Monday, August 13, 2007


About this course

In this class, you will become better researchers, writers and editors in an online world, no matter the discipline, be it public relations or news reporting. It will help you write clearly, concisely, conversationally and creatively for the World Wide Web. The focus is on quality reporting, writing and editing, not computer skills.

Original reporting and writing are required for this class. You can do well in this class even if you, at the beginning of the course, know nothing about Web design. Online Web packages generally are produced by teams comprised of people with many different skills.

By the end of the semester, you'll have a better understanding of the challenges facing both online and traditional journalism today, mostly because:
  • You'll have created your own twice-weekly blog;
  • You'll have published a few stories for the Web, some individually, and some as part of a group;
  • You'll have read about and discussed the changing face of journalism and the role that online media have had in that change; and
  • You'll have produced one multi-media package as part of a team.
In short, you'll leave this class not only with the skills considered vital in today's communication fields, but also a critical understanding of how communicators in the converging new media can best serve society.


Students who complete this course should be able to:
  • Tell interesting stories and convey factual information more effectively over the Internet;
  • Write in a style appropriate for online media, in blogs, in online-only stories, and in multi-media news or public relations packages;
  • Search efficiently for credible information, documents and statistics on the Internet;
  • Think critically about issues involving online journalism;
  • Work with a team that plans, designs and creates a news site on the Web; and
  • Work in a newsroom setting, complete with a commitment to accuracy, fairness, diversity, creativity and meeting deadlines.

Required books:
  • Craig, Richard (2005) Online Journalism: Reporting, Writing and Editing for New Media. Thomsen/Wadsworth.
  • Associated Press Stylebook, any edition published 2003 or after.
I will be summarizing important points from The Elements on Online Journalism by Rey Rosales, but if you want to purchase this text as backup, you may. It is not required, however.

The Work

  • Twice-Weekly Blog Posts
Beginning and after the Sept. 4 class, you will be required to set up and maintain your own blog for the duration of the course. Your blog must have a specific focus (from the general areas of politics, education, environment, entertainment and sports, pick a more specific topic, such as CSU football, the Presidential race, global warming, etc.). You will post twice every week, once between every class.

Each post must link to and comment on at least one pertinent and recent Web page, Web site, or specific blog post by another author. Posts don't need to be long (in fact, they'll be better if they aren't), and they must make a point.

Blogs will be graded on content, mechanics, and the quality and relevance of the links. I will be writing a blog along with you, and you can check Browne Knows for examples.
  • Reporting Projects/PR Campaigns
You will work in a news team of 4-5 students to produce two reporting projects/public relations campaigns during the middle portion of the class. I will provide more details on these assignments as they approach. One will be a local story, and the other will be a national or international topic.
  • Section and Reading Quizzes
If you are assigned a reading, you may be quizzed over the content of that reading, whether it's a textbook chapter or a series of articles. Also, we'll have an occasional "section" quiz, in which I will ask you to distill information from lectures, articles and readings in order to determine if you understand the key concepts of online news and journalism.
  • Attendance and Participation
Regular attendance and active participation is expected -- this includes contributing comments and questions, respecting the views of others, offering constructive critiques of other students' work, and sharing skills and knowledge with peers.
Unexcused absences will negatively affect your final grade. Excused absences involve documented personal or family illness. You are responsible for any missed material. Also, if you miss a graded exercise or quiz, a zero will be recorded.
Also, you may earn extra credit by attending, participating in and reporting to the class about a couple of events:
    • A Diversity Conference media panel, "Racism in the Media: A Panel Discussion about Fallen Shock-Jock Don Imus," sponsored by Student Media, scheduled for Sept. 26 in the LSC, Room 230, 1 to 2 p.m.; or
    • Journalism Day at CSU, scheduled for Oct. 11, 2007. We will not have class that day.
  • Multi-Media News/PR Site Project
This is the class' culiminating activity, and it will combine the varied skills of students in creating a multi-media news or public relations site about an issue in the Fort Collins community.


Late assignments will not be accepted. Period. If an illness or personal emergency prevents you from completing an assignment on time, advanced notice and written documentation are required.

Odds and Ends
  • You need a USB Jump Drive or other portable storage unit of at least 512 MB for this class. Bring it with you every day. Keep backup copies of all your work on it, even work that you have already published online.
  • Please turn off your cell phones in class.
  • Check your e-mail and this blog regularly. I communicate electronically with the class at times.
  • You may not "double-dip," or use the reporting, writing or design work in this class for another class, or vice versa, unless cleared with me and the other instructor in advance.
  • You are encouraged to have your work published in traditional media (such as The Rocky Mountain Collegian, College Avenue or The Fort Collins Coloradoan) or on professional Web sites in addition to publishing work for this class. If you can get a piece published in a traditional medium, you will earn extra credit.
  • Cheating in any way (plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, falsification, cheating on a quiz) will result in an F for the course, and may result in further ramifications. CSU's policy on academic integrity is stated in the general catalog.
  • Beware of violating copyright laws and the No Electronic Theft Act, which allows you to link to other documents, but you may not use information from other sites in your own pieces without crediting the sources, just as you would in print pieces. You also may not grab graphics and photos from other sites without prior approval. Check the copyright policies when you take graphics from sites that offer free materials.

Grades will be assigned on a point basis for each assignment or quiz, then averaged over the course of the semester: 60-69=D; 70-79=C; 80-89=B; 90-100=A. I will assign plusses and minuses, e.g., 60-62-D-minus; 67-69=D-plus.

Total points (about 800 for the semester) will look something like this:
  • Blogs 25 x 6 points each = 150 points.
  • Reporting projects 2 x 100 points each = 200 points.
  • Section and Reading Quizzes = 190 points.
  • Attendance and participation 30 classes x 2 points each = 60 points.
  • Multi-media presentation = 1 x 200 points = 200 points
Course Schedule

What follows is a general schedule for the course. Please subscribe to this blog or just check in regularly for specific assignments, deadlines, etc. These are not line-in-the-sand dates regarding content for discussion, as we will re-visit previously introduced topics throughout the course.

Aug. 21 through Sept. 13
Convergence, Citizen Journalism, and the Business of Online Journalism

Sept. 18 through Oct. 18
Reporting and Writing for Online Media

Oct. 23 through Nov. 1
Standards, Law and Ethics for Online Media

Nov. 6 through Nov. 15
Editing for Online Media

Nov. 27 through Dec. 6
Multi-Media Presentation

Dec. 11
Final Exam Period (11:20 a.m. to 1:20 p.m.)


Rick Thomason said...

Mr. Browne,
I love your syllabus. Finally, a journalism professor who gets it!
One suggestion, if I may, for future classes. Might I suggest that you challenge your students to write stronger with active verbs. In my experience, young journalists lack basic writing skills that engage readers. One of the strongest engagement tools remains using active verbs to tell interesting stories.
Keep up the great work!

LSC Basement Room 21A said...

Thanks, Rick.