Organizing your class - Reynolds Week 2011


Published on

Chris Roush on 'Organizing your class' at Reynolds Business Journalism Week, Feb. 4-7, 2011, Business Journalism Professors Seminar.

Reynolds Center for Business Journalism,, Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

Published in: Economy & Finance
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Organizing your class - Reynolds Week 2011

  1. 1. Organizing your business reporting class Chris Roush [email_address] Jan. 4, 2011 Business Journalism Professors Seminar
  2. 2. Our organizational agenda <ul><li>What we’re going to cover: </li></ul><ul><li>Writing assignments; </li></ul><ul><li>Exams; </li></ul><ul><li>Projects; </li></ul><ul><li>Final papers; </li></ul><ul><li>Guest speakers. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Writing assignments <ul><li>Will the writing assignments be done in class, or outside of class? </li></ul><ul><li>Unless you’re teaching in a room that has computers, most reporting classes require stories to be written outside of class. </li></ul><ul><li>Make sure there is a set deadline when stories are due. Make deadlines realistic, but enforce it strictly. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Writing assignments <ul><li>The writing assignments should be assigned at the end of a class, but they should also be marked on the syllabus. </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss the material in class, such as earnings stories. Talk about how it’s reported and written. </li></ul><ul><li>Then, assign immediately, so it’s fresh in their minds. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Writing assignments <ul><li>Also, set guidelines on what the students can – and can’t – do for the writing assignments. </li></ul><ul><li>Can they e-mail or call you with questions? </li></ul><ul><li>Can they look at how similar stories were written online? </li></ul><ul><li>Can they have another student look at their work? </li></ul><ul><li>What type of sources are they supposed to use? </li></ul>
  6. 6. Writing assignments <ul><li>Also, discuss with the class how the writing assignments are going to be graded? </li></ul><ul><li>Are you more interested in seeing that they understand the concepts that they are writing about? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you also want to see good structure and transitions, for example? </li></ul>
  7. 7. The fact error issue <ul><li>It’s vitally important to instill a belief in “Business Reporting” students that getting a number or name wrong can kill their credibility, especially with those they’re writing about. </li></ul><ul><li>How much will you count off for a fact error? </li></ul><ul><li>At UNC, it’s 50 points. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Writing assignments <ul><li>How much should a student’s writing assignments count for their overall grade? </li></ul><ul><li>I like to give 9 or 10 writing assignments throughout the semester. </li></ul><ul><li>Make them at least 40 percent of the grade. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Class participation <ul><li>Will you make part of the student’s overall grade how much they participated in class? </li></ul><ul><li>I’d encourage it, but no more than 10 percent. </li></ul><ul><li>Gets students involved in the discussion about issues and topics. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Exams <ul><li>How many exams you give should be up to you. </li></ul><ul><li>I prefer to give exams that focus on understanding concepts such as the SEC and its filings rather than making them write a story. </li></ul><ul><li>Want to see they understand what they’re writing about. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Exams <ul><li>Give only a mid-term exam, and it counts for 20 percent of the grade. </li></ul><ul><li>Short-answer questions that makes them think. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: “List six reasons why a company would file a Form 8-K with the SEC.” </li></ul>
  12. 12. Using guest speakers <ul><li>I like to use guest speakers to emphasize points made in class, or as a writing assignment. </li></ul><ul><li>Will have CEO and CFO of public company come be interviewed. </li></ul><ul><li>Or, can have sell-side or buy-side analyst discuss reports or portfolio. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Using guest speakers <ul><li>Also like to have a PR person from a local company talk about relationship with business reporters. </li></ul><ul><li>Downside: How do you know they do what they tell the class? </li></ul><ul><li>Upside: Can expose students early to what can be a tense relationship. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Using guest speakers <ul><li>One of the problems I’ve run into with guest speakers is vetting them beforehand. </li></ul><ul><li>If you’ve never heard them speak, how do you know they’re going to be good? </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes, have to take a chance. </li></ul><ul><li>Stay in class, and direct conversation back on point. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Schedule <ul><li>I prefer the syllabus include a calendar of what will be done EVERY day the class meets. </li></ul><ul><li>Prevents ambiguity. </li></ul><ul><li>Lets students know what to expect each day. </li></ul><ul><li>Lets them know about deadlines. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Secret tips
