News Writing (2005)

Ex 1: Media Analysis

Choose one local story that appears in the TV broadcast, on the TV station's website, and in the Tribune-Review. Jot down in your notebook a list of all the important differences you notice, and be prepared to talk about them.

Update: Remember, I'm excluding Hurricane Katrina stories from this assignment. (We'll still talk about Katrina, but I want you to probe a bit deeper for this assignment.)
Choose a single observation that you find most striking, and write an informal essay (about 400 words) emphasizing the point that you'd like to talk more about. (Incorporate key terms from the opening lecture.)

Include direct quotations from the sources you cite. Bring two copies of your submission.

Permalink | 31 Aug 2005 | Comments (0)

Workbook (Ex 1-4)

(In 7th ed, this is 1-6.)

Update: "1-4" means "Chapter one, exercise four."

What do I want you to learn about? Audience.

Permalink | 2 Sep 2005 | Comments (1)

Workshop: Ex 2a: Peer Profile (Draft)

300 words. Should be much more than simply a transcription of a Q & A session. Your subject may have told you a heartwarming and touching story about the puppy she got on her fifth birthday, but if she's planning to try out for SHU's football team, the puppy is not your "news hook."


A book review, structured as a personal profile: Author finds success with 'Weird' tales
An obituary, which for obvious reasons relies on quotations from sources other than the main subject: Sports fan showed love through handiwork

Permalink | 7 Sep 2005 | Comments (0)

Workbook (Ex 1-7A, 1-7B, & 1-6)

Main concept to learn: Newsworthiness. (7th ed. Ex 1-9A, 1-9B, & 1-8)

Permalink | 9 Sep 2005 | Comments (0)

Ex 2b: Peer Profile (Revision)

Revise Ex 2a based on what you learned on Wednesday.

Include your rough draft.

On top of it, staple your revised copy, and highlight all editing changes in one color, and revisions in another color. (See handout, "Revision vs. Editing.")

On top, staple a one-page submission note, in which you summarize the most important changes you made, quote the "before" and "after" of the change that you feel improves your paper the best (with an explanation), and identify what you would have done next if you'd had more time.

Note: I am asking you to highlight your revised copy, not your rough draft.

Permalink | 9 Sep 2005 | Comments (0)

Workbook (Ex 3-3a-c)

Main concept to learn: Interviewing. (See also

Permalink | 9 Sep 2005 | Comments (0)

Ex 3a: Spot News (first slot)

Due dates for stories about the opening liturgy and summer reading event (8 Sep) and the first SHU home football game (10 Sep).

Permalink | 12 Sep 2005 | Comments (2)

Workbook (Ex 4-2)

Inverted Pyramid. Quotations. (Note: the sample article continues on the next page.)

Permalink | 12 Sep 2005 | Comments (2)

Ex 3a: Spot News (second slot)

Due dates for stories about the opening of the new dorm (12 Sep) and the honors convocation meeting (13 Sep).

Permalink | 14 Sep 2005 | Comments (6)

Ex 3b: Spot News (revision)

Revise Ex 2a based on what you learned during the class workshops. As before, include your rough draft. On top of it, staple your revised copy, and highlight all editing changes in one color, and revisions in another color. On top, staple a one-page submission note, in which you summarize the most important changes you made, quote the "before" and "after" of the change that you feel improves your paper the best (with an explanation), and identify what you would have done next if you'd had more time.

Permalink | 16 Sep 2005 | Comments (3)

Workbook (Ex 7-22 A & B to 7-23, 7-25)

Inverted Pyramid. (7th ed: 7-22, 7-23, 7-24, 7-26)

Permalink | 23 Sep 2005 | Comments (3)

P1: Homecoming Story Pitches

Suggest three story ideas connected to Homecoming weekend.

What's your angle?

How will your story on Topic X be different from the same kind of routine story on Topic X that another reporter might deliver? A pitch is persuasive. Why should your editor assign you to the story you want? (Don't plead, and don't tear down other reporters in your pitch, but do explain what special knowledge, unusual perspective, and unexpected sources you can bring to your article.)

