JOUR5580: Magazine writing
10:10 a.m.-12:05 p.m. Wed-Fri
David Welch Suggs, Jr., Ph.D.
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
706.363.0752 (office, cell or text)
Office hours: 2-4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, or by appointment
NOTE: I go by my middle name. It’s a long story, but I answer to Welch, Dr. Suggs, Professor Suggs, or Mr. Suggs, but not Mr./Dr./Prof. Welch.
Introduction and course objectives:
This is class on reporting and writing. Specifically, it is on reporting and writing feature stories, as opposed to hard news. You will learn how a story is made from the first passing thought in a writer’s head to the editing and finished product. You will learn this by doing it. You will have a beat that you will cover throughout the semester, and you will interview the real people engaged in the world that your beat will cover and develop stories from what you hear from them. What you write will appear on a class blog, and if all goes well your best work will be published on campus or elsewhere. Who knows? You might even be able to sell some of it.
In short, you will learn to find good stories and tell them.
Along the way, you will learn what feature writing is all about by reading the best work of professional writers, talking to a few who will join us as guest speakers, and studying current trends in journalism and nonfiction. A newspaper publisher announced last year that journalism was moving in two directions: toward long-form and toward Twitter. I don’t think that’s entirely true, but it is certainly true that good writing beyond 140 characters is flourishing in many venues.
At the end of this course, I will expect (and indeed require) that you demonstrate the following proficiencies:
Planning: You will be able to take a brief assignment and develop a strategy for reporting and writing it, and you will be able to execute that strategy to meet a specific deadline.
Backgrounding: You will be able to identify and gather the most salient background information available on a specific topic, including web publications, social media, previously-published stories, and books. You also will engage in the community that cares about this topic via social media and commenting on other stories to better understand what you’re studying.
Reporting: You will be able to contact a variety of individuals and conduct interviews with them to learn about a specific story or issue, to persist if you can’t reach them at first, and to have backup interview plans developed in enough time to complete an assignment. You also will be able to record, transcribe, and organize notes to be useful to you as you write.
Organizing: You will be able to take all your source material, including research material, notes, and interviews, and put them into a format or system that allows you to craft, revise, and fact-check your stories.
Writing: You will be able to take your background and reporting notes and use them to develop a compelling feature story, generally between 750 and 1,500 words. You will be able to write strong ledes, clearly-organized bodies, and compelling kickers, using quotes and background information to keep a reader engaged throughout the story.
Editing: You will be able to review and critique both your own work and that of your peers at the level of copyediting (what I call microediting) and content editing (or macroediting), showing that you can assess grammar, word choice, sentence and paragraph structure, and story organization.
Producing: You will be able to make good choices about how to present a story. At its most simplest, this will be publishing a story on a WordPress website. However, plenty of stories can be told more powerfully in photos, an audio slideshow, a video, or a podcast. You will produce at least two of these related to your stories as the semester progresses.