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Writing for the Professions Syllabus


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CMAT 344-001 Syllabus, Fall 2015

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Writing for the Professions Syllabus

  1. 1. CMAT 344-001 T/TR 9:30AM—10:45AM TETC 116B Writing for the Professions My Classes | | #VAWritingJPR Course WP Website Post Password: CMAT344Fall15 _____________________________________________________________________________________ Vinita Agarwal, Ph.D. Contact Info: FH 272 Office Hours: M 11:30AM –2:00PM & T/TR 12:30PM—1:45PM Email: | Office Phone: 410-677-0083 _____________________________________________________________________________________ COURSE POLICIES Prerequisites CMAT 240 with a grade of C or better. Course Description Comprehensive writing course that prepares students for print journalism and public relations careers. Requires weekly writing assignments, many of which are under stringent deadlines. CMAT 344 is an enhanced course in the Fulton curriculum, offered as a 4-credit class to engage students more fully in the courses they take and provide students with a deeper and more active encounter with the subject at hand. Besides in-class and online meeting/participation time, each credit hour requires 2—4 hours of out-of-class work per week (i.e., 4 credit hours = 8—16 hours of out-of-class work per week). In addition, an enhanced course requires an additional 45 hours of out-of-class work per semester (i.e., 3 additional out-of-class work hours per week for the semester). This calculates to a total of 11—19 hours of out-of-class work per week for a student in an enhanced course. CMAT 344 is a web-enhanced course, i.e., scheduled class meetings are classroom-based and face-to- face, but some of the course content and assignments, as well as required or optional activities, are online and require basic proficiency with word processing software and online activities and an ability and willingness to navigate and learn Internet-based, online modalities (e.g., content management systems, social networks) or via mobile media apps (e.g., YouTube, EverNote). Copyright Statement Federal copyright law protects the lectures and course materials I create as my original works. You may not record or distribute or share my lecture or course materials without my written permission. Learning Objectives CMAT 344, Writing for the Professions, is part of the JPR track core curriculum. The course will prepare you with essential writing skills required for a journalism or public relations career. Students who will successfully complete this course will be able to:
  2. 2. a) Research information for news stories, backgrounding, and creating public relations artifacts b) Develop multi-source stories and identify and interview experts appropriate for the story c) Monitor developments and cover a beat d) Write news stories, feature stories, speech stories effectively e) Demonstrate competency with forms of public relations writing including news releases, fact sheets, backgrounders, bios, and brochures. f) Improve writing skills by writing accurately, ethically, and clearly in forms and styles appropriate for journalistic and PR writing g) Critically evaluate their own work and that of others for accuracy, fairness, clarity, AP Style, and grammar. Required Textbooks (Available through the Salisbury University Bookstore) Ø Mencher, M. M. (2010). News reporting and writing (12th Ed.). NY: McGraw Hill (Abbreviated M) Ø Bivins, T. H. (2013). Public relations writing: The essentials of style and format (8th Ed.). NY: McGraw Hill (Abbreviated B) Ø The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. New York: Basic Books. Recommended Ø Kovach, B., & Rosenthal, T. (2007). The elements of journalism. NY: Three Rivers Press. Ø Diggs-Brown, B. (2013). The PR style guide: Formats for public relations practice (3rd Ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. Minimum Technology Requirements For successful completion of the hybrid course it is assumed students have access to and basic proficiency with utilizing: a) A reliable Internet connection b) A laptop or desktop computer with an updated operating system c) Basic competency with word precessing software, web browsers, online participation and content management systems such as Wordpress, YouTube, making an uploading audio recordings, Skype, and social networking sites d) A My Classes Canvas account e) Off-campus access to SU’s Blackwell library’s online databases (e.g., Lexis Nexus) Course Ethos Intensive and regular in-class writing is expected and required. In-class writing projects are designed with the goal of providing practice and building competency with specific journalistic and PR writing elements through regular, intensive writing successfully managed and completed within a class deadline. You will be required to deliver quality work implementing specific learning objectives while keeping class deadlines and printing requirements in mind. While class writing is designed to help you learn the day’s goals through writing practice and is thus graded to give you full credit for completing a quality assignment before deadline, sloppy, incomplete, half-hearted, or disengaged effort will be penalized through grade deductions. Tight turnaround deadlines will not constitute an excuse for errors and incomplete work. I am available to help answer your questions and assist as needed during class. All other talking, sharing resources, reading, browsing the Internet, or doing any other class work during our class writing time is considered unacceptable and will earn you a “zero” for that day. I expect you will strive to cultivate a proactive, engaged approach to your education. This means that you will take responsibility for your education through completing readings beforehand, participating in class writing, and meeting with me as necessary to clarify content. It also means I will strive to provide each of you with the materials, resources, and guidance necessary to achieve the course objectives.
