Syllabus for Fall 2012 #J361

J361/Reporting 1

Instructor: Suzi Steffen Twitter:
Email: ssteffen at uoregon dot edu Office: UO Annex, Suite 3 Office Hours: noon-1 W; by appt.
Times: Fall Quarter 2012 • Mondays/Wednesdays at 10 a.m.
Places: Room 366, Knight Library; the UO campus; Eugene; occasionally Springfield; online
Purpose: Our purpose is to perform acts of journalism on many platforms — and to improve that journalism as the term goes on. We follow the tenets of good journalism: understanding the differences between news and features, using shoe leather and face-to-face interactions for reporting, doing original research, using various means to find sources; we also practice finding and spreading our stories through social media. Our class serves as one of the keystones to the digital era of journalism, but our main focus is reporting and writing. I welcome your ideas and your insights, and I know you will learn from a variety of thinkers — as I will learn from all of you — and disseminate your knowledge in print and online.

Required texts and materials:
• Inside Reporting by Tim Harrower (any edition is fine)
• 2008-9 Best Newspaper Writing (Aly Colón, ed.; 2006-2007 & 2007-2008 also OK)
• The Associated Press Stylebook (buy a book, or there’s an iPhone/Touch/iPad app)
• News sources about Oregon: Register Guard, Daily Emerald, Oregonian
• “On the Media,” on 550/1600 AM; podcast; online at
• Other daily news sources (Christian Science Monitor, LA Times, NY Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Sydney Morning Herald, Guardian, International Herald-Tribune, Le Monde, etc.)
• Political sites, newspapers and/or magazines (from many sides of the spectrum, esp this fall)
• Science, arts and other specialized sites/blogs
• General news magazines (Slate, Salon, Daily Beast, Time, Atlantic, New Yorker, etc.)
• Twitter account, from which you’ll follow each other, industry professionals and me
• LinkedIn account, where you’ll link to your stories and increase your journalism presence.
• WordPress account and an ability to post to the class blog
• A handwritten journal, in physical form — notebook, sketch book, 3-ring binder, special collaged production, etc., but not online

3. Attendance is required, as in all J-school classes.* You must be on time; quizzes usually begin at 10 a.m. Missed quizzes/lab assignments cannot be made up. Under exceptional circumstances (a death in the family or serious personal illness), I may give an additional assignment to supplement coursework. Class is not optional. Skipping class for a family reunion or wedding; for a UO or Blazers game; for flying to Texas to see your boyfriend is just that: skipping. You’re an adult! Hurray! You decide how to approach your work & class, and I will respond appropriately.
*Obviously, if you have the flu or any kind of fever, this requirement is more like “staying home is required.” Please do not come to campus and infect other people if you are ill! Email/text/DM me at least an hour BEFORE class for a chance for an excused absence.

4. The course calendar is full of good intentions, but it might need to be revised based on what happens as the term goes on, We’ll talk about it in class, and you should watch the Twitter feed like a hawk (I’d suggest getting the @reporting1suzi posts as texts & watching the Facebook group).

5. This class is fun, and this class is extremely demanding. Again, you’re adults, and your behavior is up to you … and in addition, your behavior will help determine your grade. Schedule your time; read the syllabus; check Twitter; be professional; don’t whine; don’t expect special treatment; treat your classmates and professor with respect; use the internet appropriately during class time. Texting, chatting, Facebooking and other enjoyable/useful tools MAY BE appropriate, but they often are not during class, so be careful with the lovely technological tools in front of you and in your hands/pockets.

6. Plagiarism — including copying of anything from the internet without attribution and appropriate quotation/paraphrasing — can get you an F in the class and, if it’s bad, kicked out of school, so don’t do it. Be careful. ALWAYS ATTRIBUTE AND LINK. Additional information about plagiarism is available at

7. Keep in touch! That will be fairly easy while Twitter is working (it has its iffy moments). Texting is the best way to get in touch (but not between 10:30 p.m. & 6:30 a.m.). Second best is an @ or direct message to my Twitter accounts. Finally, you could use my email address, You should feel absolutely free to tweet, text or email with questions you have no way to answer on your own. If I’m reporting or researching for my own stories, I may not be able to answer as soon as you’d like. Be sure to get in touch with me early and often, not at the last minute!

