Course Syllabus

University of Mississippi v School of Journalism & New Media

JOUR 271 l Section 8 l News Reporting  l Spring 2016

Instructor: Cynthia Joyce
Office: Farley 221
Office hours: Wednesdays/Fridays 10AM-Noon
Also by appointment
Phone: O:  662-915-8787
Class –When and where:

Class Web Site:

Sec 8: T/Th –  1:00PM – 2:15PM
Farley 232

Course Description: Semester course; 3 lecture and laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: JOUR 102. Detailed study in reporting and writing news stories for print publications, broadcast outlets and websites. Focus on interviewing, writing news and preparing for entry-level reporting assignments. Students also will learn online presentation skills, including photos, audio, video and interactive elements.

JOUR 271 is an intermediate-level journalism course in which students report and write news stories. In this course, you will learn how to find story ideas, gather information, develop a beat, interview people and write effectively in a variety of story formats and styles. The course will integrate other journalism skills and concepts, including news judgment, ethics, diversity, copyediting and technological competence.

This class will emphasize outside publication of your work.  Possibilities include Ole Miss student media (such as the Daily Mississippian, Rebel Radio or Newswatch) or in other outlets (such as the Oxford Eagle or Enterprise).  In addition, you will begin to develop a portfolio of media that will help you land an internship or job and launch your journalism career.

You must make a C or better in JOUR 271 to continue in the journalism program.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the course the students will:

  • Recognize and articulate good story ideas.
  • Find and cultivate sources for a beat or a story.
  • Interview people – in person and by phone
  • Write both hard news and soft news
  • Understand the importance of diversity in reporting stories and selecting sources
  • Incorporate use of technology in newsgathering (including video gathering, editing and presentation, audio gathering, editing and presentation and writing for multiple platforms)
  • Apply copyediting rules for grammar, punctuation, spelling and Associated Press style

Learning Assessment:

The following will assess student learning in JOUR 271:

  • Students will produce at least one enterprise story with topic approved by instructor.
  • Students will create a beat book.
  • Students must interview at least three sources for each story.
  • Students will produce one story that explores a diverse topic or includes diverse sources.
  • Students will produce five stories using new media technology (at least one with each of the following:  audio, stills, video, online enhancements).
  • Students will take be tested on grammar, punctuation, spelling and Associated Press style on the midterm exam.

Prerequisites for JOUR 271:

Before taking this course, you must pass JOUR 102 (Multimedia Writing). If you do not meet that prerequisite, you will be dropped from JOUR 271.

Required Textbooks and Other Materials:

You will need:

  • Writing and Reporting News:  A Coaching Method. © 2009. Available at the Ole Miss Bookstore. and other online retailers may have cheaper copies.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook (© 2009). At, you can buy the latest AP Stylebook for $18.95 or purchase an online subscription for $25.

Other resources you will need:

For this class, you will need a binder or folder. In it, you will keep class handouts, printouts, background stories and other materials. You also will need a portable hard drive (recommended, with 120 gigabytes or more) to store digital files of your work and course materials. Save all your work; keep a backup; and always work with the latest version of a story. The ability to manage information is a key to success in this course. We will not accept “computer problems” as an excuse for missing deadlines.

In terms of technology, you must have a digital video camera (or access to one). A cell phone and a laptop computer also would be helpful.

Bring your binder, hard drive and textbooks to every class meeting. Also bring headphones or earbuds; some assignments require listening to audio from your computer. And, of course, no reporter would be caught dead without a notebook and pen.

Supplementary Textbooks:

To help you improve your writing skills, you might buy Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark, a scholar and writing coach at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. You can also master these tools by taking a module from a free online university called

This course assumes that your grammar skills are pretty good. If they aren’t, you must sharpen them, quickly. You should consider obtaining one of the following books:

When Words Collide: A Media Writer’s Guide to Grammar and Style

Working with Words: A Handbook for Media Writers and Editors

News Consumption and Knowledge of Current Events:

As journalists, it is crucial for you to keep up with what is happening on campus, in the Oxford area, in the United States and around the world. Every day, you should read, or at least skim, the Daily Mississippian and a major news publication such as The New York Times or The Washington Post – if not on paper, then online. You also should monitor the local papers, such as the Oxford Eagle. And you should listen to NPR and watch news on television. By following the news media, you will sharpen your news senses, and you will learn from good (and perhaps bad) examples of journalism. There will be occasional news quizzes to check your news consumption habits.

