Course Syllabus Fall 2020 INF 240 & 240VA: Digital News Reporting

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Instructor Information


Instructor Name: Dr. Loggins (she/her)
Office Room Number: Hammond Hall #145
Phone Number: 785-628-4018
Office Hours: By appointment Email me to meet outside of those hours.


Class Information

Class Periods: Tuesdays & Thursdays 9 to 10:15 am CT
Classroom Tuesdays: Hammond Hall, #108
Zoom Meeting ID for Thursdays: 969 9049 3364
Exam Period: Tuesday, December 8 from 9 to 10:40 am

Course Delivery and Structure

Virtual and Hybrid Class Discussions: INF 240 has been split this semester. A few students are fully online and can take the class asynchronously. A few students registered for the course as an on-campus course and will take this class as a hybrid course. No matter how you are registered for the class, you are welcome to switch between synchronous hybrid learning and asynchronous virtual learning whenever you choose. 

All students will use our online blog and Blackboard for class assignments. When community spread of COVID-19 is light in Ellis County, we will try meeting on campus on Tuesdays and through Zoom on Thursdays. When COVID-19 is worse, our live discussions will continue as planned but will be held entirely on Zoom. The format of our final exam meeting will be finalized in November.

Required Materials

  1. Textbook: Craft, S., & Davis, C. N. (2016). Principles of American Journalism: An Introduction, 2nd Edition. Routledge: New York. ISBN: 978-1-138-91031-7
  2. Free Online Course: Buttry, S. (n.d.). Introduction to reporting: Beat basics. Poynter. 

Course Description

Welcome to the profession of journalism! This is a beginning course in gathering and writing news. It will provide you with an understanding of how the news media operates and some basic skills required of the best journalists. We’ll work on a variety of exercises, complete tasks to help TMN News, and get professional perspectives on what we discuss.

Course Objectives

The course objectives should be helpful to students passionate about journalism or any other field. They are:

  1. Explore the profession of journalism.
  2. Understand the process and importance of verification.
  3. Effectively explain current events and their context through speech and writing.

Course Components

The course consists of eight modules that are usually about two-weeks in length.

  • Quizzes — 10%  They will focus primarily on the text but also include information from class presentations and current event questions. 
  • Beat Stories— 25% You will develop a beat and write four standard stories for the Tiger Media Network’s (TMN) website.
  • Blog Posts — 15% There will be various activities submitted with posts to our Digital News Reporting Learning Community. You will often have to comment on other students’ posts as well.
  • Knowledge Paper — 25% You will research and write two papers to provide context for current events and share the information in class presentations.
  • Knowledge Paper Assignments — 15% You will submit a draft and potential exam questions for each paper a few weeks before it is due. You will fact-check a classmate’s draft. 
  • Multimedia Project — 10% As we wrap up the text, you will develop an in-depth story of your choice in a medium of your choosing for TMN.

Grading Scale

A = 90-100 %

B = 80-89 %

C = 70-79%

D = 60-69%

U = Below 60%

Performance Evaluation

  • All assignments will have clear grading rubrics/guidelines in Blackboard. 
  • Be sure to review the rubric associated with each assignment. 
  • Some of the assignments may also require a separate self-evaluation.

Minimum Expectations

  • While rubrics assign value for specific attributes, it is assumed that no submissions will be offensive, incomplete, or unethical in any way. 
  • Submissions are created for the general public. Being potentially offensive to any audience member can make that submission inadequate.
  • A submission with any problem can get a D or less with just one important problem making it an inadequate submission. 
  • All assignments are inadequate when they are turned in late or they do not meet basic expectations. Offensive, incomplete, or unethical broadcasts or assignments are ALWAYS inadequate. As with basic FCC policy, community standards should equate to the standards of the most conservative and most religious person you know. 

