Multimedia Storytelling, JO 304, Sec. C1, Spring 2018
Thursdays, 12:30 to 3:15 pm, in COM, Room B27
Email anytime: email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mobile: 401-451-7519 (call or text, not too late or too early, please)
Office Hours: Tuesdays, before or after class, and by appointment
Adapted from the syllabus of BU COM Prof. Michelle Johnson, who oversees the digital journalism classes, with her permission. Customized by me every semester, it serves as the foundation for the weekly class schedule. Please read thoroughly.
OBJECTIVES | REQUIREMENTS | ASSIGNMENTS | GRADING | POLICIES
This course will introduce you to reporting, writing, producing and sharing multimedia journalism and social media for a variety of digital platforms. You’ll explore how online news stories differ from stories produced for “legacy” media such as newspapers and broadcast television.
We’ll also look at how digital newsrooms use current technologies, such as social media, to engage in delivery of breaking news and features. Through in-class and online discussions we will evaluate the effectiveness of these technologies and methods of digital newsgathering.
In addition, you will gain valuable experience producing stories, interactives, social media and multimedia in a digital environment and on a 24/7 deadline. Your best work may be submitted for publication on bunewsservice.com.
Classes will feature a mix of lecture, discussion, practice and experimentation. Be prepared to participate.
You will be required to configure and maintain a blog that you will use to critique an assigned news organization’s website and other online products throughout the semester, pointing to good (and bad) examples, and analyzing best and worst practices.
You’ll also be required to report and promote your work via social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
Guest speakers who work on the front lines of digital journalism will provide valuable insight and context.
Most of all, we’ll experiment with new ways of telling stories, in class, in teams and independently. Sometimes, we’ll succeed. Sometimes, we won’t. But we will learn.
Students will study key industry trends, technologies, multimedia reporting techniques and digital business models in order to gain an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the web and other digital platforms as a journalistic medium. With this knowledge as a foundation, students will learn to produce content specifically for a variety of digital platforms. We’ll focus on mobile creation and delivery. In other words, your smartphone will get a workout!
Upon completion of this course you will know how to:
- Write specifically for online, including via social media and using mobile applications.
- Think “digital first” and produce content for multiple platforms on deadline, with mobile and desktop devices.
- Use social media tools to build a following and brand yourself as a multimedia journalist.
- Produce basic multimedia stories incorporating elements such as photo slideshows, audio, maps, data visualizations and video.
- Work solo and in a team environment to produce digital content.
- Curate the torrent of information online to add context to stories.
- Understand the differences between producing for the web and other digital platforms versus traditional mediums.
- Critique the effectiveness of multimedia storytelling and how audience plays a role
- Stay open to changing technologies
- Peek into the future of technology and impact on storytelling and
- Find the heart of the story, no matter what the medium
Textbook: Journalism Next: A Practical Guide to Digital Reporting and Publishing 3rd Edition, Kindle Edition. by Mark E. Briggs (Author)
Available in Kindle store (search Mark Briggs) $17.60
Facebook: Actively follow the class Facebook group page and the BU Department of Journalism Facebook Page.
Twitter: Actively follow the class feed #JO304 and those of your classmates.
Email: Check it regularly for communications from me.
Links to other assigned reading and examples for discussion will be posted frequently. Be prepared to follow up in class. They’ll also be used as part of the foundation for quizzes.
- Smartphone: iPhone or Android, with plenty of storage space and SD card.
- TWO SD cards, 16GB, Class 6, or higher for possible use in a camera and audio recorder.
- Removable storage to transport your work between the labs and your crib and serve as a backup. Warning: Content left on lab desktops will disappear at midnight.
Examples: A USB thumb drive OR a portable hard drive formatted to work on a Mac.
- Earbuds or headphones
- Suggested: Small tripod, for stabilizing cellphones. Microphone, for cellphones. These may also be available for takeout from school equipment depot, but don’t count on it.