Who (and what) are your sources

Whom will you interview? What resources can you consult before you conduct interviews? (Don't count on President Boyle or Coach Snyder being available to meet individually with 30 students on Friday afternoon.) What sources other than interviews can you consult?

Rank your ideas.

Rank your story ideas according to your willingness to do each. Be sure to note any potential conflict of interest.

Permalink | 26 Sep 2005 | Comments (2)

B1-1: Blogging Portfolio

An evaluative presentation of your participation in the online discussions.

More details below.

In general, you will be asked to print out the blog entries you wrote on the assigned readings (including issues of the Tribune-Review, The Elements of Journalism, The Reporter's Notebook, and AP Guide to News Writing, but NOT the workbook assignments).

If a workbook assignment did happen to inspire you to write a blog entry, that's fine, you may include it in your blog, but I don't want people think that they have to go back and post their homework answers online.

I have also asked you to reflect on your spot news reporting experience.

In addition, I am asking you to compare your own spot news article to the stories published in The Setonian (the student paper; articles should be online soon) and The Communicator (SHU's PR newsletter). I'm not expecting you to itemize everything you did wrong and bash yourself in public; rather, I am asking you to demonstrate that you can use terms and concepts from our journalism vocabulary in order to discuss your growing understanding of news writing.

One component of the blogging portfolio will ask you to demonstrate that you are participaing in online discussions with your peers. If you visit peer blogs and leave comments there, or if you post comments on your own blog in response to comments left by your peers (or me), submit those in order to get participation credit.

In general, I want you to 1) post a single long blog entry, where you include links to the pages on your own site and on the pages of your classmates and 2) print out all the relevant work (you can scrunch the typesize down in order to save space). Please do not print the authoring pages, which are what you see after you log in with your username and password. The authoring pages look like this:

Instead, print out the pages that are visible to your readers when they visit "" or "". They should not have "Movabletype Publishing Platform" on the top, they should instead have your name at the top.


Obviously, if you have changed the layout or colors on your blog, that's perfectly fine with me -- you don't need to make your blog look like the example. My point is to illustrate what the default weblog design currently looks like, and to differentiate from the authoring view.

Here are a few examples from another class. The content that this student has posted differs from the content you'll need to present, but you can get some idea of the form.

If you've been keeping up with the blogging homework, this assignment will be simple. Those of you who have had me in other classes, please look closely at these instructions -- I'm changing a few things. (Feel free to ask questions.) Towards the end of this posting, I answer some technical questions about trackbacks and creating links.

If you've fallen a bit behind, this assignment gives you the chance to catch up.

If you've fallen far behind, you have my sympathy, but no apologies. I've said several times that weblog entries will feel like a pointless chore if you start them only after the classroom discussion is already over.

Your portfolio is a collection of your best blog entries, representing your developing intellectual engagement with the concepts and skills we have examined.

The portfolio includes certain requirements, such as "Coverage" (that is, you should demonstrate that you have done the minimum blogging that I asked you to do -- a brief response to each assigned reading, with a few reflections) and "Depth" (a certain portion of your blog entries should demonstrate your ability to engage critically and at length with a difficult subject matter, far beyond a simple statement of a topic that you'd like to discuss in class).

Check the course outline page and see what's marked as "Discuss". For "Coverage" I would like to see an entry for most of the assigned texts; I would love to see an entry for each assigned text, but if you are planning to churn out two-sentence entries in the hours before the deadline, you might as well not bother -- I'd rather have a few in-depth entries than cookie-cutter last-minute entries.

I don't require you to include every blog entry you wrote -- if you only blogged two or three lines when we first disucssed a text, but you've got much more to say about it now, I'd rather see the more detailed entry.

For "Timeliness" I'd like you to include your best work online blogging that you completed before the deadline -- especially if you blogged early enough that you were able to participate in an online discussion before class.

