Grappling with AP style

Most of you are doing well with the lead-writing assignments, but a lot of you had trouble with that first AP style exercise. The good news is that I usually drop your lowest AP style grade when I calculate final grades.

I know it takes a while to get good at spotting potential AP style errors and at figuring out how to use the AP Stylebook. So this week you can take another whack at it.

But maybe there’s another way to approach this. When I teach my “on ground” classes, I usually make AP style quizzes a team sport. I find it’s easier to learn AP style when you can put your heads together and learn from each other. I’m open to doing something like that here too … if we can figure out how to do it.

One way might be to use social media. For instance, I suspect many of you are on Facebook and could work together there if you “friended” each other. I could also set up a Twitter page for the class, if anyone is interested in using that venue. And I see that several of you have Yahoo email, so you could collaborate via a Yahoo group or by IMing.

If you’ve got a suggestion on good way to collaborate on AP style exercises, please add it as a comment to this blog post so others can see it too. Maybe if we put our heads together, we can come up with a good alternative.


Payment reminder

According to a memo from the SJSU bursar’s office, the spring registration and housing payment deadline is Thursday, Feb. 18. The enrollment cancellation deadline is Friday, Feb. 19.

That means that if you’re not paid up, you could be dropped from your classes this Friday … and we won’t be able to add you back. So take care of it if you need to.

The bursar’s website is at

Grading continues apace

I’m working my way through last week’s assignments. I’ve finished grading about half of them today; I’ll try to finish reviewing the rest of them tomorrow. I’ll also email your first AP style exercise tomorrow.

This time I started grading from the top of the alphabet; next week I’ll work from the bottom up so that those of you at the end of the alphabet aren’t always getting your grades last.

I’m seeing a few recurring problems in these assignments, so here are some things to remember:

  • Most of you are not identifying the news values present in your top news story. See Inside Reporting, p. 19, “What Makes a Story Interesting to Readers?” for a list of news values.
  • I’m seeing a tendency to write leads that sound like headlines, not sentences. Make sure your lead reads like a sentence. One way to do that is to make sure you include the words “the” and “a” in your leads.
  • Don’t start with your lead with the “when” or “where” of a story. Start with the most important and/or interesting info, which is generally the “who” and/or “what” of the story.
  • Keep your lead paragraph to 25-35 words, and preferably to one sentence. This means not all information will fit in the lead. It’s up to you to figure out which information is the most important (such as what happened, when and where), and which information can go in a subsequent paragraph.

Links to assigments are now working

As I was checking the links to this week’s lead exercises, I realized that some of them weren’t working. Oops! It took me a while today to find the typo that was the source of the problem, but I believe I’ve got all the links fixed now.

If you run across anything that isn’t working correctly, please email me. Thanks.

Welcome to Journalism 61, s. 80

If you’ve found your way to this blog, it’s probably because you’ve signed up (or are thinking about signing up) for Journalism 61, section 80. Or perhaps you followed the link from my SJSU faculty page, or from one of my other class blogs.

In any case, welcome to the class blog for Journalism 61, section 80.

As you may have gathered, Journalism 61, s. 80, is a fully online class. There are no scheduled class meetings, and most of your assignments will be submitted online. Other than the textbook, all class materials are on this blog — that includes the syllabus, class schedule, resources and links to assignments. Please feel free to poke around — just understand that I’m in the process of updating some of the links.

At the start of the semester, I will email all students enrolled in this class and ask them to set up their own blog to use for this class (the “Getting Started” link at the top of this page explains how to do that). In this class, you will submit most of your assignments on your blog. I will read your assignments on your blog, and I will use your blog’s “comment” feature to critique your assignments and coach you on how to improve your writing.

To succeed in an online class like this, it helps to be organized, self-motivated, and able to work independently. Specifically, the key to doing well in this class is to complete all of the assignments on time, and to rewrite any assignments where your grade is below a “B.” (Yes, I encourage rewrites because I think it helps you improve your writing.)

If you run into problems with any of the assignments, I’m always happy to meet with you on campus during my office hours (M/W), or to talk with you via email, phone, or chat.

Blog on hiatus

I’m not teaching Journalism 61 this semester, so this blog is currently on hiatus. However, I am scheduled to teach this online class again in the spring.

In the meantime, feel free to use this blog’s resources. Please note, however, that links to most assignments and some resources no longer work because of recent changes to the JMC web server where they used to reside. I will be updating these links over winter break.

The Ultimate Grammar Quiz

I had fun taking “The Ultimate Grammar Quiz” on Facebook this afternoon. If you’re on Facebook, you can take it too … and earn extra credit for this class. And it’ll only take about five minutes of your time.

I’ll give you five points for taking the quiz, and 10 points if you earn the title of “Grammar Master.” (With a title like that, how can you resist!)

Just send me a link to (or a screenshot of) your quiz results. Demonstrate your grammar prowess!