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Note: This Web page will change; please refer to it frequently. Do not merely print it out the first week of class.
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Editing is not just something that goes on in a newspaper city room, at the news desk of WSB-TV or behind computers at Clear, effective writing, speaking and thinking are vital in any form of communication, be it a news story, a public relations campaign, broadcast script, church sermon or an application to graduate school. This course will make you a more effective communicator, no matter what your career plans. Of course, the focus here is on news, and editing is one of the most sought after job skills in the news business. You will learn to think as editors think, to work as editors work, and to solve the problems encountered in newsrooms everywhere.

The design of this course reflects my experience in journalism, mostly in print and online. 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 editors is to ensure the accuracy of everything we do and publish.

Basics. No matter how high-tech things get, good editing requires the consistent, skilled application of fundamentals.

Great editing requires creativity and flexible thinking.

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.

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 aren't many dumb questions.

I love journalism, and I want to help make it better by training a top-flight group of new journalists to enter the field. My goal for you is to learn about editing, to learn to edit and, I hope, for you to gain some of my enthusiasm for news, for editing and for language. If you don't come to share my passion, that's OK. Even if this is not your cup of tea, you will gain skills and perspectives that will make you more effective in any communicating you do, in whatever job or career you choose.

“Editor: A person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.”--Elbert Hubbard, 1856-1915

"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

Catalog description: Selection and preparation of written and pictorial materials for newspapers, magazines and related media. Laboratory included. Prereq: COM 301.

Course Purpose & Objectives: Wherever people use language, they need editors. Students will learn to edit and write accurate, relevant and timely news articles, press releases, magazine articles and other communications. There will be an emphasis on grammar, spelling, syntax, style, electronic editing and other elements of complete, concise and accurate publishing. Current events, online news environments, and editing in and for digital media also will be emphasized.

By the end of this course, my goal is for students to:

• Know how to gather, select, organize and evaluate information.
• Successfully write and edit news stories on deadline.
• Demonstrate improved news selection and judgment, critical thinking skills and professionalism.
• Better understand the legal and ethical contexts of mass communication.
• Better understand how editing for print differs from editing for digital environments.
• Know how to edit video news packages.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution | The New York Times | The Guardian | | Pulse news aggregator


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: Jan. 13

Introductions, syllabus, key course concepts; how COM 301 and 303 fit together; the news media ecosystem

Fundamentals | Roles of editors | News values

multimedia, multimodal, multiple perspectives

  • layering (narrative, vignettes, charts)
  • what text can do; what sound can do; what video can do; what animation can do

Writing for Digital Media

Rachel Maddow on local newspapers
Bergen Record revealing Christie's traffic jam

"Frozen" bigger than "Lion King"? CPI calculator

Read: For Wednesday, the syllabus for a possible quiz; by Friday, ch. 1 of Writing for Digital Media (WDM) textbook

Start up: New York Times print subscriptions -- delivered to the bookstore, M-F, $3.50 week (or less than one small latte). You get digital access with your print subscription.

Due Friday: Word choice drill; five questions from your reading of Thursday's print New York Times (examples of format here); get started on your writing sample

Week 2: Jan. 20

No class Monday: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Wednesday: Special guest lecturer, Dr. Matt Duffy -- "Crash course on good (writing &) editing"

Friday: On writing and editing well and a writing workshop | Editing techniques | Preparing for a live edit (scrimmage) on Monday

Confusing Words (.ppt download) | Common Mistakes (Mental Floss)

Read for Wednesday: ch. 1 of WDM ("On Writing Well")

Due Wednesday: 750-word writing sample (Here's a great example of how to do this, from last week's New York Times) AND do the exercises/drills in chapter 1 of WDM.

Read for Friday: "WED" | Search Engine Tutorial | "Perfect Copy Editor" | Seven Deadly Sins" | "Personal Responsibility" |

Due Friday: five questions for another current events discussion (use Trevor's as a model).

