1. Basic Course Information
    1. What is “News Writing” about?
    2. Where and when does it meet?
    3. How do I contact Dr. Jerz?
  2. About the Course
    1. What are the learning objectives?
    2. How does this course contribute to a liberal arts education?
    3. What kinds of assignments are involved?
    4. What are the assigned texts and required materials?
    5. Where is the detailed course outline?
  3. Course Policies
    1. What does Dr. Jerz expect of  me in this class?
    2. What does Dr. Jerz promise in return…
      1. about assignments?
      2. about common courtesy?
      3. about communication?
    3. What are the assignment submission policies?
    4. What is the attendance/absence policy?
      1. What should I do if I have to miss class?
      2. How should I prepare for a planned absence?
      3. How should I recover from an emergency absence?
    5. What is the policy for making up missed work?
    6. What is the “Late Pass” extension policy?
    7. What is the policy for late work / extra credit?
  4. University Policies
    1. What is Seton Hill’s academic integrity policy?
    2. What is Seton Hill’s disability services statement?
    3. What is Seton Hill’s information literacy policy?

1) Basic Course Information

1.1) What is “News Writing” about?

From the Catalog:

Study of the roles of the journalist in society, the types of journalism, the newsgathering process, and journalism history.

Whether you are taking this class because it’s required for your education program, you want a practical English course to help make your English skills more marketable, or see yourself working as a professional journalist, this course will give you a foundation for writing quick, lean, and accurate prose.

As practiced and understood by journalists in the early 21st century, news writing can be seen as the highly-developed craft of non-fiction storytelling.

  • Ideally, journalism is a public-service information-generating profession that gathers and distributes timely information and expert opinion through balanced, accurate and thorough reporting.
  • But journalism can also be described as a personality-driven entertainment industry that strives to touch the emotions of an audience, by feeding the public appetite for gossip and scandal, via aggressive, hyped, ego-driven or money-driven reporting.
  • Journalism is a business, which means that journalists must deliver a product that generates income; news organizations are thus tied to corporate interests that influence the representation of news.
  • Journalists face constant pressure to simplify complex information (particularly in science and medicine) so that a channel-surfing and page-scanning public will rely upon on friendly, familiar TV news anchors to interpret the world for them.

In the past few years, a do-it-yourself, non-commercial cultural activity known as citizen journalism or grass-roots journalism (most recently typified in weblogs) has changed the news from a lecture to a discussion. The change has tremendous implications for the traditional providers of news, as well as the general public.

1.2) Where and when does it meet?

  • Location: Admin 407
  • MWF, 12:40 AM – 1:30 PM

1.3) How do I contact Dr. Jerz?

2) About the Course

2.1) What are the learning objectives?

As a student in this course, you receive my guidance and feedback, as you work your way towards these specific objectives.

  • Learn how to gather news and report it through writing.
  • Develop an appreciation for how the news educates the public (which includes you).
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify, comprehend, and analyze current events (as reported in the news).
  • Examine the role of the journalist in a democratic society.
    • Identify and embrace depth, balance, transparency, and accountability in news coverage.
    • Identify and reject shallowness, bias, opacity, and elitism in news coverage.
  • Demonstrate the ability to follow the grammatical and stylistic conventions of writing, according to the Associated Press Stylebook.
  • Meet deadlines while producing quality work for a general readership.
  • Contribute actively to a positive learning environment.

To achieve these objectives, you will develop your ability to write fair and balanced accounts of important issues, while at the same time cultivating a healthy skepticism of the material widely published as “news.”

The course is intended to help you achieve the following outcomes:

  • demonstrate a thorough familiarity with the conventions of journalism (as presented via reputable publications, as spoofed in The Onion, and as presented in your own work)
  • speak and write knowledgeably about important issues in journalism and how they interact with the culture at large
  • accurately assess the credibility of a potential source (such as a web page, a press release, or an anonymous tip)
  • exhibit communications skills and research methods which adhere to the standards and conventions of contemporary journalistic practice

To help you reach those goals, you will need to:

  • read all assigned texts and reflect meaningfully on them (a process that includes re-reading parts of large texts or the whole of shorter texts) before class,
  • participate via class discussion, in-class activities, and graded and ungraded homework

2.2) How does this course contribute to a liberal arts education?

The components of a Seton Hill University liberal arts education are carefully chosen in order to, in the words of Elizabeth Ann Seton, “fit you for that world in which you are destined to live.”

