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Introduction to Journalism and Public Relations


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Syllabus, Spring 2016

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Introduction to Journalism and Public Relations

  1. 1. 1 SPRING 2016: CMAT 240-002 – Introduction to Journalism and Public Relations Tues/Thurs, 12:30PM-1.45PM (TETC 110A) Twitter handle: @vinitaagarwal | Website: _____________________________________________________________________________ Vinita Agarwal Office: FH 272 Phone: 70083 (office) Email: Office Hours: T/TR, 11:00AM—12:15PM; 2:00PM—3:15PM and by appointment _____________________________________________________________________________ Course Description CMAT 240: Introduction to Journalism and Public Relations is the gateway course to other JPR track classes. This course does not meet university general education requirements; therefore you are most likely a CMAT major or minor, and the class will be taught accordingly. Proficiency in critically analyzing events and constructing clear and concise written arguments is an essential skill for any academic or professional career path you may follow. Learning Objectives The major objective of this course is to teach you the principles, role, and practice of journalism and public relations historically and in today’s society and to demonstrate how that knowledge can be applied in the practice journalism and management of public relations programs. Students who complete this course will be able to: 1. Understand the principles, practice, and contribution of journalism historically and in today’s society 2. Identify what constitutes news and learn how to write a compelling news story by: a. Effectively using different types of leads to create an accurate, interesting introduction b. Effectively using quotes, attribution, transitions, and avoiding editorializing in reporting news c. Covering different categories of news beats and different journalistic forms 3. Understand the legal and ethical issues as they influence the practice of journalism 4. Define public relations and understand its historical development 5. Identify examples of public relations 6. Understand the theories and principles involved in communicating strategically on behalf of an organization to relevant stakeholders 7. Understand public relations practice as ethical management function that applies communication and organizational theory to the research, planning and evaluation of the communication programs in a range of contexts from nonprofits to community relations
  2. 2. 2 Required Textbooks Lattimore, D., Baskin, O., Heiman, S. T., & Toth, E. L. (2008). Public relations: The profession and the practice, 3rd Ed. McGraw Hill. Rich, C. (2010). Writing and reporting news: A coaching method, 7th Ed. McGraw Hill. Goldstein, N. (Ed.). (2015). The Associated Press stylebook and briefing on media law. Fully revised and updated Ed. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books. Recommended Any good dictionary (or familiarity with an online dictionary such as Read a national, local, and regional daily (e.g., Washington Post, NY Times, Delmarva Times). Additional readings as distributed by the instructor. Class Attendance and Deadlines Your attendance at each class meeting is vital to your successful completion of this course. Most of our classes will involve in-class exercises that reinforce and review the concepts we have covered. These exercises are very important and fundamental to learning the practice of journalism and public relations. These will comprise a 20% of your overall course grade., which means you can earn a good grade by attending class regularly and participating in these in-class activities. Your completion of the in-class exercises constitutes your attendance and in-class credit points for the day and hence cannot be made up—you must be present in class to earn the points. It is your responsibility to check the Canvas website to make sure your in-class exercise grades have been recorded. Please note: If you have a question/ concern about a daily assignment grade, you have 1 week after the grade has been assigned to appeal. The assignments will be discarded 1 week after they have been returned in class. Participation I expect you will come to class having read and thought about the readings. More importantly, as students of the JPR core course and hopefully future journalists or PR practitioners, I expect you to read a local paper and a national paper daily (print or online) and will often request you to bring clippings/printouts of examples that illustrate our class material to share. Also in this spirit, your final PR project will involve working in groups to simulate real world teamwork. Note that in order to participate in class, you will need to use Canvas. Discussion threads, assignments, supplemental readings, resources may be posted and/or completed there. Emergency Clause In the event of a major campus emergency, course requirements, deadlines, and grading percentages are subject to changes that may be necessitated by a revised semester calendar or other circumstances. In such an event, the Canvas web page and my email address ( will be ways to access revised information and assignment deadlines. You are expected to meet the revised deadlines and changes on Canvas that such developments necessitate. Email You are expected to use or be able to access your university email account for this class. Students must verify that they can gain access to their email through the web. To verify that you can do this, go to and click “campus email” at the top of the page. If you
