Every assignment in this class is something that professional writers do. They brainstorm. They pitch their ideas to editors, usually in the form of a story budget. They write, obviously. Increasingly, they conceptualize and execute multimedia pieces, including photo galleries, audio slideshows, podcasts, and videos. They post short blog items and comment on other blogs. They talk about writing and how to get better. And they produce portfolios of their work so that other people hire them.
I give out grades based on a 100-point scale for the semester. So on an assignment worth 10 percent of the final grade, you will be graded on a scale of 1 to 10.
Budget (10 points): One-paragraph proposals for each of the stories you’ll be writing below. Minimum of two proposals per story, i.e. a plan A and a plan B. The proposal should include the gist of the story and a note on why the subject of the story is interesting and/or important. You will be free to modify or switch out story ideas if something doesn’t pan out, as long as we discuss it in advance. In addition to specific story ideas, you also will need to include a list of sources, media, and important voices you’ll be following via social media, RSS feeds, and websites.
- Trend/innovation (10 points): A story about a new strategy, piece of technology, trend, or challenge being faced by people or organizations in your topic area.
- News analysis (10 points): Take a piece of hard news—an event or significant new development—in your topic area and report on what it is, who it will affect, and what the likely implications are.
- Profile (10 points): A feature-length treatment of a person involved in your topic area, how s/he have gotten to the place where they are, and why s/he is significant.
Stories will be submitted via Google Docs and should be between 750 and 1,500 words. They should include a minimum of three quoted sources. They will be due by midnight (11:59pm) the night before the associated class.
In addition to the actual story text, you will turn in a single file containing all of your research for the assignment, including the following:
- Previous stories on the subject area you find in your research
- Interview transcripts, including contact info for sources
- Pertinent emails, text messages, and social media elements
- I expect you to demonstrate that you have consulted at least five people as sources, including at least one outside expert, at least one local expert, and at least one real person. Only three need to be quoted, but I need to see five, including contact information in your research document.
Multimedia 1 and 2 (7.5 points each): You will produce two of the following multimedia elements:
- A photo gallery of at least 10 images, complete with cutlines
- An audio slideshow including audio from interviews and photos relating specifically to the content of those interviews
- A podcast consisting of a discussion featuring you and other reporters on your topic areas or an interview/discussion of a subject
- A video short of 2 minutes featuring A-roll, B-roll, and graphics to tell a story
- An infographic describing the relationship between different sets of numbers that informs a story in specific ways.
These will be stories that can stand alone or be paired with one of your written stories. We will not spend much time in class talking about the mechanics of producing multimedia elements. Instead, you will need to rely on Mark Johnson’s Introduction to Digital Journalism videos and other educational opportunities provided by the college.
Editing (7.5 points): You will edit a peer’s work for each major story assignment, including multimedia assignment, and help find issues in grammar and mechanics as well as story structure and sequencing. Note the specific issue with editing the assigned story below.
Assigned story (15 points): In lieu of a final exam, you will research, report, and write an entirely new story on a two-week deadline. I will assign you the story on the penultimate Friday before the end of the term, and it will be due the Friday of exam week. You will be responsible for recruiting a classmate to edit your assigned story and making the fixes they suggest.
Blog posts and comments (7.5 points): Over the course of the semester, you will write blog posts on news and issues developing on your beat, as well as on articles and writing issues we discuss in class. Half will be assigned, and the rest you’ll be expected to come up with yourself from your beat reporting. You also will comment on other students’ (and my) blog posts. You will be expected to produce a minimum of 10 blog posts and 10 comments.
Class participation, homework, and in-class assignments (15 points): Contributing to class is a big part of your grade. A lot of in-class work will be discussions and assignments based on readings and videos watched outside of class, so do them. Also, the in-class writing assignments will be extensions of those discussions and lessons. You’ll turn them in as Google Docs you share with me and with others in the class. In-class assignments cannot be made up.
Portfolio (5 points): At the end of the term, you will turn in an essay that discusses each of your assignments, including your stories, interim materials (budget proposal and game plan), blog posts, and multimedia submissions. You will present this during the last week of class and turn in a paper afterward. The portfolio will consist of an introduction assessing your abilities coming into the class; a conclusion assessing what you’ve learned and what you still need to work on; and, in between, one paragraph on each assignment covering the following:
- Why did you choose the topic/subject/approach you did?
- What was your strategy for completing the assignment?
- Looking back, what would you have done differently to improve the assignment?
The portfolio is not supposed to have any narrative structure; just the introduction, individual paragraphs on assignments, and the conclusion.