JOUR201: News Writing & Reporting 1 

Class Schedule
Instructor Summer Session 1:
Chris Harvey

Time for Section 0101: MTuWThFri 9 to 10:40 a.m. and Room: 3117 (moved from 3103)

Phone: 301-405-6256 and E-mail:

Office hours: By appointment in Room 4119

Prerequisites: JOUR100, Professional Orientation, is a pre- or co-requisite for JOUR201.

About the Course: JOUR201 is a skills-based immersion into journalism. Students will learn the foundations of journalism and the craft's two main components - reporting and writing news. At the successful conclusion of the course, students will have demonstrated proficiency – at a professional news level – of the following:

  • Journalism fundamentals – accuracy, newsworthiness, deadlines, objectivity and fairness.
  • Basic news writing skills - spelling, grammar, AP style, attribution, the inverted pyramid structure, crisp and compelling news and feature ledes and the use of quotations and transitions.
  • Basic reporting techniques – rudimentary interviewing skills and the use of databases, such as LexisNexis, and the Internet to background stories and find news documents.
  • Basic reporting and writing of short (300-500 word) stories – obituaries; accidents and crimes; speeches, press conferences and meetings; and a weather story.
JOUR201 serves as the foundation for the skills-based curriculum at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. It is also the gateway course into the college for nonmajors. It is designed to be extremely rigorous and challenging. Be forewarned and prepared.

About the Instructor: Chris Harvey has worked as an online editor, a magazine editor, a newspaper reporter and a journalism teacher. She left her job as managing editor at American Journalism Review in August 2000 to help build the online curriculum at the college. She created and now edits the college's online newsmagazine, Maryland Newsline, which is staffed by students. She also teaches an introductory online journalism course and occasional reporting and writing courses. Before coming to AJR, Harvey worked as an associate Metro editor at There, she led a content redesign of the Metro section and edited news and feature stories. She earlier taught reporting and editing at the college and ran the student-staffed Capital News Service bureaus in Washington and Annapolis. She has held reporting and editing jobs at several papers, including The Washington Times, and has free-lanced for The Washington Post and Congressional Quarterly's "Politics in America."

Required Readings and Texts: 

  • The Washington Post. Students must read The Post every day before class, giving special attention to the front section and Metro. News stories should be analyzed for the quality of writing and depth of reporting. We will discuss the content and structure of stories in class, and you will be quizzed on your general knowledge of current events. Students should also watch at least one TV newscast each evening.
  • Writing and Reporting News, Fourth Edition, by Carole Rich. Chapters are assigned to supplement class lectures and writing assignments.
  • A Journalist’s Guide to the Internet, by Christopher Callahan. (Note: All author’s royalties are donated to the University of Maryland chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.)
  • The Associated Press Stylebook. A reference guide that you must bring to class each day. This will be used in every other reporting class you take at the college, so hang on to it.
  • A pocket dictionary (bring to class each day).

Assignments: These will include in-class writing assignments; AP style exercises; pop news quizzes; a math test; outside reporting/research/writing assignments; and a final test. Students will also be graded on class participation and be given a chance to earn extra credit. All assignments must be typed and double-spaced. Your name and date should be typed in the top left margin of the first page of each assignment. Submit paper copies of all assignments. Electronic copies (diskettes or e-mail) will not be accepted in lieu of paper copies.

  • In-class writing and research assignments. (45 percent of your final grade) These will include stories reported and written in class and occasional research assignments. The lowest three grades will be dropped.
  • AP style exercises. (5 percent of final grade) These will be completed in class. You will be graded on your knowledge of AP style, punctuation and grammar. The lowest single grade will be dropped. 
  • Pop news quizzes. (5 percent of final grade) There will be a news quiz at the beginning of many class sessions, featuring current-events questions. The lowest single grade will be dropped. 
  • Outside reporting and writing assignments. (25 percent of your final grade) These will include conducting research with LexisNexis (due June 13); writing assigned obituaries (due June 17 and 21); writing an assigned police story (due June 27); covering an interview/speech (due July 3); writing a story based on an assigned Sunday morning talk show (due July 9); and writing an assigned weather story (due July 12). The lowest single grade will be dropped.
  • Math Test. (3 percent of final grade) A 20-question math test, covering basic arithmetic, rounding and percent change, will be taken by all students. Students who get all questions correct will receive an A for the assignment and will be exempt from future math tests. Those who get one or more wrong will get no grade for the first test and be required to take a second test. The second test will count, either as an A for all correct or an F for one or more wrong. Students who fail the second math test will continue to take a version of the test until they score an A. All math tests after the first will count. Any student who fails to pass the test on the sixth try will receive an F for the course. 
  • Final test. (12 percent of final grade)
  • Class participation. (5 percent of final grade)
  • Extra Credit: News stories published from the first day of the semester through the final day of classes (July 12) may be submitted for extra credit. Up to three stories can be submitted for extra credit. Clips must be turned in to the instructor by the last day of class. Only news stories and news features count for extra credit; editorials, columns, reviews and sports game stories do not. Stories must be printed in news publications, such as The Diamondback or the Sentinel or Gazette papers in Prince George's and Montgomery counties. Submissions from internal (public relations) magazines, newsletters or Web sites will not be accepted. Please consult the instructor for clarification on specific publications. Each published story will bump up one outside writing assignment by one letter grade: for instance, from a C to a B, or a B to an A.