According to a survey published in 2012 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), here are the skills employers say they want in their new hires:

  1. Communication skills (inside and outside the organization)
  2. Teamwork skills (works well with others)
  3. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
  4. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
  5. Ability to obtain and process information
  6. Analytical skills

Every single course you take at Seton Hill is another opportunity for you to develop your mind by wrestling with the challenging, enduring, and won’t-fit-on-a-bumper-sticker issues that make the world go round.

As a course that combines writing skill with learning about the world in which you live, EL227 has particular relevance as a liberal arts core requirement, education certification requirement, and/or elective.

The Seton Hill University Learning Objectives (found in the course catalog) include several skills that this course is especially designed to help you:

  • Use technological skills to access information, organize knowledge, and communicate.
  • Express arguments or main points clearly, in written and oral communication.
  • Assess privilege and oppression from the perspective of culture, race, class, and gender.
  • Find, evaluate, and apply information.
  • Organize and manage resources in a creative way to achieve impact.
  • Interpret quantitative and qualitative information to present a logical argument based on supporting data.

A news writing course has an additional meaning for English majors and minors, since English teachers help create the journalists of tomorrow. On an even more practical note, if you are qualified to advise the student paper, that may help make you even more employable.

While you do not need to be an English major in order to take this course, EL227 has been designed to fit into the English program, which pursues seven shared goals. The journalism and creative writing programs each have an additional eighth goal.

  1. Examine a wide range of genres, styles and cultural literatures.
  2. Examine the traditional canon and innovative nontraditional writers and writing.
  3. Demonstrate analytical skills of reading literature.
  4. Demonstrate a high level of research and writing skills.
  5. Write and speak in a wide range of formats appropriate to major emphasis:  fiction, non-fiction, poetry, critical essay, oral presentation.
  6. Speak and write about issues in the discipline and how they interact with the culture at large.
  7. Articulate the ongoing relation between personal habits of reading and writing and the evolving study of English.
  8. Specific to:
    • Creative writing: Produce one or more market-ready manuscripts.
    • New media journalism: Exhibit proficient skills in both public communication and research methods which adhere to the standards and conventions of contemporary journalistic practice.

English majors: Save papers from this class for your senior graduation portfolio. They will be particularly helpful when you search for evidence that you have met educational outcome goals 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Education students: Knowledge you gain in this class may help your teaching career in many ways, above and beyond your ability to create an effective journalism unit for your own students. In addition, EL227 or EL236 (“Writing for the Internet”) are the courses we offer to help English majors develop their PDE competencies in collecting, assessing, and using data.

2.3) What kinds of assignments are involved?

I will calculate your grade on a basis of 1000 points. Thus, an assignment worth 10% of your grade is worth 100 points.

Quizzes (6) 150
Exercises (5) 250
Participation Portfolios 250
Term Project 250
Exam 100
TOTAL 1000

See syllabus section 3.4 for details on how the course attendance policy can affect your final grade.

General Tips

  • Meet deadlines. In order to help you stay on track, the larger assignments are broken up into smaller parts. If you are late getting a part to me, I cannot  promise to get it back to you before the next part is due.
  • Keep up with the readings. Regular quizzes will help motivate you to say on track. Complete the pre-discussion reflection assignments before coming to class, and help sustain an active, positive learning environment.
  • In-person attendance and face-to-face interaction are crucial components of the course. Online materials are required components of the class, but they are meant to amplify the in-class experience, not replace it.
  • In the 21st century, information always involves technology. Always bring either your iPad or MacBook to class. Some classes will require one or the other. The coursework involves a regular online component. (In fact, I’ve scheduled several Fridays as “Online Class” days, and we’ll talk about each one as it approaches.)
  • Patience and a positive attitude, will help you make the most of your learning environment.
    • Our technology probably won’t work 100% of the time.
    • The people you contact for interviews may need time to work you into their schedule.
    • I will need about a week to return each assignment; for major assignments, I may require more time, or an office visit in order to deliver an appropriate level of feedback. Students who turn in assignments late, or who aren’t present when I provide in-class feedback, should make arrangements with a classmate to help them stay on track.

2.4) What are the assigned texts and required materials?