Tip: Put your name and contact info somewhere on your equipment or in a file so that you can be reunited in the event that you leave it in a lab or elsewhere.
You’ll set up accounts on the following sites/services. They will be geared toward your work as a journalist and kept separate from personal social accounts. If you have existing accounts for school/work purposes, you may build on those. You’ll also need apps for these on your smartphone (see below). We’ll review them in class.
- Google Drive
- wordpress.com (blog)
- Others as needed – including video, audio apps, longform story app
We have an equipment depot located in the basement of the building (B-17) where you can check out cameras, audio recorders, tripods and other equipment. You can, and should, reserve equipment online AND EARLY at http://www.bu.edu/comlabs/how-to-make-an-equipment-reservation/ . Make sure that you have your student ID with you when you pick up gear.
While you are not required to purchase software for this course, you will need access to a number of programs to complete homework, assignments and your final project. If you do not already own this software, you will need to structure your time so that you can work in a lab to complete these assignments. (Multimedia labs are NOT open on weekends.)
You will need access to the following computer applications:
- Microsoft Office, including Excel
- Google Drive, spreadsheets and forms
- WordPress (free version)
Adobe Photoshop (or other image editing application)
- Final Cut Pro (or other video editor)
Soundcloud (or other audio editor)
- We will also use a number of free or very low-cost web-based options and mobile apps for producing multimedia. Details to come as covered in class.
AppsI will ask you to download a number of apps on your cell phone – iPhone or Android – to complete assignments. If you don’t own a smartphone, an alternative will be provided for your use.Tip: If you have a lot of apps on your phone, do some housecleaning now. Delete or move anything that you’re not using to make room for downloads related to this class.
You may be required to sign into news websites, for a fee, as part of your semester-long NewsTrack assignment. (See more below.)
Blogging project: NewsTrack
You will be assigned to a news website that you will monitor throughout the semester. You will blog analysis and commentary about work that appears on the site. These “NewsTrack” blog sites will be assigned by random drawing. Why a drawing? The idea is to get you out of your comfort zone. Sports fan? Maybe you’ll be following a political site. Hard news junkie? Maybe you’ll be looking at a site that relentlessly pushes out click bait. The goal? Gain a deeper understanding of the current online news landscape.
Examples of questions to explore in your analysis:
- What is its mission?
- Who is the audience?
- How well do they integrate multimedia and other features designed to attract and engage their audience?
- How often do they launch new features?
- How does their coverage compare to other media (newspaper, TV, etc)?
- What tools/methods are they using to drive traffic?
What is their business model?
- What are the differences between their websites and mobile presentations?
The audience for your NewsTrack blog is your fellow journalism students as well as the outside world because your blogs are public. So point and link to the most interesting, controversial, engaging content on your assigned site.
Blog posts are due BEFORE class meets each week.
Note: You may hear back from someone at the publication itself, or from trolls who criticize your analysis. Learning to deal with crazy comments is part of the process. If this occurs, bring it up in class for discussion.
As part of the NewsTrack assignment, you’ll be required to post summaries to the class Facebook group and share blog posts via Twitter. We’ll also do occasional “roundups” in class on certain NT assignments. You’ll also make a final presentation about the site that you are tracking. Guide to come.
You will be invited to join a private group for this class on Facebook. This will be a completely closed group, meaning no one outside of the class can view it or see that you belong to it. It’s our space for sharing and discussion both during and outside of class. Participation will be part of your grade.
You are encouraged to tweet from class using the hashtag #jo304, particularly when we have guest speakers.
You’ll also be asked to tweet from your assignments for this class and others. But please, tweet like a reporter. No snarky personal comments.
Offer up information that might be of interest and/or useful to your followers. Find/use other relevant hashtags.
Participation will be part of your grade.
To be determined. Expect an in-depth assignment featuring a variety of multimedia apps. It may be based on current events or a hot topic in digital journalism. Additional details about your final project will be distributed later in the semester.