Students With Disabilities. Students with a specific disability (permanent or temporary, physical or learning) needing special accommodation during the semester should make an appointment to meet with the instructor after the first day of class.

Grading: Assignments will be based on the following criteria in an effort to reflect professional newsroom standards:

  • Deadlines: We will replicate the unbending deadlines of a newsroom. In-class assignments must be on my desk promptly at the designated time. Overnight assignments must be on my desk promptly at the beginning of class --9 a.m. Stories handed in one day, one hour or one minute late will receive an F. There are no exceptions.
  • Accuracy: Since accuracy is the most important aspect of journalism, we will adhere to rigid standards. Any factual error - including the misspelling of a proper name or a person's age or address - will result in an F. Any story that includes libelous material will also result in an F.
  • Attendance impacts your final grade because any missed assignments - in or out of class - will receive an F. No excuses are accepted--except your hospitalization or a death in your immediate family. Some low grades will be dropped, as noted in "Assignments" above. This is designed to account for missed assignments due to routine illnesses or emergencies. There will be no assignments due on religious holidays identified by the university (see: for listing).
  • Plagiarism, Fabrication and Academic Integrity: Students have the responsibility to behave honorably in an academic environment. Academic dishonesty, including cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty and plagiarism, will not be tolerated. Any abridgment of academic integrity standards will be referred directly to the dean and the university's Office of Judicial Affairs. This includes writing stories with fabricated or plagiarized material. Confirmation of such incidents can result in an automatic F for the course and a recommendation of expulsion from the university. All students will be required to sign an academic integrity pledge at the beginning of the semester that will cover all assignments in the course.
  • Stories will be evaluated on the following criteria: Spelling, grammar, AP style, story structure and use of transitions, conciseness, readability, fairness and completeness.

Class Schedule: Subject to change at the instructor's discretion to meet the needs of this specific class. Readings are from the Rich book, unless otherwise noted, and are due at the start of each class. Since most of you have the 3rd edition of Rich's book, I will note differences in page numbers and chapters between that and the 4th edition.

Week 1:

June 3 - Course overview and introductions to your classmates. Each of you will spend time interviewing a classmate and writing a 300-400 word bio on him or her. Ungraded.

June 4 - Elements of news, newspapers and news decision-making. Plus a few words on media convergence and how it will affect your careers. Readings: Chapters  2 "Changing Concepts of News" and 3 "The Basic News Story." 

June 5 - Introduction to news writing style, the inverted pyramid, news ledes and copy editing. Readings: Chapter 4 "Grammar and Usage"; Appendix--Style Guide; and review copyediting symbols on back inside page of text.

June 6 - Ledes, news story organization, quotes and attribution. In-class assignment. Readings: Chapters 10 "The Writing Process" and 11 "Leads and Nut Graphs" (3rd edition) or Chapters 8 & 9 (4th edition).

June 7 - Ledes and story organization in obituaries. Readings: Chapter  13 "Story Structures" (3rd edition) or Chapter 10 (4th edition). 

Week 2:

June 10 - Basic reference tools training, including LexisNexis, Room 2109 in McKeldin Library (second floor) with librarian Bob Garber. In-class assignments. Readings: Callahan, Chapters 1-5.

June 11 - Writing obituaries: two in-class assignments. Readings: Chapter 21 "Obituaries" (3rd edition) or Chapter 19 (4th edition).

June 12 - Quotations, attribution, sourcing on and off the record and story transitions. More on writing obituaries. Readings: "Human Sources," Pages 92-99 in both editions; Chapter 12 "Body Building" (3rd edition only).

June 13 -  Basic interviewing techniques.  Readings: Chapter 8 "Listening and Note-taking Skills" & 9 "Interviewing Techniques" (3rd edition) or Chapter 7 "Interviewing Techniques" (4th edition). OUT OF CLASS ASSIGNMENT DUE: LEXISNEXIS.

June 14 - Writing obituaries: In-class assignment.  