Week 3: Jan. 27

Monday: Meet in the lab (LAU 111); live edit scrimmage

Wednesday: Writer's Workshop, part I >> guidelines | report to turn in | reading on how to give feedback

Quotes and attribution

Read for Monday: We Are Not Bemused | Read AP style primer (.doc download; (NEW)

Due Monday: completed Grammar Slammers

Due Wednesday: Completed Aitran edits

Due Friday: 5 current events questions based on Thursday's print NYTimes, with answers AND news values specified

Week 4: Feb. 3

Monday in the lab: Floydada edit

Wednesday: Special guest, Dr. David Bulla, Zayed University

Friday: Multi-step editing and editing skills (Ch 3 of the textbook, so bring your printout of the new, revised Ch. 3)

Layering, chunking and webbifying your essays

Prepare for libel and defamation for edit on Monday

Due Monday: writer's workshop report and marked up manuscript

For Wednesday, read: Clichés | Words Commonly Confused | Grambo | Spelling Test

Due Wednesday: completed Floydada edits

For Friday, read Chapter 3 (revised) of Writing for Digital Media (.pdf)

Due Friday: 5 current events Qs and their answers; style drills

Week 5: Feb. 10

Monday in the lab: live edit (libel and defamation)

  • More on layering, chunking and webbifying
  • Debriefing eggfight
  • Introduction to headlines, lists (Ch. 4)

Friday: finish Headlines (PDF download)

For funsies: Headline Generator

Headlines primer (for Friday)

Due Monday, beginning of class: read the handout on libel; revised personal essays (hard copy, double line-spaced, turned in, with all the extra stuff; here's an example); and do exercise #3 in the textbook, ch. 3, pages 22-23: Fact-checking

Due Wednesday, beginning of class: completed egg fight edits; Please read revised Chapter 4 of Writing for Digital Media

Read sometime this week, in preparation for Monday: How to use the dash; Quote, Unquote; A Dilemma Within Quotation Marks; the apostrophe

Due Friday: 5 current events Qs in True/False form, and their answers

Week 6: Feb. 17

Monday in the lab: Presenting our content in digital environments; mapmaking activity; pie chart activity

Headlines (continued) | Negative heds do better

Grammar & Punctuation (.ppt)


Due Monday: exercises at the end of revised textbook ch. 4 (headlines) (an example of how to present here); second capitalization style drill

Due Wednesday, beginning of class: read PDF on Grammar (to be emailed out) >> Quiz possible; send professor URL for blog

Due Friday: 5 current events Qs and their answers, in T/F format; Headline assignment II

Week 7: Feb. 24

Monday: United Way (numbers)

Wrapping up punctuation and headlines (hopefully)

A great lede: From the Atlantic

Numbers: Doing the math

Floyd County budget workshop (based on Friday's report in the Rome News-Tribune); quiz on "In the numbers" (PDF) certain

March 3-7: Spring Break >> woohoo!!

Due Monday: punctuation style drill due before lab; finished blog activities (infographic, map, etc.)

Due Wednesday: finished United Way edit

Due Friday: Read "In the numbers;" turn in "In the numbers" quiz, part II

Week 8: March 10

Monday: In the Mac lab. Floyd County budget story post-mortem; ESPN tests (working with numbers: SPORTS)

Wednesday: Budget meeting in Honors Commons

Friday: Working with photography | cutlines

National Grammar Day (was) March 4:
Your Grammar Sucks
The Comma Song

Let Words Collide (Roy Peter Clark)

Due Monday: Three story ideas in format provided. Typed up and submitted BEFORE class Monday

Due Wednesday: completed ESPN test (.pdf download); critique of RN-T budget story in the form of a memo

Due Friday: Current events Qs/As in multiple choice format (with answers); punctuation drills

Week 9: March 17

Monday in the lab: Localizing national stories | Fusion Charts | TimelinesJS

Wednesday: Photography and cutlines

Friday: Reading a balance sheet | a visual map

Due Monday: nothing

Due Wednesday: Localization report -- 2 story ideas per team.