  3. 3. Deadlines, Late Policy, and Make-Ups Journalists and public relations professionals face demanding schedules and tight deadlines. The ability to deliver quality output under these circumstances defines your professional credibility and reputation thus will be a key component of the course. Late submissions are not accepted for credit unless prior approval for emergencies has been obtained from me beforehand. Here are a few general guidelines: ⇒ Monitor your grades. ⇒ All grade assignments will be taken as final one class period after the graded assignment has been entered on Grade book in My Classes. ⇒ Do not discuss grade-related matters at end of class or via email. Please stop by my office to do so. ⇒ Where allowed, late assignments will be assessed a late penalty downgrading it by a letter grade for each class period it is late and will not be accepted after two class periods from the due date. ⇒ You are responsible for obtaining permissions (when allowed) or making up any missed work. Attendance Attendance at each class meeting is expected and important for successful completion of the course. ALL grade assignments will be taken as final one week after grades have been posted on My Classes Learn. No grade change requests will be permitted after this period. It is your responsibility to check My Classes to make sure grades have been recorded. If you have a question about grades, you have 1 week after the grade has been assigned to appeal. After 1 week, all assignments will be discarded and grades will be taken as final. Please discuss with me in advance for any unique or special considerations that may impact your participation. If you must have a doctor’s appointment during class time, I will need to receive advance notice before the concerned class via email and see documentation during my office hours upon your return to class. Where allowed, you are responsible for coordinating and submitting make-up work with me within a week of your return to class in order to receive make-up credit. You should also monitor your grade for recording of out-of-schedule pre-arranged make-up credit. Similarly, for university or sports related responsibilities, please make arrangements with me in advance in order to receive credit for missed class work. If an unforeseen issue necessitates prolonged absence (i.e., greater than two missed weeks of class during the semester), evaluate your course standing and/or consider possible alternatives in a timely manner. This is particularly important if you are a senior and this is your final semester. IT Support Services If you have any trouble with technology or access to the course learning website or the materials therein, please contact IT at 410-677-5454 or at TETC 113 or at In-Class Protocol and Professional Behavior I reserve the right to take away your in-class participation points if you engage in disruptive, distracting, or discourteous behavior that hampers our learning objectives, especially if these behaviors are repeated despite gentle reminders. As we are in a lab environment, it is important to be aware of your responsibility to use technology in our learning efforts ethically. 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. Do not start packing your books or leaving until I have dismissed the class for the day. Leave your radios, headphones, cell phones, and other recreational media at home. Do not read extraneous material, text, browse ESPN or online shopping sites, or engage in any unrelated activity during lecture and in-class writing work. As a microcosm of your future organizational career as journalists and/or PR professionals, I will expect in-class writing to exemplify and be completed with the same attention to quality, detail, professionalism, and standards as formal journalistic and PR assignments in real work environments. If you are late, you will not be given the opportunity to make up any quizzes, attendance points, instruction, or class writing time.