Since blogging also involves commenting and linking, I'm asking you in your cover blog entry to link to entries in which you started or particpated in online conversations. In your cover blog, when appropriate, use the terms I've described below. (I am not giving you a magic number of entries for each category... that's for you to determine, given the "Coverage" requirement I've given you.)

  • The Cover Entry: Post a blog entry that contains links to all the entries that you plan to submit for your portfolio. For the benefit of an outside reader (that is, someone who doesn't know what a blogging portfolio is), introduce each of these links and explain why they are significant. (For example, see "Favorite Blog Entries: Journaling Mode.")
  • The Collection: Your blogging portfolio is supposed to be a collection of your best weblog entries. For the purposes of this class, a "good" blog entry is one that demonstrates your intellectual engagement with the assigned readings and student panels, and/or the questions raised by your peers. I will accept a bulleted list of entries, but please write for an audience that does not know or care about your homework requirements.
    1. Coverage. Ensure that you have blogged something substantial (for a C-level grade, at least a paragraph) that demonstrates your intellectual involvement with the assigned readings.
    2. Depth. Some of the "coverage" entries you selected above should demonstrate your ability to examine a concept in depth. Do some original online research, and link to the precise pages where you got ideas that helped you formulate your ideas. If you prefer to use a library book, quote a passage that you found interesting. Here are a few examples of a blog entry that goes above and beyond the standard "what I thought about the book" blog entry: Fitting in in the Diamond Age and Forced Reading-- Beloved Character.
    3. Interaction. Of the "Coverage" blogs entries included above, some should demonstrate your ability to use weblogs to interact with your peers. For instance, you might disagree (politely) with something a peer has written; link to and quote from the peer's blog entry, then carefully (and respectfully) explain where you disagree. Rather than hurl accusations in order to make the other person look bad, cheerfully invite the other person to explain their perspective. Quote passages from the texts your peer has cited, or do additional research that helps unveil the truth. (These may or may not include some entries you have already included among your "Depth" entries.)
    4. Discussions. Blogging feels lonely when you aren't getting any comments; you will feel more motivated to blog if you enjoy (and learn from) the comments left by your readers. Your portfolio should include entries (which may or may not overlap with either the "Interaction" or "Depth" entries) that demonstrate that your blog sparked a conversation that furthered your intellectual examination of a literary subject.
    5. Timeliness. A timely blog entry is one that was written early enough that it sparked a good online discussion, before the class discussion. A timely blog entry might also be an extra one written after the class discussion, if it reacts directly to something brought up in class. The blog entries that you write the night before the portfolio is due won't count in this category. And don't try to change the date in your blog entries -- I know that trick! ;)
    6. Xenoblogging. "Xeno" means "foreign," so xenoblogging (a term that I coined last term) means the work that you do that helps other people's weblogs. Your portfolio should include three entries (which may or may not overlap with the ones you have already selected for "Coverage") that demonstrate your willingness to contribute selflessly and generously to the online classroom community. Examples of good xenoblogging:
      • The Comment Primo: Be the first to comment on a peer's blog entry; rather than simply say "Nice job!" or "I'm commenting on your blog," launch an intellectual discussion; return to help sustain it.
      • The Comment Grande: Write a long, thoughtful comment in a peer's blog entry. Refer to and post the URLs of other discussions and other blog entries that are related.
      • The Comment Informative: If your peer makes a general, passing reference to something that you know a lot about, post a comment that offers a detailed explanation. (For example, the in the third comment on a recent blog entry about the history and culture of print, Mike Arnzen mentions three books that offer far more information than my post did.)
      • The Link Gracious: If you got an idea for a post by reading something somebody else wrote, give credit where credit is due. (If, in casual conversation, we credited the source of every point we make, we'd get little accomplished. But since a hyperlink is so easy to create, it's not good practice -- or good ethics -- to hide the source of your ideas.) If a good conversation is simmering on someone else's blog -- whether you are heavily involved or not -- post a link to it and invite your own readers to join in.
    7. Wildcard: Include one blog entry on any subject -- related to online writing or not, serious or not -- that you feel will help me evaluate your achievements as a student weblogger.
  • Print out your cover entry. If you would like to hand-write a note on this cover entry, I'd be happy to read and respond.
  • Print out the other entries you plan to include, including pages from peer weblogs where you participated in the online discussion.
  • On each entry you submit, hand-write a brief note that indicates which category or categories you feel this entry fulfills. Thus, the same entry might count for coverage, timeliness, and depth.
  • Please *do not* insert each page into a plastic sleeve. I want to be able to jot notes on your printouts.
  • I'd prefer that you use a single huge staple to keep it all together. A big metal clip will also probably be okay.
  • If you use a big paperclip, it will probably come undone, so please submit paperclipped work in a folder or envelope.
If you have questions about this assignment, please post them here. (If you aren't a student in my class, and you just want to comment on the basic idea of using weblogs in a classroom, I invite you to post on my academic weblog instead.)
Permalink | 28 Sep 2005 | Comments (13)

