MEDPL 201 | Reporting & Writing 1 (RW1) Sample Syllabus

Course Description

Reporting and Writing 1 is the introductory class and pre-requisite for many writing and production classes in the journalism program. An intensive writing workshop, the course uses seminars, visits with guests, trips to media companies, writing drills and regular deadline assignments to teach the fundamentals of reporting and journalistic writing. Students are required to research data, hone observation skills, interview sources in person and produce copy and photographs for a minimum of three stories over the course of the semester, as well as contribute to social media streams and produce a personal website to showcase published work.

This course is an intensive writing workshop designed to teach the basic elements of news writing and reporting. You will learn specific skills, including reporting and interviewing from a diverse and multicultural perspective, hard news and feature writing, as well as writing on deadline and using social media to research and report stories, reach a wider audience and promote your work. You will critique each other and learn through the process of writing and rewriting. You will also gain insight into the ethical and legal issues confronting today’s journalists.

Each of you will create your own online domain and set up social media accounts that you don’t have already to establish a digital identity and a personal cyber-infrastructure where you will publish your work. By creating your own website and social media identity, you will be preparing yourself for digital citizenship and learning about the best practices for digital publication. We will have our own Twitter hashtag (#hunterjourn), an Instagram account (hunterjourn), YouTube channel (Hunter College Journalism), Facebook page (Hunter College Journalism) and Dropbox for our class Snapchats, all of which will help turn this course into an open, networked community.

Expected Learning Outcomes

By the end of the term, students will be able to:
1. Write an inverted pyramid on deadline.
2. Use AP Style in all written assignments.
3. Incorporate basic news writing conventions in all stories.
4. Identify the differences between hard news stories and features.
5. Conduct interviews using best journalistic practices and professionalism.
6. Demonstrate news judgment in pitching, reporting and writing stories.
7. Build a personal website and use digital media to report, publish and promote stories.
8. Understand basic libel law and journalistic ethics.

Methods of Evaluation

Your grade will consist of six parts and will reflect all the expected learning outcomes, course requirements and material covered. All assignments must be published on your website with multimedia elements and submitted in paper to me on the designated due date at the beginning of class even if you are absent. Accuracy is the Holy Grail of journalism. All of your writing will be judged for factual accuracy as well as correctness in numbers and math, spelling, grammar, punctuation, word usage and AP style. Your grade will reflect your command of these basics and the belief that accuracy is the cornerstone of good journalism and that such errors cannot be tolerated. Students who make up sources, quotes or descriptions or plagiarize the work of others (including lifting any of those from the Internet) will fail this class. In addition, you are not allowed to recycle stories from previous journalism courses or report the same story for two concurrent classes.

1. News Quizzes: 5 percent
There will be weekly pop quizzes on the main news events of the week, reading assignments and lecture material.

2. In-Class Work and Homework: 25 percent Your in-class work and homework will include an AP Style test, writing exercises/homework, in-class deadline writing assignments, weekend reporting assignments and in-class news critiques.

3. Midterm Exam: 5 percent This in-class exam on x/xx will include an in-class deadline writing exercise and short answer questions.

4. Final Deadline Writing Assignment: 15 percent This in-class writing assignment on x/xx will involve writing a breaking news story on deadline.

5. Writing Assignments: 40 percent
You will have four formal reporting and writing assignments:
Narrative (short observation story in third person): 5 percent
Inverted Pyramid Hard News Story: 5 percent
POS Story: 10 percent
Feature/Profile: 20 percent

You will write a first draft, turn it in for edits and then write a final draft incorporating suggested changes and additional reporting. The revision is due one week after I hand it back and must include the original assignment. The new and the old grade will be averaged for a final grade. For the feature/profile assignment, you will submit a first draft to me (minimum 1000 words) by the start of class on x/xx. Your work will be critiqued and graded, and then we will meet individually to discuss how to revise it. This is a mandatory meeting. You will then rewrite it, post the final version on your website and submit a final draft on the last day of class.

6. Domain and Social Media: 10 percent You will be creating your own website as part of this course and judged on the architecture, presentation, accessibility and content of your domain and social media posts.


Deadlines are taken seriously in journalism and this class. If you are ever absent, it’s up to you to email me the assignment due that day by the start of class. If you don’t turn in your assignment at the start of class, you will lose a full letter grade (10 points) for every day the assignment is late. You are a day late if you turn in your assignment after the start of class on the day it is due, even if you turn it in later the same day, two days late on the following day, etc. After seven days, you’ll receive an F on the assignment.


Participation in class is expected. Our class will function as a seminar with discussion in every class period. While regular attendance in class is required, your presence in the classroom is not an end in itself. Students should be in class not only to benefit from the lecture but to interact with fellow students as a community. Exceptional engagement and participation will improve your final grade while a lack of participation will hurt your final grade.


Attendance and on-time class arrival are expected and required. Each student will be allowed one unexcused absence for a course that meets once a week and two unexcused absences for a course that meets twice a week. Each unexcused absence after that will result in a 5-point deduction from your final grade. Only legitimate and documented emergencies and serious illnesses will be considered for an excused absence. Official documentation must be presented the day you return to class.