  17. 17. Make it available online <ul><li>Having the syllabus easily available on-line will save both you and students time and frustration later in the quarter, when paper copies have been misplaced. </li></ul><ul><li>Make sure students know how to access it. </li></ul><ul><li>Blackboard or personal URL? </li></ul>
  18. 18. There is no length issue <ul><li>Take as much space as you feel necessary to write the syllabus. </li></ul><ul><li>If in doubt, it is usually best to err on the long side, to ensure that important course information is fully covered. </li></ul><ul><li>At the same time, students will appreciate having key information in succinct form on the first page or two. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Outside the classroom <ul><li>Let’s not kid ourselves – we’re not going to teach students everything they need to know. </li></ul><ul><li>Students have told me that some of the best ways they learned about the importance of business reporting was when they engaged in real-life experiences. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Projects <ul><li>“ Business reporting” classes can easily contain a final project, or some sort of other project. </li></ul><ul><li>Can count for 20% or 30% of a student’s grade. </li></ul><ul><li>These projects can run a wide gamut of ideas and requirements. </li></ul><ul><li>But each of them emphasizes what it’s like to be a business reporter. </li></ul>
  21. 21. The major article
  22. 22. Project idea No. 1 <ul><li>If there are a number of publicly traded companies within an hour of your campus, consider compiling a list of them. </li></ul><ul><li>Require each student to pick one of these companies. </li></ul><ul><li>Will have to write magazine-length article about the company by the end of the semester. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Project idea No. 1 <ul><li>This project can be particularly effective if your class is focusing on reading SEC filings and trying to find news. </li></ul><ul><li>Students can be writing assignments throughout the semester on their final project company. </li></ul><ul><li>Also forces students to interact with IR and corporate communications staff. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Project idea No. 1 <ul><li>In addition, many students will get the opportunity to interview the CEO or other high-ranking officials. </li></ul><ul><li>They’ll also be forced to become knowledgeable about a company that may have technical aspects. </li></ul><ul><li>And they will need to come up with a good story angle focused on strategy or some other corporate issue. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Project idea No. 1 <ul><li>Give the students the list of companies on the first day of class, and tell them they have two or three weeks to pick their companies. </li></ul><ul><li>Many will want to pick early to get the best companies. This puts students in competition with each other. </li></ul><ul><li>Also forces students to go ahead and request SEC filings and annual report from company. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Project idea No. 1 <ul><li>By the middle of semester, require students to write a one-page memo about what they think they’ll final paper will be about. </li></ul><ul><li>This gives you the chance to be their “editor” and fine-tune idea, suggest sources or tell them if they’re completely off base. </li></ul><ul><li>Forces students to do work throughout the semester instead of waiting until end. </li></ul>
  27. 27. Project idea No. 1 <ul><li>Doesn’t necessarily have to be companies in area. </li></ul><ul><li>At Washington & Lee, had students write about public companies with location in Lexington, Va. </li></ul><ul><li>One student wrote great story about CVS and shortage of pharmacists in some markets. </li></ul><ul><li>Another wrote about Barnes & Noble vs. independent book stores. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Project idea No. 1 <ul><li>Students learn how to take information from a number of different sources and coalesce it into one story. </li></ul><ul><li>Can spend one class period talking to them about magazine story format and structure. </li></ul><ul><li>Some students can get these stories published. </li></ul>
  29. 29. News conference competition
  30. 30. Project idea No. 2 <ul><li>Another project that can be very effective in teaching students the relationship between business reporters and companies is the mock press conference competition. </li></ul><ul><li>This requires you to find a willing professor who teaches a business school class, preferable in biz communication. </li></ul><ul><li>Puts students in face-to-face combat. </li></ul>
  31. 31. Project idea No. 2 <ul><li>Have run this mock news conference competition for each of the past six years in a variety of formats: W&L vs. Virginia, Richmond vs. Virginia, UNC vs. Virginia and UNC vs. UNC. </li></ul><ul><li>In each situation, business reporting students have been assigned to ask questions about a specific company. </li></ul>
  32. 32. Project idea No. 2 <ul><li>Companies are picked in tandem with the biz school professor. </li></ul><ul><li>Try to pick companies that have been in the news in the past year, or have a crisis situation. </li></ul><ul><li>Past examples include Ford, Coca-Cola, Merck, Krispy Kreme and Microsoft. </li></ul><ul><li>Business school students play the part of the CEOs, CFOs, presidents and PR people of these companies. </li></ul>
