News Writing for the Media

JRN 202
News Writing for the Media
Spring 2015
Time/Location: TR 9:45 – 11:15 a.m., Bunnell 126
Prerequisites: ENGL F111X; ENGL F211X or ENGL F213X; or permission of instructor
Instructor: Associate Professor Lynne Snifka
Office Phone: 474-6245z
Office Hours: Monday 9-10:30 a.m., Tuesday 3:30-5 p.m. and by appointment
Required Texts
 The Elements of Newswriting, James Kershner, 3rd Edition
 Associate Press Stylebook and Libel Manual (any edition from the past two or
three years is fine)
 Online and photocopied reading
Recommended Texts (highly recommended if you plan on a career in journalism)
 The Elements of Style, Strunk & White
 Working with Words, Brian Brooks, James Pinson and Jean Caddy Wilson
 On Writing Well, William Zinsser
Course Description
Identifying and focusing news stories, differentiation of fact from opinion, writing the lead,
developing story structure, writing on deadline, editing copy, writing headlines and
captions, writing styles for print, broadcast and online news presentations, mastery of
Associated Press style.
Course Objectives
After completing this course, students should be able to:
organize facts into a complete and coherent news story
understand and employ Associated Press style in their writings
identify and write a variety of news leads
understand the differences inherent in writing for print, web and broadcast media
produce news stories on deadline
Course Requirements
There are two ways to become a better writer. One is to read. The other is write, write,
write — then write some more. We will write a great deal in this class. We’ll also spend
a fair amount of time talking about writing, discussing language and picking apart each
other’s stories. You will be a better writer for it. Many classes will begin with a AP
Style/current events quiz. We’ll then do a short lesson on a principle of grammar, syntax
and the like. However, expect that at least one day per week you will have to write a
story — on deadline! — using information I’ve given you or facts you will find out
There will be a midterm and a final exam in this course. They will be short exams
designed to test your grasp of the essential concepts presented as well as AP Style,
grammar, etc.
You will produce several stories outside of class this semester. Mandatory rewrites will
be assigned on most stories as well. For each story you write, you must keep a log of
everyone you speak to for the story (if applicable), including each person’s name
AND phone number (email addresses in addition are fine, but they are NOT A
SUBSTITUTE FOR A PHONE NUMBER). You will hand in your contact information with
each story in which you use outside contacts. Many reporters find it beneficial to keep
all of this information in an Excel spreadsheet or similar. You are welcome to do so, but
it is not a requirement. Many of your stories will cover an event on deadline, such as a
city council meeting, election or sporting event. Prepare yourself!
Sun Star
Over the course of the semester, each student must publish at least ONE story in The
Sun Star, UAF’s student newspaper. You may attend Sun Star meetings (1 p.m. on
Sundays on the third floor of Constitution Hall) and get an assignment or come up with
your own story and clear it with editor Danny Fisher at If you’re
struggling with story ideas, please come see me. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST
Deadlines are critical in journalism. Miss a deadline and you could lose your job.
Therefore, work that is turned in late (late means later than the beginning of class on the
day the assignment is due) will result in an automatic 50 percent point reduction. Keep
in mind that an F of 50 points is better for your overall grade than an F of 0 points, so it’s
to your advantage to turn things in. True emergencies that may prevent the completion
of an assignment include the death of an immediate family member or your
hospitalization. In these cases I require documentation of the catastrophe. Please, do
not attempt to test me on this.
All assignments should be typed, double-spaced in an easy-to-read 12-point font, such
as Times New Roman or Helvetica. Pages should be stapled together in the upper left
corner. Assignments may NOT be emailed unless prior arrangements have been made.
If an assignment is emailed, it must be emailed to me as an MS Word or PDF
attachment ONLY. The same deadlines apply for emailed assignments.
The top of the first page should look like this (LEFT justified):
Jack Jackson (name)
JRN 202/Snifka (class)
Story 1 (assignment)
September 24, 2015 (date)
Attendance and Active Participation
We will spend a fair amount of time in discussion. It’s important for you to a) be in class
to take part in these discussions, b) prepare for class by reading any assigned
materials, and c) contribute generously to discussion. Plan to attend class, arrive on
time, and get involved. A substantial portion of your grade is based on in-class
exercises and group discussion. You are entitled to ONE unexcused absence. After
that, each absence you have not cleared with me will result in a 10-point deduction from
your attendance and participation grade. Believe me, these add up. If you accumulate
eight (8) unexcused absences, you will receive an F in the course.
A word on excused absences: An excused absence is one you have cleared with me
before class time. You may speak to me in person but you must ALSO SEND ME AN
EMAIL CONFIRMING YOUR PLANNED ABSENCE. If you miss class without clearing
it with me first, do not come to me expecting notes or assignments for that day. It is your
responsibility to get that information from a classmate.