P1: Background Research

Compile and bring along background information that will help you write your article. Expand or re-do the background information you put into your story pitch.

Permalink | 30 Sep 2005 | Comments (0)

P1: Homecoming Article

600 words, conforming to AP style.

For your reference, here is the checklist for Paper 1 (in MS Word format).

Permalink | 3 Oct 2005 | Comments (0)

Ex 2-1a: Speaker Advance Preparation.

Compile background information on Morgan Spurlock, and compose questions that you might want to ask him when he speaks at SHU.

Permalink | 5 Oct 2005 | Comments (2)

Attend Morgan Spurlock lecture.

If you cannot attend the Morgan Spurlock lecture (7:30pm. Cecilian Hall), let me know at least a week ahead of time, and I will prepare an alternate assignment.

If you do attend the lecture, class tomorrow is optional.

Permalink | 6 Oct 2005 | Comments (14)

Ex 2-1b: Morgan Spurlock article

400 words. Due by 5pm. I'll be available for draft consultations, but class will be optional. (If you did not attend the Morgan Spurlock lecture, then class attendance is mandatory.)

Permalink | 7 Oct 2005 | Comments (0)

Ex 0-1: Entertainment/Sports Writing

300 words. Optional. Adds up to two points to your lowest exercise grade. Write a review of the SHU production of Fuddy Meers (opening Oct 7), OR write a story on a sporting event at SHU the previous weekend. Go beyond simple summary, and include interviews with appropriate local figures. (For example, Fuddy Meers is a comedy about someone with a mental disorder. You might contact someone at SHU who works with mental disorders.) When you submit your article, include a printout of a recent professional article on the same topic (theatre review, sports news), and a brief note on ways in which an arts review differs from an English lit paper, or ways in which a sports news story differs from a hard news story.

Permalink | 12 Oct 2005 | Comments (12)

Ex 2-2: Editorial

Write a 400-word editorial, and submit it to a publication where you'd like it to appear. (If your letter essay is published, send me a clipping for a class participation bonus.)


A reminder -- an editorial can inform, persuade, or entertain. I'm asking your editorial to attempt two of these.

Remember -- complaining is easy. Suggesting a solution, and listening to the arguments against your proposal, is more difficult. You might feel that parking is bad on campus, and you might also complain that the parking permit is too expensive, and your tuition is too costly. But before you write an editorial complaining about parking on campus, have you actually sat down and talked to the people who make decisions about parking? What would they say to your argument that there should be more parking, that parking permits should cost less, and that tuition should cost less?

Avoid proposing a vacuous solution, such as "People need to take more responsibility for their actions" or "Government officials should stop being corrupt."

Some of the best editorials are timely -- that is, they have a news hook, in which the author responds to current events.

