Edmund Lawler * DePaul University * Winter Quarter 2000

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CMN 377 Advanced Reporting

Winter Quarter 2000
Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9:40 a.m. to 10:40 a.m.

Instructor:  Edmund Lawler
Office:  SAC 572C
Phone:   (773) 325-2960
Office Hours: 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday and Friday and by appointment
E-Mail:  elawler@condor.depaul.edu
Web site: www.depaul.edu/~elawler

Course Description

The course is designed to go beyond the inverted pyramid of basic newswriting and focus on some of the sophisticated newsgathering techniques used by journalists. As is true with any story, Advanced Reporting begins with an idea. Story generation techniques will be examined in the class. Interviewing skills, the backbone of every story, will also be emphasized.

Increasingly, journalists are using computers to assist in their reporting. Databases have proved especially useful in the newsgathering process. The course will explore how using databases and documents can enhance a story. Other Advanced Reporting techniques that will be explored include the use of surveys, field experiments and participant observation. The class will also include a component on business writing, which frequently taps Advanced Reporting techniques. Business writing is of particular interest to me having covered the topic for the Associated Press in Chicago. I was also the business editor of the Indianapolis News and managing editor of Ad Age’s Business Marketing magazine.

The course will also explore the concept of journalistic objectivity and the ever-shifting field of journalistic ethics. Students will apply the concepts and techniques of Advanced Reporting through a series of stories that will be written during the quarter. The best stories will be submitted for consideration to The DePaulia, the university’s award-winning student newspaper, which I advise.

Instruction will come in the form of lectures and class discussions, critiques of your work, student presentations, guest lectures and in-class and computer lab exercises.

Required Text

“Advanced Reporting: Discovering Patterns in News Events” 2nd Edition, Donald L. Shaw, et. al.  (Waveland Press Inc.)

Late Assignments

Journalism is a deadline-driven business. Late work is not acceptable in newsrooms and will NOT be acceptable in this class. In addition, if you fail to show up for an in-class writing assignment or exam, you will receive a failing grade for that assignment. If you have a written medical excuse and notify me by phone or in person PRIOR to the absence, I will simply excuse the work. Otherwise, it’s an F. No exceptions.

Policy Regarding Cheating

Cheating on assignments will not be tolerated. Fabricating information or claiming another’s work as your own is cheating. Anyone caught cheating will be assigned a failing grade for the class. Consult the student handbook for the university’s policy on plagiarism.

Classroom Decorum

The class begins promptly at 9:40 a.m. Unless you’re experiencing a medical emergency, remain in the classroom for the full hour. You may bring something to drink, but do not bring food. No drinks are allowed in the computer labs. Finally, it’s important that you treat everyone in the class with your utmost respect, particularly during classroom discussions.

Course requirements

Three advanced stories, 500 points

You will write three advanced stories. The first story is worth 150 points and will be based on a campus-related topic that I assign. It must make use of multiple news sources. The second story is also worth 150 points and it must employ the technique of participant observation. The third story is worth 200 points and it will be based on a campus or higher education-related topic. It must employ one or more Advanced Reporting techniques. Stories must be carefully edited and proofed. Style, spelling, grammatical and syntactical errors will hurt your grade.

If the story is deemed newsworthy and space permits, the story will appear under your byline in The DePaulia. It’s a good way to build a portfolio for those of you considering a career in the media.

Exam, 200 points

A multiple-choice and short-essay exam will be given in the latter half of the class based on your reading and interpretation of the assigned text: “Advanced Reporting: Discovering Patterns in News Events.”

Advanced Reporting Autopsy, 100 points

Your analytical and presentation skills will be put to the test in this exercise. You will be assigned an advanced story from the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. You will examine the story’s structure, content and reporting techniques. You will present your findings in a short class presentation.

The Playboy Interview, 100 points

Your interviewing skills will be tuned up by doing an in-class Playboy magazine-style profile of an assigned classmate. The format uses a brief introductory biography followed by a series of questions and answers.

Class Participation, 50 points

You are expected to come prepared to discuss the assigned readings from the textbook and other sources. Students who are content to remain spectators during the discussions will fare poorly in this component of the grade. I will make “random calls” during class to ensure that you’ve covered the material. To earn all 50 points you must actively and insightfully participate in class discussions. Students who participate sporadically or only when called upon will earn from 20 to 40 points and students who choose to remain silent as the grave will forfeit the opportunity to earn any participation points.

Attendance, 50 points

Obviously, you have to be in class to participate. To earn all 50 points, you can miss no more than three classes. Miss four or more classes and you only earn 30 points and if you miss five or more classes, you won’t earn any points for attendance. I take attendance at the start of the class. If you’re not present when your name is called, you’re considered absent.

Course Schedule

Week of:
Jan. 3 Class overview and discussion of Chapter 1: Patterns and Chapter 2: The Skills of a Professional Journalist
Jan. 10 Discuss Story Generation handout; Internet exercise in lab
Jan. 17 Discuss Chapter 5: Personal Interviews; Playboy Interview exercise
Jan. 24 Discuss Chapter 3: Vantage Points; Story Structures; Playboy Critique
Jan. 31 Advanced Reporting Autopsy Presentations
Feb. 7 Business writing; Critique of Story #1 (Story #1 deadline: Monday, Feb. 7)
Feb. 14 Discuss Chapter 13: Participant Observation; Chapter 14: Field Experiments; and Chapter 15: How Voters Use Media
Feb. 21 Discuss Chapter 10: Documents; Chapter 11: Using Databases for Reporting; and Chapter 12: Computer-Assisted Reporting; Lab exercises (Story #2 deadline: Monday, Feb. 21)
Feb. 28 Discuss Chapter 7: Surveying the Public; Chapter 8: Good and Bad Surveys; and Chapter 9: Self-Administered Survey; Lab exercise (Test on Advanced Reporting Text, Friday, March 3)
March 6 Discuss Chapter 16: Journalists are Objective: Ethics exercise; Careers Workshop
March 13 Final paper #3 due Friday, March 17 at 8:45 a.m.

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