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  • COMM 3340-Reporting on/for the Internet
    Dr. Robert Huesca

    Professor Huesca in class.
        Purpose. This course introduces students to contemporary theory and practice surrounding journalistic uses of the Internet, especially the World Wide Web. The course will cover a broad range of activities spanning from the philosophical debates of the implications of new electronic media on human communication to hands-on, Web publishing. Students completing the course will become familiar with the major ideas and resources guiding reporting on/for the Internet.
        Course Description. The rapid development of new communication technologies is posing exciting opportunities and challenges for media practitioners. On the one hand, journalists are enabled by many new modes of gathering, processing, organizing, presenting, and distributing information. On the other hand, ordinary users of new communication technologies seem to be turning away from traditional journalistic forms--even those placed "on line"--in large numbers. What this indicates is a failure of mainstream practitioners to produce a responsive journalism that is relevant to media users. This class offers students an opportunity to explore and experiment with new modes of communicating opened up by these new technologies.

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    Organization
        This course is organized around a central question:
    "What is the nature of the journalistic narrative in the new electronic environment?"
        Before exploring this question, students must have an understanding of the "traditional journalistic narrative." Therefore the class will be divided into two halves. In the first half of the course, students will learn about traditional, journalistic practice and will complete several exercises, including on-line, campus news stories, Internet searches, and a deadline story guided by those traditions. In the second half of the course, students will read some leading thinkers of new communication technologies to explore the question posed above. Based on ideas presented in those readings, students will complete several exercises guided by contemporary notions of the journalistic narrative discussed in class.
        To clarify what is meant by the question posed in boldface print above, consider the following thumbnail sketches of journalistic practice. The traditional journalistic narrative has been characterized by expertise, accuracy, objectivity, credibility, balance, fairness, truth, linearity, unity.
        Current thinking surrounding new communication technologies is characterized by participation, fragmentation, multiplicity, connectivity, simulation, hyperreality, prosthesis, virtuality. Most on-line publications currently on the Web reflect traditional journalistic characteristics. What will on-line publications look like when guided by radically different characteristics? Our challenge is to step up to the challenge posed by this thinking in a concrete fashion.

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    Disclaimer
    All assignments produced in this class are copyright of the original author(s), as you will learn in later readings/lectures. Material produced in this class may be used by the instructor, however, in future courses, public lectures, academic publications, and other not-for-profit, fair-use practices. Your continued attendance to this course constitutes permission to allow your work to be used in ways described above.

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    Texts
        Required Texts.
  • Mitchell, C. C., & West, M. D. (1996). The news formula: A concise guide to news writing and reporting. New York: St. Martin's.
  • Murray, J. H. (1997). Hamlet on the holodeck: The future of narrative in cyberspace. New York: Free Press.
  • Reddick, R., & King, E. (1997). The online journ@list: Using the Internet and other electronic resources, 2nd ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.
  •     Recommended Text.Since we will be using an HTML authoring program called "Front Page 98," students should invest in a manual for themselves. There are various publishers of such manuals.

        Reserve Readings.

  • Bolter, J. D. (1991). Writing space: The computer, hypertext, and the history of writing. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Fredin, E. (1997). Rethinking the news story for the Internet: Hyperstory prototypes and a model of the user. Journalism & Mass Communication Monographs, 163, Sept.
  • Landow, G. P. (1997). Hypertext 2.0. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Porter. D. (ed.). (1997). Internet culture. New York: Routledge.
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    Assignments
        Grades will be computed as follows:
    1. Budget items (5%)
    2. News stories (10 % each), Web page construction (5%) (25%)
    3. Search engine exercise (10%)
    4. Deadline sidebar (20%)
    5. Article redesign (15%)
    6. Netour (5%)
    7. Final project/essay (20%)

    A brief description of each assignment is included below. In-depth descriptions of the assignment requirements will be given later in the semester.

    1. Budget items--On days indicated on the "Class Schedule" below, each student must send by e-mail to the professor one story idea for the next week (four budget submissions all together). In order to receive full credit, your submission must be formatted as noted in the sheet explaining the assignment.
    2. News stories/Web pages--Each student will be assigned 3 stories to write and will work in a team to produce web pages using copy generated by other class members. We will be using PCs in this class for the most part, therefore, whether you are a Mac or PC user, all news stories must be in PC format when finally turned in.
    3. Search engine--Students will identify a topic and a question or series of questions regarding the topic. Each will then set out to explore the questions using two different search engines and different search strategies. A brief paper should summarize and assess the experience.
    4. Deadline sidebar--Students will identify a current news article for which to write a "sidebar" that provides context, depth, local perspective, or some other angle on the story. All material gathered for the sidebar must have been done on the Internet.
    5. Article redesign--Students will select a news article from an Internet source of their choice and will redesign it based on concepts discussed in class (specifically from the readings, Bolter, (1991), Fredin (1997), and Landow (1997), and the lectures on design).
    6. Netour--Students will make one, Web presentation to the class in the second half of the semester of a news organization (defined broadly) publishing on the Internet. A one-page summary and analysis of your Netour must be turned in on the day of presentation.
    7. Final project/essay--Each group will identify and pursue a journalistic topic that: 1. is relevant to life at Trinity University; 2. can be developed into an in-depth web page requiring a significant reporting component; and 3. explores and reflects one or more ideas regarding the new electronic environment. The group should consider itself a special content development team for a new, campus Internet zine. The special project should be accompanied by a reflexive essay (5 pages maximum) that describes and explains the page in terms of its objectives and how it incorporates ideas discussed in this class.

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    Policies
        Policies are as follows.

    1. Attendance (read carefully). Many of the insights generated in this class will be dependent on group synergy--i.e. the creative input of the collectivity that exceeds the sum of individual contributions. Therefore, your attendance to all classes is of the utmost importance. Furthermore, several group projects depend on the presence of all group members. Finally, successful completion of many of the assignments depends on attendance during explanation of material and assignment itself. Therefore, excessive absenteeism will not be tolerated. Two absences will be allowed without penalty and should be used like "sick leave." After two absences, students will be penalized on their final grade in the class for each day missed. The only exceptions to this are excused absences for university business, which must be documented in writing prior to the absence. Students experiencing serious illnesses or family emergencies should either drop the course or speak with the professor, as these situations do not constitute exemptions from the attendance policy. Persistent lateness will be counted as absences. Anyone missing the equivalent of three weeks or more of class will automatically fail the course.
    2. Written assignments. All assignments are due at the beginning of class. Assignments that are of a timely nature (news stories, budgets, deadline story), will not be accepted late for any reason. Other assignments can be turned in after the due date but will be assessed a penalty of 1/3 of a letter grade for each late day (includes Saturdays and Sundays). Unless otherwise noted (such as electronic submissions), all work should be typed and stapled in the upper left hand corner (no plastic spines or covers). First page must include name of course and professor, your name, and name of assignment. Please number other pages when applicable. Attention should be paid to both form (grammar, spelling, punctuation, appearance) and content (clarity, organization, relevance). News stories will be heavily penalized for errors of form.
    3. Oral presentation. The netour should be prepared and practiced. This means the tour should not be rambling, disorganized, or merely read word for word. Rather, it is to be a concise, well-organized summary that highlights major features, innovations, and weaknesses of the Web site. Netours may last no longer than 10 minutes, including time for questions/comments.
    4. Academic integrity. Students are expected to be familiar with the definitions of academic integrity outlined on pages 1 and 2 of the Student handbook, particularly the section on plagiarism. Any violations of academic integrity will be dealt with as outlined in the student handbook.

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