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"Organizing Your Class" by Chris Roush

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Chris Roush presents "Organizing Your Class" during Reynolds Business Journalism Week 2013. …

Chris Roush presents "Organizing Your Class" during Reynolds Business Journalism Week 2013.

Reynolds Business Journalism Week is an all-expenses-paid seminar for journalists looking to enhance their business coverage, and professors looking to enhance or create business journalism courses.

For more information about business journalism training, please visit businessjournalism.org.

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  • 1. Organizing your Class Chris Roush Croush@email.unc.edu Jan. 2, 2013Business Journalism Professors Seminar
  • 2. Outside the classroomn  Let’s not kid ourselves – we’re not going to teach students everything they need to know.n  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.
  • 3. Projectsn  “Business reporting” classes can easily contain a final project, or some sort of other project.n  Can count for 20% or 30% of a student’s grade.n  These projects can run a wide gamut of ideas and requirements.n  But each of them emphasizes what it’s like to be a business reporter.
  • 4. The major article
  • 5. Project idea No. 1n  If there are a number of publicly traded companies within an hour of your campus, consider compiling a list of them.n  Require each student to pick one of these companies.n  Will have to write magazine- length article about the company by the end of the semester.
  • 6. Project idea No. 1n  Can be effective if your class is focusing on reading SEC filings and trying to find news.n  Students can be writing assignments throughout the semester on their final project company.n  Forces students to interact with IR and PR staff.
  • 7. Project idea No. 1n  Many students will get the opportunity to interview the CEO or other high-ranking officials.n  Forced to become knowledgeable about a company that may have technical aspects.n  And they will need to come up with a good story angle focused on strategy or some other corporate issue.
  • 8. Project idea No. 1n  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.n  Many will want to pick early to get the best companies. This puts students in competition with each other.n  Also forces students to go ahead and request SEC filings and annual report from company.
  • 9. Project idea No. 1n  By middle of semester, require students to write a one-page memo about what they think they’ll final paper will be about.n  Gives you the chance to be their “editor” and fine- tune idea, suggest sources or tell them if they’re off base.n  Forces students to do work throughout the semester instead of waiting until end.
  • 10. Project idea No. 1n  Doesn’t necessarily have to be companies in area.n  At Washington & Lee, had students write about public companies with location in Lexington, Va.n  One student wrote great story about CVS and shortage of pharmacists in some markets.n  Another wrote about Barnes & Noble vs. independent book stores.
  • 11. Project idea No. 1n  Students learn how to take information from a number of different sources and coalesce it into one story.n  Can spend one class period talking to them about magazine story format and structure.n  Some students can get these stories published.
  • 12. News conference competition
  • 13. Project idea No. 2n  Another project that can be very effective in teaching students the relationship between business reporters and companies is the mock press conference competition.n  Puts students in face-to- face combat.
  • 14. Project idea No. 2n  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.n  In each situation, business reporting students have been assigned to ask questions about a specific company.
  • 15. Project idea No. 2n  Pick with the biz school professor.n  Try to pick companies that have been in the news in the past year, or have a crisis situation.n  Past examples include Ford, Coca-Cola, Merck, Krispy Kreme and Microsoft.n  Business school students play the part of the CEOs, CFOs, presidents and PR people of these companies.
  • 16. Project idea No. 2n  Business school students spend weeks preparing a press release and developing prepared answers to expected questions.n  Journalism students don’t get notified of what company they’re assigned to cover until week of news conference.n  Try to make it as realistic as possible. Hold news conferences at biz school – their turf.
  • 17. Project idea No. 2n  Limit news conferences to 30 minutes apiece, and have each group sit in room so that they can learn from all of the news conferences.n  Once it’s over, have biz school students sit with journalism students so that they can compare notes and strategies.n  Professors can provide critique as well.
  • 18. Project idea No. 2n  Have recently used PR and business journalists in the community to critique the performance as well.n  They love being involved in such a project, and students will listen more to the pros than to their professors.n  Try to keep it as positive as possible. Constructive criticism.
  • 19. Project idea No. 2n  Business reporting students are graded on this assignment based on several factors:1.  The story they write based on the press conference.2.  How well they asked questions.3.  How well they researched and represented the media outlet that they represent.
  • 20. Project idea No. 2n  Mock news conference can be held on a Friday afternoon or a Saturday morning when students don’t have classes.n  Give them one class period off in return.n  Many students have never participated in a news conference.n  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.
  • 21. The roundtable
  • 22. Project idea No. 3n  Another project idea for a business reporting class is to hold a roundtable discussion between the students and local business leaders.n  Talk to your local paper about a business news topic that has generated some controversy or comments from the local business community.
  • 23. Project idea No. 3n  Then, ask the paper’s biz editor for some sources in that industry that might participate in a roundtable discussion with your class.n  Send letters to those people inviting them to a two-hour event.n  Make it clear that this is a learning experience.
  • 24. Project idea No. 3n  In April 2005, organized roundtable for Business Reporting class to discuss The News & Observer’s coverage of the local pharmaceutical industry.n  Roundtable attracted company CEOs, board members, executives, PR people, as well as consultants and professors.n  Attempted to bring a wide variety of viewpoints to the table.
  • 25. Project idea No. 3n  Students were required to research coverage from the past six months of the paper and send articles to the roundtable participants.n  Then, students were required to ask questions during the roundtable to facilitate the discussion.n  N&O biz editor and ombudsman sat in the room, but were not allowed to talk.
  • 26. Project idea No. 3n  Professor may have to step in to get the discussion back on track sometimes, or to keep one person from dominating discussion.n  After roundtable is over, students required to write reports about how newspaper can improve its coverage.n  Reports are graded, but also sent to the biz editor.
  • 27. Project idea No. 3n  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.n  Also shows them the importance of accuracy in their coverage.n  Roundtable participants enjoy the opportunity to vent – with sometimes valid complaints.
  • 28. Project idea No. 3n  Roundtables have been held by university professors on a number of topics with the help of the APME National Credibility Roundtables Project.n  Tips and handouts can be downloaded here: http://www.apme-credibility.org/n  Roundtable often results in coverage by paper as well. N&O ombudsman wrote column.
  • 29. Project idea No. 3n  The downside to the roundtable is that it takes a lot of effort by the professor.n  Roundtable participants respond more positively when they receive a phone call or letter from professor instead of students.n  Can also take some time to get “buy in” by the local media outlet.
  • 30. Conclusionn  The outside project, or outside-class assignments can provide more perspective to students than writing stories all semester.n  Provides students with the big picture of business journalism.n  Also makes them realize the connection between what they write and how sources react.