CRAFT OF JOURNALISM II SPRING 2013
(JOURNALISM 72000) Six Credits
Room 430, Tuesday, 9 a.m. – 12:20 p.m.
Hours: Wed-Thurs 1-5 p.m.
Welcome to the World of One-on-One Edits
Remember this as we continue to labor and learn in Craft II:
Gentleman in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here.
Think about it. Not only embedded English gentlemen envy us. Would-be journalists from around the country and globe applied unsuccessfully to be part of our Class of 2013. The many applicants who didn’t make it to CUNY would give anything to be where you are now, rucking up to learn every day. Take advantage.
So then: greetings. We are glad you are with us. In Craft II you will report and write stories that are smarter, savvier, more sophisticated and shrewdly assembled than anything you reported and wrote in the fall term. Rewrites are big, one-on-one edits bigger. Seminar and other all-class events go down Tuesday morning, and sometimes on Tuesday afternoon. One-on-one edit sessions take place Tuesday afternoon. Sometimes on parts of Tuesday, and always each Wednesday, you report.
We want each of you in Craft II to build on the lessons introduced in Craft I by refining and locking in your ability to think clearly, report and research doggedly, interview smoothly and write gracefully. By the end of Craft II, you should be able to:
- Demonstrate a command of storytelling
- Master the eternal journalistic verities of fair, accurate, transparent and complete reporting as well as 21st-century verities that reflect changes in how journalism is practiced in a digital age
- Recognize the best format for each story: text alone, text with audio or slides, text with video; or other forms of multimedia or interactive storytelling
- Hone your ability to report and write effectively
- Think critically
- Function as your own editor
- Be a shrewd judge of source motivation
- Pitch story ideas that win support from editors
- Exploit the virtues of reported analysis in newswriting while avoiding the pitfalls
- Assemble by semester’s end a multimedia interactive piece of team journalism
The Learning Objectives described above for Craft II are applied as follows: CD-derived field assignments require you to report and write stories of importance and interest to the residents of the CD you selected this past autumn. Each such story should show that you know how to:
- Identify and focus a newsworthy story
- Interview at least ten sources, and ideally many more
- Conduct comprehensive background research and use the information effectively in stories.
- Organize the story to engage and hold interest
- Write correctly, clearly and concisely
- Adhere to The Associated Press Style
- Write no more than 800 words unless told otherwise
Students will also learn from their research adjuncts, whose focus will be on the seven research sessions listed under the Weekly Schedule.
The essential truth on which Craft II is based is that Reporting, Interviewing and Writing are eternal verities worthy of our weekly attention. Craft II builds on and reinforces the outcomes articulated for Craft I. Even more important, CII provides students with enhanced opportunities for advanced learning. The goal of CII is to take your journalism to a higher level—a level that is smarter, shrewder, savvier and more sophisticated. Analysis—its virtues and its dangers, and how to deploy the former without succumbing to the latter—is a bedrock component of Craft II. These lessons will provide you with a competitive advantage over those “legs” (see Herr, Dispatches) who spend their days hanging in easier places doing less sophisticated work.
Another crucially important part of Craft II are the individual editing sessions you’ll have with your professor and edit adjunct on most Tuesday afternoons. Almost certainly you’ll never again have such concentrated time with an editor as in these “one-on-one” sessions. Take full advantage.
To recap: Stories produced by students in Craft II are expected to be savvier, sharper, shrewder, smarter and more analysis-driven than stories written last fall in Craft I. Students may want to use Craft II to lay the foundation for their capstone project in the third semester.
In Craft II, as in all good journalism, stories grow from your reporting. The wisest play is for you to find stories from your Community District, a place you now know well from autumn mining. The objective in CII now, as in CI last fall, is to extract news through the assiduous cultivation of disparate sources such as business owners, barbers and hair stylists, clubbers, agitproppers, cultists, anarchists, resentfulists obsessed with battling The Man, card-carrying members of the NRA and ACLU, even everyday folks who go to work carrying lunch buckets or briefcases wearing collars blue or white–anyone and everyone with information to reveal. If you want to switch out of your fall CD you may do so, provided you prepare a new CD Beat Memo.
Readings: Your CII professor will supply you with a list of required core readings.
Outcomes: Analysis, Critical Thinking
Students in Craft II are expected to reinforce and build on the lessons of autumn while mastering their ability to think analytically, report tenaciously and write gracefully. Students in Craft II are expected to sharpen, refine and hone the fundamental skills they learned in Craft I. A key word to mastering Craft II is analytic—pertaining to analysis, meaning to be sharp and not easily fooled. Students in Craft II must show they can analyze issues and controversies raised by news events and understand the relative importance and significance of what they have discovered, as well as synthesize and incorporate their analysis into the news stories they write. Students are expected to become critical thinkers, not reflexive or rote ones. They also are encouraged to put forward thoughts about how best they can deploy 21st- century journalism’s various storytelling formats: text, multimedia, interactivity, maps, other techniques.
