Dr. Philip Nel
Office: 74 George Street, Room 101
Office hours: MW 10 am - 12 pm, & by appointment.
Virtual office hours: nelp@cofc.edu philnel@ksu.edu.
Office phone: 953-5658.
Communications 230, Sec. 3
ECTR 110
MWF 1:00-1:50 pm
On-line: http://www.cofc.edu/~nelp/
Communications 230: Writing for the Mass Media

Objectives | Requirements | Computing | Grading | Assignments
Required Texts:
Rich, Carole. Writing and Reporting News. Second Edition. Wadsworth, 1997.
Rich, Carole. Workbook for Writing and Reporting News. Second Edition. Wadsworth, 1997.
The Associated Press. Stylebook and Libel Manual. Perseus Books, 1998.
The New York Times, Monday-Friday, January 18-April 28, 1999.
A good dictionary.
      This class is a mix of the theoretical and the practical. On the theoretical side, we will examine the role and responsibility of the press in reporting and shaping news, and develop the ability to evaluate the news with a critical eye. On the practical side, we will determine what the news is, learn processes of newswriting and reporting, and how to write for different media. As you might expect, there is considerable overlap between these areas.
Requirements: Reading | Class Participation and Attendance | Papers | Sources | Quizzes and the Times
Reading: Read everything, and come to class prepared to talk about what you have read. Be an active reader: mark your text, underlining important ideas and making notes in the margins.
Class Participation and Attendance: In this class, education will not be a passive experience: I expect discussion, debate, and exchanges of ideas. This requires that you not only be present but that you be an active presence. On the first day of class discussion for each assignment, you must have finished the reading and be ready to discuss it. This class will be based on discussion, so class participation is expected, and will count for 10% of your final grade. Class attendance is required. You are granted three absences, but more than that will lower your final grade by one grade increment for each absence (e.g., B+ would become B). I appreciate your offering explanations for absences; however, the only way to excuse an absence is to provide me with an official letter from the dean. You cannot earn credit for work missed in class. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to discover what went on that day. "I didn't know because I wasn't in class" is never an acceptable excuse.
Papers and Homework: All papers and homework must: be typed (preferably word-processed) and double-spaced; include a title, your name, and the date; and have numbered pages that are stapled or paper-clipped together.
      You may not interview relatives for assignments in this class.
      Use the AP method for documenting sources.
      Don't plagiarize. When you turn in a paper, you pledge that you have faithfully abided by the guidelines for documenting sources. Always remember: you must cite the sources of any ideas that are not your own. If you quote, paraphrase, or use another's ideas, you must give credit to the person whose ideas you are using. If you have any questions, please ask. If you plagiarize, you will automatically fail this course.
Quizzes and the New York Times: About once a week, you'll have a short quiz on current events; reading the Times will help to keep you informed. In addition, you should read the Times because it's a good newspaper. Its writing, journalism, and reporting tend to be strong, making the paper a good model for you to follow. This does not mean, of course, that we should take paper as the gospel; we shouldn't. We can and will ask questions about how the Times covers the news.
Computing - the Internet and Email:
      The Internet: For your reference, a hyperlinked version of this syllabus can be found on-line, through http://www.cofc.edu/~nelp/choose.courses.html. When applicable, I will link a class day to handouts for that day. In addition, I have assembled some links to news media, politics, history, and search engines. I hope you find them useful.
      Email: Send me an email message by Monday, January 18th. My email address is nelp@cofc.edu. If you need help establishing an email account and learning to use email, please visit Academic Computing to find out what you have to do. Although I will not require you to use email again, I encourage you to use email as a way of touching base with me about your writing. You can send me queries, an outline for an assignment, or anything else that could be handled with a quick exchange of messages. I tend to check email from home first thing in the morning, and again in the evening (probably several times).
      You can access email and the web from the library and various computer labs around campus.


