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Sample Syllabus: J369 Online Journalism


Courtesy of University of Missouri

Lecture Instructor:  Clyde Bentley

Lab Instructor:  Curt Wohleber

Class hours: Lecture:  Monday 3:30 - 4:45 p.m. Gannett 278
Labs: A -  Monday 5 - 7 p.m. Lee Hills Hall 214
          B - Tuesday 1-2:50 p.m. Lee Hills Hall 214
          C - Friday 11 a.m.-12:50  p.m. Lee Hills Hall 214

Credit: 3 units

Prerequisites: J104, J105, J120, J306, J342, J350G or instructor's consent.

Catalog description:

Examination of the emerging forms of information delivery by computer and related convergence of print and broadcast media. Students gain practical experience in the production of an electronic information delivery product.

Instructor's Intent:

This course assumes that you already have basic skills as a journalist:  You can gather information, organize it efficiently and write an acceptable story.  Rather than repeat your training in those skills, the course will concentrate on helping you transfer your skills to hypertext-based media.  This may include web pages, e-mail, CD-ROM, cellular text messaging and other new media in development. 

Through the labs, you will learn basic web page design and the use of the Dreamweaver Web authoring program.  In the lectures, you will learn to think beyond the constraints of the printed page or the broadcast signal.  The online Missourian assignments will allow you to apply your new knowledge and skills in a real-world setting and produce professional-level cyber-clips for your portfolio.

Columbia Missourian:

All students will be assigned to production shifts for the online edition of the Columbia Missourian.  J369 students will provide "value added" material to accompany the online version of stories from the Columbia Missourian and will work closely with the three Missourian online edition assistant city editors.  NOTE:  The assistant city editors supervise the daily workflow on the online Missourian as directed by Curt Wohleber.  J369 students must follow directions and requests by the assistant city editors, just as they would in any professional news organization.  All students are required to submit two types of online work:  Daily edition production and feature stories (see Projects & Assignments).  The thrust of J369, however, is directed more at editing than text composition.

Lab topics:

? Dreamweaver Boot Camp (first two weeks)
? Creating simple web pages
? Inserting links and images
? Tables, layers and forms
? Cascading stylesheets
? Digital audio
? Creating complex web pages

Required Software:

Dreamweaver MX (Macromedia, approximately $100) or
Studio MX (Macromedia, approximately $200) Please bring proof of ownership to the first lab.

Both program packages are available at a substantial discount from the MU Bookstore.  Studio MX is a suite that includes Dreamweaver, as well as Fireworks (an image editor), Flash (an animation program), Cold Fusion (an online data developer), Freehand (a graphics program), DevNet (a site development program) and Contribute, an updating program.  You will be required to work on Web projects away from the labs and will need the instruction manual for Dreamweaver MX.  This software is required in lieu of texts. (Note: there are significant differences between Dreamweaver MX and earlier versions of the software; if you already have an older version of Dreamweaver you must upgrade.)  You likely will not be able to complete all assignments in the labs, so you must have access to another Dreamweaver-equipped computer.

Web-based Texts:

It would be absurd to offer a class about the Internet and not take advantage of what is on the Web. The bulk of your readings on the theory and present application of the Online Journalism will be in the form of online citations.  You will be responsible for accessing the URLs given to you, though most will be linked through the class WebCT site. It is your choice whether to read them on the screen or print them.

Some online readings will be listed in the class schedule portion of the syllabus.  Most, however, will be assigned to you via the WebCT course page.  We also require you to access two notable online publications:

Online News is a list server for professionals in the cyber news business.  Please subscribe to it (free) for the duration of the class)

Online Journalism Review is a respected publication for our field.  Please subscribe (free) to the email newsletter and visit the full site frequently.

Recommended supplementary reading:

"Dreamweaver 4 Visual Quickstart Guide," J. Darin Towers, Peachpit Press.

"Writing for the Web,"   Crawford Kilian, ISBN 1-55180-207-4.

"Journalism Online," Mike Ward, ISBN: 0-24051-610-9.

While not required, these books offer good insight to online journalism.  The Dreamweaver book is a technical manual that allows you to become acquainted with the commands and programs necessary to craft and distribute web pages.  Kilian's small book jumps away from the details of technology and concentrates on the basic differences between writing on for an audience that will read the text on a piece of paper and the audience that will read the text on a video display tube.  Ward?s book provides a good overview of the role of online work in the field of journalism.


The course will use the WebCT online-teaching system extensively.  You will be required to check your WebCT account frequently, as class notices and information will be posted there.  You will also be required to maintain an active University of Missouri WebCT-compatible email account.  Check your e-mail account daily.

