2017 class work

Essay

Q&A

Profile

Human interest

Story behind the story

JMC 3023: Class tools tutorial

Where we’ll work

Google Drive

We will write our stories or scripts in Google docs, set the share settings to “CAN EDIT” and then share them in a public folder for peer and instructor editing. If the folder is being wonky, also share the file in the #general channel of our class Slack. Edit by leaving comments, questions and suggestions as you see fit.

Every piece can be improved. Be constructive. Be real. But don’t be a jerk.

Remember, part of your participation grade will account for how engaged you are in providing genuine feedback to help your peers succeed.

Slack

This free app (download it), as a student once put it to me, is Group Me for grown ups. We will use it as a great real-time communication tool as many newsrooms do. Join our class team, which is domain name JMC3023. I’ve sent invitations to the OU email addresses of all who were enrolled as of June 1 and will update again as class starts. If you haven’t already joined, you can do so at this link with your ou.edu email address. Use that email as your user name and then create a password and you’re in.

It’s fairly intuitive from there. There’s a #general channel for main class business, a #random channel if you all want to talk about whatever else and we can create any other channels for different topics as needed. You can also private message one another as you may continue conversations about individual stories outside of class.

I’ll send reminders to the general channel at times about assignments and due dates, and if you need to reach me as you work on a story it’s probably the fastest way to track me down.

WordPress

This platform, again free, is where we’ll share our finished work with broader audiences before, hopefully, they’re picked up by other outlets. You just need to accept my invitation to become a contributor to my blog.

When you have the final version of an assignment due or your Story behind the story post here’s what to do.

  1. Publish the post to as a contributor to my site.
  2. Email me the post link so I can go directly to it.
  3. I’ll approve your submission so it appears on our site.

Doodle polls

I’ve set these up for each individual writing conference in my office. Look for them on each assignment post (here, for example, is the one for Essay). Sign up to schedule when you want to meet with me to discuss your story. Do so as we progress through the semester, or sign up for your preferred time now for all the assignments. It’s first come, first served.

Questions on any of these? Let me know.

JMC 3023: Pitch letter, résumé assignment

Key dates

  • Monday, Oct. 23: Launch
  • Monday, Nov. 13: Draft of both due via email
  • Monday, Nov. 20: Final version of both due via email

The assignment

Pretty straight forward. Because we want this class to have real-world applications, this assignment is simply your résumé — once in draft form, once in final form — along with a three-paragraph pitch email that explains why a publication should be interested in one of the pieces you’re writing in this class. I like Jason Fagone’s advice on the pitch email and recommend you follow it. If you’d like one example of a résumé, here’s mine.

Three short paragraphs will do it.

First paragraph: Hi, I’m so and so, and I have an idea I think would work well for you.

Second paragraph: Here is the idea, briefly, and here is why I am the appropriate person to write it.

Third paragraph: I’m happy to tell you more if the idea intrigues you. A bit more about me: [links to clips, or in the absence of clips, a tiny bio].

(After I posted this, I asked for editors to weigh in on Twitter, and a few made this important point: these three paragraphs should convey that you’ve read the publication you’re pitching and that you know what sorts of stories they need. The pitch has to be tailored to them. Editors don’t like it if they sense that the idea is generic and could be pitched anywhere. As an editor from Slate put it, the pitch should “include a real sense that you understand how the piece would fit into MY magazine and not some other magazine.”)

Rubric (250 points total)

  • Résumé | 125 points (50 percent)
    • One page, written for media jobs
    • Reverse chronological timeline
    • Include work experience, education, honors and references
  • Pitch email| 125 (50 percent)
    • 500-word maximum
    • Uses clear, conversational language
    • Demonstrates knowledge, understanding of target publication
  • Deductions
    • Fact errors: -50 percent
    • Spelling: -10 points
    • Grammar, punctuation, AP style: -1 point each

JMC 3023: Trend assignment

Goal

Provide a better understanding of an important or notable phenomenon.

