News workshop syllabus (winter 2020)

JOUR 4857/5857

Jan. 6 – Feb. 14, 2020

Main course instructors

Part-time instructors and advisers

Overview

The News Reporting Workshop produces The Signal, the school’s news website, and simulates a digital newsroom. You draw on a toolbox of skills to create compelling and original journalistic content for the site and its social platforms.

We aspire to both cover and uncover Halifax and produce a mix of pieces, from news reports to explainers. This workshop is about fast journalism and daily deadlines. It will help you to become a better journalist, writer and multimedia producer, even if you never plan on becoming 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

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 instructors.

Schedule

Preparatory classes will be held in the first week of the workshop, usually from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a break for lunch. These sessions will include a range of lectures and tutorials, from web production to story management. Refer to the calendar for details.

Most of the workshop, however, will be conducted in the form of a working newsroom. Your story assignments will dictate your schedule, and since we focus mostly on weekdays, you should have your weekends free unless you pick up a time-sensitive story.

As a reporter you’ll need to research, pitch and produce stories, individually and sometimes in teams. You may need to work early in the morning one day, then later in the evening the next. We expect students to work the equivalent of a full work week, so if you have family or job responsibilities, talk to the instructors about your schedule.

We hold mandatory story meetings Monday, Tuesday and Friday, beginning at 9:15 a.m. in Classroom 3. Don’t schedule interviews for this time. We will try to keep these meetings focused and no more than 45 minutes, which means you should come prepared to succinctly explain your pitch. The meetings on Tuesday and Friday will also include a critique of photos.

You are encouraged to sign up for a few non-reporting duties over the course of the workshop. These shifts are always during the day and mostly in Lab 3. If you’re not working one of these shifts or you’re not out on a story, your time is your own.

Roles and responsibilities

You are encouraged to produce two stories a week over five weeks, to learn what it means to juggle multiple chases and assignments at the same time. This is an average. You may find yourself filing three pieces one week and one in-depth piece the next. The goal is to end up with no fewer than 10 distinct pieces.

You are expected to file a focused pitch (no more than two or three lines) for an original story to the shared pitch sheet at least once a week. These pitches are story ideas that have not been approved yet by the instructors. Add any ideas for stories that you cannot cover yourself, due to an issue with timing or a personal conflict of interest, and flag that in the Notes column. You are expected to read this document by 9:15 a.m. so you are prepared for the morning story meeting. Approved pitches will be moved to the assignment sheet and given a deadline.

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. Some stories come together faster than others — a few fall apart — so you should be working on at least three stories or pitches at any given time.

The reporting adviser will be available Thursdays and Fridays, 9:30-11:30 a.m. You are expected to meet with her at least once a week. In some cases she may accompany you out on a story. At any point, however, before you head out on a story you should be able to answer these key questions.

The copy adviser will be in class every weekday 1-6 p.m., so this is your opportunity to get one-on-one help with your piece.

Story workflow

Your deadline will be set once your story is approved. Deadlines are set by an instructor, in consultation with the reporter, based on the timeliness of the story. For example, a story about an evening HRM council decision has a much faster turnaround time than a profile of an artist.

File your draft as a Word doc for editing and email it to the designated instructor. It should include headlines, deck, kicker (if relevant) and hyperlinks, and look like this. Follow the instructor’s directions for revisions as needed. You could be directed to meet with the copy adviser before filing to WordPress, or she may look at your work once you post a draft to WordPress. If she isn’t available, an instructor will copy edit your work. This process takes time and may include multiple steps or rewrites. Once the story is ready for publishing, notify the instructor. Only the two instructors publish pieces to the site.

Once your story is posted and you have a URL, share it with your sources and social networks. You are expected to craft at least one Twitter post for each piece. Send Terra, the desk instructor, a screen grab of your post(s) so she can access this as part of your weekly reporting mark.

