Advanced Journalism Research
Department of Journalism
Course Content ©2000
Web Design ©2000 Pete Darling
Tuesday 3-6 p.m.
Instructor: J. T. Johnson
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-353-5969(o) or 617-926-1313(h) or
Research Assistant: Tama Miyake
(email@example.com) (617) 266-2365
Office Hours: Mon. & Wed. 2-5 p.m.; Tues. 12-2
The Digital Drop-in: Tues 6:30-7:30+ p.m. in 203E
And by appointment
Class websites: http://egroups.com/group/BUJO807-F00
“In a time of drastic change,
it is the learners who
inherit the future."
— Eric Hoffer
Doing journalism — high-quality journalism — involves five
phases that I call the RRAW-P
process : Research, Reporting, Analysis, Writing
and Publishing (or Production). This is a four-unit course
designed to develop and reinforce your skills in the first three of these,
especially as they pertain to the digital information environment. By
the end of the semester, however, you will be demonstrating your skills in
the fourth aspect of the process, writing.
In this course you will be learning a lot about how to search for,
retrieve, manage and analyze data. Often that data will be in digital
form but ink-on-paper data is still a major part of the research for most
stories. During the first week or two, we will be doing some
practical — and I hope fun — activities to get you up-to-speed
in the basic skills and tools related to today’s communications
environment. I'm talking about sophisticated computer tools. We
also will learn about the basics of Analytic Journalism (aka
computer-assisted reporting): online research and data management tools,
some sophisticated aspects of spreadsheets and, possibly, get into the
basics of databases and geographic information systems (GIS).
You will also be expected to know some elementary statistics. As the
semester progresses, you will be doing more basic research into public
documents, research often related to your final project.
While there will be regular in-class lectures, your success in this
course depends on your investment in learning. That is, you simply
have to devote many hours outside of class to picking up the skills and
research/reporting experience necessary to become a very good
reporter. There are no shortcuts.
You will need to have an active e-mail account. BU provides free
accounts to students, but you may use any ISP (Internet Service Provider),
just be sure to use the same e-mail address in all aspects of this
NB: You may NOT
use AOL as your ISP or Hotmail for your e-mail in this class. AOL
does strange things when you're online, like throwing you off in the middle
of an upload. Hotmail, and
similar applications, cause problems and, frankly, applications like these
are for armatures and you’re professionals. Furthermore, because you’re professionals, I will
strongly encourage you to register your own domain. That way, you can have the same
e-mail address for life.)
While it is not necessary for you to have your own computer, it is
strongly recommended that you do. Computers and knowledge management skills
are no longer an option for journalists: just as a plumber needs a wrench,
journalists need the digital equivalent. (For a variety of reasons
that I can discuss in class, I suggest you use a Windows PC unless you're
devoted to film, broadcast or graphics.) I also encourage you to
sign-up for a high-speed ISP with DSL or a cable modem
connection. It will help you maintain your sanity in graduate school.
All of the course material -- readings, step-by-step instructions,
links to resources, listservs, chat lists and assessments -- always will be
posted online for instruction and review.
Here s what I hope you
will achieve by the end of the semester:
- Develop a commitment to exercise the rights
and responsibilities of citizenship
- Develop ability to apply principles and
generalizations already learned to new problems and situations
- Develop ability to apply basic concepts of
General Systems Theory to analyze a variety of phenomena
- Develop ability to articulate the RRAW-P
process of journalism, and consciously apply that process
- Develop quantitative and qualitative
- Develop ability to articulate assumptions
and query operational definitions
- Develop ability to synthesize and integrate
information and ideas
- Develop skill in using materials, tools,
and/or technology central to journalism in the Digital Age
- Learn techniques and methods used to gain
new knowledge in this subject
- Develop an openness to and an eagerness to
find new ideas and methods, i.e. intellectual aggressiveness
- Cultivate an active commitment to honesty
- Develop a sense of pride and confidence in the
totally accurate quality of your work
New York Times (daily) Click here for BU-specific
instructions. Then call 1-800-698-4637.
The Boston Globe (daily) $2.99 a week for 26
weeks, but call 1-888-MYGLOBE and ask for any newcomer or back-to-school
Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law New York:
The Associated Press (Paperback - July 2000)
Houston, Brant. Computer-Assisted Reporting: A
(Paper-2nd Edition)" (Order from Investigative Reporters and
Paul, Nora. Computer Assisted Research
(4th Edition: Paper) [Order from Poynter Institute: http://www.poynter.org/pub/car.htm
reporting (Paper-2nd Edition) ISBN: 0-8058-3021-9
1998 / 504pp. / $34.95 Order Department Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.,
10 Industrial Avenue, Mahwah, NJ 07430-2262
Kessler, Lauren and
Duncan McDonald. When
Words Collide : A Media Writer's Guide to Grammar and Style
(Paperback) 5th edition Mountain View, CA: Wadsworth Pub Co; ISBN:
Reddick, Randy and Elliot King. The Online Journalist
Third Edition 0-15-506752-4, ©2000, Paperback, 250 pp.
will be perhaps as many as 20 tasks related to digital skills; some will be
done in class, others on your own time. The important thing is to be
sure to give yourself enough time to do them and to do them all.
While some of these are listed in the calendar, others will be coming at
various times, depending on the class and individuals' skill level.
