Computer-Assisted Reporting

Course Details

Course Number
Section Number
Spring 2018
Fain Fine Arts Center
Classroom Number
Days & Times

T/Th 11:00 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.

Dr. Mitzi Lewis (view Profile)

Course Attachments


Course Objectives

After successfully completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Define computer-assisted reporting
  2. Explain why media professionals use computer-assisted reporting
  3. Demonstrate how to find and retrieve data on the Internet
  4. Locate primary and secondary sources on the Internet
  5. Understand how to used this information to establish accountability and improve interview techniques
  6. Evaluate credibility of information found on the Internet
  7. Analyze data using Excel
  8. Use basic statistics to analyze data for reporting
  9. Display information visually
  10. Describe the uses of database managers
  11. Describe how to find data not on the Internet
  12. Explain how to build a database
  13. Fact-check data
  14. “Clean” data
  15. Recognize that computer-assisted reporting is just one tool in your arsenal; the fundamentals of reporting still apply: accuracy, clarity, fairness, news value, and, ultimately, good storytelling

After this course is over, the data skills you learn may slip away if you don’t use them. Even if this happens, my expectation is that two things will stick with you:

  • An understanding of how computer-assisted reporting can help your work.
  • A mindset where
    • you ask people you meet while reporting not just what they know but how they know it, and you ask to see the evidence, and
    • you always ask yourself the same question: What do I know and how do I know it?

Course Expectations

  • I have decided not to require a textbook this semester; however, you will receive numerous handouts and exercises over the course of the semester.
  • USB flash drive
    Bring this to class each day. You’ll be saving your work to this drive and to a second backup, not the lab computer hard drive. You are responsible for saving your work. Deadlines will not be extended due to loss of data. Always maintain at least two copies of important files on two separate volumes. I HIGHLY recommend checking out cloud storage options and selecting one to use.
  • E-mail account
  • Internet access
  • Persistence, Patience, Optimism, and an Active Mind: Most of our work during the semester will take place in the computer lab. This room is equipped with 21 computers, a flatbed scanner, and several printers. The lab was set up as a place for creating complex digital projects and performing online operations. But computers are fairly elaborate machines, which means that there are many ways in which they can break down. In this course, we will be placing heavy demands on the lab’s hardware and software – as well as on our network capabilities – so be prepared for many strange and wondrous things. We will be discussing basic trouble-shooting techniques in class as issues arise. In many cases, however, you will need to be your own technological problem-solver – identifying problems and figuring out ways they can temporarily or permanently be solved. Techno-whining will not be tolerated.

Grading Standards



Exercises, homework, and quizzes



Submission Format Policy

Note: You may not submit a paper for a grade in this class that already has been (or will be) submitted for a grade in another course, unless you obtain the explicit written permission of me and the other instructor involved in advance.

Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is the use of someone else's thoughts, words, ideas, or lines of argument in your own work without appropriate documentation (a parenthetical citation at the end and a listing in "Works Cited")-whether you use that material in a quote, paraphrase, or summary. It is a theft of intellectual property and will not be tolerated, whether intentional or not.

Student Honor Creed

As an MSU Student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else do so."

As students at MSU, we recognize that any great society must be composed of empowered, responsible citizens. We also recognize universities play an important role in helping mold these responsible citizens. We believe students themselves play an important part in developing responsible citizenship by maintaining a community where integrity and honorable character are the norm, not the exception.

Thus, We, the Students of Midwestern State University, resolve to uphold the honor of the University by affirming our commitment to complete academic honesty. We resolve not only to be honest but also to hold our peers accountable for complete honesty in all university matters.

We consider it dishonest to ask for, give, or receive help in examinations or quizzes, to use any unauthorized material in examinations, or to present, as one's own, work or ideas which are not entirely one's own. We recognize that any instructor has the right to expect that all student work is honest, original work. We accept and acknowledge that responsibility for lying, cheating, stealing, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty fundamentally rests within each individual student.

We expect of ourselves academic integrity, personal professionalism, and ethical character. We appreciate steps taken by University officials to protect the honor of the University against any who would disgrace the MSU student body by violating the spirit of this creed.

Written and adopted by the 2002-2003 MSU Student Senate.

