MEDPL 377 | Neighborhood News

Course Description

Welcome to Neighborhood News, the class that produces a Hunter College student website, the Athenian. This course serves a dual purpose. As reporters, you will learn to develop and pitch story ideas; research, observe and interview for news and feature stories; write with clarity and purpose in a conversational style; and adhere to sound journalistic principles such as balance, objectivity and fairness.

This class also serves the Hunter student body by providing coverage of college activities, students, faculty and policies, advancing student opinion and sharing information. As a staff, we will cover the big issues at Hunter, but also try to discover and uncover the people and organizations making a difference on campus. You will also learn what it means to write for an audience and assume that responsibility. 

Expected Learning Outcomes

By the end of the term, you will be able to:

  1. Write news and feature stories on deadline that are ready for publication 
  2. Research, develop and pitch an idea
  3. Follow spelling, grammar and AP Style rules
  4. Take photographs and use a graphics program to produce art for stories
  5. Use social media to promote stories, break news and engage readers
  6. Use WordPress to design and develop the paper’s website
  7. Develop and demonstrate sound news judgment to achieve fairness, balance and diversity in the paper’s coverage.

Syllabus Overview

You will produce a minimum of five stories – three features and two deadline stories – reporting in person using a variety of techniques: observation, interviews, meeting coverage and scrutiny of documents. You may also do video stories or audio slideshows for any of these assignments.

  • The three feature stories will be developed through a three-phase “snowball” process: Pitch / Draft / Final. You will have one week to complete each phase of the process. Each assignment will also require photographs or video and social media updates across several platforms. All drafts will be due at 8 a.m. sharp the evening before class.
  • The two deadline stories will include coverage of events, meetings, press conferences or sports games/matches. You will pitch those in advance and write them within 24 hours of the event.

Your weekly diet of readings will include exceptional examples of journalistic writing and/or videos. You will also read each other’s work; we will critique each issue as a group. 

Expectations and Grading

The instructor is here to help you succeed as individuals, and as a collective, to help you create a smart, high-quality publication for your fellow students. Anyone who does the work will not fail. 

Method of Evaluation

Your grade will be largely based (90 percent) on your five story assignments, following a rubric (see with these categories:

  • Sources and Reporting
  • Story Focus and Organization
  • Pre-reporting and Deadlines 
  • Writing Style
  • Spelling, Grammar and Self-editing
  • Photographs and Social Media

After a rewrite; grading will reflect these standards:

  • A= publishable as is; photos, excerpt, headline social media posts completed and posted
  • B= publishable with editing; supplemental material might be missing
  • C=publishable with a (third) rewrite
  • D=major problems with facts, reporting, writing and not publishable
  • F=missing key facts, containing gross misspellings, plagiarism or libel and not publishable

The remaining 10 percent of your grade will be based on class participation (10 percent). 

Required Readings

  • The New York Times. Subscriptions are free to CUNY students. Set up alerts for Hunter and CUNY. 
  • Associated Press Stylebook. You will be required to follow AP Style, so you should acquire the AP Stylebook either in paper (an old version is fine) or as a subscription online:
  • “A NewsHound’s Guide to Student Journalism.” Buy through Amazon ( or the publisher (
  • ALSO, each week you will be emailed links for the coming week’s discussion. 

The books are available on Akademus and on reservation at the Hunter library. 

Class participation

Reporters write alone, but, like students, they learn from one another. Your active participation is essential, and will be considered in grading. You will be asked to submit your stories for class critiques, participate in the critiques of others’ stories and engage with your classmates during pitch meetings. You will also be expected to ask questions of guests in class or hosts on newsroom tours and participate in those conversations. Participation also means having prepared adequately for class by completing required readings and being prepared with questions.

Weekly Schedule


The Introductions: To the Class, Your Classmates and the Athenian

Brainstorm: What do we cover? What do you want to cover? Where do we want to be on SM?

Seminar: What is Community Journalism?

Guest speaker:  Devin Callahan, Deputy Director, Office of Communications, Hunter College

READING from best college newspapers around the country + about Hunter

ASSIGNMENT 1: Five potential story ideas with three potential sources for each one, due next week at start of class


DUE: Assignment 1
Vox Pop: What does your audience care about?

Seminar: Using Editorial Budget to Create Balance

Guest Speaker: Sha Sha Feng, Using WordPress

READINGS: Best community reporting from NYC dailies 


Workshop: Phone Photojournalism with John Smock

Seminar: Topics to Ideas to Pitches

Classroom as Newsroom


DUE: Feature 1 Pitch

Story 1 Pitch Meeting

Seminar: Anatomy of a News Story/The Lede


DUE: Feature 1 Draft
Seminar & Drill: AP Style

Classroom as Newsroom 

We will work one-on-one editing stories, review social media deadlines and photos/art.


DUE: Feature 1 Final

Seminar: Incorporating Sources

In-class critique

We will finish editing final versions, and post stories to WordPress. 

READ: Your classmates’ stories


Field Trip: Wall Street Journal


DUE: Feature 2 Pitch

Story 2 Pitch Meeting
review editorial budget, student update on deadline stories

Seminar: Event Coverage


DUE: Feature 2 Draft

Classroom as Newsroom

READ AND LISTEN : in preparation for field trip and your classmates’ stories 


Field Trip: WNYC


DUE: Feature 2 Final
In-class critique

We will finish editing final versions, and post stories to WordPress. 

READ: Your classmates’ stories and in preparation for guest speaker


DUE: Feature 3 Pitch

Guest Speaker: Eileen Grench, Report for America and The City

Story 3 Pitch Meeting

READ AND WATCH: in preparation for guest speaker 


DUE: Feature 3 Draft

Seminar and Guest: Terry Parris, Jr. on Reader Engagement, The City

Classroom as Newsroom

We will discuss how writers use detail to engage, enlighten and explain.

READ: Your classmates’ stories and in preparation for guest speaker


DUE: Feature 3 Final

Guest and Seminar: TBA

Final Critique


Guest: Committee to Protect Journalists

Final Classroom as Newsroom