Weekly current events quizzes
Reporting assignment
Identify 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, 
why) and 1 H (how) in news lede (lead)   
2 news ledes (leads)
2 advances
2 brief stories (25 points each)
1 news story
1 obituary
1 person-on-the-street interview
1 speech story
1 feature story
Class Participation        
Final Exam
In class: 2/8.
In class: 4/5.  
In class: 2/15.
In class: 3/1.
In class: 5/8, 12:00-3:00 pm.
Extra Credit:
      You can gain extra credit for getting published during the semester. For each published story, you will receive up to 5 points, and you can earn as many as 15 points for publishing your work.
      Also, consistent contributions to class discussion will earn the good will of your professor. When it comes time to calculate grades, it doesn't hurt to have a little good will on your side.

Schedule of Assignments
(subject to change)
[X] = Xerox copy (handed out in class).
All chapters are from Carole Rich's Writing and Reporting News.
Remember: bring to class Rich's text, workbook, and any Xeroxes for that day.
F 15
Introduction: What Is News?
M 18
W 20
F 22
Chapter 17: "Media Ethics"
Understanding News
Introduction: "Tips from Award-Winning Journalists"
Chapter 1: "Write from the Start: A Coaching Method"
Chapter 2: "Changing Concepts of News"
M 25
W 27
F 29
Chapter 3: "The Basic News Story."
Associated Press, Stylebook and Libel Manual
(Just bring this book to class. You don't need to have read it.)
Chapter 4: "Story Ideas"
Writing and Structure
Chapter 9: "Writing Process"
Due: Reporting Assignment (25 points)
M 1
W 3
F 5
Orwell, "Politics and the English Language" [X]
Chapter 10: "Leads and Nut Graphs"
Chapter 12: "Story Structures"
Due: Identify 5 Ws and 1 H in news lede (lead) (25 points)
Current Events Quiz
M 8
W 10
F 12
In class: write 2 news ledes (leads) (25 points)
New York Times: discussion of story structures.
Collecting Information
Chapter 5: "Curiosity and Observation"
Current Events Quiz
M 15
W 17
F 19
In class: write 2 brief news stories (50 points)
Chapter 6: "Sources"
Chapter 8: "Interviewing Techniques"
Current Events Quiz
M 22
W 24
F 26
Chapter 7: "News Gathering: Direct Observation"
Due: Person-on-the-street Interview (100 points)
Applying the Techniques: Types of Writing
Chapter 25: "Profiles"
Chapter 20: "Obituaries"
Current Events Quiz
M 1
W 3
F 5
In class: write a news story (100 points)
Chapter 21: "Speeches, Press Conferences, and Meetings"
Due: Obituary
Current Events Quiz
M 15
W 17
F 19
Chapter 22: "Government and Statistical Stories"
Chapter 23: "Crime and Punishment"
Due: Speech story (150 points)
Chapter 19: "Beat Reporting"
Current Events Quiz
M 22
W 24
F 26
Chapter 24: "Disasters and Tragedy"
Chapter 16: "Accuracy and Libel"
M 29
W 31
F 2
Chapter 17: "Media Ethics"
Chapter 18: "Multicultural Sensitivity"
Chapter 14: "Public Relations Writing"
Current Events Quiz
M 5
W 7
F 9
In class: 2 Advances (25 points)
Chapter 15: "Broadcast Writing"
Discussion of Broadcast Writing, based on Thursday night's news.
Current Events Quiz
M 12
W 14
F 16
Chapter 26: "Computer-Assisted Journalism"
Evaluating Sources on the Web.
Web Journalism, continued.
Current Events Quiz

M 19
W 21
F 23
Chapter 13: "Storytelling and Feature Techniques"
Chapter 11: "Body Building"
New York Times: discussion of storytelling techniques.
Current Events Quiz
M 26
W 28
New York Times: discussion of storytelling techniques.
Due: Feature Story (150 points).
Sa 8
Final Exam. 12:00-3:00 pm.


Objectives | Requirements | Computing | Grading | Assignments
Links: U.S. Politics and Government | News Media | History | Search Engines

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This page was last updated on 17 January 1999.