Desk News Workshop (winter 2019)

JOUR 4857/5857

Jan. 7 – Feb. 15, 2019

Course instructor and advisers

Overview

Welcome to the Desk, where you do the important work of leading, amplifying and supporting the work of reporters in a busy digital newsroom. We are assignment editors, copy editors, production assistants and engagement co-ordinators. Together, we raise the quality and profile of The Signal, our award-winning news website.

We are journalists, and we work closely with our colleagues in the Reporting News workshop. While you will be on the desk for two weeks, you will have three weeks to work on multimedia projects and cycle through the Reporting workshop. After all, most editors start off as reporters.

Our collective goal is to produce original journalism throughout the day, optimized for the platforms our audience is using. This workshop will help you to become a better journalist, writer and multimedia producer, even if you never plan on working as a daily news reporter.

“The ability to look for and find stories in even the most random and obscure places, and turn around a GOOD story, with solid evidence and quotes, in a timely manner is so important.”
– King’s grad 2017

“I hated that it was mandatory [but] it has helped me so much. I don’t think I would have gotten my newspaper job without it.”
– King’s grad 2016

Preparatory classes will be held in the first week of the workshop. Most of the workshop, however, will be conducted in the form of a working newsroom.

Students who successfully complete the workshop should be able to:

Please read this syllabus carefully. It’s your job to understand the assignments and what’s expected of you. If anything is unclear, ask your instructor.

Schedule

Week 1 is for training. Some sessions will be done with our colleagues in the other news workshop. Refer to the Google calendar for details, including room information.

Story meetings are held every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, beginning at 9 a.m. in Classroom 3. You are expected to attend these meetings with your colleagues in the Reporting workshop unless you are out on assignment. Do not schedule interviews or other meetings between 9-10 a.m.

The photo adviser will be in class Tuesday and Friday for a critique of images on our site. This is also your opportunity to get help for any upcoming photo assignments.

The editors on the desk will meet with Terra every day after the story meeting to discuss how the day and week is expected to roll out. The exact time will vary depending on the news of the day.

There will be a weekly analysis of the site’s performance every Friday at 4 p.m. The presentation will be done by the production and engagement editor that week.

Guest speakers will come to class from time to time, and you will be given as much advance notice as possible so you can arrange to be there.

Roles and responsibilities

Reporting

When you’re in the reporting pool, you will research, pitch and produce stories, individually and sometimes in teams. Some reporters begin work in the morning, while others work in the afternoon and evening. Expect to produce no fewer than two stories a week. Some stories take a long time to come together — or even fall apart — so you should be working on at least three chases or pitches at any given time. If a big story breaks, you may be redirected to cover it and have to put something less timely on hold. This is normal journalistic practice.

The Reporting instructor will hear your pitch or assign you. You are expected to read the editorial sked each morning before class, but your pitch should be original and well researched. You should file a one-line description in the pitch document the night before you plan to pitch. Be ready to provide a concise explanation of your story idea during the news meeting. You are encouraged to pitch informally more than once a week. In some cases, another reporter may be assigned to a story that you have pitched.

The reporting adviser will be available during and after the morning meeting to help you prepare for your assignment. You are expected to meet with this instructor at least once a week. Be prepared to answer these key questions.

Desk

You will be on the desk when you’re not reporting, so expect to treat Computer Lab 3 as your news office. This is a full-time job and should take your full attention. While it’s possible to report while you’re an editor, few students are able to pull this off effectively. This means you should manage your reporting time wisely.

There are three main desk duties: assignment, production and engagement. You will perform two of these roles over two separate weeks. A week spans Monday to Sunday.

Assignment duties will include:

Production duties will include:

Engagement duties will include:

Story workflow

The Reporting workshop instructor (Kelly) approves reporting pool assignments, while all other assignments are approved by the Desk instructor (Terra). Your deadline will be set by Terra once your piece is approved. Expect different deadlines for different stories. For example, a story about an evening HRM council decision has a much faster turnaround time than a profile of a new business owner.

Email your draft (including headlines, deck and kicker, and hyperlinks) as a Word document to Terra for editing. Follow the directions for revisions as needed, then file your final version to our WordPress site and save it as a draft.

Notify Katie the copy adviser when it’s ready for her. Katie will send you an email listing all of the changes you need to make. Once you do this and read over the piece one last time, let Terra know the story is ready for her. Only instructors publish pieces to the site. Once your story is posted and you have a URL, share it with your sources and social networks.