Class Sessions and Attendance:

The lecture class meets once a week for just over an hour.  Each of you will also be assigned to a lab session and to a Columbia Missourian shift.  Attendance is MANDATORY, just as it would be for a media job.  And just like a job, you must tell your supervisor (the assistant city editor of the day) in advance if you cannot show up on time.  Call our office or send an email - but don?t ask a friend to pass along the information.  Each unexcused absence will drop your grade one unit (example:  B becomes B-); with three unexcused absences we?ll assume you have dropped the class.  Official drop paperwork is your responsibility.

A great portion of your grade is based on lab/Missourian work, and the labs will draw heavily on what we discuss in the lectures. It is very difficult to schedule makeup labs, so plan to be there.

To help you keep track of your Missourian work, you will be provided a computerized timesheet.  At the end of the term, you must submit your timesheet with proof of your productivity.  Archiving copies of your work is your responsibility.

Projects and Assignments:

Missourian stories:  Each student will work a production shift at the online edition of the Columbia Missourian.  Student producers will work under the direction of online assistant city editors to transform copy from the print edition of the Missourian to the online edition, adding extra value to the print stories where possible. To receive full credit, the online stories must follow a 3-2-2-1 format.  The reformatting must include three subheads, two external link, two internal links and one piece of artwork.  The online assistant city editors will check the stories for format.  It is the responsibility of the students to log their work so it can be counted toward their grades.  Assistant city editors would grade you on performance, skill and attitude.

The assistant city editors will grade each submission on a three-point scale.  Students will score one point for minimal changes or "shovelware."  They will score two points for the 3-2-2-1 standard.  They will score three points for adding additional Web attributes and creating a story uniquely suited to the Internet.

In addition, each student will complete two major projects, a resume and a feature project.


The digital resume each student will complete will serve both as a project to learn Web-authoring skills and an opportunity to display your online abilities to potential employers.  The initial resume site will contain biographical information and work samples and will be submitted early in the term.  Students will also submit a final version at the end of the term that includes work samples from the class.

Feature Project: 

The Internet provides an unusual opportunity to look at journalism from a global perspective.  Raw copy can be written on one continent, instantly sent to another continent for editing then put on a Web page that can be viewed worldwide.
The major project for J369 is a feature site (much more than a single story) produced in cooperation with other student journalists.  Students will be assigned a topic that has universal appeal - it is as important in the United States as it is in Europe or Asia - and explore it for English-speaking readers on several continents.  They will enlist the aid of student journalists at other schools for site content.  The J369 students will be the "producers" of the site, assigning and editing the stories then designing the final site.  The final product must be of sufficient quality to be published on the Missourian home site.


During the first part of the semester an in-class exercise may be assigned by Curt Wohleber. In the latter part of the semester, as your Missourian work gets going, your assignments will be spaced according to their difficulty.

Site Reviews: 

The first 10 minutes of each lecture class will be dedicated to a review of a news Web site.  Each week one student will be assigned to lead the review.  The reviewer will display the site to the class and explain its qualities, with special attentention to reader relevance, professionalism, accuracy, usability, interactivity and graphic design.  In addition to the oral report, each reviewer will submit a typed written report for grading.

Graduate Student Seminars:

Graduate students in J369 are expected to complete a literature review for a potential research project in the online journalism field or to participate in a management-level online project.  To facilitate this, a special seminar may be set up at which graduate students and visiting scholars can discuss online research issues.


Grades will be based on the following formula:

Missourian  work     30%
Feature project       30%
Resume                20%
Site  reviews          10%
Misc. assignments  10%

About your Instructors:

Clyde Bentley:  I'm an eclectic journalist who spent more than two decades in the trenches. I have been a reporter, a photographer, a copy editor, a news editor (?the slot?), a managing editor, an advertising manager and a general manager. I earned my Ph.D. at the University of Oregon in 2000.  My research focuses on the power of habit in media use. I joined the University of Missouri in 2001 as an associate professor in the Center for a Digital Globe. I also teach the Strategic Communications Research class in the advertising department and a graduate theory seminar.