Students will also be expected to stay on top of local events listed at and

Class participation:

Each Tuesday, students will be expected to bring in a news story that “worked” (can be print, video, radio, info graphic, slideshow or any combination thereof); students should be prepared to defend the elements they found to be the most/least effective (i.e., if an otherwise strong news story about a war battlefront moving forward into new territory does not have a map, make a note of it) during class. Not everyone will be asked to present their example every week, but a brief write-up, along with a link to the story, submitted to me via email, is expected from each student. These write-ups should be submitted via email for the first two weeks of class. They will be posted to your class blog in subsequent weeks.

Social media:

Students will be expected to create a Twitter account, as well as a Tweetdeck or Hootsuite account, if they don’t already have one, and to follow at least 10 significant sources of news and information. At least five of these should be established news orgs (or individuals from within those orgs), at least five should NOT be local, and at least two (either local or national) should be specific to your beat.

You will be encouraged to develop your own Twitter Lists according to your interests/beats, but below are just a few suggestions:

News headlines: BreakingNews, CNNbrk

Media industry: Carr2n, BrianStelter, poniewozik, NiemanLab, Poynter, JLab

Digital News: Mashable, Slashdot, TechCrunch

General interest TheAtlantic, NYT, WSJ, New Yorker, Slate, Salon

Knight Digital Media Center offers this useful guide to creating a good Twitter list:

Important Rules about E-Mail:

Ole Miss gives each student an e-mail account, and that is the address Blackboard uses (and we will use) for this class. We will communicate frequently in this class by e-mail. Therefore, you should check your e-mail regularly for messages about JOUR 271. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are receiving e-mails from me.

When you send me e-mail, begin the subject line with “JOUR 271:”. Otherwise, the spam filter may delete your message.

PLEASE NOTE: I DO NOT DISCUSS CLASS GRADES VIA EMAIL. You must email me to set up an in-person meeting, or come see me during office hours, to discuss your grades at any point during the semester.

Class Attendance:

Attendance at all class meetings is mandatory. Attendance WILL be taken. Three absences will result in the lowering of your final grade by one full letter grade. Five absences or more will result in automatic failure. Do not schedule interviews or plan to attend news events during class times without prior approval.


There will be several guest speakers over the course of the semester—both in-person and via Skype—who will address issues ranging from creating infographics to developing trustworthy sources. Dates TBD.


For journalists, an essential skill is the ability to work against a deadline. Therefore, in this course, you must turn in work on time – at the start of class on the day the work is due. Plan ahead, organize your time and do not procrastinate.


Unless otherwise noted on the schedule, any papers not submitted at the assigned day and time will not be accepted and a grade of zero (0) assigned. You should begin planning stories in advance, at least a week beforehand. Missing sources are no excuse – always have backup source(s) planned. There are no excuses for in-class or lab assignments. I expect you to be organized! This also means you should always have a “Plan B” in case your primary story idea falls through. So always be working on at least two stories simultaneously.


Writing for a publication, broadcast or online outlet involves writing, rewriting and rewriting again. You will be asked to revise stories until they are polished and publishable as professional work.

When you submit a story, we will edit it and give you an initial grade. We may then set a deadline for you to revise the story. In making revisions, you will be expected to go beyond “cosmetic” corrections (e.g., fixing typos or spelling errors). Your rewrite should fundamentally improve your story; it may well require additional reporting.


In addition to your weekly beat assignments, you may also be assigned events to cover, at least one reaction story, a column, and other occasional stories as assigned. Some of these will NOT be on your beat.