Students with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Disability Support Services in Room 168 of the Clark Student Center, (940) 397-4140.

Safe Zones Statement

The professor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being - regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the professor's expectation that ALL students consider the classroom a safe environment.

Contacting your Instructor

All instructors in the Department have voicemail in their offices and MWSU e-mail addresses. Make sure you add your instructor's phone number and e-mail address to both email and cell phone lists of contacts.

Attendance Requirements

Because abundant lecturing tends to be counterproductive for both you and me, I try to include activities that are more interesting than straight lecture, such as discussions, presentations, field trips, guest speakers, etc. The success of this format depends on your willingness to ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in class discussions and other activities. 


Attendance and participation are critical to your success. Another way to describe this is professionalism. Professionalismmeans that you’re here, ready to engage in new opportunities. 


The college learning environment is a professional environment. It is similar in many ways to a professional work environment. You are expected to demonstrate professional attitudes and behaviors; including, but not limited to, arriving on time, being prepared, actively participating, communicating respectfully, and staying for the full class period. If you miss class, you miss the chance to participate in your education and the education of others in class. Your peers are counting on you to be in class and to participate. A peer evaluation will be distributed toward the end of the semester. 


If you miss class without an acceptable excuse you get a zero for that day’s participation and class work and any work that is due.


If you must miss class, please let me know BEFORE the class period that you will miss. You may call my office and leave me a voice mail or you may notify me by e-mail. An absence may be excused at my discretion in accordance with university policy if you provide documentation of the reason for your absence. When you have an acceptable excuse, you are responsible for finding out what you missed and arranging to make it up with the instructor. Missed work must be made up within one week of when your return to class, or you will receive a zero. 


Plan carefully regarding appointments and/or work schedules to avoid missing class. Any personal emergencies that arise will be dealt with on an individual basis. Do not assume you will be allowed to make up assignments missed during an unexcused absence. IF YOU MISS CLASS, IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO FIND OUT WHAT YOU MISSED. I DO NOT HAVE TIME TO PROVIDE INDIVIDUAL “MAKE-UPS” TO MISSED CLASS SESSIONS. THIS IS WHY WE HAVE CLASS MEETINGS.


In class assignments will help you immediately apply concepts covered in class. If you miss a class you get a “zero” for that day’s in-class assignments. If you miss more than two classes, or if you are habitually late or leave early, your final grade may be lowered by 1/2 letter grade for each instance beyond one absence.  Two tardies = one absence.  One minute to 19 minutes late = one tardy. Twenty minutes or more late = one absence. Leaving before class is dismissed = one absence. After four absences or tardies, you are subject to being dropped from the course with a grade of “F.” 


I reserve the right to determine what, exactly, constitutes an excused absence or when a late arrival is excusable.


Your entire participation grade can be wiped out for excessive tardiness, lack of participation in discussion, distracting device use, and lack of a contribution to a productive, inclusive and respectful educational environment.  Do not expect any warnings.


Finally, it is unacceptable to skip another class to work on a project for this class. Do not ask me for an excused absence to work on another course. Plan accordingly and be organized. 

Some additional guidelines:
•    You are responsible for all material presented in every class period, whether present or not.
•    If you miss a class period you should obtain the material presented from another classmate. (I will not repeat lecture material that was missed. Handouts are available from my office – it is your responsibility to come get them.)

Writing Proficiency Requirement

All students seeking a Bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University must satisfy a writing proficiency requirement once they've 1) passed the 6 hours of Communication Core and and 2) earned 60 hours. You may meet this requirement by passing either the Writing Proficiency Exam or English 2113. Please keep in mind that, once you've earned over 90 hours, you lose the opportunity to take the $25 exam and have no option but to enroll in the three-credit hour course. If you have any questions about the exam, visit the Writing Proficiency Office website at, or call 397-4131.

Campus Carry

Senate Bill 11 passed by the 84th Texas Legislature allows licensed handgun holders to carry concealed handguns on campus, effective August 1, 2016. Areas excluded from concealed carry are appropriately marked, in accordance with state law. For more information regarding campus carry, please refer to the University’s webpage at

If you have questions or concerns, please contact MSU Chief of Police Patrick Coggins at