Due Friday: 5 current events Qs/As; photo crop-and-cutline assignment

Week 10: March 24

Monday in the lab: Reddit | Storify | social mediated newscapes (your instructions here; .pdf download)

(Copy due from COM 250 reporters by 5pm Monday; will turn over to editors shortly after)

Wednesday: Social media strategy followup (quiz probable); story meeting -- troubleshooting, brainstorming (suggestions, requests to reporters due by 5pm today)

AP changes "over"/"more than" (and the skies fall)
New York Times and economic pressures
Journalism by robots? "I understand, Dave."

Friday: Finished stories from reporters due to Dr. Peterson

Due Monday: Balance sheet questions posted at the bottom of this webpage

Due Wednesday: Read WEDM Ch. 9 (emailed .pdf) for probable quiz; make sure you've tried out both Storify and Reddit.

Due Friday: Current events Qs/As

Week 11: March 31

Monday: Working on midterms in the lab, collaboratively. Adding webby doo-das.

(Final copy due from reporters to Dr. Peterson by 5pm Monday; will be turned over to editors shortly after)

Wednesday: Discuss Storify and Reddit | Information graphics (.ppt download) | Working with quotes and attribution | Cropping, sizing (for midterms)

Friday: Budget meeting for video projects (with COM 301)

Due Wednesday: any and all midterm elements (photo, maps, etc.)

Due Friday: Your video story ideas, typed up and printed out per specifications AND midterms DUE at beginning of class, electronic versions dropped into the Dropbox folder and print version submitted for markup. (If you can turn in stories earlier, that would be great!)

Week 12: April 7

Monday: Making the most of blogs & Twitter (WEDM,
chs. 7 & 9)

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

Friday: Current events quiz/conversation. Discussion of videography and values we're looking for.

April 9: COM 250 reporters assigned video topics
April 9-16: reporters shoot video; editors be in contact to guide, troubleshoot, advise

Due Wednesday: Write up your report based on WEDM pps. 203-4 (blog assignment) and READ through the guide to making ethically sound decisions, Principles of Linking

Friday: Memo to reader- or viewership explaining your decision on the beheading video. Here's an example, from NBC, on the Virgnia Tech shootings; 5 current events Qs and As from Wednesday's Times.

Peruse:Poynter on Ethics column

Week 13: April 14

Monday in the lab: Steven Hames on video editing

Wednesday: Video editing, part II, with Steven Hames

Mickey or Andy

No class Friday: Good Friday

For Monday: Read video editing primer (.pdf download)

Week 14: April 21

Monday in the lab: Working with and editing your videos

Wednesday: Digital storytelling, parallax scrolling and interface

April 21: All requests for additional video due today
April 23: All video materials from reporters to editors today

2014 Pulitzer prize winners

Week 15: April 28

Monday in the lab: Finishing your video projects

Review for the final (.doc download) | And here, too!

April 28: Finished video packages due by the end of lab, hard deadline (and it has to be; this is the last day of class)

Due Monday: finished video packages due end of lab; hard deadline (in Dropbox folder)

Monday, May 5

FINAL EXAM: 10:30am-12:30pm, in the Mac lab


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

"Webbifying" >> Cloud 9 story BEFORE and AFTER

NY Times interactive on the budget crisis | Wall Street Journal budget graphic | Washington Post | National Journal | NY Times | Associated Press | Forbes interactive media map

Usability and Emergent Journalism; >> article on usability findings

Better searching w/ Google (the doc we looked at in class)
Get more out of Google: tips and tricks for students

online sourcing | Xiaojing's special library Web page created for COM 303 | Source credibility | Online newsroom skills from Poynter Institute

