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Organizing Your Class by Chris Roush


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Chris Roush presents "Organizing Your Class" during the annual 2012 Reynolds Business Journalism Seminars, hosted by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism. For more information about free training for business journalists, please visit

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Organizing Your Class by Chris Roush

  1. 1. Organizing your Class Chris Roush [email_address] Jan. 2, 2012 Business Journalism Professors Seminar
  2. 2. 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>
  3. 3. 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>
  4. 4. The major article
  5. 5. 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>
  6. 6. 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>
  7. 7. 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>
  8. 8. 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>
  9. 9. 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>
  10. 10. 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>
  11. 11. 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>
  12. 12. News conference competition
  13. 13. 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>
  14. 14. 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>
  15. 15. 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>
  16. 16. 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>
  17. 17. 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>
  18. 18. 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>
  19. 19. 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>
  20. 20. 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>
  21. 21. The roundtable
  22. 22. 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>
  23. 23. 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>
  24. 24. 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>
  25. 25. 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>
  26. 26. 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>
  27. 27. 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>
  28. 28. 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>
  29. 29. 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>
  30. 30. 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>