  3. 3. 3 cannot access your email, see the Help Desk located in TETC 113 or go to the website Professional In-Class Ethics Your positive contribution is pivotal to the success of this course. You will forfeit your in-class participation points if you engage in disruptive, distracting, or discourteous behavior that hampers class learning objectives, especially if these behaviors are repeated despite gentle reminders. In general, those who excel in my course are well-prepared, proactive learners. This means they come to class prepared with the material, their questions and examples, and are ready to listen attentively. Therefore, in keeping the interests of those engaged in learning, whispering, texting, using FB, Tweeting, or using other social media websites or completing work on other class material will be treated as serious disruptions to a positive class environment on your behalf. Do not start packing your books or leaving until I have dismissed the class for the day. Leave your radios, tablets, cell phones, and other recreational media at home. If you are late, you will not be given the opportunity to make up a missed quiz, participation assignment, or attendance points. Class participation and professionalism will matter in your overall grades. Habitual tardiness (missing attendance more than 4 times in the semester) will result in loss of class participation points for all other times you are tardy. Teamwork Skills CMAT 240 assignments provide a microcosm of a professional environment. In this spirit, all your major assignments will be completed in pairs or groups. You will have the opportunity to choose your own partner or group. Each group as a whole will be responsible for completing the assignment. Each group member will share the same grade. In exceptional cases, individual grading options may be discussed with me with prior notification on a per assignment basis. Course Ethos CMAT 240 is a core JPR course. It provides the foundations to your advanced learning and thus you are required to earn at least a “C” in order to move ahead with the curriculum. Keeping this in mind, I expect your focus will be to lay a solid base to your learning and be a proactive learning participant in class. Toward this end, my goal as your professor for the semester is to provide the best possible learning environment for our learning goals. I am available during my office hours and class time to assist with your questions and learning objectives. My goal is to provide excellent resources to those who want to excel as well as guidance to those who would like to clarify and understand challenging material. As engaged learners, I expect everyone to come prepared to contribute positively and productively to your learning process. I expect a sense of professionalism, impeccable work ethics, a commitment to contribute to an exciting learning environment for your classmates. Any accommodations made for a class member will be weighed against the principle of fairness and justice to our overall learning objectives. Deadlines, Late Policy, and Make-Ups Deadlines are critical in journalism and public relations. It is good practice to save copies of your work on your thumb drive and/or email it to yourself as a backup in case any system is down. Remember that all students have access to a p drive to store your work on campus computers.
  4. 4. 4 You may also use the labs in the TETC for storing drafts of your work. Hard copies of assignments are due at the beginning of class. Assignments turned in after attendance is taken will count as late. Late assignments will be penalized by a 50% deduction if turned in within 24 hours and will not be accepted after that. It is your responsibility to complete the exam on the scheduled day. There will be no make-up assignments unless you can show legitimate cause (medical) and inform me via email prior to the examination. Class participation and quizzes cannot be made up. You are responsible for monitoring your grades. Please do so consistently through the semester to be aware of your performance. All grade assignments will be taken as final ONE WEEK (i.e. within the T/R week of our class meeting times) after the graded assignment has been returned to the class. No grade change requests will be permitted after this period. I will not discuss grades over email or in class. I will not grade assignments received via email or Canvas or any other medium. You are responsible for making up any missed work or content. Please be aware that each point earned makes a difference and will count greatly to your overall grade in the semester. Understand that in-class participation points are just that: points for in-class participation—and cannot be made up if you are not in-class. Students with Special Needs In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, students with bona fide disabilities will be afforded reasonable accommodation. If you have a specific disability that qualifies you for academic accommodations, please notify the instructor within the first week of class. Academic Integrity You are responsible to abide by SU’s policies about academic dishonesty, as described in the Student Policy on Academic Integrity in your SU Student Handbook available online at The CMAT department expects you have read and understand the University’s policy and thereby agree to honor these standards. The CMAT department considers academic dishonesty as a serious offense and ALL incidences are subject to disciplinary action including, but not limited to, separation from the university. Policy on Inclement Weather Should inclement weather result in classes being cancelled, information will be given to all local radio and television stations. Students can receive information regarding cancellations by listening to local stations or by calling the Gull Line at 410.546.6426. Please check Canvas for announcements related to our course if SU is open. SU Writing Center At the University Writing Center (directly above the Fireside Lounge in the Guerrieri University Center), trained consultants are ready to help you at any stage of the writing process. It is often helpful for writers to share their work with an attentive reader, and consultations allow writers to test and refine their ideas before having to hand papers in or to release documents to the public. For more information about the Writing Center’s hours and policies, visit the Writing Center or its website at . Writing Across the Curriculum Statement This course meets the goals of the “Writing Across the Curriculum” program.