Elements of News Writing, Third Edition


Some version of the AP Stylebook

  • AP Stylebook 2013 iOS App (recommended for journalism majors and minors),
  • Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law 2013 (ISBN 0465082998),
  • Any recent copy of the AP Stylebook — but keep in mind you’ll still be responsible for latest material, even if you buy an older textbook


Telling the Story, Fifth Edition

  • Bedford eBook (Note: I have not sampled this electronic version. I’ve only seen this text as a physical book.)
  • Print (ISBN  1-4576-4294-8)

Additional Resources

  • Your iPad or your MacBook (whichever you prefer) for every class.
  • Some in-class activities involve using one or the other machine. (I’ll let you know about those classes in advance.)

2.5) Where is the detailed course outline?

You will find all deadlines and assignment descriptions on the course website, which includes the official course outline and syllabus. Point your web browser to:

That page has a list of current and upcoming assignments and activities.

A full course outline is available at

3) Course Policies

A syllabus is a contract. By enrolling in this course, you agree to read this syllabus so that you will know what I expect of you, and what you can expect of me.

3.1) What Are Students Expected to Do?

  • attend each class
  • complete all assignments on time
  • consult with peers about material missed during absences (excused or unexcused)
  • show good manners and common courtesy in interactions with peers and with me
  • contribute actively to a positive learning environment, by
    • giving full attention to whoever has the floor in our classroom
    • preparing adequately for and participating respectfully in class activities
    • seeking out help when necessary (this means consulting any of the many resources available to help you succeed, such as this syllabus, the textbooks, my office hours, the writing center, the librarians, and counseling & tutoring services)
    • building confidence by working carefully through each stage of a sequence of assignments, from short reflections to a researched term paper.
  • read and comply with this syllabus

3.2) What does Dr. Jerz Promise in Return?

I promise my students that, as their instructor, I, too, will stick to the policies described in this syllabus. See below for details.

3.2.1) My Promises to Students about Assignments

  • On the first day of classes, all assignment due dates will be posted on the course website. Details will be posted about a week before the assignment is due.
  • I will be thorough, helpful, and fair when I evaluate your work. (That means I will not rush; I will take time the job requires.)
  • Balancing thoroughness with timeliness, I aim to return all submissions in about a week.
    • You are always welcome to make an appointment if you’d like more feedback, or faster feedback.
    • Longer assignments may require about 10 days. (I’ll let you know the schedule, so you’ll know when to expect feedback.)
    • Late submissions go to the bottom of my grading stack. (If it’s only a day or two late, I can probably return your paper along with everyone else’s; however, keeping you on track may require you to come in for face-to=face feedback.)
  • While respecting the official course outline for all published due dates, I reserve the right to make small changes. For instance, if Seton Hill suddenly finds itself in the national news, or a high-profile speaker comes to campus, I might adjust the syllabus to make use of the opportunity. In the event I make such an adjustment,
    • I will clearly describe my expectations
    • I will clearly explain how the assignment is intended to help you meet a specific learning goal

3.2.2) My Promises to Students about Common Courtesy

  • When you speak in my office or in my classroom,
    • I will honor you with my full attention.
    • I will expect your peers to honor you with their full attention
  • I will not distract myself by “multitasking” when I should be focusing on a learning activity involving you.
  • I will not email or when I am angry; nor will I let any other kind of inappropriate behavior (in the classroom or outside it) interfere with our academic relationship.
  • If I have to cancel a class or appointment, I will notify you as soon as possible, and I will take the initiative in proposing an alternate arrangement.
  • If you tell me you would prefer to handle a matter in person, rather than by email or phone, I will continue our discussion during an office visit.
  • I expect all members of a learning community to practice ethical behavior, and to work out their differences respectfully (following policies stated in this syllabus, as well as behavior determined by good manners and common sense).