Someone asked me the other day, "Can you do interviews for an editorial?" Of course you can! That's an excellent way to support your points. If you interview someone on the "other side" of the issue you want to support, it's good form to be upfront with the person and say, "I'm actually writing an editorial against position X, but since I was impressed by your fairness in the past, I thought you'd be a good person to approach."

In other words, cultivate a relationship that demonstrates your goodwill and honesty.

Politicians and entertainers, who are used to being in the public eye, will be used to dealing with hostile questions. Average citizens won't be, so it's important to pick your rhetorical battles and save your ammo.

Permalink | 14 Oct 2005 | Comments (7)

Workbook: 13-1, 13-2, 13-14A, 13-14B.

Crime Reporting. Accident Reporting.

Permalink | 19 Oct 2005 | Comments (0)

Ex 2-3a: Crime Article Analysis

Think of a fairy tale or other children's story, and imagine it as a news story. For the first part of the exercise, find two or three news articles that cover the same general subject. For instance, if you choose "Tom, Tom the piper's son / Stole a pig and away he run," you'll need to find a news story about theft. In "Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean," you might look up a health story about anorexia in males, as well as a story about violence that ensued from a domestic dispute. (Hint: use

Print out the news stories, and write a brief essay that identifies where, precisely, the justice-related events described in your fictional (emphasis added --DGJ) news story (arrest, hearing, trial, sentencing, etc.) fall on the flowchart available on this site:

For context, refer back to the readings assigned for Oct 19.

Update: You are welcome to begin workin gon your storybook crime story, but this assignment is just preparation -- I'm not actually asking you to write a final draft yet.

When I do read it, I'll take on a skeptical, aggressively legalistic attitude, which means if you call the Big Bad Wolf as "fierce" or if you indentify the female juvenile he is suspected of assaulting, I'll note it. So be ready to have fun with this assignment, while still demonstrating that you are aware of what a reporter should and shouldn't reveal about suspects, victims, and the investigation process. (There's more to come on that.)

Permalink | 21 Oct 2005 | Comments (10)

P2: Feature Article Pitches

Submit three one-paragraph story pitches for a 1500-word newsmagazine article (about 6 pages) that demonstrates your ability to identify and interview appropriate sources, to come up with an original topic or a fresh angle on an ongoing story, and to write something of interest to the SHU audience. Your deadline will be 5 Dec, for an issue of an imaginary SHU student news magazine (such as Time), to be published on 9 Dec. (That means that a story about Halloween won't be terribly newsworthy in December... but a story about SHU traditions, which includes graveyard legends and "Christmas on the Hill," might be very appropriate.) A shorter version of the article, 800-1000 words, is due on 11 Nov. I will have time to give you ample feedback on that version. A news feature might have a current events "hook," but the bulk of the story will be human interest. Thus, a news article might note that housing costs are up again, and include quotations from government officials and politicians -- the people who are in power to do something about it. A news feature, on the other hand, might focus on one particular young couple, who are expecting a baby, but who have to live in a relative's basement in order to make ends meet. The news feature would still mention statistics and quote from the people who are in power to do something about the situation, but would emphasize how these details impact this particular family. (Obviously, the article should bring in other families with a range of experiences, in order to tell the whole story.)

Permalink | 24 Oct 2005 | Comments (2)

Ex 2-3b: Mock Crime Report

400 words. Write a crime story based on the fairytale you chose for Ex 2-3a. While I hope you'll have fun with this, I want you to assume that the legal system of "Storybook Forest" (or wherever you set your story) is the same as that found in the United States. Don't let the Queen of Hearts cut the head off of a suspect or confine him in the tower, without depicting a realistic response from our law enforcement system. Review the chart that was part of the assigned reading for 19 Oct, and decide what exactly is the "news". Is it that a crime or accident has been reported, that an investigation is proceeding, or that the results of the investigation are being announced? Is the "news" that warrants have been issued, a suspect has been arrested, charged, tried, acquitted, convicted, or sentenced? In Storybook Forest, even the Big Bad Wolf is innocent until proven guilty.