SEMESTER PROJECT (Click for more details) [Top]
By the end of the semester, you
will present to the class orally — and deliver to me
electronically — a
major story ready for publication. Your project objectives:
· A topic of state, national or
· A topic that requires
development of a traditional and digital research strategy and appropriately
bibliography (MLA or PSA style)
topic that requires some form of quantitative data analysis
· Something of your choosing that
meets the above objectives
· Any aspect of Congressional
reapportionment resulting from the U.S. 2000 Census as it effects
· Any aspect related to
contributions to the presidential campaign contributions or
The work product will include:
· A 15-minute presentation to the
class describing your research strategy and experience, your methods of
analysis and the nut graf of your story (Don't worry, I'll explain nut
· A 1,500-word story — plus appropriate sidebar(s) and
· A memo (500-1k words) on
"What I've learned from this course" (about yourself; about
journalism; what worked for you; what would you do differently with similar
· Bibliography of all
sources, i.e. interviews, archival and data sites. The idea here
is that you, or any colleague, will be able t to replicate your research,
reporting and analysis.
Assignments and Grading [Top]
All assignments must be
submitted via e-mail as attached files and must be handed in on deadline. If a story is not
submitted by the deadline, it will be an automatic "F." If any
individual's name is misspelled, the story receives an automatic
The instructor may or
may not critique late stories for you, depending on how much time he has.
The format for the submissions must follow these exact instructions: ·
- You must use the exact story slug (i.e.
assignment name or number) as given to you by the instructor
- This slug should be the name of your final
file, the one you will send to me and give to me.
- Some of the tasks
ask you to submit a memo to me.
Use one of the templates in MS Word for this. The subject line should be the
- You must submit the story in the Rich
Text Format (RTF). If you don't know how to use Word to get that
here to reach http://www.microsoft.com/education/curric/word97/
for the tutorial.
- The story must be sent to me as an
"attachment" to an e-mail message.
- The subject line
for that e-mail message must be: ·
JO807#TK-??? ( Your THREE initials replace the question
marks. "TK," in journalese means "To
Come." Yes, ask me to explain why.] Example:
If you use some other
subject line, the assignment will get lost in the 100-150 e-mail messages I
receive each day and you will not get a grade.
The easiest way to
implement the story formatting is to download a copy of
StoryFormatMasterTemplate.DOC under the "Course Documents" button
on the web site. But if you don't want to do that, the page format should
be the following:
Your assignments should
clearly indicate the sources for all your work, either
paragraph-by-paragraph by using the endnote function or with the
"comment" function. I suggest learning how to use the
footnote/endnote function of any word processor.
Here is the style you
should use to format your assignments:
- Set both left and right
margins at 1.5 inches
- Use New Courier at 10pt.
bold (or similar)
- The body text should be
1.25 inches from the top of the page; bottom margins should be 1.25
inches from the bottom.
- Use a header to show the
slug, author and page number.
- Submit the file in Rich
- Avoid fancy type or
inserting graphics unless they are necessary to make you point.
Here is the link to a document that explains how to format your
NB: Be sure to keep
multiple copies of your story, electronic and an I-o-P (ink-on-paper)
version. If the
story is lost, I'm not responsible. I'll ask you to send me another copy
and it's up to you to be able to do so.
The instructor will comment on and grade the stories either
electronically or on hard copies. Those critiques will use MS Word's
"comment" feature, so learn how to use, and read and maybe print,
In addition to the
grading standards attached, all stories are evaluated for precision in the
- Adequacy of research
- Clear writing
- Overall organization
- News judgment
- Lead or nut graf writing
Grading Policy [Top]
someone's writing is a difficult and inexact task. This is how I will try
to do it:
A -- The news story is exceptionally well written and free
of errors. The lead is clear, concise and interesting. The story reflects
an impressive amount of insightful research, reporting and analysis by the
writer. The story is well organized and contains effective transitions,
quotations, descriptions and anecdotes. Because of the story's obvious
merit, any newspaper or magazine would be eager to publish it.
B -- Any newspaper could publish the news story after
minimal editing. The story contains only a few minor errors of style. The
lead clearly summarizes the story, and the following paragraphs present all
the information necessary for a comprehensive news story. The information
is presented in a cohesive, well-organized manner. The story is not as
detailed, descriptive or interesting as an "A" story.
C -- The news story is superficial or could be published
only after heavy editing. The lead may be too wordy and fail to clearly
emphasized the latest, most interesting or most important aspects of the
story. The story tends to be disorganized and contains many minor errors. A
few sentences or paragraphs may have to be rewritten because they are
repetitious, awkward or confusing.
D -- The news story contains all the necessary facts, but
those facts are presented so ineffectively that they would have to be
rewritten before the story could be published. The story also may contain
an unacceptable number of stylistic, spelling or grammatical errors.
F -- The news story could not be published by a newspaper
and is so incomplete, confusing or erroneous that the facts in the story
could not be rewritten and published.
As to the question,
"Should grades represent quality and a level of accomplishment? Or
effort? Or progress?"
"A. Grades are assumed to reflect the
instructor's judgment of the quality of the student's performance. Grades
should not merely be awarded for effort, attendance, native ability, etc.,
notwithstanding the fact that all of these may affect performance and
become part of the evaluation.
"B. Students may not be guaranteed 'at least
a "C" or "B," etc. in advance or by a contract related
solely to the quantity of assignment completed, as evaluation is a
post-performance function rather than a pre-performance contract."
Class attendance is
mandatory. Makeup work may be done only with permission of the instructor
and must be completed within one week after the student's return to class.
Copies of students' stories may be distributed in class or posted to the
class web site for discussion, but grades usually will not be identified.
The grades will be posted in the eGroups site as a
Sum of the various task assignments:
Class and online participation