Reporting Workshop Syllabus (winter 2019)

JOUR 4857/5857 News Reporting Workshop

Jan. 7 – Feb. 15, 2019

Course instructor and advisers


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

The goal is to produce original journalism throughout the day, optimized for the platforms our audience is using. This workshop is about fast news and daily deadlines. It will help you to become a better journalist, writer and photographer, even if you never plan to work 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.


Reporters research, pitch and produce stories, individually and sometimes in teams.

Our story meetings are held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 9 a.m. in Classroom 3. You are expected to attend every news meeting, unless you are out on a story that is on the editorial sked.  A reporting adviser will be available during and after every news meeting. The photo adviser will be in class Tuesday and Friday mornings. Your colleagues on The News Desk will provide a weekly analysis of the site’s performance Friday at 4 p.m. Guest speakers will come to class from time to time, and you will be given as much notice as possible so you can arrange to be there.

Everyone in the workshop is in the reporting pool. Expect to complete no fewer than two stories a week. 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. You should be working on at least three stories at any given time. 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. You should file a one-line pitch for an original story here at least once a week.

You are expected to read the editorial sked each morning between 8:30 and 9.

You are expected to check in with the reporting adviser before going out on assignment to ensure you are prepared.


The first week: You must log in to The Signal WordPress site and familiarize yourself with the publication and the Guide. The schedule of classes for the first week is posted on The Signal’s Google Calendar. You will have access to the editorial sked and the pitch document in Google Drive.

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.


You are expected to pitch a well-researched, original story at least once a week. 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. Pitches should be researched in advance. 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.

Your deadline will be set once your story is approved. Deadlines are set by the instructor, 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 a new business owner.

File your draft (including headlines, deck and kicker, and hyperlinks) as a Word document to Brightspace. Your first story should be filed in the Story 1 assignment, your second in the Story 2 assignment and so on. The name of the Word file should be the same as your story slug in the editorial calendar. Kelly will contact you with comments and editing requests. You may need to file a new draft. If so, attach it as a new file in the same assignment. The second draft should have the same file name with a 2 after it. When Kelly tells you the story is ready to post, copy the story and all elements into the Signal WordPress site. Email Katie Ingram (with a cc to Kelly Toughill) to let her know that the story is ready for copyediting.

The copy editor will send you an email listing all of the changes you need to make. Once you do this and the story is ready for publishing, let Kelly know the story is ready for her. Only Kelly publishes pieces to the site. Once your story is posted and you have an URL, you need to share it with your sources and social networks.


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




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:


Your final grade is based on the following:

See the grading rubrics in Brightspace. 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. Your weekly grade will usually not have comments because you will have had extensive discussions about all aspects of your work with your instructor prior to receiving the grade.

Other important notes:

You are expected to file at least 10 stories during the workshop, one of which may be a photo essay. One of those stories may be collaborative. At least five should be hard news.


This grade is based on the quantity and quality of the stories that you filed during the workshop. See the rubric in Brightspace for details.


Your work is assessed each week, for the 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, and require just one draft. You should be collegial, professional and take time to consider what you are learning and what you still need to learn. See rubric for details. You will be graded in three categories: reporting, professionalism and pitching. You must file a self-reflection to receive that week’s performance grade.


Writing: 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: 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 witness or key source? This mark is about the quality and depth of your reporting.

Multimedia: 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.


Developing interesting, original story ideas that are significant to your audience is a key skill for any journalist. You are expected to pitch at least one interesting, well researched story idea each week.

Ideas: 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.

Presentation: Was your pitch concise and clear? Did you identify the focus or angle of the story? Were you confident and clear in your presentation?


This mark reflects your collegiality, your attendance, your self awareness and your preparedness.

Filing and deadlines: 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.  Did you meet your deadlines this week? This includes filing your draft(s) and final copy.

Professionalism: This is about collegiality and preparedness. Did you read the editorial sked in advance? Were you attentive to others during story meetings? Did you help when possible? Were you prepared for the meeting and for your assignment?

Self-reflection: Learning is a process, and self-reflection is a key part of that You will receive full credit for filing a reflection, if it answers the questions of the week and is filed on time.

Details of self-reflection assignment: you must produce five self-assessment documents over the course of the workshop (DUE: Jan. 20, Jan. 27, Feb. 3, Feb. 10, Feb. 17). Write your reflection as a Word doc and file it to the Weekly Assignment. 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 9 a.m. AT.

Document 1 (due Jan. 20): Answer three 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. 27): Answer three 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. 3): Answer three 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 4 (due Feb. 10): Answer three 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 5 (due Feb. 17): Answer the first question and two other questions:

  1. Did you meet the goal(s) you set in Document 1? Explain why or why not.
  2. What you learned about reporting and writing through the work you’ve done in this workshop.
  3. What you think worked or you are getting good at.
  4. What you would’ve done differently or need to work on.
  5. Other. Come up with your own question but show that it’s relevant to the workshop.


Grade Grade Point Value Definition
D 1.00 50-54 Marginal Pass
F 0.00 0-49 Inadequate


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) <> 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.


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.


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.


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 5, 2019, 7:08 pm ADT