INSTRUCTOR: STEVE FOX
How to contact Professor Fox in the Spring 2013 semester:
Phone: 545-5923 (office)
Classes: Tuesday, Thursday 2:30-4:30 p.m., Bartlett 107.
Office Hours: Mondays, 1-3 p.m.; Tuesdays/Thursdays, 9-11 a.m. By appointment.
In this hands-on class you will learn the tools and techniques of in-depth investigative reporting. Students will work both as an individual and as part of a reporting team. We will use advanced reporting methods, including interviewing, Freedom of Information requests, database searches and other techniques.
This class will analyze questions related to rape at college campuses. We will look at coverage of rapes at campuses around the country as well as locally. Students will focus on the rape at UMass last semester as well as the report of a rape at Amherst College. Students will examine the controversial question of whether a “rape culture” exists on college campuses today.
Students will gain practical knowledge in researching, reporting and writing news articles, analyses and narratives. Classes will run much like a newsroom operation.
The class is part of a partnership between this class and The Huffington Post. The aim behind this partnership is to analyze whether security efforts have improved at UMass and Amherst College and to analyze how sexual assault complaints are handled on local campuses as well as nationally. Students will also seek out and tell the stories of sexual assault survivors.
This course will show you how to do in-depth investigative reporting. At the same time, you will be immersed in the practice of investigative journalism. As part of the class, students will regularly update a blog on The Huffington Post. The blog will include everything from interviews, link aggregation, video and photos. The main project for the class will be a package of data and stories examining what happens this semester.
As part of this class, students will attend and report on community meetings and rallies that may occur on this topic. Students will be expected to do a good amount of interviewing and research outside of class. There may be night meetings so please plan accordingly.
Remember, this is a journalism class and plagiarism is a serious academic offense. The Web has, in the minds of many, clouded the cheating playing field. But it really hasn’t. Work that is not yours needs to be credited. It’s really as simple as that. If you have questions, ask.
Your final grade is based on the following components: Weekly classroom memos, blog entries, a final project, attendance and participation.
Your final semester grade will be based on the professors’ subjective evaluation of all of the work you complete and submit during the course. Attendance and participation form a significant portion of the semester grade. Criteria critical to your final grade include: Quality of written materials; meeting deadlines; participation in class activities/discussions; attendance at class meetings.
* Weekly Assignments: (20 percent of your grade). You will have regular memos/summaries due to me as well as class blog discussions. We’ll talk more about this in class. You will turn in a weekly memo (due each Thursday.) The memo should be turned in by e-mail and hard copy at the start of class and must be 1-2 pages long, double- spaced. Please send the email as an attachment, do not send the memo in the body of the message. Your memo should cover:
2. Web searches
3. Status of story/project/blogging, and
4. Other comments.
Most memo assignments will have a topic with them but they should also review readings, documents looked at, electronic information and databases checked, human sources contacted, what you learned and dead ends or difficulties that you encountered as you work on your story. Think of the memo as your weekly diary.
* Blog project: (30 percent of your grade). A major part of this project will be blogging for The Huffington Post. We will brainstorm blogging themes for this project and we will divide up into blogging teams to cover those themes. Each student will be required to contribute at least 8 blog entries to the blog. (The blog must be published in order for it to count as an entry.) We will talk more about what makes for a good blog entry in class. The grade for your blog will cumulative, so focus on developing your blog voice over the course of the semester. Also, here’s the grading rubric for the blog.
* Final Project: (45 percent of your grade). We will discuss topics for your final project in class. Your final project should include a written piece (750-100 words) as well as a multimedia piece (photo gallery, podcast, audio interview, audio slideshow, video.) You can work with a partner on this.
* Class Participation: (5 percent of your grade). I expect enthusiastic participation in our class meetings as well as the class discussions that will take place electronically. Class attendance is MANDATORY. There will be an attendance sheet you will be required to sign each class. If you’re going to miss class, let me know and I will let you know whether it is an excused absence. If not, after two unexcused absences, you will lose 5 percent of the points in your final grade; after four unexcused absences, 10 percent; after six unexcused absences, 20 percent; after eight unexcused absences, 40 percent.
