News Writing (EL 227)


29 Jul 2005

4. Course Objectives

Your objectives for this course are to

  • Learn the basics of news gathering and news writing.
  • Develop your ability to read, comprehend, and analyze the news you encounter.
  • Examine the role of the journalist in a democratic society.
  • Identify and appreciate depth, balance, transparency, and accountability in news coverage (and also to identify and expose shallowness, bias, opacity, and elitism).
  • Demonstrate the ability to follow the grammatical and stylistic conventions of the Associated Press Stylebook.
  • Meet deadlines while producing quality work for a general public readership.

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".

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 generates 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 stokes the public's fears and feeds its 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 feels it comprehends the issues.

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, in the past few years, changed the news from a lecture to a discussion.

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

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