  4. 4. Email Policy and Communication No in-class assignments or other submissions will be accepted via email or any other media. Approved make-up assignments must be submitted with attached documentation. You are responsible for monitoring your grade for make-up/late work. Any discrepancies should be brought to my attention within a week of their submission for correction failing which your grade will be considered final. If you need to reach me during out of class or office hours, please contact me via my Salisbury University email ( In general, I will strive to respond to your email within 48 hours of receipt (and by Monday, 5:00PM if sent over weekend). All course related communication will be via email sent from my SU account or through My Classes. Please monitor your email regularly for updates, information regarding readings and assignments, comments, and course-related work. Professional Ethics—Computer-and Technology Use In the interest of creating a positive learning environment, here are two points pertaining to our class computer use policy that you should be aware of before starting class: (1) during lecture, only a word document should be open, should you choose to make lecture notes; (2) on days when an in-class exercise will be conducted using the computer as a teaching tool, only windows directly pertaining to the class content and exercise should be open. *If you are not making lecture notes on your computer and we are not doing a class exercise that utilizes computer resources, your computer screen will be BLACKENED and/or shut down. *No other personal, mobile, or handheld devices are to be used in class. While I may choose not to interrupt our class to call you out, I do make note of these as non-professional behavior at best and distracting for your fellow class-mates at worst on your part, and it will influence your overall standing and grade in my class negatively. The Office of Student Disability Support Services (OSDSS) OSDSS provides guidance, access to resources, and accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Such disabilities could include: medical, psychiatric, and/or learning disabilities, and/or mobility, visual, and/or hearing impairments. They can be reached at 410-677-6536. Emergency Clause In the event of a major campus emergency, course requirements, deadlines, and grading is subject to changes that may be necessitated by a revised semester calendar. In such an event, the My Classes 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 that such developments necessitate. Academic Integrity The CMAT department expects you have read and understand SU’s policy on academic dishonesty as described in the Student Policy on Academic Integrity in your SU Student Handbook ( and thereby agree to honor these standards. Academic dishonesty is subject to disciplinary action including separation from the university. Office Hours I will hold office hours on Monday between 11:30AM –2:00PM and on Tuesday/Thursday between 12:30PM—1:45PM p.m. Other hours may be arranged by appointment if and when needed. Grading Policy I strive to enter your grades within a week of their submission. You are responsible for monitoring your grade on My Classes. All grades are considered final after one week of being returned to class. You have up to one week from the day grades are returned to you to bring any concern to my notice. Requests that bring up grade-related concerns more than a week old will not be reviewed. The review process assumes
  5. 5. you accept the possibility the grades can be revised upward/downward upon review. I do not keep records of in-class assignments more than a week after grades are made available. In general, my grading is based on the following broad rule-of-thumb: “C” work meets the basic outlined criteria, “B” work does a great job of meeting the outlined criteria, and “A” work not only does an excellent job of meeting the outlined criteria, but also surpasses expectations to demonstrate innovative applications of the content that go beyond the outlined criteria. “D” work does not meet one of the basic criteria outlined for the assignment at an acceptable level, and “F” work is substandard and does not meet basic expectations on two or more of the outlined criteria. Course Requirements Course work comprises the following assignments. Detailed assignment description will be provided at appropriate points during the semester. In-class writing assignments expect you to utilize the class time until the end of class fully to complete your assignment. If you complete a first draft early, please use your time to revise and finalize your work. Any other activity will result in a zero in your class points for the day. You have the last 10 min of class to print. Use of printers is not permitted before that time. Please know journalistic and PR work improves with constant revisions and is never perfect. ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW The assignments are designed to help you gain competency and build a portfolio of journalistic and PR writing samples. The assignments will require ability to demonstrate superior time management and project organization skills along with use of AP style, reporting skills, and PR writing and strategic communication skills. Ability to meet deadlines will also be assessed. 1. Quizzes: AP Style and Current Events These may include multiple-choice questions on AP style and current events—local, regional, global. 2. Exams: Exam 1 and Exam 2 Will cover examples from in-class practice and discussion, lectures, and textbook. 3. In-class Writing Assignments These will include in writing assignments through the use of prompts and/or fieldwork outside of SU. 4. News Story A half-semester long “beat” will be completed in a beat area of your choice. Students will demonstrate skills in interviewing, structure, research, sources, and organization among others. Final product will be posted on the course Wordpress site for dissemination to a larger audience. 5. Media Kit Assignment A 7—element media kit will be prepared and submitted. 6. Blogging (Journalism & PR) Blogging skills will demonstrate successful engagement of journalistic and public relations principles as a journalistic/PR blogger in a beat/area of your choice. Posts will be made online through the semester and submitted as a printed hard copy from the blogging and micro-blogging platform. (First blog due end of week 4—last blog due end of week 13 for a total of 10 weeks, 1 blog per week of 150 words & a minimum 2 tweets per week). GRADES Professionalism always counts! 1. Quizzes (AP Style) and In-Class Writing 25% 2. Exams 1 & 2 20% 3. News Story 20% 4. Media Kit 25% 5. Blogging 10%
  6. 6. Grade Breakdown A= 90.0% and above; B= 80.0%-89.0%; C= 70.0%-79.0%; D= 60.0%-69.0%; F= 59.9% and below Important Semester Dates: v Aug. 31—Dec. 11: Fall 2015 Session dates | Aug. 31: First day of classes| Aug. 31—Sept. 4: Add/drop| Sept. 7: Labor Day | Oct. 14th : Advising begins | Oct. 30: Last day to Withdraw with a grade of (W) | Nov. 16: Deadline for application for May 2016 or Aug. 2016 Graduation | Nov. 25—Nov. 27: Thanksgiving Break | Dec. 12: Reading day| Dec. 14—Dec. 18: Finals week| Dec. 19: Commencement TENTATIVE MEETING SCHEDULE CMAT 344-001 Fall 2015: WRITING FOR THE PROFESSIONS Meeting Readings Assignments (T) Sept. 1st (TR) Sept. 3rd WEEK # 1 Introductions, Syllabus, Icebreakers Ch. 1 (M)—On the Job & Ch. 2 (M)—accuracy, quotes, sources, attribution, balance; Ch. 3 (M)—What is News (T) Sept. 8th (TR) Sept. 10th WEEK # 2 Ch. 4 (M)—Internet & Sources **AP Stylebook Quiz 1 (abbreviations, acronyms, addresses), current events Ch. 14 (M)—Sources AP Quiz # 1 (T) Sept. 15th (TR) Sept. 17th WEEK # 3 Ch. 13 (M)—Building and Background **AP Stylebook Quiz 2 (accuse, allege, arrest, innocent, and not guilty), current events Ch. 5 (M)—The Lead & Ch. 7 (M)—Art of Writing AP Quiz # 2 (T) Sept. 22nd (TR) Sept. 24th WEEK # 4 Lead writing Ch. 6 (M)—Story Structure First blog post and Tweets due by Sept. 27, midnight) (T) Sept. 29th (TR) Oct. 1st WEEK # 5 Ch. 20 (M)—Police Beat; Ch. 18 (M)—Accidents & Disasters **AP Stylebook Quiz 3 (collective nouns and possessives), current events. Hard news story AP Quiz # 3 (T) Oct. 6th (TR) Oct. 8th WEEK # 6 Ch. 8 (M)—Features and Series **AP Stylebook Quiz 4 (government bodies, city council, schools), current events Ch. 15 (M)—Interviewing AP Quiz # 4 (T) Oct. 13th (TR) Oct. 15th WEEK # 7 Ch. 12 (M)—Making Observations Feature writing
  7. 7. (T) Oct. 10th (TR) Oct. 22nd WEEK # 8: MID-SEMESTER Ch. 11 (M)—Digging for Information; Ch. 16 (M)—Speeches and Meetings **AP Stylebook Quiz 5 (courtesy titles, religious titles, and legislative titles), current events Speech/Meeting AP Quiz # 5 (T) Oct. 27th (TR) Oct 29th WEEK # 9 Work on beat story/individual feedback Ch. 22 (M)—Sports & Ch. 24 (M)—Government News story due (T) Nov. 3rd (TR) Nov. 5th WEEK # 10 Exam 1 Ch. 1 (B)—Writing for PR; Ch. 6 (B)—Writing for Web & Social Media; Ch. 5 (B)—Media Relations and Placement **AP Stylebook Quiz 6 (brand names, magazine names, newspaper names, and percent), current events AP Quiz # 6 (T) Nov. 10th (TR) Nov. 12th WEEK # 11 Ch. 3 (B)—Planning and Research, & Ch. 4(B)—Choosing Right Message and Medium **AP Stylebook Quiz 7 (Internet, Web site, webcast, podcast wiki, spam), current events Ch. 7 (B)—News Releases AP Quiz # 7 (T) Nov. 17th (TR) Nov. 19th WEEK # 12 Ch. 7 (B)—News Releases | Media advisory/media alerts No Class, Submit Blogs—Presenting At NCA (T) Nov. 24th (TR) Nov. 26th WEEK # 13 Ch. 7 (B) Fact sheets, BGers, Bios | Brochures, flyers, newsletters No Class—Thanksgiving (Nov. 25—Nov. 27) Last blog post and Tweet due on Nov. 29, midnight Happy Thanksgiving! (T) Dec. 1st (TR) Dec. 3rd WEEK # 14: MEDIA KIT PRESENTATIONS Ch. 7 (B) Fact sheets, BGers, Bios | Brochures, flyers, newsletters Individual meetings—Media Kits Hardcopy of blog posts and Tweets due (T) Dec. 8th (TR) Dec. 10th WEEK # 15: MEDIA KIT PRESENTATIONS Ch. 8 (B)—Controlled Publications & Ch. 9 (B) –Design, Printing & Desktop Publishing Reflections, wrap-up Media Kit due Finals Week Tuesday, December 15th , 8:00AM—10:30AM: Exam 2