Multimedia-based assignments, including those created for social platforms, should be emailed to Terra for editing and critique. If this is a YouTube video, for example, send the URL.

Protocol

This workshop is set up to help you become a professional journalist. There are certain expectations:

Texts

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Being a responsible journalist in Canada means understanding the history, diversity and rights of Indigenous peoples in this country. In Halifax, we are in Mi’kma’ki, the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq people. You are expected to be familiar with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report and its Calls to Action, particularly No. 86, as well as this checklist for reporters by CBC journalist Duncan McCue.

Equipment

Most reporters today use their smartphones as their primary tool for gathering content. After all, you want to be agile and able to file from the field. Some equipment, including DSLR cameras and tripods, is available for use on a temporary basis through the school’s equipment tech, Jeff Harper. Plan ahead if you want to sign something out.

A few suggested apps:

Grading

Your final grade is based on the following:

See the grading rubrics below. You will receive extensive feedback on your drafts and completed stories throughout the course. It’s your job to review those comments and ask questions to ensure you understand them.

Other important notes:

WEEKLY REPORTING: There are six tasks, and your work is assessed for that week overall, not per story. To be considered outstanding you should pitch well researched and developed original story ideas, produce multiple stories, meet deadlines or file early, attend all mandatory meetings and arrive on time, and require just one draft. Your mark is determined as followed:

Filing task: Follow our workflow as specified. For example, make sure you add a Featured Image and photo captions. This mark is about doing your job so others can do theirs.

Deadlines task: Did you attend all mandatory meetings and show up on time? Did you meet your deadlines this week? This includes filing your draft(s) and final copy.

Ideas task: Did you come up with your own ideas or need to be assigned? Were your pitches specific, thoughtful and well-developed? Did you consider the best treatment for the story? This mark is about the work you do BEFORE you produce a piece.

Writing task: Always check your work. This means avoiding typos and following CP style, as well as crafting headlines and leads that sparkle. This applies to drafts and final stories. If you misspell a name you will receive an F!

Reporting task: Is your draft editorially sound? Does it show that you’ve done your research and considered background and context? Did you put extra effort in to find a key source? This mark is about the quality and depth of your reporting.

Multimedia task: Are your images original? Did you include any relevant multimedia (e.g. chart)? Did you include any links to relevant and related online sources? This mark is about thinking beyond text.

 

WEEKLY REPORTING: Your mark is determined as follows:
Excellent (A- to A+) Passable to Good (B- to B+) Below standards (C+ to D) Fail
Filing (15%) Consistently followed workflow directions. Behaviour ensured that others could do their jobs and work kept on schedule. Followed workflow directions for the most part. Responded quickly when notified of filing problem. Generally, behaviour ensured that others could do their jobs and work kept on schedule. Consistent problems with  following workflow directions. Slow to respond when notified of filing problem. Behaviour slowed down workflow. Behaviour stopped workflow and/or prevented others from doing their jobs. May have abandoned draft or failed to file story as directed.
Deadlines (15%) Deadline(s) met. Generally, story or stories published quickly. Attended all mandatory meetings and ready to go by start time. A story filed after 12-hour window (if time sensitive) or an hour or two beyond assigned time (if not time sensitive. Generally, story published within acceptable time frame. Attended all mandatory meetings. May have been late no more than once. A story filed beyond 24-hour window (if time sensitive) or several hours beyond assigned time (if not time sensitive). Generally, story published outside of acceptable time frame. Missed a mandatory meeting without an acceptable excuse. May have been late more than once. A story filed 48 hours after assigned time (if time sensitive) or 24 hours beyond assigned or expected time (if not time sensitive). Generally, story published exceedingly late or not at all. Missed two or more mandatory meetings without an acceptable excuse.
Writing (20%) Generally clean copy in first draft. No more than a few typos or CP errors. Appropriate structure. Highly readable and easy to understand. Compelling headlines and lead. A few typos and CP style errors. Minor problems with structure. Readable. Acceptable headlines and lead. Multiple typos and CP style errors. A major problem with structure. Some problem overall with readability. Generally, means a full rewrite or two. Misspelled name of person or organization, and/or major issues that affect comprehension and readability. Generally, major problems that mean multiple drafts and delays in publishing.
Ideas (15%) Pitches were specific and well-developed, showing considerable research and thought. Ideas were original or advanced previously reported work, challenging yet viable. Suggested appropriate story treatment. Some issues with pitches, such as being too broad or unclear. Came up with some original ideas, though not immediately viable and/or not all challenging. Considered story treatment, though not always ideal or appropriate. Consistent problems with pitches and/or needed to be assigned on a regular basis. May include ideas that aren’t challenging or lack depth. Little consideration to story treatment. No pitches or pitches not your own.
Reporting (20%) Drafts editorially sound, including being accurate and fair. Shows you’ve done your research and considered background and context. Went beyond minimum requirements for publishing (e.g. tracking down witnesses). Drafts generally editorially sound, though some tweaks needed. Shows some research was done, but a key piece may be missing. May lack some background and/or context. Met minimum requirements for publishing. Consistent editorial problems with drafts, leading to at least one major rewrite. This may include problems with research and/or lack of context, or ethical breach in one story. Major editorial hole or ethical breach that prevents publishing of piece.
Multimedia/interactivity (15%) Includes skillful, creative and relevant use of an original image, video, chart or interactive element. Contains hypertext links to all relevant source material. Multimedia element may lack content, technical skill or relevance. Photos mostly original, but may use a file photo or submitted image on occasion. May lack an important hyperlink. Multimedia elements are non-existent or weakly implemented (with a number of factual or technical errors). Consistently reliant on file or submitted photos. Consistently missing key hyperlinks. No attempt to create multimedia or take original photography.