3.2.3) My Promises to Students about Communication

  • I will make myself available for appointments during my posted office hours; if those times fill up, or the slots are not convenient for you, or I have to cancel, I will set up an appointment for another time.
  • I will generally keep my office door open for walk-in visits, except when I am unavailable (which typically means I’ve already committed my time to somebody else, or I’m doing time-sensitive work like marking papers; when I’m busy, my door will be closed)
  • Depending on the nature of the contact — let’s say you have a quick yes/no question, or you’re sharing a link to a breaking news story — I might fire off a quick response right away.
    • Email is the best way to reach me.
    • However, you should feel free to leave a voicemail message, or use Facebook, Twitter, or the course website.
  • In general I will aim to respond by the end of the next working day. (If you haven’t heard from me by then, please resend your message.)
    • If you contact me on a weekday morning, I may get your message before class, but may not be able to act on it until that afternoon or early the next day.
    • If you email or call me late in the afternoon or during the evening, I will probably get the message before I go to bed, but I will save any nontrivial response for the next day.
    • If an email arrives late at night or in the wee hours of the morning, I will probably read it while I’m getting ready for work or walking up from the parking lot; however, I may not be able to reply until after I’m finished with the day’s teaching.
  • Like most people, I will respond most quickly to short, specific emails that don’t depend on attachments.
    • Thus, instead of attaching a full draft and asking me what I think, I’d prefer that you paste a brief writing sample directly into the body of your email, asking a specific question such as, “Dr. Jerz, I’ve pasted below two versions of my research question. I think the second version does a better job narrowing the topic. Am I on the right track?”
    • That’s the sort of message I can answer while walking in from the parking lot; in fact — and I hope this isn’t revealing too much about myself — I get a little jolt of professional joy when I get such a message from a student. It’s something like how I feel when I get a “Like” from a Facebook friend, so please don’t be shy about reaching out in this manner.
  • If you email me an attachment, I am more likely to wait and read it during the next block of time I’ve set aside for prepping my classes.
  • When I send an email, I will be clear and thorough.
    • Messages that I initiate will have a meaningful subject line that helps you to determine the importance of the message.
    • I will use  your SHU-registered address, which can be set to forward wherever you prefer.
  • If reading and writing email is not your thing, I would be happy to have a telephone conference, or email you a voice memo from my iPad, or use Twitter, or whatever.

3.3) What Are the Assignment Submission Policies?

Required Formats: The course syllabus clearly labels each assignment with a label such as “Upload in the required format,” “Print and bring to class,” or “Do during class.”  An assignment is not complete until it is submitted in the requested format.

Alternate Formats: If you have problems submitting it in the requested format, you may “stop the late clock” by submitting it to me in an alternate form (that is, you may hand me a printout of something I asked to be uploaded, or you may email something I asked to be printed), but your work remains incomplete until it arrives in the requested format.

3.4) What Is the Attendance/Absence Policy?

Seton Hill University recognizes that extra-curricular activities of all sorts are important components of a liberal arts education. At the same time, your instructors expect you to take an active role in reducing the impact of unavoidable absences.

  • Students are expected to attend every class. (See SHU Catalog.)
  • Students are responsible for all material collected, covered, and/or assigned during an absence — whether excused or unexcused.
  • Students are permitted one unexcused absence for “free,” with no grade penalty.
  • After the “free” absence, each additional unexcused absence lowers your final grade by 5%. This absence penalty is applied after all grades are calculated — including the grade for class participation.
  • When a student misses three consecutive classes, I will presume the student has withdrawnfrom the course, and report a final grade based on work completed. (You may submit a written request for reinstatement, along with a plan for catching up and staying on track.)
  • Frequent late arrivals, early departures, inattentiveness, or lack of preparedness may add up to count as absences. (I will warn you when your partial attendance is about to accrue to an absence.)

3.4.1) What should I do if I have to miss class?

First, recognize that the course permits you one unexcused absence without penalty. (Note that you are still responsible for material due, covered, or assigned on that day; see the “Free Pass” section for my policy on due date extensions.)

Contact me directly, after you have done the following:

  • Consulted the online syllabus to find out what is scheduled on the date(s) affected by your absence.
  • Consulted a classmate for notes on what happened during class.

After you have informed yourself about what you missed, I will be happy to answer any specific questions, by e-mail or in person.

Note: It may not be possible to arrange make-up assignments for some due dates or time-sensitive in-class activities.

I welcome the chance to help you get caught up. Before you contact me, make sure you know exactly what work has been affected; consult the course syllabus and a classmate’s notes. After you’ve done that, we’ll both be ready to discuss the next step.

3.4.2) How should students prepare for a planned absence?

Those who miss class due to a scheduled activity must plan to complete all make-up assignments before the missed class. The planning process begins when you submit an Absence Report Form a week before the missed class. (Note that simply filling out the form does not automatically guarantee you an excused absence.)

If there is insufficient time for us to agree upon an acceptable suggestion for making up missed work, or if an approved make-up assignment is late or unsatisfactory, then I may record the absence as unexcused.

3.4.3) How should students recover from an emergency absence?

In the event of extended absences due to prolonged  illness, I am willing to be flexible. Submit an  Absence Report Form, and also submit (in person or by email) any documentation that you feel will help me decide in your favor. But see below: “Late Pass” Stress-relief Policy.