Permalink | 26 Oct 2005 | Comments (0)

Informal Oral Presentations

Johanna Dreyfuss
Jason Pugh
Chris Ulicne

Permalink | 26 Oct 2005 | Comments (6)

Informal Oral Presentations

Lou Gagliardi
Michael Diezmos
Erin Waite

Permalink | 28 Oct 2005 | Comments (1)

Workbook: Ex 13-16.

Court Reporting.

Permalink | 2 Nov 2005 | Comments (4)

Informal Oral Presentations

Quinn Kerno
Katie Aikins
Kevin Hinton
Katie Lambert

Permalink | 4 Nov 2005 | Comments (18)

Workbook: Ex 13-17 to 13-19.

Court Reporting.

Permalink | 7 Nov 2005 | Comments (0)

P2: Feature Progress Reports

Submit a one-page summary of your progress to date.

Permalink | 11 Nov 2005 | Comments (2)

Informal Oral Presentations

Evan Reynolds
Mike Sichok

Permalink | 14 Nov 2005 | Comments (2)

Informal Oral Presentations

Ashlee Lupchinsky
Jenna O'Brocto

Permalink | 16 Nov 2005 | Comments (3)

Informal Oral Presentations

Chera Pupi
Leslie Rodriguez
Sean Runt

Permalink | 18 Nov 2005 | Comments (6)

P2: First Draft

A complete article, between 800 and 1000 words, conforming to AP Style, that you plan to expand to create your 1500-word feature. If your article is longer than 1000 words, cut out a section and put it in an end note, in order to get your draft down to size. Include a bulleted list of additional work that you plan to complete, taking special care to apply material about online journalism that you drew from We the Media.

Permalink | 18 Nov 2005 | Comments (5)

Ex 0-2: Entertainment/Sports Writing (Rescheduled from 16 Nov)

300 words. Optional. (Similar to Exercise 0-1.) Adds up to two points to your lowest exercise grade. Write a review of the SHU production of Kindertransport (opening Nov 11), OR write a story on a sporting event at SHU the previous weekend. Go beyond simple summary, and include interviews with appropriate local figures. (For example, Fuddy Meers is a comedy about someone with a mental disorder. You might contact someone at SHU who works with mental disorders.) When you submit your article, include a printout of a recent professional article on the same topic (theatre review, or sports news), and a brief note on ways in which an arts review differs from an English lit paper, or ways in which a sports news story differs from a hard news story.

Permalink | 21 Nov 2005 | Comments (0)

Informal Oral Presentations

Andy Lonigro
David Denninger
Denamarie Ercolani

Permalink | 21 Nov 2005 | Comments (3)

Informal Oral Presentations

Valerie Masciarelli
Elyse Branam
Bethany Hutira
Ashley Wekler

(This slot is full.)

Permalink | 28 Nov 2005 | Comments (8)

P2: Revised Draft

A well-developed revision and expansion of your first draft. Bring three copies.

Permalink | 30 Nov 2005 | Comments (0)

Ex 2-4: Peer Review

Make substantive editing suggestions for two peer papers, focusing on such areas as appropriate use of sources, balance, thoroughness, and accuracy. Mark up copies of two peer articles, and supply a half-page of constructive criticism for each student. Make a copy of the marked-up article and your constructive criticism. Give the original to your peer, and the copy to me.

Permalink | 2 Dec 2005 | Comments (0)

P2: Full Draft

A complete version of Paper 2, ready for copyediting. Any photos or graphics must be submitted at this time.

Permalink | 5 Dec 2005 | Comments (0)

Ex 2-5: Peer Copyediting

Mark copyediting changes on two student articles (not the same students whose work you reviewed in Ex 2-4). Confine your marks to copyediting issues only, and use the proofreader's marks in the back of the AP Stylebook (page 370 in my edition).

Permalink | 7 Dec 2005 | Comments (0)