Week 3:

June 17 - Reporting with the Internet: Net basics and strategic searching online. In-class assignment. Readings: Callahan, Chapters 7 and 8. OUT OF CLASS ASSIGNMENT DUE: OBIT 1.

June 18 - Finish in-class Net assignment; complete basic math assignment

June 19 - Covering accidents, fires and tragedies. Readings: Chapter 25 "Disasters, Weather and Tragedies" (3rd edition) or Chapter 23 (4th edition). 

June 20 - Covering tragedies, crime and punishment. In-class assignments. Readings: Chapter 24 "Crime and Punishment" (3rd edition) or Chapter 22 (4th edition).

June 21 - Guest speakers from the police/social services beats: 9 a.m.: Sgt. Karl Schallhorn from the campus police;  10 a.m.: Nancy Harris from the campus Health Center. Focus of their talks will be on rapes and sexual assaults on campus. Please ask questions and take notes; this question-and-answer session will serve as the starting point for your out-of-class police story. OUT OF CLASS ASSIGNMENT DUE: OBIT 2.

Week 4:

June 24 - Do additional reporting on police story assignment on own (see Friday, June 21). We will not meet as a group.

June 25 - More on covering tragedies, crime and punishment. In-class assignment: covering a fire. I'll give you a second take-home math test.

June 26 - More on covering tragedies, crime and punishment. In-class assignment: covering a rape. Plus finish discussing group disaster plans for news coverage.

June 27 - Journalism Ethics, Taste and Multicultural Sensitivity. Readings: Chapters 18 "Media Ethics" and 19 "Multicultural Sensitivity" (3rd edition) or Chapters 16 and 17 (4th edition). Also read: "Romancing the Source," from the May 2002 issue of AJR. OUT OF CLASS ASSIGNMENT DUE: POLICE STORY.

June 28 - Finish ethics discussion. Guest speaker: Sarah Cohen, an alum of our college who's now a database editor at The Washington Post. She'll talk about investigative and computer-assisted reporting; describe a Pulitzer Prize-winning project she worked on; and give you a sense of how she got to where she is professionally. This speaker will serve as the basis for your out-of-class interview story, which is due July 3. Readings: Chapter 20 "Beat Reporting" (3rd edition) or Chapter 18 (4th edition).

Week 5:

July 1 - Speeches, meetings and press conferences. In-class assignment: News brief. Readings: Chapter 22 "Speeches, Press Conferences and Meetings" (3rd edition) or Chapter 20 "Speeches, News Conferences and Meetings" (4th edition) . 

July 2 - Speeches, meetings and press conferences. In-class assignment: Speech story. Readings: Chapter 23 "Government and Statistical Stories" (3rd edition) or Chapter 21 (4th edition). 

July 3 - Speeches, meetings and press conferences. In-class assignment: Meeting story. OUT OF CLASS ASSIGNMENT DUE: INTERVIEW STORY, BASED ON JUNE 28 GUEST.

July 4 - University holiday! No class.

July 5 - We will not meet as a group, because you will be required to spend an hour Sunday morning, July 7, watching "Meet the Press," then doing additional Web research to write a story based on the discussion due at the start of class July 9. Please check your newspaper for correct local start times for the show. Also check your e-mail over the holiday weekend for additional guidance from me.

Week 6:

July 8 - Feature ledes. In-class assignment. Readings: Chapters  14 "Storytelling and Feature Techniques" (3rd edition) or Chapter 11 (4th edition).

July 9 -   Review for test. Review last two writing assignments. Conduct in-class interview with a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment for drought story due Friday. Other interviews will be assigned. OUT OF CLASS ASSIGNMENT DUE: SUNDAY MORNING TALK SHOW.

July 10 - Final test.

July 11 - Final AP style exercise. Accuracy and libel.  And an introduction to the federal Freedom of Information Act, FOIA forms, and state open records laws.  Readings: Chapter 17 "Accuracy and Libel" (3rd edition) or Chapter 15 (4th edition). Rich pp. 105-109 "Other Public Records/FOIA" (3rd edition) or pp. 106-110 (4th edition).

July 12 - Last Day of class! More on libel and ethics, and top news sites on the Web. Discussion of media jobs and internships. Fill out class evaluations. I'll bring in donuts to share. Readings: Callahan: Chapters 9-12; Chapter 28 "Media Jobs and Internships" (3rd edition) or Chapter 26 (4th edition) . OUT-OF-CLASS ASSIGNMENT DUE: DROUGHT STORY.


Copyrght © 2002, Chris Harvey and Chris Callahan, for the University of Maryland College of Journalism. Created May 30, 2002; last updated July 9, 2002. 

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