News Writing Spring 2013 xisu

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News Writing

Spring 2013 XISU

Thursdays 8 a.m.-12 p.m.

Instructor: Marissa Kluger (

Office: I-304

Office Hours: Thursdays 2-4 p.m. or by appointment

Course description: This writing-intensive course teaches the basics of news writing and editing for print and online media with emphasis on creation, research, presentation, and citation. Weekly assignments include commentary, analysis, and news stories adhering to Associated Press style. Instruction covers story formats across platforms; journalistic style and grammar; interviewing techniques; and news values.
What you will learn:

  • How to report news stories of gradually increasing complexity;

  • How to write news stories for print and online platforms, often under deadline pressure;

  • How to interview people;

  • The concepts of beats, style, accuracy, fairness and audience;

  • The role the news media play in a democracy;

  • How print and online news media function, and the requirements of careers in journalism.

Required texts:

“Inside Reporting” (Second Edition) by Tim Harrower

The Associated Press Stylebook (2011)

Recommended Materials: USB flash drive to save work
Class Requirements and Policies
During the semester, you will write 6 news stories.

You will generate some of your stories by covering a specialized reporting area, or beat.

You will submit story ideas at least one week before each story is due. No story can receive a grade higher than a C unless a story idea was submitted on time, with the exception of breaking news.
I will post a number of story ideas on each class’s blog (, and you are free to submit them as your own if they pertain to your story. As you become more comfortable covering your beat, you will be expected to generate your own ideas.
Beat Story 1

Minimum 250 words; minimum one human source.

Beat Story 2

Minimum 300 words; minimum one human source; minimum one direct quote.

Beat Story 3

Minimum 350 words; minimum two human sources; minimum two direct quotes.

Beat Story 4

Minimum 400 words; minimum two human sources; minimum two direct quotes.

Beat Story 5

Minimum 500 words; minimum three human sources; minimum three direct quotes.

Story 6

You will also complete writing assignments from me; from the textbook and its associated website; and from “News University,” an online resource offered by the Poynter Institute.

The Blog

You will be able to find your assignments posted on the class website:

Remember: This ( is where you will submit your story ideas, using the comments feature.

Save your stories as Word documents (the file extension will be either .doc or .docx). Do not submit your stories as rich text files (.rtf) or Works files (.wpf); they will receive no credit.


You cannot keep a job in the mass media if you cannot meet a deadline. Stories and other assignments are due at the beginning of the class period. Late assignments will lose a letter grade for each day they are late (the clock starts ticking at the start of class). No assignment will be accepted after five days.
Most stories will be due at 8a.m. on Wednesdays. Plan accordingly. If you wait until after the weekend to conduct your reporting, your story will usually fall through.
Consuming news
To succeed in journalism, you need to keep up with the news. News in my mind includes, but is not limited to CNN, BBC, FT, The Wall Street Journal, AP, Reuters, and if necessary China Daily.

Frequent quizzes will test your knowledge of current events, Associated Press style, grammar, and your comprehension of the textbook.

Outside of class
Expect to spend six to eight hours each week reading, reporting your stories, and writing your assignments. Some work may take you off-campus.
Check your class e-mail frequently. That is how I will communicate with you most of the time. Feel free to contact me via QQ, Weibo, or email.
Your success in this class depends on active participation. Attend every class meeting. If you miss more than four sessions, you will fail the course. The reason for the absences does not matter. You are responsible for turning in any assignments on days you are absent. You cannot make up any quizzes or in-class writing assignments on days you miss class.
Extra credit

If you bring to class an error you find in the professional media, I will raise your final exam score by a point. There is no limit on the number of errors you can submit.

Additional stories beyond the required number will boost your class participation score but cannot replace a missed assignment.
Academic honesty
Academic dishonesty in a journalistic context includes plagiarism – passing off someone else’s work as your own, failing to attribute adequately – and fabricating sources, quotes or facts. Accidental acts of academic dishonesty will be dealt with on a case by case basis; at a minimum, they will result in failure on the assignment. Talk to me if you have any questions.
Stories will be evaluated using a rubric that can be tweaked for individual assignments. Remember: No story can receive a grade higher than a C unless a story idea was submitted on time.
Double-check your work. Errors of fact and misspelled names are cardinal sins in journalism.
The participation grade includes in-class writing activities, contributions to class discussions, and attendance.
Grading weights:

Stories 30%

Homework assignments 10%

Participation 20%

Quizzes 10%

Final 30%

Disclaimer: This syllabus is subject to change with notice.
Class Schedule






Chapters 1 & 2 The Story of Journalism, How Newsrooms Work


Chapter 3 Newswriting Basics


Chapter 3 continued


Chapter 4 Reporting Basics



NO CLASS - Qing Ming Festival




Interviewing continued, group presentations


NO CLASS - Sports Meet


Chapter 5 Covering the News



Chapter 6 Beyond Breaking News


Chapter 6 continued, group presentations


Chapter 7 Law & Ethics


Writing Workshop



Beat Story 1 & 2 Peer discussion


Chapter 8 Online reporting


Course review


Course wrap-up



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