in most cases.
• In-class/in-lab assignments: Unless otherwise instructed, you can and should use reliable references, including stylebooks, dictionaries and online sources. Be careful with information found on the Web, however.
• Collaboration: I support collaboration, but any graded work must be the student’s own. In some cases, I will encourage feedback sought from one another. For other assignments, I may require solitary work. Generally, students should operate under the assumption that they are accountable for their own work. When in doubt, ask.


When an in-class/in-lab assignment is due, it is due. This reflects the reality of many communication professions and work environments. Late in-class assignments will not be accepted. Turn in whatever has been done by deadline. For out-of-class assignments, late work can be submitted but it will be penalized. The grace period extends to two class meeting dates past the due date.

Format for all assignments: Double line space, 12-point Times New Roman, 1-inch margins for all work. The instructor has a lot of grading; uniformity helps ease the pain. Do not submit hand-written work.

Writing Center: For any assignment at any time in the semester, feel free to drop by Berry’s Writing Center for help. Their mentors might not know journalistic writing, but they can help you with grammar, syntax, orthography and the like. And it’s not a “you have a problem” thing; it’s just smart to get good, free help with our teaching and learning.


How your grade will be computed:

40% dailies (weekly and daily assignments and quizzes)
20% midterm
15% collaborative project I
15% collaborative project II
10% professionalism
100% total

your final grade, add up your point totals, apply the appropriate percentages, then refer to this +/- grading chart:

59 and below

Definitions of the grades can be found in the Berry College Bulletin. “A” students will demonstrate an outstanding mastery of course material and will perform far above that required for credit in the course and far above that usually seen in the course. The “A” grade should be awarded sparingly and should identify student performance that is relatively unusual in the course.

Extra credit? Students have a standing invitation to bring in errors found in major (or national) print media (big newspapers, weekly news magazines, literary magazines). This invitation does not extend to online media, online publications, the Campus Carrier, the Rome News-Trib or your textbooks. I will award 1 or 2 points for each error spotted and submitted, up to 20 total points. These points are added to your point total for dailies. Submit the exhibit, or a copy of the exhibit or error, along with a typed up and printed out, corrected version.

Viking Code

It is not just policy, it is foundational to the academic environment we enjoy and in which scholarship thrives. It is in force in this classroom and during all lab sessions. For the complete Viking Code, please consult the student handbook. In short, each student is “expected to recognize constituted authority, to abide by the ordinary rules of good conduct, to be truthful, to respect the rights of others.” The College’s mission, in part, commits to a community of integrity and justice. During an era when ethics are sometimes suspect, there seems no higher goal toward which students ought to strive than that of personal honor.

Students with special needs

If you have special needs of any kind, including learning disabilities and/or medications, please let me know. Let us discuss it and work together to overcome. In addition, “students with disabilities who believe that they may need accommodation in this course are encouraged to contact the Academic Support Center in Memorial Library as soon as possible to ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.” – Academic Support Center. 

Useful Links for Reporters

Checking Facts

Journalism Internships, Jobs

Math for Journalists

Grammar & Language Skills

Strunk and White without E.B. White. This site offers Will Strunk's The Elements of Style in the original.

Jack Lynch's Grammar and Style Notes page.

Stumped on spelling? Not sure of an acronym? Need a thesaurus? Looking for off-beat dictionaries? Robert Beard's one-site shopping center, Online Dictionaries, links to more than 400 searchable references. Copy editors who use pop words and phrases -- buzzwords -- do so at their peril if they do not know the word's meaning. BuzzWhack identifies and critiques the latest language trends.


National Geographic Society's National Geographic: Maps & Geography.

Layout & Design

Ron Reason's Web site is a wealth of information on newspaper design topics.


The Society of Professional Journalists' ethics page offers a full discussion of SPJ's code of ethics and a discussion of applying it in everyday work, plus links to other sites.

Professional Associations

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