Writing for Print, Electronic and Online Media

Fall ’11, Section 1, Course #42496
School of Journalism and Mass Communications, SJSU

>>> Download an accessible MS Word .docx copy of the complete syllabus,
with class schedule and list of assignments

Instructor: Cynthia A. McCune
DBH 127 ~ 408-924-3245 ~ cynthia.mccune[at]

Course Description: Introduction to media writing — newspapers, magazines, electronic/broadcast and online — as well as producing content for multimedia distribution in a converged media environment. Emphasis on basic news writing skills and on the different writing styles required for different media.

Prerequisites: ENGL 1A, ENGL 1B. This course is required of all journalism and public relations majors, and must be taken prior to entry into professional courses in both majors.

Required Texts
You are responsible for assigned readings from the text, instructor handouts and/or online resources.
Inside Reporting
Harrower, Tim (2010). Inside reporting: A practical guide to the craft of journalism. Boston: McGraw-Hill. (The first edition of this text is also OK.)

Additional online resources from this author: Free PDFs, cool journalism quotes that didn’t fit into the book, a news hound’s game show, and some other interesting stuff.

The Associated Press. AP Stylebook. New York: The Associated Press. (*Note: Any recent edition of the AP Stylebook will do.) You can also get an AP Stylebook app for iPhone and Blackberry.

Student Learning Objectives

To pass this course, you must demonstrate that you can:

  • Set up a blog and publish your assignments on your blog.
  • Meet deadlines.
  • Write a hard news story, a magazine/feature article, and a broadcast news script.
  • Write different kinds of leads, as appropriate to the type of story and to the medium.
  • Write and/or produce content for convergent media.
  • Transcribe quotations exactly and attribute all information or action you didn’t observe yourself to a source.
  • Verify all assertions of fact when gathering information and interviewing sources for a story.
  • Write and/or produce articles/scripts that demonstrate good journalistic writing — that is, with writing that is clear, concise, fair and factually accurate, has good sourcing and attribution, and correctly uses quotes, grammar, spelling and Associated Press style.
  • Critically evaluate your own work and that of others for good journalistic writing, including factual accuracy, fairness, clarity, conciseness, good sourcing and attribution, as well as the correct use of quotes, grammar, spelling and Associated Press style.
  • Explain how different approaches to the audience/reader can shape the conception, reporting and writing of stories in various media.
  • Write stories that reflect the diversity of people in the Bay Area.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the trends and technological changes that are shaping the media, and how these may impact media careers.
  • Apply professional ethical principles and work ethically in the pursuit of truth, accuracy, fairness and diversity.


This class covers three areas: basic news writing, magazine/feature writing and writing for broadcast/multimedia. Each area/module concludes with a culminating writing project.

Key writing skills — clarity, accuracy, attribution — are required for all media, as is the development of news judgment. Other writing skills are particular to the medium.

Since the writing in this course is primarily news-oriented, assignments may be adjusted to follow the news as it happens. Assignments will be graded based on the following criteria: writing quality, clarity, accuracy, fairness, conciseness, sourcing and attribution, correct use of quotes, grammar, spelling, use of Associated Press style, and appropriateness of writing style to the particular medium.

Please note that the class schedule and the schedule of assignments are subject to change to meet student needs and/or to take advantage of news opportunities that arise during the semester.

Late Papers, Missed Assignments/Tests

Journalists must meet deadlines, and so must you. All assignments, quizzes and exams are due on the specified due date. Late assignments, quizzes and exams will not be accepted. The only exception to this policy will be for a serious illness, family emergency or death in the family, preferably reported to the instructor before the due date.

University Policies

A. Academic Integrity

All writing assignments you submit for this class must by original work written by you for this class. Be warned: I flunk students who submitted plagiarized papers.

Plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty. To plagiarize is to “steal and use (the ideas or writings of another) as one’s own.” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1975). You are committing plagiarism if you:

  • Copy phrases, sentences or passages from electronic or print sources (new stories, journal articles, the web, etc.) into your own papers and reports without giving credit by citing the original source.
  • Quote someone else’s exact words without giving credit to the original author.
  • Use someone else’s specific ideas without crediting them, even if you restate those ideas in your own words.

You can avoid plagiarism by making clear which ideas are yours and which are someone else’s, and by citing your sources properly. Avoid using words or images (including material found online) in a way that violates the creator’s rights to them.

Fabrication also violates the ethical standards of the journalism profession. Fabrication includes making up sources and/or attributing information to non-existent people or printed matter. Both plagiarism and fabrication are considered to be violations of the academic dishonesty policy of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

In addition to academic sanctions, the consequences of plagiarism, fabrication and other types of academic dishonesty can range from failing the assignment to failing the course. If you are in doubt about what constitutes plagiarism, you may want to take advantage of SJSU’s online plagiarism tutorial. You may also want to review the student resources and tips for academic success offered by the SJSU Office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development.

B. Campus policy in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or email me or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 requires that students with disabilities register with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) to establish a record of their disability.

The DRC’s web site is You can also contact the DRC at 924-5990.

C. Student Responsibility for Adds, Drops, Etc.

You are responsible for understanding SJSU policies and procedures about adding and dropping classes, academic renewal, withdrawals, incompletes, classroom behavior, and other policies found at