Key dates

  • Monday, Nov. 13: Launch + be familiar with reading list
  • Wednesday, Nov. 15: Individual story-selection and pre-reporting conferences
  • Monday, Nov. 27: Draft shared in Google Drive; peer-review day
  • Wednesday, Nov. 29: Individual mid-point story conferences
  • Wednesday, Dec. 6: Trend work day
  • Monday, Dec. 11: Final version posted to WordPress

Reading list

For each style of feature I will ask you to complete I will provide some examples that we can discuss in class to help jog your creative muscles and that you can refer to for inspiration while you work on yours. Please read, listen or watch at least three of them — some by the pros, some by the students — before we launch each segment.

The assignment

A trend piece, in the words of a previous instructor of this course, provides specific, anecdotal examples of a broader topic with inherent news value. The objective is to find one or more colorful and informative microcosms that help readers better understand an important trend, event, study, statistic or other notable phenomenon in the news. The story will require a combination of extensive authoritative and anecdotal source material. Multiple sources are required

You will

  • Write a 1,000-word (digital) or 4-minute package (broadcast) piece that…
  • Appeals to an audience on an explanatory level…
  • Is fully-developed in examining the subject in depth via research and at least three sources (more may be necessary to be successful)…
  • And is relatable to a clearly defined audience.

Rubric (250 points total)

  • Topic | 125 points (50 percent)
    • Clearly appeals to an audience on an explanatory level
    • Is explored in significant depth via research and at least three sources (more may be necessary to be successful)
    • Is relatable to a broad audience
  • Writing | 125 (50 percent)
    • Meets the word-count or script-length minimum
    • Uses clear, conversational language
    • Fully examines the subject
  • Deductions
    • Fact errors: -50 percent
    • Spelling: -10 points
    • Grammar, punctuation, AP style: -1 point each

JMC 3023: Q&A assignment

Goal

Capture a compelling conversation and storyline in lieu of a full-blown story.

Key dates

  • Monday, Sept. 25: Launch + be familiar with reading list + interview Part I
  • Wednesday, Sept. 27: Interview Part II
  • Monday, Oct. 2: Final version posted to WordPress. (no peer review)

Reading list

For each style of feature I will ask you to complete I will provide some examples that we can discuss in class to help jog your creative muscles and that you can refer to for inspiration while you work on yours. Please read, listen or watch at least three of them — some by the pros, some by the students — before we launch each segment.

The assignment

Great features depend on great interviews, which are conversations with a purpose yet still open to unexpected possibilities. A well-done Q&A captures a compelling conversation and storyline with a person in lieu of a full-blown story.

You will

  • Write a 500-word minimum Q&A that…
  • Introduces the person as well as the subject of the conversation along with why that’s a compelling angle now…
  • Lists at least eight question/answer exchanges that move readers through the conversation in an engaging way without regurgitating a transcript of the interview…
  • And is relatable to a clearly defined audience.

You will not

  • Regurgitate a transcript of the interview

Rubric (250 points total)

  • Interview | 125 points (50 percent)
    • Finds a compelling line or lines of conversation with the subject
    • Is explored in significant depth to explain while also providing a sense of the person’s character and style
    • Is relatable to a broad audience
  • Writing | 125 (50 percent)
    • Meets 500-word minimum
    • Uses clear, open-ended questions
    • Tells a story within the arc of conversation
    • Does not regurgitate a transcript of the interview
  • Deductions
    • Fact errors: -50 percent
    • Spelling: -10 points
    • Grammar, punctuation, AP style: -1 point each

JMC 3023: Human interest assignment

Goal

Describe a real adventure, experience, project, crisis or quest involving people.

Key dates

  • Monday, Oct. 16: Launch + be familiar with reading list
  • Wednesday, Oct. 18: Individual story-selection and pre-reporting conferences
  • Monday, Oct. 30: Draft posted to Google Drive; peer-review day
  • Wednesday, Nov. 1: Individual mid-point story conferences
  • Wednesday, Nov. 8: Final version posted to WordPress

Reading list

For each style of feature I will ask you to complete I will provide some examples that we can discuss in class to help jog your creative muscles and that you can refer to for inspiration while you work on yours. Please read, listen or watch at least three of them — some by the pros, some by the students — before we launch each segment.