 

PORTFOLIO: Your mark for your story portfolio overall is determined as follows:
Excellent (A- to A+) Passable to Good (B- to B+) Below standards (C+ to D) Fail
Quantity
(50%)
Exceeded story count. May have also contributed to someone else’s work. Met story count (six stories). May have also contributed to someone else’s work. Didn’t meet story count (only four or five). May have contributed to someone else’s work. Three or fewer stories.
Quality
(50%)
A mix of hard news and features, showing ability to report effectively in different scenarios. A mix of different storytelling forms and treatments, including several pieces of web multimedia and/or social multimedia where appropriate. Shows considerable original thinking and effort. Overall, portfolio shows you have considerable depth and range as a new journalist. A mix of hard news and features, but might skew a bit to one over the other. A mix of different storytelling forms and treatments, but might skew a bit to one. A couple of pieces of web multimedia and/or social multimedia where appropriate. Shows some original thinking and effort. Overall, portfolio shows you have some depth and range as a new journalist. Skews heavily to one side, such as photo essays or news conferences. Limited storytelling forms and treatments. Little attention to photography and multimedia. Shows little original thinking and effort. May include a couple of corrected pieces that contained factual errors at the time of publishing. Overall, portfolio shows you need more work to develop as a well-rounded new journalist, but you have a satisfactory start. No variety at all. Overall, portfolio shows little or no ability to meet the publishing requirements of this workshop.

 