Digital desk

Reporting is busy work, but there will be downtime between interviews and even slow days when a story doesn’t come together. Take advantage of that time and learn non-reporting skills, often known as “desk” duties. It will help you to become a more well-rounded journalist. The instructors will post a sign-up sheet at the beginning of each week.

There are various duties that can be generally classified as assignment, production and engagement.

Assignment duties include:

Production duties include:

Engagement duties include:

There is no grade for this work, but completing three shifts is the equivalent of one story. You are free to take on more shifts, but they won’t count toward another piece. The instructors may add extra shifts on busy news days. We will operate on a first come, first served basis.

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 and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. You are expected to be familiar with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report and Calls to Action, and Duncan McCue’s guide to Reporting in Indigenous Communities.

Equipment

Most reporters use their smartphones as their primary tool for gathering content. Some equipment, including DSLR cameras and tripods, is available for use on a temporary basis through the school’s web and equipment technician, Jeff Harper. Talk to him if you don’t know how to use a specific piece of equipment or you need a refresher. Plan ahead if you want to sign something out.

While smartphones are useful, nothing is more reliable than a digital recorder. Most reporters use them daily for both phone and in-person interviews. They’re also invaluable when it comes to picking up high quality audio in situations where a smartphone just doesn’t cut it (noisy news conferences, courtrooms, outside during a loud protest, etc.). You can get a high quality digital recorder for under $70.

Related, you can also benefit from a tiny, portable device like this one for high quality recordings of phone calls on both smartphones and landlines. Many reporters rely on this simple device.

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. Mistakes happen, but you should not be repeating them as the workshop progresses.

Other important notes:

Grading rubrics

WEEKLY REPORTING/PROFESSIONALISM: There are five tasks and your work is assessed for that week overall, not per story. This is to take into account that some stories are more challenging and take more effort than others. You are marked on the work you do before publication, from pitch to rewrite. Generally to be considered outstanding, you should pitch well researched and developed original story ideas, produce two or more editorially sound stories on deadline, require just one draft per story, and prepare and execute relevant social posts. Your mark is determined as follows:

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.

Reporting task: Is your draft editorially sound? Does it show you’ve done your research and considered background and context? Did you put extra effort in to find a witness or key source? This mark is about the quality and depth of your reporting. If you get a fact wrong you will receive an F.

Writing task: Does your piece make sense? Do the sections flow? Is your copy clean? This mark is about the readability of your piece, from structure to spelling. If you misspell a name you will receive an F.

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

Social task: Did you craft relevant and compelling posts for Twitter? Did you consider timing? Did you consider the particulars of that specific platform? Did you curate your posts and send a screen grab to the instructors? This mark is about reaching people beyond our website.

WEEKLY REPORTING: Your mark is determined as follows:
Excellent (A- to A+) Passable to Good (B- to B+) Below standards (C+ to D) Fail
Ideas (20%) Pitches were specific and well-developed, showing considerable research and thought. Ideas were original or advanced previously reported work, and were viable. Suggested appropriate story treatment. Some issues with pitches, such as being too broad or unclear, but generally acceptable. Came up with some original ideas, though not immediately viable. Considered story treatment, though not always ideal or appropriate. Consistent problems with pitches and/or needed to be assigned on a regular basis. Little consideration for story treatment. No pitches or pitches not your own.
Reporting (20%) Drafts are editorially sound, accurate and fair. Shows you’ve done your research and considered background and context. Went beyond minimum requirements for publishing (e.g. tracking down extra 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 major rewrites. 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 one or more stories, and/or got a fact wrong.
Writing (20%) Generally clean copy. No more than a few typos or CP errors. Appropriate structure. Highly readable and easy to understand. A few typos and CP style errors. Minor problems with structure. Readable. Multiple typos and CP style errors. A major problem with structure. Problem overall with readability. Misspelled name of person or organization, or major issues that affect comprehension and readability.
Multimedia/interactivity (20%) 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 some 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.
Social (20%) Highly compelling, relevant and readable post(s) designed for that particular social platform. Generally clean copy and no problems with structure. Appropriate and relevant hashtags and/or mentions. Relevant and readable post(s) designed for that particular social platform. A minor typo or CP style error, and/or minor problem with structure. Relevant hashtags and/or mentions, though one may be missing. Post(s) may be ill suited for that particular social platform. Multiple typos and CP style errors, and/or major problem with structure. Inappropriate or missing tagging. Misspelled name of person or organization, or major issues that affect comprehension and readability. Failed to send a screen grab of your post(s) to the instructors.

