200-- Journalism Research -- Winter 2002
||10 a.m.-11:50 a.m. Mondays and
||Brown Hall 1033
|Professor Christian Office Hours:
||Mondays and Wednesdays, noon to
2 p.m. in Sprau Tower #221
|| (616) 387-3110
||Mondays & Wednesdays noon
to 2 p.m. or by appointment
|Class Web Site:
This course is designed to provide the student with an introduction to
the sources, practices, technique and principles of journalism and other
information research. The course introduces students to the techniques
of computer-assisted reporting. The course will show students how to use
primary, secondary and human sources and analyze the data that will become
the basis for asking questions in stories. The data analysis is only the
beginning; students then need to determine the meaning of information
and show readers how it affects them. Students will have an opportunity
to conduct searches using published materials, government documents, archives,
electronic databases, public records, personal interviews and the Internet.
Students will learn how to critically analyze information gathered in
their searches, to put it in context, to measure biases and to gauge accuracy.
The course will emphasize sifting through information, selecting the most
valuable material, providing context and understanding of that information,
and presenting it in a clear and accurate way for purposes of a news story.
By the end of the course, students should be able to demonstrate key skills
of information gathering, data acquisition, interviewing, data analysis,
story framing and writing. The course aims to clarify journalistic values,
improve the quality of hunches, encourage critical and logical thinking,
and increase student wariness in areas of ethics, privacy, dirty data
and FOIA laws.
Written assignments and exams:
All assignments must be typed. No papers that are not typed in 12-point
Times typeface, double-spaced, with one-inch top, bottom, and side margins,
will be accepted.
Writing takes more than one try, and the best work often requires revisions.
All assignments marked rewrite must be rewritten and resubmitted
to the instructor before the start of the next class unless otherwise
specified. All late rewrites will be deducted one letter grade for each
Journalists live and die by deadlines. Papers not handed in at the start
of each class they are due will automatically be marked down one full
grade for each class period they are late. Papers handed in AFTER assignments
have been collected, even if handed in the same day, are considered LATE
and will be marked down accordingly.
Showing up is a key part of being a good journalist; you cant get
the story if youre not there. For this reason, attendance is taken
for each class. Missing more than three classes, for whatever reason,
in the final course grade dropping one full grade. Absences due to extreme
emergencies, illness and other legitimate reasons must be submitted in
writing with appropriate documentation.
The course grade will be based on several factors: mid-semester and final
exams, any quizzes, written assignments and stories, classroom performance,
participation in discussions and attendance. Specifically, written assignments
are graded on the following five elements:
- Correct grammar and usage of the English language
- Correct spelling and punctuation
- Logical organization of thoughts
- Focused ideas and support of those ideas through
quotes, background information and facts
- Writing clarity and style
I look for improvement in research and writing throughout
the semester, and assignments that continually exhibit the same mistakes
without any signs of effort at improvement or correction will receive
increasingly lower grades as the semester progresses. Students who improve
in their trouble areas will not experience progressively worse
Specific grading is as follows: The mid-semester exam is 15 percent of
the final grade; the final exam is 20 percent; class participation and
attendance is 15 percent; written and research assignments are 20 percent
and the course project and presentation is 30 percent. Borderline grades
will always be influenced by attendance and participation.
Western Michigan University is a community defined by six core principles.
It is a purposeful community, a caring community, a celebrative community,
a disciplined community, an open community, and a just community. In this
classroom we will try to support and enact these values. I try to create
a relaxed, supportive, and comfortable classroom environment. However,
do not equate this atmosphere with a lack of academic standards. I expect
to do my best and I expect your best efforts as well. Please respect the
rights of other class members. If you are late for class, enter the classroom
with as little disruption as possible. If you must leave the class early,
leave with as little disruption to the activity in the class as possible.
Never do either of these activities in the midst of a fellow classmates
Please remember that activities that we may engage in
without much conscious thought and consideration for others in our own
homes may violate the rights of other learners in the classroom setting.
For example, eating in class or whispering to other class members while
the professor is lecturing or a fellow student is talking are not acceptable
behaviors. Further, tardiness demonstrates a lack of respect for others
and violates the values of this learning community.
Finally, in this class the basic dignity and worth of
all human beings are to be respected. Any comments, jokes or remarks which
denigrate the worth of an individual because of his/her gender, race,
religion, ethnic background, sexual preference, etc. are inappropriate
and unacceptable. This is not an issue of political correctness but rather
an issue of civility, self-discipline, and good manners.
This term covers academically unethical practices such as cheating on
exams, plagiarism or the copying of other peoples assignments. Academic
integrity and personal honesty are two of my most highly held values.
Those committing academic misconduct in this course at minimum will fail
the assignment and the course, but may be subject to more severe penalties
in accordance with departmental and University guidelines.
