Assignment updates

I’ve updated the class schedule to reflect the changes we discussed in class:

  • This week’s “on the ground reporting” assignment (a news story on either the Locavore Fair or the MADD exhibit on campus) should be about 350 words long and doubled spaced. Your story should include information and/or quotes from at least three sources (people you interviewed), only one of which can be another Jour 61 classmate. This news story is due Monday, Oct. 31. Please submit it as a hard copy.
  • I’ve pushed back the due date of your classmate profile to Wednesday, Nov. 2., from Oct. 31. Please submit your 350-500 word profile (yes, I am making it a bit shorter than originally listed) as a hard copy. Note: In this case, a single-source story is OK.

I’ve also updated the description of the Online Package assignment on the Assignments page of the Jour61 class blog.


Holding pattern

Yes, we’re in a holding pattern, waiting to see if enough students sign up this week to make this section of Journalism 61 a “go” for the spring ’11 semester. I’ll know for sure by Wednesday.

If not, I’ll make sure those of you who registered for this section of the class can transfer into one of the other M/W 12 noon sections.

OK, so the spring section of this class didn’t fly, but we’re on for the fall — section 1, M/W 10:30-11:45 a.m., in DBH 222.

Tips on Writing Profiles

If you haven’t listened to my 12-minute podcast on writing profiles (see the PDFs & Podcasts page of this blog), here are a few quick tips on writing profiles:

  • Pick a focus: You can’t tell a person’s whole life story in a 350-500-word profile — so don’t even try. Instead, review your notes and look for what’s most interesting, what stands out to you. Look for the things the person you interviewed is passionate about. Look for what motivates that person. That should be your focus.
  • Where to start: Look over your notes — what’s the most interesting thing the person told you (or that you observed about the person)? It could be an meaningful event the person described to you, an anecdote the person told you, or something interesting the person did that relates to the focus (see above) of your profile. Consider turning that into your lead.
  • Write an engaging lead: This is a good opportunity for you to practice writing a feature-style lead.Take the most interesting thing you’ve got and see if you can turn it into a feature lead.
  • Include some description: Be sure to include some description of the person you’re profiling to help the reader visualize that person. What does this person look like? Sound like? Does the person gesture when he or she talks? Pick a few details that characterize this person and weave them into your profile.
  • Include some quotes: Let the person you’ve interviewed “speak” in his or her own words by including some direct quotes in your profile.
  • Keep yourself out of the story: Do not write your profile in the first person. That’s puts the focus on you, the interviewer, instead of where it belongs — on the person being profiled. (If your profile includes phrases like “when I asked Fred about …” or “I noticed that she …” or “Lisa Smith told me that …” — you are writing it in the first person. Go back and remove all references to yourself.)
  • Proofread: Double-check your spelling, grammar and AP style, and be sure you’ve used proper quote format.

If you follow these guidelines, you should end up with an interesting profile that you — and your subject — can be proud of.

Copy Editing the World

I’ve been getting some questions about the Copy Edit the World assignment, the first installment of which (10 points worth) is due this Sunday. Here’s a link to the details of this assignment.

For this assignment, your task is find AP style errors, typos, misused words, and grammatical and punctuation errors in published materials or signage … and post them on your blog, along with your corrections. Note: You have to correct the error to get credit for this assignment.

This exercise will help you sharpen your editing eyes so you can catch errors in your own assignments … before you submit them, and lose points when I find them.

To help you get started, here are some errors I’ve run across lately. If you can spot and correct one of these errors, you can earn 2 points of extra credit. Just post your correction as a comment on this blog post. (One error and correction per person, please, so we can spread the extra credit around.)

I particularly like the first example shown above because it’s a correction that needs correcting — it contains another error. I spotted the one on the right in today’s SF Chronicle. I used to watch The Three Stooges on TV when I was a kid, so it was a fun read … except for that misused word (hint).

I found this error in an email from PoynterOnline, a journalism organization. Oops … setting a bad example!

Yes, I find errors on Facebook too. So can you.  (Solved by Jeff C. — good job!)

I figure Robert Redford must have been red-faced when he realized that his Sundance catalog holiday letter to customers contained an embarrassing error. Can you find it? It’s a funny one.


I’ve asked some of you to revise some assignments. But even if I don’t request it, you can revise any assignment where you received a less-than-stellar grade. Revising makes most sense for assignments where you get a B- or less.

With a good revision, you can earn back up to half the points you lost the first time around. Just put “revised” in the title of the blog post — that’s my signal to go back and regrade it. If I don’t get back to it within a week, pop me an email reminder.

Your ‘Real News’ assignment

For your “Real News Reporting” assignment — the culminating project of the news writing segment of this class — you’ll need to find and write your own news story or news feature. This assignment is due March 14, so you’ve got a month or so to figure it out, but it’s not too early to start planning.

To help you get started … here are links to information on some on-campus events that could work for this assignment:

You can also cover an off-campus, local (to you) meeting or event for this assignment. Just make sure it works as a hard news story or news feature.

Election blog post

Yes, we’re finally down to election day. So, in addition to the two assignments listed on the class schedule for this week, I’d like you to write a blog post about your election experience. For example:

  • Was this your first time voting in a presidential election?
  • How/where did you vote? (i.e., Did you vote at a polling place or by mail? Did you vote early or on election day? I’m not asking you to say who you voted for…unless you want to talk about that.)
  • What sources did you go to for the latest election results? (i.e., network TV, cable TV, online news sites, blogs, twitter, Facebook, text messages)
  • What’s your overall impression of the election news coverage? Was it good? Bad? About right? Overkill? Repetitive? Interesting?
  • Which election news sources worked best for you? Why?

Of course, I’m assuming that you will be paying attention to the election results. After all, this is a news writing class and you need to stay on top of things.

This blog post will be due by 6 p.m. Saturday, though you might want to write it earlier…while everything is fresh in your memory.