Course Objectives

This course will introduce you to the basics of writing and reporting, grounded in community and framed by democratic principles.
Your ideas must be well organized and clearly presented; your words must be spelled correctly; your sentences must be punctuated properly. On that note: Only one space after a sentence. Not. Two. Spaces. No. (Read this Slate piece for more info, and know this is your final warning.
Newswriting differs in important ways from essays you’ve written for other classes. For example, you don’t need a thesis statement, but you’d better be ready with a nut graf or an establishing section.
We’re focusing a bit on multimedia as well as the basics of reporting this term. You’ll need online presence and skills to help you get a job in journalism. Still, this is a writing class, and your job is to learn how to write news across multiple platforms. My job is to make sure you know how to do that properly so that you leave for internships prepared.
First, I will not let you get away with errors in spelling (especially proper names), grammar, or AP Style. Is this like the dreaded instant F? Why yes, it is. Except it’s an instant zero.
Second, you cannot do a decent job of reporting or writing news if you do not read it. So read on mobile, online and in print.
The current event quizzes keep coming. Listen to NPR’s “On the Media;” read the R-G, the Oregonian and the NYT (esp the World News section of the NYT), and you’ll probably do OK on those quizzes.
Third: THE JOURNAL: Get yourself a notebook or 3-ring binder, and start a HANDWRITTEN journal to record your impressions/analysis about what you’re learning from journalism reading – what you like, what you find interesting, what you promise to change as you join the professional world. You’ll turn it in at three points during the term.
I’m cool with a three-ring binder and loose-leaf paper or a nice hardback journal or a hand-created book or stapled paper. Whatever works for you — content means almost everything, as long as I can read it. (More on this later.)
Fourth, I’m pretty intent upon making sure you clean up your writing. Hint: READ YOUR STORIES OUT LOUD. The Dirty Dozen from Gateway and any other grammar, usage or punctuation errors, or errors in AP Style, can earn you an instant zero – but beyond that, you probably don’t want your worst writing going up online for the entire world to see, am I right? (I sure hope I am.)
Fifth involves willingness to get your work done in an intelligent and interesting fashion.
You will, of course, want to take care of yourself this term, and a big part of that is advance planning and time management so that those big assignments don’t kick your ass. Watch for updates and stay focused!
You need to be ready to travel within the area and devote time to this class no matter what else you’re doing
That said, let’s enjoy. The classroom is a community for learning and a place for you to hone your chosen craft. The world of journalism is changing faster than we can know, but I’ll do my best to help prepare you and know that you’ll do your best to bring your ideas as well. I look forward to active collaboration with you!
FYI/Warning: Know that I am a fairly laid-back and approachable person, but that I am the one giving the grade, and I can be a hard grader. I expect a lot from you, and you’ll get a lot in return.
Short Course Calendar (elaborated during class)

Week Date What
1 September Introductions; READ Chapter 1 (Harrower) for W
24 & 26 Twitter 101; WordPress 102
Current events quiz M; blog intro due by W
Reporting and research assignments – listen in class!

2 October READ: Chapter 2 (Harrower), AP Stylebook A-C
1 & 3 History of journalism; news terms;
Current events quiz M; AP quiz W
Beat blog post due
Transportation blogging begins with Oct. 1

3 8 & 10 READ: Chapters 3 & 4 (Harrower), AP Stylebook D-M
Journal due Wed, October 10
Current events quiz M; AP quiz W
Newswriting assignments + beat blog post; transportation blog
post (details TK)
Twitter Scavenger Hunt

4 15 & 17 READ: Chapter 5 (Harrower), AP Stylebook M-S
Current events quiz M; AP quiz W
Feature writing & how it differs from newswriting
Preliminary discussion/work on profiles/enterprise stories
Beat blog post (about advisor meeting); transportation blog post
Sensory observation assignment

5 22 & 24 Chapter 6 (Harrower) & MIDTERM
Profile pitch due October 22!
Midterm on October 29, with FULL AP STYLE BOOK quiz Current events quiz M; Midterm W.
Beat blog post; transportation story for midterm

6 29 & 31 Profile reporting and writing
NO CLASS OCTOBER 31, but make an appointment to
interview your profile subject!
Profile progress blog post due
Journal due by drop-off Oct. 31

7 November More profiles; guest speakers; etc.
5 & 7 Enterprise pitch due by midnight Sunday, Nov. 4
Profile draft due by midnight Tuesday, Nov. 6
Profile one-on-ones Wednesday, Nov. 7.

8 12 & 14 Guest speaker Monday, Nov. 12 (attendance required)
NO CLASS NOV. 14, but make appointments for reporting &
writing time on enterprise story!

9 19 & 21 Writing enterprise stories; final tips.
NO CLASS NOV. 21 – writing and reporting time. Important
because draft is due at the end of Thanksgiving Break!