* Unless otherwise specified, please follow Associated Press style for all assignments.
(*All listed readings are to be done for the week listed.)
* “Investigative Reporting,” by Marcy Burstiner.
* “The Art of Access,” by David Cuillier and Charles N. Davis.
* Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual (for print). Please bring the stylebook to class with you to aid in-lab work.
* Online Readings: This syllabus links to various required online reading assignments under the day-to-dayschedule. I will also add to the reading list as the semester progresses.
* Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency, Mindy McAdams (PDF)
* Handouts/Tutorials. There are tutorials for all editing software to be used in this class.
* You are the latest class to use the “Journalism Wireless Mobile Lab.” We have Mac laptops for this class, loaded with all the necessary software. Feel free to use your own Mac laptops and in class.
* The Journalism Department has purchased video cameras, audio recorders and digital cameras. We will use that equipment in class, but if you have your own equipment, let me know –- that will help. When you use department equipment, you will sign out for it and be responsible for it.
* If you haven’t done so already, please purchase a flash drive or an “external hard drive” so that you can transfer your work from computer to computer. The raw video that you shoot takes up a lot of space and thumb drives don’t have enough space, so you’ll need the external hard drive.
Each assignment will be graded for:
* Accuracy — Misspelled names and factual errors will result in a letter-grade deduction. Video and audio that give an inaccurate sense of time and place will also be graded down.
* Meeting of deadlines — Missed deadlines will result in letter-grade deductions and you will lose one letter grade for every day you miss.
* Substance — Each piece of a package must be able to stand on its own as a piece of journalism — whether text, photos, audio or video. Each piece should complement the other.
* Organization – Regardless of the format, stories should be organized coherently.
* Quality – Don’t submit an audio slideshow that is missing the audio. Always shoot for excellence, not mediocrity.
* Creativity – Is welcome, but it has to work. Multimedia journalism is exciting because if offers so many opportunities for experimentation. But, remember, we’re doing journalism here. There are very well-defined boundaries.
* Reporting – Remember that this is a reporting class and that the more reporting you do both research and interviews, the better your projects will be.
* Writing – Don’t forget, good writing drives all.
* Time Management — you won’t be graded on this directly, but managing your time matters. Investigations and multimedia packages take time. I know you all have demands on your time, so plan accordingly. Remember, for every one hour of video shot, you should allow for about 3 hours of editing time. Storyboarding is important in this class. When working in teams, lay out ahead of time who is going to do what, when. And, make sure you have a backup plan. Interviews fall through.
A: 94 +
F: 60 and under
Grading Rubric (the same general standards will be used for all writing assignments):
- Excellent or A
Professional quality work. An insightful, relevant, newsworthy subject. Story involves the reader in its drama, humor, ethos or pathos. Technique is flawless with perfect content, organization and mechanics. Information supporting the story is complete and accurate. Wording is precise. The writing/multimedia explores the story at different levels and does not simply make the same point from different perspectives. Publishable and distinguished.
- Good or B
Competent, functional storytelling. Journeyman journalism. Publishable. Clean copy/multimedia that makes a significant point efficiently in support of the story. Appropriate expression of active, believable, moments that reveal a key person, place or event. Details are thorough and accurate. Writing mechanics and organizational technique are of a high order. The story is balanced.
- Acceptable or C
Average, run-of-the-mill story-telling. Probably publishable, but undistinguished. Properly written, but the content is average quality that may or may not be publishable. The article or story/multimedia offers little insight into why the subject is newsworthy. Content is adequate to identify the subject, but poorly organized. Mechanics are good.
- Poor or D
Unpublishable work. A combination of flaws in conceptualizing, researching, organizing and writing render the work unsatisfactory. This is work, which with better planning and extra effort, might have been publishable.
- Unacceptable or F
Not publishable. Decidedly unprofessional. Weaknesses in journalistic thinking, feature writing technique, and/or professionalism have resulted in a failure on this assignment. Inaccuracies and other content errors, poor mechanics, unpublishable organization, and/or missed deadlines have reduced the assignment to failure.