All stories should be double-spaced. Put your name, and the date the article was turned in, at the top left-hand cover of the first page of the article, and email the article to me. Follow AP style (points deducted for style errors).

Each story should include a separate page listing contact information for sources, and how the source was interviewed (in person, email, phone). Whenever possible, you should interview key sources in person.  Sources will be contacted to verify information. Your best work will be submitted for publication, so be sure to tell your sources that their comments are not “just” for a story that only the instructor will see. However, stories that have already appeared in any publication will not be accepted for class assignments. STORIES THAT HAVE BEEN SUBMITTED FOR OTHER CLASS ASSIGNMENTS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

Articles turned in without a list of sources and contact information, and details about how the source was interviewed, will be lowered one-half letter grade.

It is NOT acceptable to interview roommates, friends and relatives, fraternity brothers/sorority sisters, employers or anyone else who could be considered a potential conflict of interest.  These are the kinds of stories that require expert or independent opinion. Do not “recycle” a story you wrote for this or any other class or publication. When you quote someone, it will be assumed that you personally interviewed the person unless your story states otherwise. Interviews via e-mail should not be the primary interviewing tool.

Grading Standards:

In evaluating your work, I will apply professional standards. An A, for example, means your story required little if any editing and is ready for publication or broadcast.

I will critique each version of a story that you submit and give you feedback. In the critique, I will evaluate your reporting skills (such as accuracy, completeness, objectivity and multiple sourcing), writing skills (the story’s lead, organization, use of quotes or sound bites, video referencing) and mechanics (spelling, grammar, AP style). I also will look for elements that complement the story – photos, video, graphics and sidebar material, for example.

Here are the standards for specific letter grades:

A or A- = Substantially error-free and ready for broadcast or publication

B+, B = Solid effort; only minor editing errors

B-, C+, C = Average work; needs some reorganization and rewrite

C-, D+, D = Multiple errors; needs major rewrite

F = Gross factual errors; unsuitable for broadcast or publication

0 = Missed deadline; ignored assignment



A      93 and above

A–    90–92

B+    87-89

B       83-86

B–     80–82

C+    77-79

C       73-76

C–     70-72

D+    67-69

D      63-66

D–    60-62

F       59 and below

Calculation of Final Course Grades:

For your final grade, these gradebook items will be weighed as follows:

Component of final grade

Percent of
final grade

Story #1


Story #2 + multimedia elements TBD


Story #3 +multimedia elements TBD


Story #4 Meeting story


Story #5 Beat story


Story #6 Profile + video


Story #7 Final story + Multimedia elements


Class blog/Wordpress site


What works assignments


Final project






No incompletes will be given in this course, except for dire emergencies. All assignments must be completed by the end of the semester to pass.


Fabricating material or using another’s work without attribution will draw an automatic F in the course, and your name will be turned in to appropriate university officials. In this course, as in the journalism profession, plagiarism is not tolerated. This means you must not use direct quotes or verbatim material from a newspaper or other publication without giving credit.

Unless we specify otherwise, all work done for this course is “pledged” work and implicitly carries this pledge:

“On my honor, I have neither given nor received aid on this assignment.”

Behavior in the Classroom and in the Field

You are entitled to receive instruction free from interference by other students. If you believe that another student’s behavior is disruptive, tell us so we can deal with the situation.

During class, you may use the computers only as we allow; you may not read e-mail, browse the Web, play games or do other activities unless authorized. During lectures and discussions, you must turn off your computer monitors.

You must not install any programs on the computers in our classroom. You must not install screensavers or desktop images, either. Action will be taken against violators. Tell us immediately whether unauthorized programs have been installed on the computer you are using.

No food or drink is allowed in the classroom. Turn off your cellular phones before class begins. You may not sleep, wear headphones or use electronic devices (such as computer games) in class. You must not conduct side conversations or create other disruptions. It is disruptive to arrive late and/or pack up early.

