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Monday, August 30, 2010

Cover of "Inside Reporting"Cover of Inside ReportingAdvanced Reporting

Fall 2010
Dr. Michael Robertson
Office: Kalmanovitz 119
Phone: 666 6250 (office); 510 836 4870 (home);

OFFICE HOURS: MWF: 2:30p-3:30p

BOOKS: “Inside Reporting,” Tim Harrower. Associated Press “Stylebook”

You will be expected to read regularly, and preferably subscribe to, the San Francisco Chronicle, so you can bring it to class. However, I have arranged to have the Chronicle’s electronic facsimile edition available to the class online, so subscribing is optional. You also will read the Foghorn and watch the news segments of USF-TV. Articles may be assigned from various magazines and books placed on reserve in the library.

ATTENDANCE: No work missed through unexcused absence may be made up. Only absences for which a signed excuse is obtained will be considered excused. The course will meet at other sites at least once during the semester. Make arrangements as soon as possible to have free the evening of Tuesday, October 5, so we can all attend an Oakland City Council meeting. If you have a schedule conflict, let me know as soon as possible so that we can attempt to resolve it.

If you have any physical or emotional handicap or other problems that will affect your attendance or performance, inform the instructor by the end of the first week of classes.

ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT: Any student found to have plagiarized or fabricated work will be given a failing grade for the semester.

LATE ASSIGNMENTS: Stories will be accepted after deadline. However, such stories will not receive full credit unless accompanied by a medical excuse. Stories a day late will be penalized 2/3rds of a letter grade. Each subsequent day's lateness will result in a penalty of 1/3rd of a letter grade. In other words, a "B" paper turned in two days late would be lowered to a "C" grade. A story that is never turned in will be given a zero and averaged into your final grade on the basis of A/95, B/85, C/75, D/65 and F/55.

BEAT REPORTS: Starting the fourth week of the semester, students will be responsible for turning in a weekly beat report in addition to the assigned beat stories. The quality and consistency of those beat reports and of the final beat summary will count for 10 percent of your final grade.

*EXTRA CREDIT*: Stories printed in campus or other publications will be considered at grade time. Those stories may be assignments done for the class or other work. To obtain extra credit consideration, you must turn in a portfolio containing your published work for the semester by exam day.

BLOGS: Most of you created blogs when you had me for previous classes, so you have a head start. Starting the third week of class, every other Monday you are responsible for posting on your blog a journalism-related question, statement or observation. Every class member will then vote by email in support of which question, statement or observation she/he finds most compelling. By the following Monday, every class member other than the winner of the vote will comment on that Q/S/O. Extra credit will be given to those students who do more posting on their blogs than this minimum – if it’s good work.

Posting: 9/13, 9/27, 10/13 (Wednesday because of Fall Break), 10/25, 11/8, 11/22.

Responding to posts: 9/20, 10/4, 10/17, 11/1, 11/15, 11/29.

Your blog work will count for 10 percent of your final grade.

TWITTER: You will produce a total of 30 “news tweets” during the course of the semester. These tweets will reflect what you see and what you hear on campus or in San Francisco. I don’t really care where your observations take place, as long as they have relevance to USF students. Tweets are great places to place “tidbits” from the beat that are worth no more than a sentence or two. I hope your tweeting will inspire discussion of what news is and isn’t. I *really* hope some of them will be the first step toward longer stories.

Example: For the third time in two days, friends comment on some event or topic, and you make note of the recurrence. Do those comments suggest the local impact of a national story? Or do they suggest a trend or fad, something of human interest but no great consequence? Or do they suggest something more important than a mere trend or fad, some newsworthy something that is flying under the mainstream news radar but really matters?

There are no bad news tweets, though some will be more useful than others, and it is my job to give extra credit to those.

Your Twitter work will count for 10 percent of your final grade.

MULTIMEDIA: The “big story” must have a multimedia element. Any of you stories may have such an element, which means extra credit. Such work is not the focus of this class. However, I *urge* anyone in this class who is seriously interested in journalism to take audio and video production classes as well as relevant 1- and 2-unit computer classes.


Upon completing this course, a student should be able:

1. To write clear, accurate news stories of various types ranging in length from 250 to 2,500 words using correct grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax.
2. To explain the decision making process for making news judgments and the ethical
challenges therein.

3. To understand the how professional journalists understand the concept of objectivity
and to be able to address its limitations.

4. To apply news judgment to sets of facts and synthesize those facts into effective, concise leads and coherent, logically organized news stories.

5. To know when information must be attributed to a source to avoid editorializing and how to handle attribution smoothly in a story.

6. To understand the general sources for news (observation, interview, written reports), the necessity of skepticism in dealing with these sources; to master the process of verifying information; to exhibit that understanding in your stories. You will supply me with a mailing address and/or telephone number and/or email address for each person quoted in your stories. At least once during the semester, I will send a copy of your story to those used as sources to get their judgment of your accuracy and professionalism.