On-time arrival to every class is also expected, and habitual tardiness will lower your grade. Two unexcused late arrivals (after attendance has been taken) will equal one unexcused absence i.e. -5 points off your final grade. You will be considered absent after 15 minutes. Given the nature of this course, no incompletes will be given. Any in-class assignment including news quizzes cannot be made up, but I offer at least one extra credit assignment to replace your lowest quiz grade.

Required Reading

“Inside Reporting,” 3rd Edition, Tim Harrower
“The Elements of Journalism,” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
The New York Times: You will be responsible for reading the front page stories of The New York Times every day and keeping up with the news in general. Students will take turns critiquing the NYT’s content and technique at the beginning of each
You should also select a news organization as your home page and sign up for mobile alerts.


There will be two off-campus tours at The New York Times and CNN most likely during class time.

Weekly Schedule

WEEK 1: Introduction and What is News?
Thursday, August 27: Class orientation, review of syllabus, and plagiarism policy. Class introductions. Homework: NYT subscription, Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat set-up.

WEEK 2: Who Decides What is News? and Newswriting Style
Monday, August 31: Harrower, chapters 1-2. Elements of Journalism
Thursday, September 3: Harrower, chapter 3, pages 299-303.
Off campus reporting: Labor Day instagram photos and tweet

WEEK 3: Domain Building Workshop and Writing Basic Leads
Monday, September 7: NO CLASS
Thursday, September 10: Basic Leads. “Why Everyone Should Register a Domain Name”,

WEEK 4: Guest Speaker on Social Media Best Practices
Monday, September 14: NO CLASS
Thursday, September 17: Guest speaker: Daniel Victor, Social Media Editor, The New York Times. Off campus reporting: Story based on your NQD.

WEEK 5: Writing Alternative Leads and Story Structure
Monday, September 21: Alternative Leads.
Thursday, September 24: Harrower, pages 50-51. Domain architecture due.
Off campus reporting: Hunter College issue story

WEEK 6: Story Structure continued and The New York Times Newsroom Tour
Monday, September 28: Story Structure continued.
Thursday, October 1: Harrower, pages 74-75. NYT Newsroom Tour.
Off campus reporting: NYT Newsroom Observation

WEEK 7: Writing Obituaries and Library Research Presentation
Tuesday, October 5: Harrower, pages 92-94. 228-229. Go over Obituary assignment due 10/15.
Thursday, October 8: Library Presentation with Tony Doyle, Hunter East Room 114.
Off campus reporting: Obit story

WEEK 8: Quotations and Attribution
Monday, October 12: NO CLASS
Thursday, October 15: Harrower, chapters 4-5, plus pgs. 248-253. Obituary assignment due. Go over speech story due 10/29. Off campus reporting: Q & A story.

WEEK 9: Guest speaker on Finding and Cultivating Sources and Speeches and Meetings
Monday, October 19: Individual Profile story guidelines announced. Rough draft due 11/19. Sign up for profile meetings 11/30 and 12/3. Guest Speaker: Azi Paybarah, senior reporter, Politico New York on finding, evaluating and cultivating sources.
Thursday, October 22: Speeches and Meetings. Harrower, pages 106-110. Off-campus reporting: Speech story.

WEEK 10: Interviewing Workshop and Social Media and SEO Essentials
Monday, October 26: Profile subject’s name due. Interviewing Workshop. Interviewing Handouts.
Thursday, October 29: Speech story due. MOS assignment announced due 11/12. Harrower, chap. 8. Guest speaker: Rubina Fillion, Social Media Editor, Wall Street Journal. Off-campus reporting: MOS assignment.

WEEK 11: Midterm Exam and Features
Monday, November 2: Midterm Exam
Thursday, November 5: Harrower, chap. 6, pages 262-269. Reporting and writing feature stories. Off campus reporting: MOS assignment.

WEEK 12: Features continued and Profile Primer
Monday, November 9: MOS assignment due. Harrower, pages 270-275. Profile Primer.
Thursday, November 12: Profile Primer. Off campus reporting: Profile

WEEK 13: The Business of Journalism and First Amendment Law and Ethics Workshop
Monday, November 16: Harrower, chap. 8.
Guest Speaker: Stacy Morrison, President and Editor-in-Chief, Wanderlust Media
Thursday, November 19: First draft of profile due. Harrower, chap. 7. First Amendment Law and Ethics workshop.

WEEK 14: CNN Tour and Happy Thanksgiving!
Monday, November 23: CNN Tour.
Thursday, November 26: NO CLASS

WEEK 15: Critic’s Corner
Monday, November 30: In-class review of profile assignment. Individual Profile meetings.
Thursday, December 3: In-class review of profile assignment. Individual Profile meetings.

WEEK 16: Final Deadline Writing Exercise and Domain Presentations and Class Party
Monday, December 7: Final Deadline Writing Exercise.
Thursday, December 10: Class party and domain presentations. Profile assignment due.