Be polite; respect your classmates, your instructor and others with whom you will interact during this course. If you engage in any behavior that we deem disruptive, you will get a verbal warning for the first incident and a written warning for the second. A third incident may result in your being administratively withdrawn from this class.

In reporting stories and doing other work for JOUR 271, you will interact with news sources, Ole Miss officials and other people. You must act in a professional manner at all times: in interviewing people, talking to them on the phone and communicating with them by e-mail. This means being respectful, polite and non-argumentative – in short, acting as a professional and ethical journalist. It also means dressing appropriately for interviews and other meetings. Your behavior and appearance reflect not only on you but also on Ole Miss and the School of Journalism. If you act unprofessionally, we will lower your grade accordingly.

Cultural Diversity:

It is vital that students in this course broaden their mass communications experiences, with guidance from the instructor, by including in their course work people and subjects such as ethnic, racial and religious minorities, people with disabilities, gay men and lesbians, and other groups. The intent is to ensure that students are exposed to diverse ideas and perspectives. In this class, it is the responsibility of the instructor and students to foster an environment that supports free expression.

Students with Disabilities:

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires the University to provide academic adjustments or accommodations for students with documented disabilities. If you have a disability that requires an academic adjustment or accommodation, meet with me to discuss your needs and how we can address them.

Schedule of classes, readings and assignments

As a general rule, we will introduce important concepts during the lecture; practice those concepts; and then work on a graded assignment. Before coming to the lecture, you must read the chapters to be covered in that day’s lecture. This schedule is subject to change. Changes will be announced in class and posted on Blackboard.

Week 1:  Introductions and Refresher: Who are we? What is this class? What is “news”?

In-class: Set up Google News Alerts, Twitter Lists, Twitter accounts

Assignment: Pitch your preferred “beat”


  • Carole Rich, Chapter 1 – Changing Concepts of News
  • Carole, Rich, Chapter 3 – The Basic News Story
  • Carole, Rich, Chapter 7 – Interviewing Techniques

Week 2:  Finding the Focus of a News Story/ Covering news events


  • Carole Rich, Chapter 8 – Leads and Nut Graphs
  • Carole, Rich, Chapter 9 – Story Organization
  • Carole Rich, Chapter 4 – Convergent Media Writing
  • Carole, Rich, Chapter 20 – Speeches, News Conferences & Meetings

Week 3:  Working a Beat

  • Carole Rich, Chapter 19 – Beat Reporting

Week 4:  Producing for the Web:  Writing and SEO.


  • Carole Rich, Chapter 13 – Online Journalism.
  • Lab work with WordPress.

Week 5:  Producing for the Web:  The Web package and social media.

  • Readings posted online

Week 6:  New Media Ethics & Diversity:  Ethical decision-making and cultural sensitivity.


  • Carole Rich, Chapter 16 – Media Ethics.
  • Carole Rich, Chapter 17 Multicultural Sensitivity

Week 7:  Visualizing the Story:  Capturing the moment with photos.

MEETING STORY DUE WEEK OF MARCH 7 (within 24 hours of attending meeting)

Read:  Carole Rich, Chapter 5 – Curiosity and Story Ideas


Week 9: Developing a feature story:  Enterprise reporting.



  • Carole Rich, Chapter 6 – Sources and Online Research

Week 10:  Developing characters:  Profiles and video newsgathering.



  • Carole Rich, Chapter 18 – Profiles and Obituaries

Week 11:  Writing for Broadcast

  • Carole Rich, Chapter 12 – Broadcast Writing.

 Week 12:  Writing for Broadcast – Part 2:  Storytelling


  • Video News Story – Script + edited video

Week 13:  Video storytelling:  Editing video stories.

Read: Lab work with Premiere.

  • Story #4 – Profile – Text + video –

Week 14:  Semester Wrap/ Final project drafts due

Week 15: Final projects due



I hereby acknowledge that I have received a copy of the syllabus for JOUR 271
(News Reporting). I have read and understood the course policies, including the policies on class attendance and grading.


Printed name




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