  33. 33. Project idea No. 2 <ul><li>Business school students spend weeks preparing a press release and developing prepared answers to expected questions. </li></ul><ul><li>Journalism students don’t get notified of what company they’re assigned to cover until week of news conference. </li></ul><ul><li>Try to make it as realistic as possible. Hold news conferences at biz school – their turf. </li></ul>
  34. 34. Project idea No. 2 <ul><li>Limit news conferences to 30 minutes apiece, and have each group sitting in the room so that they can learn from all of the news conferences. </li></ul><ul><li>Once it’s over, have biz school students sit with journalism students so that they can compare notes and strategies. </li></ul><ul><li>Professors can provide critique as well. </li></ul>
  35. 35. Project idea No. 2 <ul><li>Have recently used PR and business journalists in the community to critique the performance as well. </li></ul><ul><li>They love being involved in such a project, and students will listen more to the pros than to their professors. </li></ul><ul><li>Try to keep it as positive as possible. Constructive criticism. </li></ul>
  36. 36. Project idea No. 2 <ul><li>Business reporting students are graded on this assignment based on several factors: </li></ul><ul><li>The story they write based on the press conference. </li></ul><ul><li>How well they asked questions. </li></ul><ul><li>How well they researched and represented the media outlet that they represent. </li></ul>
  37. 37. Project idea No. 2 <ul><li>Mock news conference can be held on a Friday afternoon or a Saturday morning when students don’t have classes. </li></ul><ul><li>Give them one class period off in return. </li></ul><ul><li>Many students have never participated in a news conference. </li></ul><ul><li>This project teaches them how to think on their feet. They don’t receive press release or know what’s going to be covered beforehand. </li></ul>
  38. 38. The roundtable
  39. 39. Project idea No. 3 <ul><li>Another project idea for a business reporting class is to hold a roundtable discussion between the students and local business leaders. </li></ul><ul><li>Talk to your local paper about a business news topic that has generated some controversy or comments from the local business community. </li></ul>
  40. 40. Project idea No. 3 <ul><li>Then, ask the paper’s biz editor for some sources in that industry that might participate in a roundtable discussion with your class. </li></ul><ul><li>Send letters to those people inviting them to a two-hour event. </li></ul><ul><li>Make it clear that this is a learning experience. </li></ul>
  41. 41. Project idea No. 3 <ul><li>In April 2005, organized roundtable for Business Reporting class to discuss The News & Observer’s coverage of the local pharmaceutical industry. </li></ul><ul><li>Roundtable attracted company CEOs, board members, executives, PR people, as well as consultants and professors. </li></ul><ul><li>Attempted to bring a wide variety of viewpoints to the table. </li></ul>
  42. 42. Project idea No. 3 <ul><li>Students were required to research coverage from the past six months of the paper and send articles to the roundtable participants. </li></ul><ul><li>Then, students were required to ask questions during the roundtable to facilitate the discussion. </li></ul><ul><li>N&O biz editor and ombudsman sat in the room, but were not allowed to talk. </li></ul>
  43. 43. Project idea No. 3 <ul><li>Professor may have to step in to get the discussion back on track sometimes, or to keep one person from dominating discussion. </li></ul><ul><li>After roundtable is over, students required to write reports about how newspaper can improve its coverage. </li></ul><ul><li>Reports are graded, but also sent to the biz editor. </li></ul>
  44. 44. Project idea No. 3 <ul><li>What this roundtable project does is show students the effect of what they write, and how important it is to have good relationships with company sources. </li></ul><ul><li>Also shows them the importance of accuracy in their coverage. </li></ul><ul><li>Roundtable participants enjoy the opportunity to vent – with sometimes valid complaints. </li></ul>
  45. 45. Project idea No. 3 <ul><li>Roundtables have been held by university professors on a number of topics with the help of the APME National Credibility Roundtables Project. </li></ul><ul><li>Tips and handouts can be downloaded here: </li></ul><ul><li>Roundtable often results in coverage by paper as well. N&O ombudsman wrote column. </li></ul>
  46. 46. Project idea No. 3 <ul><li>The downside to the roundtable is that it takes a lot of effort by the professor. </li></ul><ul><li>Roundtable participants respond more positively when they receive a phone call or letter from professor instead of students. </li></ul><ul><li>Can also take some time to get “buy in” by the local media outlet. </li></ul>
  47. 47. Conclusion <ul><li>The outside project, or outside-class assignments can provide more perspective to students than writing stories all semester. </li></ul><ul><li>Provides students with the big picture of business journalism. </li></ul><ul><li>Also makes them realize the connection between what they write and how sources react. </li></ul>