The assignment

A human-interest piece, in the words of a previous instructor of this course, describes a real adventure, experience, project, crisis or quest involving people. For our purposes, narrow your focus to a central character or small group of people working together. Also, consider using a narrative story-telling format grounded in a specific time and place and proceeding chronologically.

You will

  • Write a 1,000-word (digital) or 4-minute package (broadcast) piece that…
  • Appeals to an audience on an emotional and/or dramatic level…
  • Is fully-developed in examining the subject in depth via research and at least three sources (more may be necessary to be successful)…
  • And is relatable to a clearly defined audience.

Rubric (250 points total)

  • Topic | 125 points (50 percent)
    • Clearly appeals to an audience on an emotional and/or dramatic level
    • Is explored in significant depth via research and at least three sources (more may be necessary to be successful)
    • Is relatable to a broad audience
  • Writing | 125 (50 percent)
    • Meets the word-count or script-length minimum
    • Uses clear, conversational language
    • Fully examines the subject
  • Deductions
    • Fact errors: -50 percent
    • Spelling: -10 points
    • Grammar, punctuation, AP style: -1 point each

JMC 3023: Profile/obituary assignment

Goal

Explain a person and his or her significance at a moment in time in photographic detail, not portraiture.

Key dates

  • Monday, Sept. 18: Launch + be familiar with reading list
  • Wednesday, Sept. 20: Individual story conferences. (Sign up)
  • Monday, Oct. 2: Peer-review day; draft shared via Google Drive
  • Wednesday, Oct. 4: Individual story conferences (Sign up)
  • Wednesday, Oct. 11: Final version posted to WordPress

Reading list

For each style of feature I will ask you to complete I will provide some examples that we can discuss in class to help jog your creative muscles and that you can refer to for inspiration while you work on yours. Please read, listen or watch at least three of them — some by the pros, some by the students — before we launch each segment.

The assignment

A well-done profile explains a person at a moment in time. Ours will be fully developed photographic profiles, rather than more portrait-like exercises focused solely on a subject’s flattering qualities. Although profiles regularly focus on newsmakers, society’s overlooked members often can make more compelling subjects. Universal themes and transformational moments may re-appear in profiles, but are not required for success. Some students may choose to pre-write a deeply sourced obituary on a notable figure in the university’s history such as President David Boren, professor George Henderson or former football coach Barry Switzer that could run in the event of their deaths.

You will

  • Write a minimum 1,000-word (digital) or 4-minute package (broadcast) piece that…
  • Explains a person who is either in the news or has a compelling and newsworthy story…
  • Is fully-developed in examining the subject in depth via research and at least three sources (more may be necessary to be successful)…
  • And is relatable to a clearly defined audience.

You will not

  • Write a biography

Rubric (250 points total)

  • Topic | 125 points (50 percent)
    • Clearly explains a newsworthy subject at a moment in time
    • Is explored in significant depth via research and at least three sources (more may be necessary to be successful)
    • Is relatable to a broad audience
  • Writing | 125 (50 percent)
    • Meets the word-count or script-length minimum
    • Uses clear, conversational language
    • Fully examines the subject
    • Does not resort to biographical tendencies
  • Deductions
    • Fact errors: -50 percent
    • Spelling: -10 points
    • Grammar, punctuation, AP style: -1 point each

Profile writing tips

  • 40–40–20 rule
    • 40 percent research
    • 40 percent reporting
    • 20 percent writing
  • Types of profiles
    • Portrait profiles are positive.
    • Photographic profiles are fully developed.
    • In this class we will write photographic profiles.
  • What makes a profile candidate newsworthy?
    • Prominence
    • Perseverance
    • Oddity
    • Achievement
    • Experience
    • Vocation/avocation
    • Anniversary