10 November
26 & 28 One-on-one meetings re enterprise stories; NO GROUP CLASS

• Sprinkled throughout will be additional assignments during class and between classes.
Be sure to pay attention so you know when they’re assigned.
• Enterprise packages and final journal due on or before our class final time (during Finals Week), and at that time, we’ll have a Finals Week class party.

Grading and other stuff:

Grading: This course has been designed to help you learn reporting and writing skills. It assumes you will improve mightily by the end of the term. Your final grade will reflect what you have accomplished by then. I want you to finish this course with a grade and a portfolio of stories that represent the very best work that you can do, not the goofy mistakes you made the first week or the lede you’d never write that way again (which is why the first two weeks’ lab writing assignments won’t be graded; the blogs and quizzes are, however, graded).
I expect you to work hard in this course. In return, you will get feedback, ruthless editing and lots of enthusiasm from me.

Participation in class 15 points
Blog (links, tags, images, writing) 25 points
Twitter (professional, frequent use) 10 points
Journal 50 points
Midterm 50 points
Quizzes (CE &AP) 25 points
Profile 50 points
Enterprise Story 75 points (Pitch 5, draft 10, final 60)
Total: 300 points

Participation includes homework, attendance, helpful attitude in groups and in class discussions. Journal points will be awarded on a 15-20-15 split; writing assignments will be weighted more heavily as the quarter progresses.
Errors in facts, names and style are unacceptable. Stories that contain such errors will be returned without comment or a grade. You are expected to follow AP Style in everything you write. No grade means a zero for that assignment.
I take a long time to give grades back. You’re allowed, even encouraged, to ask me for grades or grading timeline estimates (NOT grade estimates) any time more than a week goes by without your assignments getting back to you. Ask by tweet, email, voice, text, whatever. I am going to attempt to use Blackboard to keep me on track and to keep you more informed. Give me until Week 2 to have that set up, and then feel free to ask if it isn’t.
Finally: A “C” grade is a normal grade for students who do all of the work in the class. An “A” grade is reserved for students who not only do all the work, show up to class, perform brilliantly on assignments and write smart journals but also whose work is publishable. You may gain extra credit in one way: Getting your stories for class published someplace, with an editor and pitching process, other than our class blog. (We’ll talk more about this in class.)

The Bottom Line:
100% = A+ 93-99 = A 90-92 = A-
87-89 = B+ 83-86 = B 80-82 = B-
77-79 = C+ 73-76 = C 70-72 = C-
65-69 = D (no D+ or D-) 0-64 = F

Academic Integrity and Great Expectations: I expect you to do your own work and to conform to high standards of academic integrity. I expect you to respect yourself enough that the idea of plagiarizing or cheating is ridiculous.
The University Student Conduct Code (available at defines academic misconduct. Students are prohibited from committing or attempting to commit any act that constitutes academic misconduct. By way of example, students should not give or receive (or attempt to give or receive) unauthorized help on assignments or examinations without express permission from the instructor. Students should properly acknowledge and document all sources of information (e.g. quotations, paraphrases, ideas) and use only the sources and resources authorized by the instructor. If there is any question about whether an act constitutes academic misconduct, it is the students’ obligation to clarify the question with the instructor before committing or attempting to commit the act. As it says above, additional information about a common form of academic misconduct, plagiarism, is available at

Classroom Protocol: I expect you to give me your full attention when I am speaking to the class; full attention may include your using Twitter to take notes for absent peers or for yourself. It may also include using our Facebook group to communicate with the rest of the class during a specific time period. Turn your cell to vibrate even if you’re using it for a story that I’ve approved, and don’t use it unless I OK that use.
Don’t turn on the classroom computer or your laptop/tablet unless I say it’s OK. Chew gum quietly (& I’ll attempt to do the same). No chatting, except when you are participating in a group discussion, which is pretty common. This extends to blogging and Twitter: Stay focused and appropriate. Remember: DO NOT POST ANYTHING TO TWITTER OR THE BLOG THAT YOU WOULDN’T WANT YOUR PARENTS OR A BOSS (LIKE ME, YOUR EDITOR/INSTRUCTOR, OR A FUTURE POTENTIAL EMPLOYER) TO SEE.
When we have guest speakers, we’ll likely use Twitter to report about what they’re saying, but sometimes we may not. You must not be on the computer or your cell if the guest speaker requests no Twittering. And yes, I actually *can* see and hear you texting etc. (You may be asked to leave the class if you’re on Facebook or other sites when I’ve specifically asked you not to be. If I don’t ask you to leave the class, I may dock your participation grade as below.)
If your inattention, consistent tardiness, talking or other activities unrelated to the course are disruptive to me or to others, you will be instructed to leave the classroom, and 20 points will be deducted from your final grade. You will be required to meet with me and possibly with Associate Dean Julianne Newton to determine if you will be allowed to return.
For more information on University of Oregon policies regarding disruptive behavior, see