3.5) What is the policy for missed deadlines?

Online assignments are due in the requested format, 20 minutes before class starts, on the given due date.

Printouts, when requested, are to be brought to class, and held until the end of class, at which time you are to submit them by placing them on the table in the front of the room as you leave. I may instead ask for them at some point during class.

Late work submitted before midnight on the due date receives a 1/3 letter grade penalty. (Thus, a B paper submitted at 10pm would drop to a B-; however, this grade will be factored into the standard rubric — I won’t add a special note about lowering the grade.)

Late work submitted after that loses a letter grade per day. (Thus, a B paper submitted at 1am the next day would drop to a C; usually I will report this score by using the “Format/Completion” section of the rubric, but I may add a note such as “If submitted on time, this paper would have been an B+.”)

No late work will be accepted one week after the due date. (Note that an F can be as high as a 59, and earning a 59 on an assignment is much better than not turning it in at all and earning a zero.)

No late or make-up work will be accepted after the last day of classes, unless you are using a “Late Pass” (see below).

3.6) What is the “Late Pass” Extension Policy?

For any reason, you may take a brief extension on any two assignments.

I’m offering “Late Passes” so that, if you fall ill or get swamped during a crunch time, you won’t have to jump through any hoops to get a doctor’s note, but you will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you can relieve the pressure a bit.

If you want to take a late pass for any reason at all, go ahead and use it. (But I recommend that you save them for major assignments.)

Complete the Late Pass Request Form (Fall 2013)

There are, however, some important limits on this policy.

  1. If you miss a deadline without requesting a late pass, or if you use up both of your passes, the regular late penalties will apply. (So think carefully before using a pass on an assignment worth just  2% or 5% of your grade.)
  2. You cannot change a one-day pass to a three-day pass, or combine them both to create a four-day pass.
  3. The “Late Pass” system is completely separate from the absence policy. I’ll still expect you in class on the day the assignment is due, even if you’ve given yourself a “Late Pass” extension.
  4. Late passes are for homework; they do not apply to in-class work of any kind (including oral presentations).

3.7) What is the policy for make-up work / extra credit?

Make-up Work: For some time-sensitive assignments, such as responding to readings before a class discussion, participating in peer-review workshops, or attending peer presentations, there are no possible replacement assignments. Otherwise, make-up assignments should be part of our discussion of your Absence Form (see above).

Extra Credit:  I do not create or accept extra-credit assignments.

The best way to boost your grade is to complete a draft of a major paper a few days before the deadline, and schedule an office visit so that I can give you detailed, penalty-free feedback that will help you improve your work before I report your grade.

4) University Policies

4.1) What is Seton Hill University’s Academic Integrity Policy?

Seton Hill University expects that all its students will practice academic honesty and ethical conduct.  The University regards plagiarism, cheating on examinations, falsification of papers, non-sanctioned collaboration, and misuse of library material, computer material, or any other material, published or unpublished, as violations of academic honesty.  Violators of the code may expect disciplinary sanctions, which are discussed in the Seton Hill University Catalog.

Any unreferenced use of the written or spoken material of another, or of previously submitted work of the student’s own, constitutes plagiarism.  Paraphrasing the thoughts or written work of another without reference is also plagiarism.  For additional information see “Academic Integrity Materials” in Griffin Gate and your textbook’s section on plagiarism. Any plagiarism on a draft will result in a zero as the final grade on that assignment. Any plagiarism on an informal essay will also result in a zero.

4.2) What is Seton Hill University’s Disability Services Policy?

If you have a disability that requires instructor consideration, please contact the Director of Disability Services at 724-838-4295.  It is recommended that this be accomplished by the second week of class.  If you need accommodations for successful participation in class activities prior to your appointment at the Disability Services Office, you should offer information in writing that includes suggestions for assistance in participating in and completing class assignments.  It is not necessary to disclose the nature of your disability.

4.3) What is Seton Hill University’s Information Literacy Policy?

Seton Hill University defines information literate students as those who make intelligent choices when gathering information in support of a chosen topic. Students who develop information literacy skills will successfully:

  • Select an appropriate topic
  • Determine the parameters of the topic
  • Locate and access relevant information
  • Critically evaluate information
  • Synthesize diverse types of information into a comprehensive and coherent work
  • Understand economic, legal, and social issues related to the information
  • Interact with faculty and staff in a manner conducive to developing acceptable research skills