Previous final project topics:
Fall 2017: It’s 2022. How can technology help your personal and professional lives? Think of where you want to be in five years. Think out of the box. Identify three to five ways technology can help you reach your goals.
Spring 2017: A commentary on the state of digital journalism in the Trump era. This commentary should reflect the concepts and skills learned in this class. It will take the form of a listicle, in the multimedia platform Shorthand Social, and include multiple media elements to support your position.
Fall 2016: A single long-form multimedia story. Your story should reflect the concepts and skills learned in this class. It must include multiple elements (text, video, audio, interactives, etc.) that are appropriate for the story and of interest to a college audience.
Publication via BU News Service
BU News Service (aka BUNS), is an award-winning website produced by students in the journalism program. Launched as a Master’s thesis project in 2012, the site is a showcase for your work and a working lab for participating graduate and undergraduate courses.
As contributors to BUNS, you will have an opportunity to produce multimedia content for a live news site, from blogging to tweeting to breaking news and events. Only assignment work that is publishable quality will be submitted, and publication is up to the discretion of the site’s editors. Your grade will be determined by completion and quality of the work, not publication.
Several elements contribute to your grade.
Tests: There are quizzes, but no midterm test or final exam in this class.
Your final project counts as your final exam. Quizzes — scheduled and pop — will be based on assigned reading and lecture material.
NewsTrack: NewsTrack blog reports, presentations and comments will be graded.
Class participation: This includes discussion, in-class experimentation, activity on social media, such as class Facebook page, Twitter account and on your own.
Use of multimedia: All your assignments must employ the most suitable multimedia and social media tools for the platform and the story.
Being a professional: Meeting deadlines, attendance and punctuality are expected. Accuracy, in reporting and in grammar, counts. Demonstrating ethical behavior counts. Paying attention counts. Effort counts. Quality counts.
Note: Not all assignments will be graded. Some are meant to give you practice using particular tools and techniques. You will be alerted when an assignment will be graded.
Graded assignments will be calculated as follows:
- Story assignments, homework – 20%
- Quizzes – 15%
- Newstrack blog – 25%
- Class participation (in class and online), attendance – 20%
- Final project – 20%
General Grading Policy
A (90-100) – Excellent work that met or exceeded the requirements. Writing reflects solid research, interviewing, accuracy, attribution, conforms to AP style; multimedia elements (video, photos, audio, interactive) are sharp, focused, clear, appropriately selected, properly captioned, tagged, credited and functional. Use of social media is prominent and suits assignment well. Could be published as is, or with very minor edits. Meets all deadlines.
B (80-89) – Good work with a few errors. May contain minor problem with focus, spelling/grammar, style, balance, organization; several multimedia elements are sub-par (out of focus, poor sound quality, etc.) or exhibit one or two technical glitches. Demonstrates grasp of social media. Could run with some editing.
C (70-79) – Average work. Failed to meet some of the requirements of the assignment. Shows lack of news judgment, accuracy, balance, etc., technical errors, sub-par multimedia elements, poor selection of interactive elements, little use of social media. Could only run with significant editing or a complete overhaul.
D (60-69) – Below average work that shows little or no understanding of the requirements of the assignment, numerous grammatical, style errors, major factual errors and failure to use assigned technology and tools properly. Often fails to meet deadlines.
F (0-59) – Failure to turn in by deadline or significantly flawed work.
How to get an A in this course
- Be here each week, on time, ready to engage.
- Complete all reading and assignments on time.
- Participate in class and online discussions.
- Stay up to date about issues and news related to online journalism and share that knowledge.
- Rock Twitter, your Newstrack blog and our class Facebook page with your observations.
- Strut your stuff. Got a specialty? Use it. Be prepared to mentor.
- You get extra credit for: Being enthusiastic, inquisitive, and open to learning new things. Extra effort counts.
- Think ahead. Anticipate upcoming requirements such as BU News Service assignments and the final project. Structure your time to do your best work. Expect some hurdles and try your best to overcome them.