  5. 5. 5 Assignment Description Besides the in-class exercises, quizzes, Tweets, and participation points, you will take two exams during the course. These may be multiple-choice and may also have open-ended questions. Detailed breakup of these and the assignments below will be provided at appropriate times during the semester. You also have the option of completing group projects for individual grades. You must discuss with your group and notify me in advance if you are opting for individual grading. Most assignments will require out of class work—meeting with your group, covering the assignment, gathering material and quotes, meeting with the clients, and so on. A brief description of the assignments you will complete is as follows: In-class exercises, quizzes, Tweets, and participation points: In-class participation points can be earned in four ways. 1. First, almost every class we will do an in-class exercise on the material covered in class. This exercise will typically be discussed at the end of class and points are allotted for completing it, i.e., as this is your first stab at the concepts, it will be a learning tool for feedback. This will constitutes part of your participation points, as your presence in class and completion of the learning exercise is an important component of your class participation. 2. Similarly, specified days, we have in-class quizzes on the AP Stylebook material. So, second, whenever these are given, the quizzes will also be a part of your in-class participation points. 3. Third, we will gain some familiarity with Tweeting as a journalistic and public relations tool. Your Tweet must connect with the content covered in our lecture, readings, or class discussion and as related to a current news/public relations event in the media. Tweets are submitted each week before Sunday, midnight. Each missing Tweet entry (i.e., not made by its due date/time-stamp every week) will result in a 5-point deletion from the overall participation points that you have earned at the end of the semester. 4. Fourth, your positive contribution to class discussions through sharing examples, illustrations, and thoughts will always be a plus. If you are sick or miss a class, the in-class participation points earned cannot be made up. Media and PR Report: Starting around the 5-7th week or so, each group will make a short presentation of about 2—3 min. on a current event or PR artifact that has been in the news that week. You will discuss the event/PR artifact, what makes it a well written journalistic piece/good example or PR or a poorly written journalistic piece/bad example of PR. Specific critiques illustrating both good or bad criteria are required. Outside reporting assignment: This reporting assignment will require you to cover write a hard news story on a topic and beat of your choice. You will write a story for a fictitious campus newspaper, The Gulls Weekly Courier and Post. Fieldwork, interviewing, and independent research will be required. Mini-media kit: As part of the course, you will also learn to write the press release, a fact sheet, and a backgrounder. While you will be given a topic to write the press release, you will be required to do the research and field work necessary for writing a good release. Nonprofit project proposal and presentations: Along with your group, you will conduct online research (formative research and situational analysis) on a nonprofit organization. From the gaps and need identified through your analysis, you will propose relevant tactics based on