7. To use basic AP style rules in the stories written.

8. To prepare copy so that it is clean and conforms to standard copy preparation rules. (For instance, always double space.)

9. To create and maintain a personal blog.

10. To create and maintain a personal Twitter account.



This grade is for work of clearly professional caliber. Writing is clear and concise with only minor editing required. Reporting is complete and leaves no questions unanswered. The work is turned in on or before deadline.


This grade is for work that could be raised to professional quality without major editing. Writing is basically grammatical and requires only routine changes but lacks the sparkle of A work. The reporting manages to focus on the main ideas of the story -- but may have a few organizational problems and a misplaced emphasis. Work is in by deadline.


This grade is for work that does not measure up to professional standards but could be salvaged through rewriting. Work could not be used professionally without being returned to the reporter -- or assigned to another reporter! Writing has obvious rough spots. Grammatical errors are present. Reporting leaves questions unanswered. Work is usually done by deadline -- but is occasionally late.


This grade is for work that is clearly unacceptable in a professional setting. The writing is confused and ungrammatical. The reporting is weak and often misses the point entirely. The work is often late.



Week One: August 23

What is news? The nature of news and newswriting. Why you are here. The assignment for the first week is to produce a back-to-school story, which will be due next Monday. It must be 250-300 words. You may choose to submit a longer version. But if it is longer, it must be accompanied by an edited version of 250-300 words.

Week Two: August 30

Covering a beat. What a beat is and how it works. What makes news on a beat? Writing on deadline. How you can get it done by the time it's supposed to be done. The why's behind getting it done on time.

Due Monday 8/30: Back-to-school story.

New assignment: You will be given a campus beat. For a week from Wednesday in two pages, explain why the beat is important enough to warrant coverage. Include who you anticipate will be your primary sources and the kinds of stories you believe will come off that beat. For a week from Friday: Your first beat story. Minimum length 350 words.

Week Three: September 6 (Labor Day vacation)

Interviewing review. Where do you get your news?

Due Wednesday 9/8. Your beat description.

Due Friday 9/10. Your first beat story.

New assignment: For next Wednesday your second beat story. Minimum length 350 words.

Week Four: September 13

Where do you get your news? We will examine some of your favorite news sites. Our aim is to come up with a list of what is good about current news sites and what could be better.

Due Wednesday 9/15. Your second beat story.

New assignment: For next Wednesday your third beat story. Minimum length 600 words.

Week Five: September 20

The meeting story. The basic outline of the meeting story. Prepare for coverage of a meeting of the Oakland City Council in two weeks. A consideration of “Civic Journalism,” its dangers and opportunities

Due Wednesday 10/1. Your third beat story.

New assignment: Tuesday October 5 we will leave USF at approximately 6 p.m. and travel to Oakland, where we will cover the weekly meeting of Oakland City Council. Class will not meet Wednesday, though I will be in the classroom available for discussion. A story covering the meeting is due Thursday 10/9 by 5 p.m.

Week Six: September 27

Required conference with instructor. Class will meet Monday but not Wednesday or Friday. Continue preparation in class on Monday for meeting of Oakland City Council.

Week Seven: October 4

Tuesday evening lab, October 5. Please clear your schedule. We will attend an Oakland City Council Meeting 7:30 p.m.-? Story is due by 5 p.m. Thursday. No Wednesday class, but I will be in the classroom if anyone wants to talk about the meeting story.

Due Thursday 10/8. Your meeting story.

Week Eight: October 11 (Fall break)

The business story. The basics of business. Net and gross. Reading business reports. What makes a business story. Reading the business newspapers. What stocks and bonds are. Where PR and journalism meet.

New assignment: For next Friday, a business story, minimum length 700 words.

Week Nine: October 18

The final project, a 2,000-2,500 word story on a topic of campus interest derived from your beat. The Big Story is due Friday, 12/10, by 5 p.m.

Due Friday 10/24. Your business story.

Week Ten: October 25

Using the AP Stylebook.

New assignment: For next week, a proposal for your final project. Also for a week from Friday, your fourth beat story, minimum length 350 words.

Week Eleven: November 1

AP style test on Monday. Required conference with instructor. At those conferences you will turn in your project proposal for your Big Story. Class will not meet on Wednesday or Friday.

Due Friday 11/5: Your fourth beat story.

Week Twelve: November 8

The science story. Talking with scientists. Understanding the scientific method. Avoiding false balance.

New assignment for a week from Monday: Your science story. Minimum length 600 words.

Week Thirteen: November 15

Resume preparation. Job hunting skills and what an employer looks for. Ideas about hunting for jobs.

Due Monday November 22: Your science story

Week Fourteen: November 22 (Thanksgiving)

Working on final projects.

Reminder: Big story is due Friday, 12/10. Minimum length 2,000 words.

Week Fifteen: November 29

Working on final projects.

Week Sixteen: December 6

Feature writing. Writing in class for practice and a grade.

Final assignments: Fifth beat story and the final beat summary, a description of sources that would be useful to the next person assigned the beat, are due Friday, 12/17.

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