Curt Wohleber: I'm a former newspaper reporter, magazine editor, communications flack and freelance writer. I've been involved in online media in one form or another since 1993; since 1996 I've been online editor for the Missourian.
University Rules and Procedures:

Academic misconduct. Academic misconduct includes some of the following: extensive use of materials from another author without citation/attribution, extensive use of verbatim materials from another author with citation/attribution, extensive use of materials from past assignments without permission, extensive use of materials from assignments in other, current classes without permission, fabricating news stories, fabricating sources in news stories and making up quotes in news stories and lack of full disclosure or permission from editors when controversial reportorial techniques, such as going undercover to get news, are used. For closed book exams, academic misconduct includes conferring with other class members, copying/reading someone else's test and using notes and materials without prior permission. For open book exams, academic misconduct includes copying/reading someone else's test.

Classroom misconduct. Classroom misconduct includes forgery of class attendance, obstruction or disruption of teaching, physical abuse or safety threats, theft, property damage, disruptive, lewd or obscene conduct, abuse of computer time, repeated failure to attend class when attendance is required and repeated failure to participate or respond in class when class participation is required.

Misconduct reporting procedures. MU faculty are required to report all instances of classroom or academic misconduct to the appropriate campus officials. Allegations of classroom classroom misconduct will be forwarded immediately to MU's Vice Chancellor for Student Services. Allegations of academic misconduct will be forwarded immediately to MU's Office of the Provost. In cases of academic misconduct, the student will receive at least a zero for the assignment in question.
Professional standards.  The School of Journalism is committed to the highest standards of academic and professional ethics and expects its students to adhere to those standards. Students are expected to observe strict honesty in academic programs and as representatives of school-related media. Should any student be guilty of plagiarism, falsification, misrepresentation or other forms of dishonesty in any assigned works, that student may be subject to a failing grade from the course teacher and such disciplinary action as may be recommended pursuant to University regulations.


If you have special needs as addressed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and need assistance, please notify the Office of Disability Services, A048 Brady Commons, 882-4696 or course instructor immediately.  Reasonable efforts will be made to accommodate your special needs.

Religious Holidays:

Students are automatically excused for religious holidays. Just let the instructor know in advance if you have a conflict.

Tentative J369 schedule for Winter Term 2004

Week of Jan 19 (Week 1)
No class sessions due to Martin Luther King Holiday
Read:  "Some Guidelines from the Walking Wounded" from Readings on WebCT
Read:  Digital Edge 1: "Innovation" on WebCT

Week of Jan.  26 (Week 2)
Lecture: What makes online journalism different?
Read:  Digital Edge 2: "Digital Media Snapshot" on WebCT
Read:  Digital Edge 3: "Last Independents" on WebCT
Lab:  Dreamweaver Boot Camp

Week of Feb. 2 (Week 3)
Lecture: A history of the Web
Due:  Initial analysis
Due:  Feature proposal
Read: History Readings (WebCT) All articles articles
Read: "Understanding the Economics of the Web" on WebCT  

Week of Feb. 9 (Week 4)
Lecture: Writing for the Web
Read:  Nielsen "Writing for the Web" on Web CT or
Read: "McAdams? Writing Tips" on WebCT or
Read:  "OJR?s Ultimate Guideline" on WebCT or
Assignment:  Red Riding Hood
Due:  Initial Resume

Week of Feb. 16 (Week 5)
Lecture: Writing for the Web Continued
Writing Assignment Due:  Red Riding Hood
Read:  "10 Tips for Writing on the Living Web" on WebCT or
Read:  "Will-Harris: Web Writing" on WebCT or

Week of Feb. 23 (Week 6)
Lecture: Beyond links:  Life in the Blogs
Read:  "Blogs: Borg Journalism" on WebCT or
Scan:  "Weblog Directory" in WebCT or

Week of March 1 (Week 7)
Lecture: Are lists and links journalism?
Read:  Digital Edge 4 - Romaner on WebCT

Week of March 8 (Week 8)
Lecture: How many words is a Web image worth?
Read:  Images on the Web on Web CT

Week of March 15 (Week 9)
Lecture:  Telling the story with multiple images
Read:  Images on the Web on Web CT
Scan:  Camera Phone Blogs on WebCT or

SPRING BREAK:  March 20-29

Week of March 29 (Week 10)
Lecture:  Reading with your ears
Read:  Audio Briefing on Web CT
Week of April 5 (Week 11)
Lecture:  Who?s out there:  Disabilities and the Web
Read:  Disabilities on WebCT

Week of April 12 (Week 12)
Lecture: If it is fun, is it still news?
Read:  Using Humor on WebCT

Week of April 19 (Week 13)
Lecture:  Community structure
Guest:  Miles Communication.

Week of April 26 (Week 14)
Lecture:  Internet 2:  The future is here.

Week of May 3  (Week 15))
Lecture: Concept review

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