JMC 3023: Pitch letter, résumé assignment

Key dates

  • Monday, Oct. 26: Launch
  • Monday, Nov. 16: Draft of both due via email
  • Monday, Nov. 30: 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 | 50 percent
    • One page, written for media jobs
    • Reverse chronological timeline
    • Include work experience, education, honors and references
  • Pitch email| 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

Class work

2019

Essay

Q&A

Profile

Human interest

Trend

Story behind the story

2018

Essay

Q&A

Profile

Human interest

Trend

Story behind the story

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. 21: Launch + be familiar with reading list
  • Wednesday, Sept. 23: Individual story conferences. (Sign up)
  • Monday, Oct. 5: Peer-review day; draft shared via Google Drive
  • Wednesday, Oct. 7: Individual story conferences (Sign up)
  • Wednesday, Oct. 14: Final version turned in

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 | 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 | 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

JMC 3023: Trend assignment

Goal

Provide a better understanding of an important or notable phenomenon.

Key dates

  • Monday, Nov. 16: Launch + be familiar with reading list
  • Wednesday, Nov. 18: Individual story-selection and pre-reporting conferences
  • Monday, Nov. 23: Trend work day
  • Monday, Nov. 30: Trend work day
  • Wednesday, Dec. 9: Draft shared in Google Drive; peer-review day
  • Wednesday, Dec. 16: Final version turned in by 11:59 p.m.

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 | 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 | 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: Schedule

Instructor: Seth Prince
Class: 11:15 a.m.-1:05 p.m. Monday, Wednesday in Gaylord 1030 unless otherwise specified
Office hours: By appointment, Copeland 168A (inside The OU Daily)
Contact: sethprince@ou.edu | @seth_prince | 405.325.6334


COURSE SCHEDULE

WEEK 1: BASICS

Monday, Aug 24: Intro, syllabus, jumping off: What’s the most important element of a good story? Overview of story forms we’ll cover. Discussion of writing/editing process. Discussion of universal themes. Introduction of working in on our class platforms — Google Drive and WordPress. Set Story Behind the Story groups.

Wednesday, Aug. 26: Guest speaker: George Stoia. We’ll discuss dreaming up big ideas, initial reporting strategies, finding people and getting them to talk and how to consider story structure.


WEEK 2: ESSAY, TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENTS

Monday, Aug. 31: Launch essay assignment. Discussion of transformational moments. Be familiar with essay reading list selections.

Wednesday, Sept. 2: Individual story conferences by appointment. Meetings available during/after class as needed since our size limits how long we can meet individually within our allotted time. Sign up: Doodle poll, Essay writing conference. Meeting times available in 20-minute increments between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 


WEEK 3: ESSAY

Monday, Sept. 7: Labor Day, no class.

Wednesday, Sept. 9: Peer review. Full draft of essay shared by start of class with class on Google Drive or letter-grade deduction. Small-group constructive comments and suggestions provided on Google docs during class. Note, part of your participation grade will account for how engaged you are in providing genuine feedback to help your peers succeed.


WEEK 4: ESSAY, STORY BEHIND THE STORY

Monday, Sept. 14: Story behind the story, round 1. First group of students will be responsible for having contacted and interviewed and recorded a podcast with an author of one of their favorite feature pieces of any sort we complete throughout the semester.

Wednesday, Sept. 16: No class. Final version of essay posted to WordPress by noon or letter-grade deduction.


WEEK 5: PROFILE

Monday, Sept. 21: Launch profile assignment. Discussion on where great stories come from. Strong angles, focused ideas, originality. How to choose. Be familiar with the profile reading list selections.

Wednesday, Sept. 23: Individual profile story conferences (1 of 2) by appointment. Meetings available during/after class as needed since our size limits how long we can meet individually within our allotted time. Sign up: Doodle poll, Profile writing conference 1. Meeting times available in 20-minute increments between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 


WEEK 6: PROFILE, Q&A

Monday, Sept. 28: Launch Q&A assignment. Be familiar with Q&A reading list selections. Discussion on interviewing preparation, execution, adaptation. Classmate interview.

Wednesday, Sept. 30: Guest speaker: Lindsay Schnell, USA Today.


WEEK 7: PROFILE, Q&A

Monday, Oct. 5: Final draft of Q&A due (no peer revision) posted on WordPress by start of class or letter-grade deduction. Peer review on profile. Full draft of profile shared by start of class with class on Google Drive or letter-grade deduction. Small-group constructive comments and suggestions provided on Google docs during class. Note, part of your participation grade will account for how engaged you are in providing genuine feedback to help your peers succeed.