Building and Maintaining a Diverse University Community
Discrimination of any kind, disrespect for others, and inequity in educational opportunity are not acceptable. In addition, the School of Journalism and Communication is committed to assisting students with disabilities. If you have a documented disability and anticipate needing accommodation, let me know. I encourage you to ask for assistance at any time.
The goal of building greater social, political, cultural, economic and intellectual diversity among our students, staff and faculty — as well as in our curriculum, public scholarship and communities — is central to the mission of the School of Journalism and Communication. Only by achieving this goal can we become professional communicators, critical thinkers and responsible citizens in a global society. In this course, we will study and learn from a world in which people’s experiences, identities, communication styles and viewpoints have been shaped by the history and culture of the communities in which they live.
The promotion and practice of freedom of expression and intellectual inquiry is an integral part of the School of Journalism and Communication’s long tradition of academic excellence, which is defined in part by a climate of respect for various points of view.
The School of Journalism and Communication welcomes inquiries and discussion on its policies and procedures. The SOJC web site,, offers a complete student resource guide as well as a directory of faculty and staff contacts for students with questions or comments on specific issues.

The J361 Journal

What is the journal? It’s a personal account of your interactions with journalism. What did you learn from class assignments? What did you learn from readings? What did you read online or in a paper or magazine that makes you think about what you’re doing? Writing in your journal should be a way to get to know the news world and yourself as a reader and a writer.
Date your entries. Ask questions. Try to answer them. Write legibly. I only require you to turn the journal in three times, but that means each time you turn it in, the journal should have, for at least a C grade on the journal, at least 6 entries. So don’t put it off! I’ll Tweet, blog and send emails about possible journal entries, and some topics are listed below as well. The journal has three components, as outlined below.
Please read this carefully. YOU are responsible for understanding this assignment, and you WILL lose points if you don’t follow the directions. In addition, the journal is often one assignment in which you’ll feel the most free to discuss your experiences with reporting. It’s only for your eyes and mine. I suggest you take advantage of the opportunity to practice contemplative thinking about journalism and your place in that wide and wonderful world.

This part of the journal requires two separate entries, one for the first and last due date, which will help you develop your journalism mission statement.
Start here: “Making Journalism Your Mission” by Thomas T. Huang at Use the links in the “Related Resources” box for some guidelines. If you falter or just like to read good stuff, go here: “Back To School—And Back To The Value And Values Of Journalism” at Karen Brown Dunlap has articulated the reason we need to do this kind of thinking about our chosen profession.
For the journal due on October 10:
Draft a mission statement.
For the journal due during Finals Week
Revise your draft mission statement based on class experience, internships, blogging and more. Preface it with an explanation of the changes you are making.

This part of the journal also requires three separate entries, one for each due date. You should try to keep these entries below 1000 words each. This is the only place where a typed entry is acceptable (unless you have an accommodation). You’ll need to be reading Best Newspaper Writing every week in order to complete this assignment!
For the journal due on October 10:
Read all of the stories in Part 1, comparing and contrasting them and commenting on what you learned from studying them.
For the journal due on October 31:
Read all of the stories in Part 2, comparing and contrasting them and commenting on what you learned from studying them.
For the journal due during Finals Week:
Read and analyze ALL OF the stories or photos in any TWO of the remaining sections, comparing and contrasting them and commenting on what you learned from studying them.

In addition to the two required mission statement entries and the three required analyses of stories in Best Newspaper Writing, you need to explore the world of news reporting and writing with a variety of other entries. You can write about anything related to journalism and you. The more you read and write, the more you’ll find to read and write about! These portions are due each time the journal is due.
But if you need a little extra inspiration, here are some suggestions.