Attendance in class is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for what I consider
“active participation.” I will evaluate your participation in the class using the following
general guidelines. These should help you understand my expectations.
Content, understanding: Do you follow the class discussion and build on others’ ideas?
When you don’t understand something, do you ask questions?
Creativity: Do you generate your own insights and examples and share them in class?
Curiosity and interest: Do you bring enthusiasm to the classroom? Are you in class
every week so you can be a consistent contributor? Do you share ideas or issues
you’ve come across in outside reading, current events, or through personal experience?
I expect you to be in class on time, unless you’ve cleared it with me first. If you DO
show up late, respect your fellow students. Remove your coat and get whatever you
need out of your backpack before you enter the classroom. If you have an employment
or class situation that may make you habitually late, please let me know at the
beginning of the semester.
Mobile Devices
It should go without saying that you may not use your mobile phone in class. Don’t text.
Don’t call. If you do not honor this rule, you will be required to check your phone in at
the beginning of class EVERY DAY. You will receive your phone back at the end of
class. Please, don’t test me on this. It will be annoying for both of us.
Evidence of plagiarism or fabrication in any assignment will result in a minimum
penalty of an F for the course. Further action, such as expulsion from the department
and additional academic penalties, may be taken. Plagiarism is using other people’s
words or ideas as your own. Fabrication includes making up quotes, sources, or events.
To protect yourself from false accusations of plagiarism, keep all of your notes, research
material and rough drafts until you receive your grade for the semester. Every semester
I ask students if they understand plagiarism and every semester everyone says "yes."
And every semester I catch someone plagiarizing! "I didn't know" and "I didn't mean
to" are NOT acceptable excuses for plagiarism. If you are uncertain, please ask. Even if
you are certain you understand what plagiarism is, I encourage you to check out You might learn something!
News Stories*: 20%
Other Homework: 18%
Quizzes: 12%
In-Class Exercises: 15%
Midterm: 10%
Final: 10%
Sun Star Story: 5%
Attendance/Participation: 10%
*drafts and rewrites graded separately
A Note On Grading:
To me, each student begins the semester as an “average” student; that is, at a “C” level.
If you complete all of the assignments and attend class regularly – that is, do what is
expected – you will likely earn a “C.” To get higher than a “C” you must be prepared to
work hard, generate discussion, follow through, and participate generously.
Journalism Department guidelines:
A: An honor grade that indicates originality and independent work, mastery of the
subject and the satisfactory completion of more work than is regularly required. 93100%
A-: 90-92%
B+: Indicates outstanding ability above the average level of performance: 87-89%
B: You’ve got the skills and have done much more than the bare minimum on
assignments: 83-86.9%
B-: 80-82.9%
C+: You’ve done above average work, but not by much: 70 -79.9%
C: Indicates a satisfactory or average level of performance. Mastery of basics, but
nothing to set you apart: 73-76.9%
C-: You’ve made it to the average level, but by the skin of your teeth. You’ve mostly
done the bare minimum but sometimes skimped on either attendance and participation
or the quality of your work: 70 -72.9%
D: The lowest passing grade. Indicates work of below-average quality and performance:
60 – 69.9%
F: Indicates failure to meet lowest standards: below 60 percent.
Extra Credit
If your stories for this class are published by any news outlet (The Sun Star, Fairbanks
Daily News-Miner, Anchorage Dispatch News, etc.) you will receive extra credit. The
amount of credit granted will be based on the quality of your story and the “prestige” of
the outlet (that is to say: campus media is great but a statewide newspaper is even
You may also earn extra credit by completing one hour in a NewsU course and
submitting a course report. Each class you complete is worth 10 points of extra credit
and you may earn up to 50 points of extra credit using NewsU. You may choose from
the following (free) courses:
 Video Storytelling for the Web
 Introduction to Reporting: Beat Basics
 Ethics of Journalism
 Color in News Design
 Copyright Law and Fair Use for Journalists
 Freedom of Information
 Get Me Rewrite: The Craft of Revision
 On the Beat: Covering Cops and Crime
 Telling Stories with Sound
Services Available to You
The Writing Center, a student-staff, student-oriented service of the English Department
assists with any phase of the writing process — planning, drafting and revising.
Discover ways of improving your grammar, mechanics and punctuation. If I find you are
struggling in a particular area, I will require you to go to the writing center for extra help.
Writing Center
Dept. Of English
801 Gruening Bldg.
(907) 474-5314
I will happily work with the Office of Disability Services to provide reasonable
accommodation to students with disabilities. Their office can be reached at 474-6555 or
at They are located in the Whitaker Building, Room 208. If you
have a situation that requires accommodation, please contact me during the first two
weeks of the course.