Course Policies

  • Policy Updates: The instructor reserves the right to make course changes if necessary, all changes will be announced via Blackboard and sent to your FHSU email account.
  • In-Class Meetings:  
    • “Staying Home: Conduct daily personal health screenings. If you cannot pass these screenings, are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or are otherwise not feeling well, you need to stay home. You should report any illness to your health care provider. If you believe you have been exposed or have been identified by health professionals as part of a contact investigation, follow directions from such health professionals and self-quarantine for 14 days.” (FHSU Reopening Plan, p. 2) Additionally, you should wait two weeks to attend class in person if you’ve recently visited a state or country that requires quarantining.
    • Protect Each Other: If we are able to meet, it’s important that everyone in class stays as safe and healthy as possible. So, when you interact with people outside of class, please be responsible. Practice social distancing and safe COVID practices even when you are outside of class to allow us to meet more frequently on-campus. Remember that we can only meet when the virus has minimal community spread in Ellis County. 
    • Masks: Everyone will be required to have cloth or a mask covering their nose and mouth whenever we meet in person. If masks are problematic for you, I encourage you to talk to me about joining us remotely instead of in-person (see also the university policy included below).
    • In Hammond Only On Tuesdays: I hope meeting in person will help us develop camaraderie and improve discussions, but we will limit it  to once a week, on Tuesdays, to limit contact even when there are no known cases of COVID-19 in Ellis County. 
    • Determining Risk Level: Naturally, we will not meet in person if the campus, county, or state has a stay-at-home order. Additionally, I will be following the stay-at-home order recommendations. It tracks the number of cases in each county and country per capita. When Ellis county is at an orange or red risk level, and has more than 10 cases per 100,000 people, we will meet online. Such changes to our typical Tue/Thu meetings will be sent to your email accounts.
    • Mobile Technology In Class: If you bring your own phone, tablet, or laptop, you can use it in class. However, you must respect others and only use your personal technology intermittently for reference. Failure to do so may result in a warning or a requirement to put up all personal technology for the rest of the class.
    • Social Distancing: FHSU allows two students at each table in our classroom. We’ll set up seat assignments on our first day in Hammond Hall.
  • Zoom Meetings: These will occur every Thursday and whenever meeting in person is not possible.
    • Connection/Distraction Issues: Limit environmental distractions as much as possible. When they can’t be avoided, verbal apologies are unnecessary because they may distract others. Please email me in advance or use the chat feature when you expect it to be an issue. If my own Internet connection gets lost, it usually returns in a few minutes, and I will return to our meeting unless we were already wrapping up.
    • General Etiquette: Treat the online space like our on-campus space. 
      • Dress appropriately.
      • Pay attention to speakers. 
      • Be mindful that even private comments will be on-record in the Zoom recording. 
  • Attendance & Deadlines: This is the semester to expect the unexpected and remain flexible. In this class, that means attendance is not required and clear communication is essential. Virtual students are not expected but always welcome to attend class. Hybrid students should let me know if they will be skipping a class session because we will be a very small class. When it comes to deadlines, I am happy to work with you in advance on deadlines when problems arise. However, you MUST communicate with me and convey clear time periods for when I can expect your work. Missing deadlines without advance approval can result in severe grade penalties when warranted. If you may be ill, I encourage you to follow the policies noted above under “Staying Home.”
  • Academic Honesty: I will issue academic sanctions for dishonesty. Be sure you understand plagiarism and how it applies to this class. In our cut and edit culture, students are not in the habit of crediting web news. You must credit ALL sources to avoid harsh penalties. As we will discuss, plagiarism includes not only using someone else’s words, but also using someone else’s reporting, photograph, video, or audio recording without adequately attributing it. Remain absolutely clear of plagiarism, dishonesty, and suggestions of such behavior to ensure you avoid academic sanctions. 
  • If You Struggle or Become Frustrated: I encourage you to contact me so I can help. 
    • Phone & Email: You can easily reach me by phone or email. I will usually answer my office phone at home when working remotely and will still monitor and return phone messages. If you email me, be sure to clarify why you are emailing and how I can help. I occasionally respond the same day and, when a reply is requested, will always respond within a week. If I do not, feel free to resend your original email. 
    • Office Hours: I have set appointments available on Calendly. Feel free to let me know if you need a different time. I will normally meet students outside of class via Zoom. If you’d rather chat by phone, text, or in-person, be sure to let me know. 
    • Grades: Be sure to review the rubrics and feedback in Blackboard. If you still have a question, contact me via email and carefully explain your question or concern ( 
    • Technology: If problems are with Blackboard, Tiger Tracks, the clas blog, or email, please refer to the technical support website or call the FHSU help desk (1-800-628-3478). 
  • Respect for Diversity: It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength, and benefit. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: perspective and background knowledge, gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. 
    Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please let me know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups. I also welcome conversations about any implied or structural biases in your learning environment that impact your confidence as a successful FHSU student. Finally, if any of our class meetings conflict with your religious events, please let me know so that we can make arrangements for you.It is also important to be aware of noun/pronoun agreement no matter one’s gender identification. Poynter wrote an excellent article discussing the Associated Press’ acceptance of “they” as a gender neutral pronoun in 2017. I encourage you to review the article and other AP Style tips you find online or in the 2020 AP Stylebook. For now, here is the AP Style excerpt that Poynter used:

They, them, their In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers.”

–AP 2017 Stylebook s quoted in Hare, K. (2017). AP style change: Singular they is acceptable ‘in limited cases.’ Poynter.  

See the University’s COVID-19 website for updates on FHSU’s response to the ongoing pandemic.

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