1. How do you read a newspaper (or magazine)? (In what order? What sections? Why?)
2. How do you read news online? How? Why?
3. What newspapers do you read? Why? (Or, why have you not been reading a newspaper regularly?) Where? Online or in print?
4. How would you improve the newspaper that you read?
5. How many stories in the papers you read feature Latinos? What are the topics of those stories?
6. Compare different newspapers online and in print. Compare small papers to large ones, suburban papers to big city dailies, campus papers to alternative weeklies.
7. What are your favorite Tumblrs? What magazines or newspapers have good Tumblrs?
8. Do you use Pinterest? What magazines, newspapers or TV stations use Pinterest well, and how did you find out about it?
9. Pick up a print version of a paper you’ve never read, such as the Philadelphia Inquirer or the Wall Street Journal (Try the library for these weird things called print newspapers). Read it! Tell me what you think.
10. Compare the writing in different parts of the same paper. Make yourself read a part you don’t usually read. Did you find anything interesting or surprising?
11. What are the advantages to print? To online? To electronic versions for e-readers?
12. Look at Salon or Slate ( and and compare/contrast an article on one of those newsmagazines with an article on the same topic in a print newsmagazine like The Economist or Time.
13. Where in the paper you’re reading are Asian Americans, African Americans or Native Americans featured? Where are white people featured? What about people who aren’t from the U.S.?
14. Where does humor come in? What about “voice”? Do you like it when the reporter seems to have a strong voice? Does a sense of humor equal a lack of seriousness? Talk about Jon Stewart if you want, or the Colbert Report, etc.
15. Ask other people (such as your parents and grandparents!) why and how they read a newspaper. Ask them to define a “great” newspaper. Ask if they think newspapers are objective or biased—and if so, why. Do you agree? How do you think such opinions will affect your work?
16. Ask older people about how they feel about newspapers versus online news. What do they trust and why? How do they feel about papers disappearing?
17. Interview professional journalists who are on Twitter about their thoughts on transparency.
18. Find stories you like or dislike and explain why … exactly. Detailed examples, as you no doubt learned in WR 121 and 122, will help bolster your position.
19. Look closely at news leads. How effective are they? Do they grab your attention? Do they tell you everything? Do they make you want to read on? Is that important?
20. Note the difference between hard news summary leads and the leads of features. Why do you think they’re different?
21. Do you feel represented in your local newspapers? Why or why not? What should the paper(s) do better?
22. Evaluate our campus newspapers & magazines, the writing in them and their role on campus.
23. Do you think the differences between newspaper and magazine writing are shrinking or growing? What ARE the differences, in your experience?
24. Think about whether newspapers claim to represent reality. What happens if a reporter lies? What are the risks to the newspaper profession? To the public? To democracy?
25. Evaluate yourself as a writer and reporter. What are you learning? How do you feel about what you are learning? Is it easy for you? Difficult? Why?
26. Check out obituaries. How do they differ from death notices? Why are they written the way they are? Do you think obituaries are news? Why? How well do the obituaries represent someone’s life?
27. Have you ever been featured in a newspaper article or on television? Write about that experience. Were you interviewed? How did that feel? What did you, your family and your friends think of the published article? (If you have never been featured in a newspaper story or on television, talk to someone who has and ask him or her the same questions.)
28. Imagine yourself as a reporter. What type of stories would you like to cover? What do you think your life would be like as a reporter? How would it be different as an editor?
29. Pick apart an article, line by line. Describe the way the article is structured. Look at how quotes are handled and how often they are used. Look for the reporter’s opinion and the use of “first person.” Does the writer seem to be present in the article? Why or why not?
30. Tell me how one reporter, one story, can make a difference.
31. What blogs do you like to read and why? What do they contribute to your knowledge of the world?
32. Do you listen to or create any podcasts apart from “On the Media”? Which one(s)? Why? How do they relate to the news you learn from reading papers?
33. Compare and contrast an article in The New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly or The Economist to an article in The Daily Beast or Time. Who reads each type of publication, do you think? How do you know? What’s different about the articles? What’s similar?
34. Find a trade magazine or a lifestyle magazine and analyze it. Who’s advertising? What are the departments of the magazine? How is the magazine different from a feature section of a newspaper? What’s the purpose of this magazine?
35. Find an official newspaper blog. What’s the tone? Are there links to video clips or podcasts? Should there be if there aren’t? How are the writers on the blogs writing differently than they do in their papers? What are the comments like? Are the comments moderated?
(These suggestions are drawn in part from an assignment developed by writer Terrie Claflin, an adjunct professor of journalism at Southern Oregon University, & from Kathy Campbell’s J361 assignments.)

About Suzi Steffen

Suzi Steffen teaches, writes, edits, reviews and rides (her adult tricycle named Momo) in Eugene, Oregon. For many years, she taught as an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication. As of fall 2015, she's teaching at Linn-Benton Community College, and as of fall 2017, she's also teaching at Wenatchee Valley College in Washington State. Suzi edited Lane Monthly and works as an arts journalist across the state and country. You can find her at jprofsuzi on Twitter or email her at jprofsuzi at gmail dot com.
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