EDITING ROLE: Your mark for each one is determined as follows:
Excellent (A- to A+) Passable to Good (B- to B+) Below standards (C+ to D) Fail
Assignment editor Found numerous and relevant upcoming events for editorial calendar. Kept the editorial runsheet up to date. Kept tabs on Signal reporters’ progress and organized reporters for assignments as needed. Kept tabs on other workshops. Kept tabs on key stories by other media. Made relevant and thoughtful suggestions for possible assignment. Handover note was thoughtful and specific. On time for all shifts. New events were added to our calendar, but our newsroom failed to attend a significant newsworthy event because we didn’t know about it. Runsheet sometimes out of date and/or confusing. Didn’t always know what the other workshops were doing. Didn’t always make relevant and thoughtful suggestions for possible assignment. Handover note lacked details and/or simply listed duties, and generally wasn’t as helpful as it could be. May have been late for a shift. Our newsroom failed to attend a number of newsworthy events because we didn’t know about them. Runsheet consistently out of date and/or confusing. Consistently failed to check up on the other workshops. Rarely made relevant and thoughtful suggestions for possible assignment. Handover note incomplete or off focus. May have been late twice or absent for part of a shift. Persistent problems with updating runsheet, keeping track of reporters or making suggestions even after notification from instructor. May have been consistently late or absent for part of a shift.
Engagement editor Social media posts were published promptly. They were lively (where appropriate), and always accurate and appropriate in tone. All included images and hashtags (where appropriate). Responded quickly and professionally to audience comments.  Handover note was thoughtful and specific. Presentation on analytics was thoughtful, clear, focused and professional. On time for all shifts. If part of strategic team, idea was creative, relevant and appropriate, and executed professionally. Our social media posts were published, but not as promptly as possible. They were engaging for the most part, but at times humdrum in tone. Most included images, but some did not. Could have used hashtags more effectively. Replies to audience members were on occasion absent or curt.  Handover note lacked details and/or simply listed duties, and generally wasn’t as helpful as it could be. Presentation on analytics was generally clear and professional, though may have lacked key info. May have been late for a shift. If part of strategic team, idea was generally acceptable and executed well. Social media posts were late to appear, and were dry and unoriginal. Some posts may be inappropriate in tone or contain inaccuracies. Many neglected to include images and hashtags. Consistently failed to reply to an audience member or were unprofessional. Handover note incomplete or off focus. Presentation on analytics was scattered and/or off focus. May have been late twice or absent for part of a shift. If part of strategic team, there was some major issue with idea and/or execution but it happened. Persistent problems with posting on social media and/or audience engagement even after notification from instructor. Presentation was largely incomplete or off focus. May have been consistently late or absent for part of a shift. If part of strategic team, activity may not have happened or may have been mostly incomplete.
Production editor Story stubs had no editorial holes and had relevant headlines. Story selection on the front page was frequent, showing good news judgment. Stories were equally viewable on desktop and mobile, with full-width images and embeds. Any and all corrections/clarifications were handled promptly and professionally. Moderated website comments in a timely manner with regard to our audience interests and our school’s policy. Handover note was thoughtful and specific. Presentation on analytics was thoughtful, clear, focused and professional. On time for all shifts. A story stub was publishable, but may needed tweaks in writing or editorial content. The lead stories on our site went unchanged for a day, or reflected some questionable choices regarding story value. Some technical or usability errors were apparent on either desktop or mobile versions of the site. Any and all corrections/clarifications were dealt with at some point. Comment moderation was at times slow, allowed spam or inappropriate posts. Handover note lacked details and/or simply listed duties, and generally wasn’t as helpful as it could be. Presentation on analytics was generally clear and professional, though may have lacked key info. May have been late for a shift. A story stub had a number of problems that prevented publishing, whether in content or writing. The lead stories on our site went unchanged for more than a day, or reflected weak judgment of news value. A number of technical or usability errors were apparent on either desktop or mobile versions of the site. A correction or clarification was not handled professionally or at all. Comment moderation was ineffectual or unprofessional. Handover note incomplete or off focus. Presentation on analytics was scattered and/or off focus. May have been late twice or absent for part of a shift. Persistent problems, such as with the posting of story stubs, even after notification from instructor. Presentation was largely incomplete or off focus. May have been consistently late or absent for part of a shift.

 

Self-reflection (10%): Learning is a process, and self-reflection is a key part of that. You must produce three self-assessment documents over the course of the workshop (DUE: Jan. 11, Jan. 25, Feb. 15). Write your reflection as a Word doc and attach that in an email. There is no specific word count, but it should be no more than a page. This is about being focused, concise and specific. Filing deadline is 11 p.m. AT.  You must also set up an appointment to meet with Terra for 15 minutes sometime during Week 4 (after you file the second document).

Document 1 (due Jan. 11): Answer four out of five questions:

  1. What you expect will be the biggest challenge for you in this workshop and how you plan on meeting that challenge.
  2. Identify one or two of your strengths and explain how you plan on capitalizing on that;
  3. Identify a problem in your workflow and explain how you plan on solving it (e.g. can’t keep track of deadlines).
  4. Identify a specific goal or two that you hope to meet by the end of this workshop.
  5. Other. Come up with your own question but show that it’s relevant to the workshop.

Document 2 (due Jan. 25): Answer four out of five questions:

  1. What you learned about reporting and writing through the work you’ve done so far in this workshop.
  2. What you think worked or you are getting good at.
  3. What you would’ve done differently or need to work on.
  4. How you plan to apply what you learned in the rest of the workshop.
  5. Other. Come up with your own question but show that it’s relevant to the workshop.

