4. Course Objectives
Your objectives for this course are to
- Learn the basics of news gathering and news writing.
Develop an appreciation for how the news educates the public (which includes you).
Demonstrate the ability to read, comprehend, and analyze current events (as reported in the news).
Examine the role of the journalist in a democratic society.
Identify and appreciate depth, balance, transparency, and accountability in news coverage (and also to identify and expose shallowness, bias, opacity, and elitism).
Demonstrate the ability to follow the grammatical and stylistic conventions of the Associated Press Stylebook.
Meet deadlines while producing quality work for a general readership.
To achieve these objectives, you will develop your ability to write fair and balanced accounts of important issues, while at the same time cultivating a healthy skepticism of the material widely published as "news".
As practiced and understood by journalists in the early 21st century, news writing can be seen as the highly-developed craft of non-fiction storytelling. Ideally, journalism is a public-service information-generating profession that generates and distributes timely information and expert opinion through balanced, accurate and thorough reporting.
But journalism can also be described as a personality-driven entertainment industry that stokes the public's fears and feeds its appetite for gossip and scandal, via aggressive, hyped, ego-driven or money-driven reporting. Journalism is a business, which means that journalists must deliver a product that generates income; news organizations are thus tied to corporate interests that influence the representation of news. Journalists face constant pressure to simplify complex information (particularly in science and medicine) so that a channel-surfing and page-scanning public feels it comprehends the issues.
In the past few years, a do-it-yourself, non-commercial cultural activity known as citizen journalism or grass-roots journalism (most recently typified in weblogs) has changed the news from a lecture to a discussion.
The course is intended to help you achieve the following outcomes:
- demonstrate a thorough familiarity with the conventions of journalism (as presented via reputable publications, as spoofed in The Onion, and as presented in your own work)
- speak and write knowledgeably about important issues in journalism and how they interact with the culture at large
- accurately assess the credibility of a potential source (such as a web page, a press release, or an anonymous tip)
- exhibit communications skills and research methods which adhere to the standards and conventions of contemporary journalistic practice
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