  6. 6. 6 theoretically informed and well-researched strategies to address the issue. A final report of your theoretical foundations, formative research, situational analysis, and tactics proposed in a group proposal will be submitted to me. A summary report will be presented to us as a class. Grading In-class exercises/Quizzes/Twitter/Participation 20% Media and PR Report (20 pts.) 15% Outside reporting assignment (35 pts.) 15% Exam I & 2 (25 points each) 20% Mini-media kit (50 pts.) 10% Nonprofit Project Proposals and Presentation (50) 20% Grade Breakdown A = 90.0% and above B = 80.0% -- 89.9% C = 70.0% -- 79.9% D = 60.0% -- 69.9% F = 59.9% and below. Tentative Course Schedule Spelling, Grammar, and Professionalism Always Counts! Jan 26th (T): Introductions; Syllabus Jan 28th (TR): Basic News Story (Ch. 2 |R); Leads and Nut Graphs (Ch. 7 | R) (Assign outside reporting assignment) Feb 2nd (T): Leads and Nut Graphs (Ch. 7 | R); (AP stylebook) Feb 4th (TR): Interviewing Techniques (Ch. 6 | R); Sources and Online Research (Ch. 5 | R); Story Organization (Ch. 8 | R); (AP stylebook) Feb 9th (T): Story Organization (Ch. 8 | R); (AP stylebook) Feb 11th (TR): Crime and Punishment (Ch. 20 | R); (AP stylebook) [First Tweet due: Feb 13] Feb 16th (T): Story Forms (Ch. 9 | R); Storytelling and Feature Techniques (Ch. 10 | R); (AP stylebook) Feb 18th (TR): Outside news story—In-class feedback on 1st drafts. (AP Stylebook) Feb 23rd (T): Speeches, News Conferences, and Meetings (Ch. 18 | R) Feb 25th (TR): Class Feedback/Critique of outside reporting assignment
  7. 7. 7 Mar 1st (T): The Nature of Public Relations (Ch. 1 | L et al.); A Theoretical basis for Public Relations (Ch. 3 | L et al.) (Outside reporting assignment due) Mar 3rd (TR): Media Relations (Ch. 9 | L et al.). Start Media Kit (Assign mini-media kit assignment) Mar 8th (T): Mini-Media kit—Workshop Mar 10th (TR): Mini-Media kit—Workshop Mar 14th (T): Spring Break, No Class! J Mar 18th (TR): Spring Break, No Class! J Mar 22nd (T): Mini-Media kit—Workshop Mar 24th (TR): Research: Understanding Public Opinion (Ch. 5 | L et al.) (Mini-Media Kit Due) Mar 29th (T): Exam 1 (Ch. 1, 3, 5, 9, L et al.) Mar 31st (TR): Strategic Planning for PR Effectiveness (Ch. 6 | L et al.); Assign nonprofit proposal Apr 5th (T): Strategic Planning for PR Effectiveness (Ch. 6 | L et al.) Apr 7th (TR): Community Relations (Ch. 11 | L et al.) Apr 12th (T): Nonprofit Assignment Work Day Apr 14th (TR): Evaluating Public Relations Effectiveness (Ch. 8 | L et al.) Apr 19th (T): Evaluating Public Relations Effectiveness (Ch. 8 | L et al.) Apr 21st (TR): Employee Communication (Ch. 10 | L et al.) Apr 26th (T): Nonprofit Proposal Workshop Apr 28th (TR): Nonprofit Proposal’s due and project presentations May 3rd (T): Nonprofit Proposal’s due and project presentations May 5th (TR): Nonprofit Proposal’s due and project presentations [last Tweet due 8th ] May 10th (T): Exam II (Ch. 6, 8, 10, 11, L et al.)
  8. 8. 8 Final Exam Week: Tuesday, May 17th , 2016, 10:45AM—1:15PM; Tweets Due ______________________________________________________________________________ v Important Semester Dates: Jan 25th –May 10th : Session dates | Jan 25th : First day of classes| Jan 25th –Jan 29th : Add/drop| Mar 14th – Mar 18th : Spring Break | Apr 1st : Last day to Withdraw with a grade of (W)| May 10th : Last day of classes| May 11th : Reading day| May 12th –May 18th : Finals week| May 18th & 19th : Commencement Due Dates: At-A-Glance § AP Quiz: Feb 2, Feb 4, Feb 9, Feb 11, Feb 16, & Feb 18 § Media and PR report: Per dates assigned to individual groups in class § Outside reporting assignment: Mar 1 § Exam 1: Mar 29 | Exam 2: May 10 § Mini-media kit: Mar 24 § Nonprofit proposals and presentation: Apr 28—May 5 § Tweets due (hardcopy): May 17