A key difference between stories produced in Craft I and Craft II is that the reporting and writing of Craft II stories demonstrate a heightened level of sophistication, savvy and analysis. Example: An okay-but-not-great Craft I story on the minimum wage might summarize the latest move to raise the wage, offer predictable quotes from supporters and opponents of an increase, and—if space allows–feature a few words from a minimum-wage earner or payer. Such a story is okay so far as it goes.
A story on the minimum wage done for Craft II, by contrast, requires its reporter-writer to demonstrate a capacity for analysis and critical thinking. A superior Craft II story would identify and analyze a belief cited by some advocates of a boost in the minimum wage—that workers on the lowest rung of the job ladder should earn more and thus have better lives. This superior analysis-driven story would offer clear-eyed consideration not just of this better-life argument for a wage increase, but also would look at an argument against such an increase—that a higher wage means fewer jobs for lower-paid workers because employers will cut back their labor force to offset their higher operating costs. This superior Craft II story would also examine how a wage not imposed by a free market for labor should be calculated and imposed. If a hike of a dollar or two per hour is good, isn’t a $10-an-hour hike better? Or maybe even a $20 hourly hike? This is why Craft II stories have special strength–because they reject a slouch toward sentiment in favor of shrewd analysis.
To summarize our attention to outcomes: The most crucial aspects of structure and writing—introduced in Craft I last autumn–will be addressed again in Craft II until students have them down cold. We expect crisp ledes, informative nut grafs, lively quotes, strong kickers, clear organization, coherent structure and clarity. Critical thinking is paramount. The value of outlining as a prerequisite for good writing will be examined. Also to be revisited, as need be: how to take notes, whether to use a notepad or a tape recorder, how to organize what has been scribbled or recorded so that the best material can be found hours or days after the notes were first taken. Issues of fairness, objectivity, source bias, reportorial bias and ethics will also be incorporated into class throughout the term.
And you will fact check, a talent you’ll need when you sell freelance pieces.
Multimedia and interactive storytelling is an important skill demanded by many employers, and in Craft II you will build on what you learned during the autumn term. At various points in the spring semester you can use multimedia and interactive storytelling techniques as you and your instructors believe to be wise.
How Grades are Calculated
A+ (97-100): mark-up copy, ready to be published without a single change. Near to perfection. This happens once in a blue moon atop another blue moon–as in, never
A (93-96): excellent work, ready to be published by a professional news organization with only a small number of changes
A- (90-92): strong work but needs significant additions in reporting or writing or both
B+ (87-89): work that is slightly above the class average but needs additional reporting and improved writing and would be improved by a rewrite
B (83-86): average work, not best in the class and also not worst
B- (80-82): middling work that is below the class average and should be rewritten
C+ (77-79): substandard work with problems several in number and serious in scope
C (73-76): weak work, bordering on unacceptable in a work environment
C-: unacceptable in a work environment
D range: CUNY does not offer this grade at the graduate level
F: failure on most, if not all, levels used to measure performance
In addition to the guidelines above, we will look carefully at your source lists to see that you have developed voice-to-voice contacts with as many sources as possible. The more direct sources the better the grade, all other things being equal. Email is less effective than personal contact and discussion when conducting interviews and carrying out the best journalistic work. Reporters who speak directly to sources glean the most information for a variety of reasons–your professors will discuss with you. The stronger the source list, the better your grade on individual stories and at term’s end.
Source lists must be submitted with every story. Each list should be organized by the means of communication you used with the source. Begin by listing sources with whom you spoke face-to-face, then those you spoke with on the telephone, then ones you dealt with by email, then web sources with URLs. This list allows you and your professors to see where, and with whom (or what) you’ve spent most of your reporting time List all sources you spoke to or exchanged emails with, even if those sources did not end up in your stories.
Your research grade will be based in equal parts on one graded story (either your explainer or enterprise story) and your final research quiz. The story grade will be based on the details and context in your story, which should be drawn from the articles, data, documents and experts that you use to inform your reporting. Your final quiz will be an open book test on the research topics covered in class.
Your semester grade is calculated this way: 15% based on quizzes, 15% based on research methods, 60% on news stories with emphasis on reporting, writing and sourcing, and 10% on classroom deportment: contribution to discussion, professionalism, collegiality. If you have questions about grading, be sure to ask.
A warning about plagiarism
Plagiarism in journalism is a capital crime. Journalistic credibility takes a hit when reporters steal, copy or otherwise misrepresent the work of others as their own. Anyone who submits unattributed material that is not their original work can fail the course and be expelled. Students have left our program forever—sometimes voluntarily, sometimes involuntarily—for such dishonesty. If you are found to have taken another’s copy—as software programs can, in fact, find—or otherwise lied or misrepresented your work, your CUNY career is finished.