* Associated Press print stylebook rules and rules of grammar should be followed on every assignment.
* Factual errors will result in full-letter grade deductions.
* No excuses, other than the hospitalization of the student or the death of a member of the student’s immediate family, will be accepted for late assignments.
* A full letter grade will be deducted for each day an assignment is late, except for the final project, which will receive an F if turned in after deadline.
1. Grades. Don’t negotiate your grade. In an ideal world, there would be no grades. In this world, I don’t negotiate grades. Everyone starts at 0; everyone can finish with an ‘A.’ Your grade is what you earn. I don’t want to hear why you need a B or an A. I don’t want you to tell me why you deserve a higher grade. And, I know you all compare grades, but I don’t want questions about why Bill or Sally received a higher grade.
2. Stay in touch. If you need to get in touch with me, email me. If it’s an emergency and you need an immediate response, call me. Or – you can come to my office! Conversations in the hallway, brief 5-minute visits will help, trust me. When you email me, use common sense. E-mails may not count as part of your grade, but they count as part of your overall personality. Remember that inappropriately informal and/or unprofessional emails leave indelible marks.
3. Class Behavior. Don’t IM, Gchat, text, tweet, ping, friend or update your Facebook page during class (unless it’s part of an assignment.) We are all adults. Please do not make me ask why your keyboard is clicking when a guest speaker is talking. The first time, you lose points. The second time, I’ll ask you to leave class and come back the next week.
4. Electronics. When you enter class, turn off your cell phone and all electronic accessories. No rings. No exceptions. Every semester I have to ask someone to leave class for electronic abuse. Don’t be that student.
5. Assignments. Don’t ask to make up missed assignments. If you know you’ll miss a class with an announced assignment, you may be able to do the assignment early. Otherwise, if you miss class, you miss the assignment. Assigned readings should be completed by the start of class Monday. So, yes, read ahead.
6. No extensions. Deadlines are non-negotiable. If I have to adjust a due date, I will let you know (and any adjustment would be to your advantage). Otherwise, you know exactly when an assignment is due. If you get sick or if your best friend is having a crisis, the deadlines do not change, and if you miss one, you lose the points specified. Aside from your hospitalization or a death in your immediate family, there are no exceptions. Plan ahead.
7. Duh. Don’t ever, ever, ever make the argument that you actually would have had a higher grade if you had not have lost so many points for misspelled words or factual errors. I hope this is self-explanatory.
8. ** Attendance. Attendance is mandatory. You have a financial investment in this class, so a lost class means lost money. I will have a sign-up sheet in each class. You are allowed two unexcused absences. Each unexcused absence will result in a loss of five points from your final overall class grade.
9. Plagiarism. Students should be aware that suspect assignments (e.g., those with changes in voice and style; those missing significant attribution; those with quote that don’t match the reporting) may be submitted to Turnitin by the instructor for the purpose of checking for possible plagiarism. Submitted assignments will be included in the UMass Amherst dedicated database of assignments at Turnitin and will be used solely for the purpose of checking for possible plagiarism during the grading process during this term and in the future. Students must provide an electronic copy of their assignment to the instructor for submission to the service when plagiarism is suspected, in order to receive a grade on the assignment and to avoid possible sanctions.
Standards, Ethics and Academic Integrity:
The University of Massachusetts has an Academic Honesty Policy, which we follow in this class. Journalism students are expected to adhere to the strictest journalistic and academic standards. For this class, you must do all work yourself, without collaboration with classmates or others, except for when I assign team projects. Along with certain rights, students also have the responsibility to behave honorably in an academic environment. Academic dishonesty, including cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty and plagiarism (including use of unauthorized photos, graphics or text from the Web) will not be tolerated. Mindy McAdams provides a good outline at her Against Plagiarism in Journalism Web site. Any abridgement of academic integrity standards will be referred directly to the department director. If you have a question about plagiarism, ask.
SO, TO RECAP:
For our purposes, All deadlines are hard deadlines.
If you miss a deadline, you lose one full letter grade.
Late assignments will be reduced by one full letter grade for each day late.
Unless otherwise specified, please follow Associated Press style for all assignments.