Memorial Library's online resources (peruse what databases are available); NICAR; Google Advanced Search;; CIA World Factbook

A new credibility

Commencement: Saturday, May 10

General Information

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

What you will need (required)

Associated Press Stylebook (whatever version you used for COM 301 is fine; no need to buy a new one)
• Brian Carroll, Writing for Digital Media (New York: Routledge, 2010).
• Print subscription to the New York Times, available through the Berry bookstore

What you may want (not required, but recommended)

• George T. Arnold, Media Writer’s Handbook: A Guide to Common Writing and Editing Problems
Contemporary Editing, Cecelia Friend, Don Challenger, Katherine C. McAdams (New York: McGraw Hill)
• 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 and active. The classroom is our newsroom. Students will edit copy, check facts, write headlines, make news judgments and design pages. On any given day:

• Students will be given quizzes on news events, spelling, grammar and style.
• We might conduct a budget meeting to determine content for our next newspaper issue, magazine issue or press release.
• We will collaborate with COM 301 students on projects and news packages.
• I might make presentations, with plenty of discussion throughout.
• I will introduce new material, go over previous exercises and perhaps involve students in peer editing.
• Students will write and edit . . . a lot.


• Attendance: Attendance is a part of your grade. Be here every day on time, just as you would be for surgery, a job or even a haircut. One absence is forgiven and forgotten. Two might be. More are penalized, one percentage point per unexcused absence, and that's a point off your final total grade. Unexcused lateness, too, is penalized, also one point per instance.

• I am easily distracted, so, please, no mobile phones, texting, laptop clacking or chatter. Be professional and civil. During class and labs, no email, texting, Facebooking or mindless surfing. These activities prevent you from getting the information you need, and they are distracting to your classmates and to me. If I tell you to stop, then stop -- immediately and completely.

• Preparation: Complete the assignments and be ready to tackle the activities of the day. Be ready to discuss and debate ideas, approaches and opinions.

• 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. For definitions of these terms, please consult the instructor. 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 mass communication professions and work environments. Late in-class assignments will not be accepted unless permission for extension had been granted prior to deadline. Turn in whatever has been done by deadline.
• Late out-of-class assignments will be accepted no later than the next class period, but the assignment grade will be lowered. Remember, penalized work is not necessarily the same as 0 (zero) points, so endeavor to submit the work even if it is late. Complete out-of-class assignments and learn from them, even if they are turned in late.
• Please note: If a student misses a class when an assignment is due and that student has a legitimate excuse, I will accept the late assignment without penalty at my discretion. I define what constitutes a legitimate excuse and reserve the right not to grant full credit for assignments turned in under these circumstances. The same holds true for exams.

Format for all assignments: Double-space, 12-point type for all work. Avoid exotic fonts and odd page layouts. Improper format will result in point deductions. Do not submit hand-written work.


How your grade will be computed:

50% dailies (weekly and daily assignments and quizzes)
20% midterm exam
20% final exam
10% professionalism (attendance, discussion, participation)
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

Students in COM303 must adhere to the Berry Viking code (downloadable .pdf), particularly the sections on attendance and academic integrity.

Students with special needs

If you have special needs of any kind, including learning disabilities, please let me know. Come discuss it with me. I want to make sure on the front end that we prevent any problems associated with the course. From Martha Van Cise, director of the Academic Support Center: “Students with disabilities who believe that they may need accommodation in this course are encouraged to contact the library as soon as possible to ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.”

Useful Links for Copy Editors

Checking Facts

Copy Editing

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, On-Line 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.

Trade News & Gossip

Keep up with what's going on in journalism by reading Poynter's MediaWire and Jim Romenesko's media blog. Some of the top trade publications are online, too, including American Journalism Review's News Link; Columbia Journalism Review and Editor & Publisher.

Ethics & Editing

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. For a large collection of case studies in media ethics, check out this Indiana University site.

Professional Associations

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