 

WEEKLY DEADLINES: Did you meet your deadlines this week? This includes showing up on time for all mandatory story meetings, filing your drafts and final copy as expected, and following our workflow as specified. This mark is about developing the habits of a professional and doing your job so others can do theirs. This is really about time management and respect for other people’s time. Your mark is determined as follows:

Attendance task: Did you show up on time for all mandatory story meetings? Were you in your seat and ready to go? If something unexpected came up, did you notify an instructor immediately about your absence? This mark is about being where you’re expected.

Copy task: Did you meet your deadline for your first draft? Did you file any subsequent drafts promptly? Did you do what you could to ensure your story was posted in a reasonable time frame? This mark is about meeting deadlines to get a story up promptly.

Workflow task: Did you follow the workflow instructions as specified? Did you preview your story to make sure all required fields are filled out (e.g. Featured Image, photo credit)? This mark is about ensuring you did your part to keep us on schedule.

 

WEEKLY REPORTING: Your mark is determined as follows:
Excellent (A- to A+) Passable to Good (B- to B+) Below standards (C+ to D) Fail
Attendance (33.33%) Present and on time for all mandatory meetings. Present for all mandatory meetings, but may have been a minute or two late for one meeting. Late for two meetings. Missed a mandatory meeting without an acceptable excuse, or late for all meetings.
Copy (33.33%) All deadlines met. Generally publishing promptly. All deadlines met, though there may have been an extension or two. Generally publishing within an acceptable time frame (e.g. within 24 hours of an event). Missed a deadline by a few hours. Generally publishing outside of an acceptable time frame (e.g. after 24 hours of an event). Missed a deadline by 24 hours, or consistently filed after deadline.
Workflow (33.33%) Workflow rules followed. Behaviour consistently ensured that others could do their jobs and work kept on schedule. Some workflow rules not followed, slowing down the process a bit. For the most part, behaviour ensured that others could do their jobs and work kept mostly on schedule. A number of workflow rules not followed, or repeated mistakes during the week. Behaviour slowed down workflow. Behaviour stopped workflow and/or prevented others from doing their jobs.

 

PORTFOLIO: This mark is really an assessment from the perspective of a potential employer or editor who doesn’t know if you did one draft or four per story, or four stories one week and only one the next. It reflects whether you understood the point of the course and maximized your learning opportunities. If you complete more than 10 stories, the instructors will consider only the Top 10 when assessing your final portfolio mark. Your mark for your overall story portfolio is determined as follows:

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 (10 distinct pieces or 9 if met desk duty requirement). May have also contributed to someone else’s work. Didn’t meet story count (at least six completed). May have also contributed to someone else’s work. Five or fewer stories.
Quality
(50%)
A mix of hard news and newsy features, showing ability to report effectively in different scenarios. A mix of 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 an emerging journalist. A mix of hard news and newsy features, but might skew a bit to one over the other. A mix of storytelling forms and treatments, but might skew a bit to one. A few 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 spot news or profiles. Limited storytelling forms and treatments. Only one or two pieces of web multimedia and/or social multimedia. Shows little original thinking and effort. Overall, portfolio shows you need more work to develop as a new journalist, but you understand the basics of journalism. No variety at all. Overall, portfolio shows little or no ability to meet the publishing requirements of this workshop.