Wednesday, Oct. 7: Individual profile story conferences (2 of 2) by appointment. Meetings available during/after class as needed since our size limits how long we can meet individually within our allotted time. Sign up: Doodle poll, Profile writing conference 2. Meeting times available in 20-minute increments between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 


WEEK 8: PROFILE, STORY BEHIND THE STORY

Monday, Oct 12: Story behind the story, round 2. Second group of students will be responsible for having contacted and interviewed and recorded a podcast with an author of one of their favorite feature pieces of any sort we complete throughout the semester.

Wednesday, Oct. 14: No class. Final version of profile posted to WordPress by noon or letter-grade deduction.


WEEK 9: HUMAN INTEREST

Monday, Oct. 19: Launch human interest assignment. Discussion on the power of anecdotes. Be familiar with the human interest reading list selections.

Wednesday, Oct. 21: Individual human interest story conferences (1 of 2) by appointment. Meetings available during/after class as needed since our size limits how long we can meet individually within our allotted time. Sign up: Doodle poll, Human interest writing conference 1. Meeting times available in 20-minute increments between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 


WEEK 10: HUMAN INTEREST, PITCHES/RÉSUMÉ

Monday, Oct. 26: Launch pitch letter/résumé. How different digital platforms affect messages, audiences. Discussion on the necessity of the new forms storytelling, and the necessity to utilize them? Data, video, sound in addition to photo. Discussion on reader engagement and what success looks like in a metrics sense with feature stories.

Wednesday, Oct. 28: Guest speaker: Hannah Allam, National Public Radio. 


WEEK 11: HUMAN INTEREST

Monday, Nov. 2: Peer review. Full draft of human interest shared by start of class with class on Google Drive or letter-grade deduction. Small-group constructive comments and suggestions provided on Google docs during class. Note, part of your participation grade will account for how engaged you are in providing genuine feedback to help your peers succeed.

Wednesday, Nov. 4: Individual human interest story conferences (2 of 2) by appointment. Meetings available during/after class as needed since our size limits how long we can meet individually within our allotted time. Sign up: Doodle poll, Human interest writing conference 2. Meeting times available in 20-minute increments between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.


WEEK 12: HUMAN INTEREST, STORY BEHIND THE STORY

Monday, Nov. 9: Story behind the story, round 3. Third group of students will be responsible for having contacted and interviewed and recorded a podcast with an author of one of their favorite feature pieces of any sort we complete throughout the semester.

Wednesday, Nov. 11: No class. Final version of human interest posted to WordPress by noon or letter-grade deduction.


WEEK 13: TREND, PITCHES/RÉSUMÉ

Monday, Nov. 16: Launch trend assignment. Draft of pitch letter/résumé via email. Discussion on how, where and when to pitch your work to get a foothold. How much persistence is too much? How not to oversell? Payment? Pitch vs. whole story? When to give up? Discussion on handling trend, issues and controversies. Be familiar with the trend reading list selections.

Wednesday, Nov. 18: Individual trend story conferences (1 of 2) by appointment. Meetings available during/after class as needed since our size limits how long we can meet individually within our allotted time. Sign up: Doodle poll, Trend writing conference. Meeting times available in 20-minute increments between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.


WEEK 14: TREND, PITCHES/RÉSUMÉ

Monday, Nov. 23: No class meeting. Trend work day.

Wednesday, Nov. 25: No class. Thanksgiving break.


WEEK 15: TREND

Monday, Nov. 30: Pitch letter/résumés due via email. No class meeting. Trend work day.

Wednesday, Dec. 2: Guest speaker: Anna Bauman, Hearst Fellow at San Francisco Chronicle/Houston Chronicle.


WEEK 16: TREND, STORY BEHIND THE STORY

Monday, Dec. 7: Story behind the story, round 4. Fourth group of students will be responsible for having contacted and interviewed and recorded a podcast with an author of one of their favorite feature pieces of any sort we complete throughout the semester.

Wednesday, Dec. 9: Peer review. Full draft of trend shared by start of class with class on Google Drive or letter-grade deduction. Small-group constructive comments and suggestions provided on Google docs during class. Note, part of your participation grade will account for how engaged you are in providing genuine feedback to help your peers succeed.


WEEK 17: FINALS WEEK (NO FINAL)

Wednesday, Dec. 16: No class Monday. Final draft of trend posted to WordPress by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday or letter-grade deduction.