You are responsible for making yourself aware of and understanding the
policies and procedures in the Graduate (pp. 24-26) Catalog that pertain
to Academic Integrity. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification
and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer
misuse. If there is reason to believe you have been involved in academic
dishonesty, you will be referred to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs.
You will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s). If you believe
you are not responsible, you will have the opportunity for a hearing.
You should consult with me if you are uncertain about an issue of academic
honesty prior to the submission of an assignment or test.
It is acceptable for students to use research, reporting or writing done
for other classes as part of assignments, however, be aware that completed
assignments must meet all requirements for THIS class. Additional research
and writing is always necessary in these cases. It is the students
responsibility to ensure that other professors allow cross submission
of assignments from other courses.
Students are encouraged to write for the Western Herald. Be advised that
writing submitted to the Herald automatically becomes a work for
hire as defined under intellectual property law, and the Herald
controls copyright, not the author. It is plagiarism or theft to put your
name to someone elses writing or property. Therefore, you must notify
the professor in advance if you submit an assignment in this or any other
journalism class that has been submitted or will be submitted to the Herald.
Killenberg & Anderson, Before the Story: Interviewing and Communication
Skills for Journalists
Schlein, Find It Online: The Complete Guide to Online Research,
Houston, Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide
Goldstein, The Associated Press Style Book and Libel Manual,
newest edition (OPTIONAL)
Reading assignments given by instructor
Course Outline (Subject to change at
PART ONE: STORY IDEAS
Jan. 9: Course introduction. Procedural matters. Assignment: Email me
name, address, phone number, email, and major by Jan. 11 at noon
Jan. 14: News values and Sourcing.
Jan. 16: Developing story ideas. Outside assignment: Read handout on rural
health care from the Chicago Tribune by Prof. Christian. Answer the following
questions and hand in your typewritten answers and the story copy at the
start of class on Jan. 23: 1. Story Focus: What is the main point of the
story? Write the main point in a sentence or two. 2. Reporting: Give three
examples from the story of how that main point was supported by reporting
or quotes or examples. 3. Writing: A. Describe how the story starts. B.
Describe how the story ends. C. Describe the tone of the story. (Is it
confrontational? Informative? A profile of a person or people? ALSO: Read
SCHLEIN Chapter 2: Framing your search strategy
Jan. 21: No class. Martin Luther King Jr. convocation and activities.
Jan. 23: CAR: Using the Internet for Story Ideas
Jan. 28: Story idea conferences (Sprau #221)
Outside assignment: Read Schlein, Ch. 8: News Resources Online
Jan. 30: Class meets at Waldo Library at 10 a.m. Waldo Library Research
Come prepared with a story idea with which to conduct your research.
Feb. 4: Story conferences. Outside assignment: Read Schlein, Ch. 3: General
PART TWO: STORY RESEARCH
Feb. 6: CAR: Developing and using research strategies
Outside assignment: Read Houston, Ch. 7. Getting Stories by Going Online
Feb. 11: CAR: World Wide Web/Internet
Outside assignment: Read Schlein, Chapter 4: Specialized Tools
Feb. 13: CAR: Background research: Finding people, finding sources of
Outside assignment: Read Schlein, Ch. 6: Government Sources Online and
Ch. 7: Public Records
Feb. 18: Government documents/public records
Outside assignment: Read Houston, Chapter 3: Spreadsheets: Conquering
Numbers; Chapter 4: Database Managers: Going from the Rolodex to Matchmaking
Feb. 20: Databases/spreadsheets. Shoe leather and research assignment
Feb. 25: Mid-Term Exam
PART THREE: INTERVIEWING
Feb. 27: Interview Basics
Outside assignment: Read Killenberg, Ch. 2: Meeting People
Mar. 4 and 6 - Spring Recess
Mar. 11: Asking the right questions. The dynamics of an interview
Outside assignment: Read Killenberg, Ch. 3: The Question of Questions
Mar. 13: Learning to listen critically, creatively.
Outside assignment: Read Killenberg, Ch. 4: Reporters as Listeners
Mar. 18: Interviews/Conferences
PART FOUR: WRITING AND REWRITING
Mar. 20: Writing for story
Mar. 25: Interviews/conferences
Mar. 27: Writing clinic. Interview reports due.
Outside assignment: Read Schlein, Ch. 11: Evaluating Accuracy, Credibility
and Authority; Read Killenberg, Ch. 5: Assessing People and Information
Apr. 1: Evaluating information.
Apr. 3: Editing and the news process. Class project drafts due. Source
Outside assignment: Killenberg, Ch. 8: Interviewing Ethics
Apr. 8: Media ethics. Class projects handed back. Rewrites begin.
Apr. 10: Exam review/writing clinic
Apr. 15: Class project presentations. Project is due at the start of class
on April 15. No exceptions.
Apr. 17: Class project presentations
Final Exam -- Thursday, April 25 at 10:15 a.m. - 12:15 a.m.