 

SELF-EVALUATION: This mark reflects the need for journalists to understand that they will always be learning. There are three notes to complete over the course of the workshop. Generally to be considered outstanding, each note should be thoughtful, detailed and filed by the deadline. Your mark is determined as followed:

Self-reflection task: Learning is a process, and self-reflection is a key part of that. The key is to be honest. After all, these documents will help you to help yourself, as well as help the instructors provide personalized suggestions and feedback. Only the instructors read them. Write your reflection as a Word doc and email it to the instructors. 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 10 p.m. AT. Late notes are docked a full letter grade a day (e.g. B- instead of A-). A note filed after three days earns a 0.

Document 1 (due Jan. 10): Answer any four of these questions:

  1. Identify a specific goal for this workshop and explain how you plan on meeting it.
  2. Identify one of your strengths and explain how you plan on capitalizing on it.
  3. Identify a journalist who has a digital/social footprint you admire and
    • explain what you like about it
    • how you plan on adapting it or some aspect of it to your own digital/social presence.
  4. Identify what you expect will be the biggest challenge for you in this workshop and explain how you plan on meeting that challenge (e.g. you regularly miss deadlines, you’re juggling two part-time jobs, you have trouble with spelling and grammar).
  5. Other. Come up with your own question (and answer) but show that it’s relevant to the workshop.

Document 2 (due Jan. 24): Answer any four of these questions:

  1. What you learned about reporting (and desk work if applicable) through the work you’ve done so far and how you plan to apply these lessons in the rest of the workshop.
  2. What you think worked or you’re getting good at.
  3. What you would’ve done differently or need to work on.
  4. What you learned through a particular journalist’s digital/social footprint and how you applied this to your own digital/social presence.
  5. Have you met the goal you set in Document 1? Explain why or why not.
  6. Other. Come up with your own question (and answer) but show that it’s relevant to the workshop.

Document 3 (due Feb. 14): Answer any four of these questions:

  1. What you learned about reporting (and desk work if applicable) through the work you’ve done in this workshop.
  2. What you think worked or you’re getting good at.
  3. What you would’ve done differently or need to work on.
  4. Did you meet the goal you set in Document 1? Explain why or why not.
  5. Maybe you aspire to do something other than daily news reporting. Identify one thing you learned through this workshop and explain how you could apply it to another scenario.
  6. Other. Come up with your own question (and answer) 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
Analysis
(50%)
All questions answered. Responses are specific and detailed and show deeper thinking and analysis. All questions answered, but one response lacks detail, depth and/or analysis. Generally shows a lack of effort, from missing detail to shallow analysis overall. Assignment mostly incomplete or borrows heavily from previous note, or a fact is wrong.
Writing/presentation
(50%)
Copy is clean and highly readable. Copy is generally clean, but there’s a minor problem that affects readability. A number of problems that affect readability. Name misspelled and/or assignment largely incomprehensible.

 

 

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 Coordinator, 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 web pages 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. For more information, go to the King’s website <policies.ukings.ca> and find the Yellow Book.

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

To do journalism well, you must sometimes be uncomfortable. You should never be unsafe. All students are expected to read the School’s safety guidelines. 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.

Academic integrity

Plagiarism is stealing someone else’s work and presenting it as your own. It is a form of academic fraud. 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.

Violations of academic integrity are handled by the university’s Academic Integrity Officer and are taken seriously. The punishment for plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity can range from receiving a zero on the assignment, to failing the course, to being suspended or expelled from the university. If you have any doubt about proper citation for an academic paper or proper attribution in a piece of journalism, contact your instructor. For more information, consult the calendar of the University of King’s College.

Accessibility

Students may request accommodation as a result of barriers to inclusion related to disability, religious obligation, or any characteristic under the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. If you experience barriers related to the design, instruction, and/or experiences within this course please contact the Student Accessibility Centre.

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

Appeals

Disputes over academic performance and assessment will be dealt with according to the Academic Regulations of the School of Journalism. These are described on p. 42 of the King’s Academic Calendar.