Document 3 (due Feb. 15): Answer four out of five questions:

  1. What you learned about reporting and writing through the work you’ve done in this workshop.
  2. What you think worked or you are getting good at.
  3. What you would’ve done differently or need to work on.
  4. Did you meet the goal(s) you set in Document 1? Explain why or why not.
  5. Other. Come up with your own question but show that it’s relevant to the workshop.
Self-reflection: Your mark is determined as follows:
Excellent (A- to A+) Passable to Good (B- to B+) Below standards (C+ to D) Fail
Notes (collective)
Did all three notes. Answered all questions as required. Detailed responses show deeper thinking and analysis. All deadlines met. Did all three notes. Answered all questions but one or more responses lacks depth and/or analysis. All deadlines met. Failed to answer one or more question, or lack of details and/or shallow analysis. May have missed one deadline. Assignment was mostly incomplete or not done at all. May have missed two or more deadlines.

 

Grade Grade Point Value Definition
A+
A
A-
4.30
4.00
3.70
90-100
85-89
80-84
Excellent
B+
B
B-
3.30
3.00
2.70
77-79
73-76
70-72
Good
C+
C
C-
2.30
2.00
1.70
65-69
60-64
55-59
Satisfactory
D 1.00 50-54 Marginal Pass
F 0.00 0-49 Inadequate

 

Absences

A student who is absent for up to three consecutive calendar days and misses a test or graded assignment must contact the course instructor in advance of the date of the academic requirement. They must then complete and submit a Student Declaration of Absence Form (Journalism) <kingsjournalism.com/absence-form/> to the instructor in person, via email or through Brightspace no later than three calendar days after the last day of the absence. For courses weighted three or six credit hours, a Student Declaration of Absence can be submitted for two separate absences, up to three days each, per course per term. For a 9-credit hour workshop, a Student Declaration of Absence can be submitted for a single such absence.

For long-term absences of more than three consecutive days, a student should follow the same procedure and contact their course instructor within five calendar days after the last day of the absence. Documentation from an on-campus or other health-care professional is required to support a long-term absence and should describe how the medical condition affects the student’s ability to fulfill academic requirements.

A student experiencing a long-term absence, or more than two short-term absences, is encouraged to meet with the Journalism School’s Undergraduate or Graduate Co-ordinator, or the School Director.

Learning and support services

There are a number of resources available to you through Dalhousie University, including Student Health & Wellness, the Writing Centre and study skills coaching. The School of Journalism also has a writing tutor. Talk to your instructor to help identify relevant resources.

Ethics

All students are expected to familiarize themselves with and abide by the School of Journalism’s ethics code.

Inclusive behaviour

King’s prides itself on inclusiveness and respect for others. Our classrooms and newsrooms are public spaces in which racist, sexist, homophobic or intolerant comments or humour will not be tolerated. Do not screen such videos, images or webpages on school equipment or in school facilities. Offensive behaviour is not just disrespectful to your colleagues and to your profession; it may constitute harassment under the King’s Code of Conduct.

Contacting the police

Students must talk to their instructor before they contact Halifax Regional Police or RCMP. On approval of their request, they must send the police an email from their official school account that is cc’d to their instructor.

Safety

All students are expected to read the safety guidelines. To do journalism well, you must sometimes be uncomfortable. You should never be unsafe. If you run into trouble, or if you feel a situation might put your or others’ personal safety at risk, bail out and call your instructor right away.

Intellectual honesty

Plagiarism is stealing someone else’s work and presenting it as your own. It is a form of academic fraud and if you do it, you can end up in big trouble. The most common cases of plagiarism involve students who cut and paste material from the internet or copy something without giving the original author credit. In journalism, giving credit is called attribution. Do not cut and paste. Do attribute your sources. Plagiarism is a serious academic offence. The punishments can range from getting zero on the assignment, failing the course, being suspended or expelled from the university. So it’s in your best interest to adopt good habits when it comes to sourcing material. For more information, go to King’s website and find the section Intellectual Honesty on page 33 of the 2018-19 academic calendar.

Accessibility

Students may request accommodation as a result of barriers related to disability, religious obligation, or any characteristic under the human rights legislation.

Students who require academic accommodation for either classroom participation or the writing of tests and exams should make their request to the Advising and Access Services Centre (AASC) prior to or at the outset of the regular academic year. Please visit Academic Support for more information and to obtain the Request for Accommodation form.

A note taker may be required as part of a student’s accommodation. There is an honorarium of $75/course/term (with some exceptions). If you are interested, please contact AASC at 494-2836 for more information.

Please note that your classroom may contain specialized accessible furniture and equipment. It is important that these items remain in the classroom, untouched, so that students who require their usage will be able to fully participate in the class.

Last Updated: January 9, 2019, 5:29 pm AST