MJFS 2240 syllabus

MFJS 2240: Online & Visual Journalism Fall 2010
Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:00-5:50, Mass Comm 113
Instructor: John Tomasic


Course Blog:

The Course

Like online journalism, this course is a work in progress. Your ideas and input and random thoughts and mistakes and successes will be the gold we are mining. I'm here because I want to know what you think and how you approach the subject. I already (mostly) know what I think. I know the approaches I have taken over the last decade.

Something to keep in mind throughout the quarter: Journalists are defined by the degree to which their work reflects a genuine acceptance that they have a responsibility to the public. That genuine acceptance includes committing to training to do the work right. Journalists have to work each day not to sell something or to entertain, not to be great prose stylists or to get paid. The work comes in concentrating on informing people through truth claims based on the transparency of your reporting and the rigor of your fact-based arguments. Read that last sentence again! It carries over, no matter the technology advancements and workplace evolutions. That part is the same online and offline, digital and analog. That's our priority.

Journalists are not just storytellers. They are also critics and community organizers, data architects, information curators. Journalists must become well versed in emergent tools, but in each of their roles, they must be trustworthy. Good journalists are honest about who they are and the things they've found. They are the best kind of Facebook friends. They connect you to what's happening. They don't hedge or flinch on the details. They see gray and they make you see gray. Good journalism betters society. Bad journalism does not and it often makes everything worse.

Our objectives are to learn how to make news digital and, more than that, to make digital news-- that is, to make journalism product that is marked by and matched to digital media. Not all news online is online news. We have to come to know what makes news distinctly digital. We have to (1) learn the particular strengths of our medium (the web and etc) and (2) learn to play on them. That means studying online news as a genre and then work at mastering the technologies and techniques of that genre. You will produce blogs features slideshows. You will produce multimedia stories. The goal is to have each of you publish something at an established online outlet through your work in this course.

The course will combine discussion and assignments. Participation is vital. Again, your thoughts about the subject of this course and what you're learning or not learning are a large part of the subject of this course!

Required reading is all online. You have to read the web as ethnography and as source material. In other words, find out how serious people are thinking about online news and find out what's happening online on the beat you will be covering for the course. You must set up RSS and Twitter feeds to follow your favorite sources. You'll be asked to share what you have been reading most class periods.

Some places to start:

Contemporary journalism blogs:

Emedia tidbits
Jay Rosen
Michael Tomasky
Jeff Jarvis

Other relevant links:

Public Media
Reconstructing Journalism
Henry Jenkins on "transmedia storytelling"

Some books you might read or browse on snow days:

Atton, Chris and James Hamilton. Alternative Journalism
Beckett, Charlie. SuperMedia.
Boler, Megan. Digital Media and Democracy.
Fenton, Natalie. New Media, Old News.
Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture.
Schudson, Michael. Why Democracies Need an Unlovable Press.

How this course works

Participation: 20 percent.
Participation is partly in-class talking and partly blogging.

Have you ever read a non-digital journalist's blog? It's like a folk singer friend of your dad out asked to DJ at a popular club. Entertaining in an anachronistic way but not really good! You will all blog in this course. It's a vital part of today's journalism environment. The point is to get familiar with the medium. Journalists use blogs for different ends. The better you are at it, the more you can do with it.

Assignments: 80 percent

Beat blog: 5 percent

Blog One, analysis: 5 percent
Blog Two, aggregating: 5 percent
Blog Three, reporting: 10 percent

Reported story audio / photos: 15 percent
Reported story video: 15 percent

Feature: 25 percent


Monday Sept 13 | the public
Wednesday Sept 15 | our beat

Assignment: Set up your feeds; post a 500-700 word blog on "Online Dewey," the public and journalism on the class blog.
Monday Sept 20 | Comment is dead, analysis lives
Wednesday Sept 22 | aggregation and the art of the link

Assignment: an analysis blog.
Assignment: an aggregator blog.

Monday Sept 27 | The abbreviated universe on your topic (new and old media)
Wednesday Sept 29 | reporting blog or putting it out there.

Assignment: blog four main sources on your beat. Note difference of online and offline. Any data-sets, raw data you can post with your blog?
Events / Interviews
Monday Oct 4 | Event cover
Wednesday Oct 6 | Event cover audio

Assignment: reported blog on your beat.
Events / interviews
Monday Oct 11 | Event cover photos
Wednesday Oct 13 | Event cover slideshow and or audio
Assignment: reported story(ies) audio / photos

Monday Oct 18 | YouTubing I embed
Wednesday Oct 20 | YouTubing II upload

Monday Oct 25 | YouTubing TV style
* Wednesday Oct 27 | Individual meetings

Assignment: Reported story video
Your pitch at the edit meeting
Monday Nov 1 | making the case for your story
Wednesday Nov 3 | making the case for your story
Rough drafts
Monday Nov 8 | reporting and drafting
Nov 10 | fact checking proofing
Monday Nov 15 | Presentations
Wednesday Nov 17 | Presentations

Assignment: Features.