- Exceed expectations! P.S. I expect even more from juniors and seniors.
- Unrelated online / smartphone activity: Please restrict unrelated internet browsing, e-mailing, texting or other unassigned online activity to the break we’ll have most weeks.
- Spelling, style and grammar count! When you submit an assignment, points will be deducted for spelling, grammatical and AP style errors. Spell check and proofread your work!
- Professionalism: You will be called on to critique the work of your classmates and occasionally discuss ethical issues. There may be times when you disagree with another student’s comments. You will be expected to deal honestly, but professionally, with your classmates and the instructor of this course.
- In addition to the assigned reading, you should read, follow and watch “traditional” news in order to be able to discuss and analyze differences between the mediums.
- It is expected you will be keep up with the news, local, national and international, through medium of your choice.
- When we have guest speakers, pay attention. Tweet, FB Live, take photos, etc., but be discreet so as not to distract our guests and the rest of the class. Do ask questions!
You are expected to be in class each week, on time. Roll will be taken. If you are ill or must miss a class for another reason, please alert me as soon as possible BEFORE class via email (preferably) or text.
If you have an illness or emergency which can be documented, your absence will be excused. However, you will be expected to complete any assignments that you missed during your excused absence. Missed assignments are due by the next class.
Unexcused absences will affect your final grade.
Deadlines are a key concept in journalism. If you miss a deadline in the real world, you might lose your job. Get used to filing assignments on time. Late assignments are subject to a reduction in grade. Unexcused late assignments will not be accepted in this class.
We will occasionally hear from speakers who work in online media. Because they are busy professionals whose schedules change constantly, specific dates and times for their appearances are not yet listed. Feel free to suggest someone!
Plagiarism and Fabrication
The College of Communication rules on plagiarism are applicable to this course.
“Plagiarism is the act of representing another person’s creative and/or academic work as your own, in full, or in part. It can be an act of commission, in which one intentionally appropriates the words, pictures, or ideas of another, or it can be an act of omission, in which one fails to acknowledge/document/give credit to the source, creator and/or the copyright owner of those words, pictures, or ideas. Any fabrication of materials, quotes or sources other than those created in a work of fiction is also plagiarism. Plagiarism is the most serious academic offense that you can commit and can result in probation, suspension, or expulsion.”
Academic Code of Conduct
Be sure to read and comply with Boston University’s Universal Academic Conduct Code for undergraduate students. It is available at: bu.edu/academics
Recording of Classes Statement
Please note that classroom proceedings for this course might be recorded for purposes including, but not limited to, student illness, religious holidays, disability accommodations, or student course review. Note also that recording devices are prohibited in the classroom except with the instructor’s permission.
Sexual Misconduct Statement
Boston University is committed to fostering a safe, productive learning environment. Title IX and our school policy prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, which regards sexual misconduct – including harassment, domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. We understand that sexual violence can undermine students’ academic success and we encourage students who have experienced some form of sexual misconduct to talk to someone about their experience, so they can get the support they need. Confidential support and academic advocacy resources can be found with the Center for Sexual Assault Response & Prevention (SARP) at http://www.bu.edu/safety/sexual-misconduct/.
Equal Opportunity Statement
BU has strict guidelines on classroom behavior and practices when it comes to treatment of students and guests on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability, genetic information, military service, national origin, or due to marital, parental, or veteran status. Discrimination for any of these reasons is prohibited. Please refer to the Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Policy for more details.
If you are a student with a disability or believe you might have a disability that requires accommodations, please contact the Office for Disability Services (ODS) at 617-353-3658 to coordinate any reasonable accommodation requests. ODS is located at 19 Deerfield Street, up on the second floor.
Student Athletics Advisory
All student-athletes should be provided with a sheet from Student-Athlete Support Services regarding absences throughout the semester. These sheets should be handed in as soon as possible to avoid potential conflicts and so arrangements can be made to provide for missed lecture notes, classwork, or discussion.