Media Writing & Reporting

Course Details

Course Number
MCOM 1243
Section Number
MCOM 1243
Spring 2016
Fain Fine Arts Center
Classroom Number
Days & Times
Class:  MWF @ 9 – 9:50 a.m., Fine Arts B105
Lab:  R @ 1 - 2:50 p.m., Fine Arts B124
Liz Minden (view Profile)


Course Objectives

A writing course focusing on news reporting and writing skills for various media, students will be introduced to the basics of accuracy, clarity, journalistic style, story structure, and deadlines.  Lecture information is supplemented with writing assignments that cover on-campus news and events; in-class writing exercises; and other assignments.  Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:
1. Apply a news sense in finding stories and sources.
2. Write a news story using appropriate journalistic structure and style.
3. Evaluate the quality of a news story based on journalistic and other criteria.
4. Apply Associated Press Style.
5. Conduct an interview and gather information.
6. Make decisions based on ethical, legal, technical and other media writing criteria.
7. Work under deadline pressure.

Course Expectations

1. THREE MAJOR STORIES = 100 points each
a. The instructor must approve major story ideas (see due-date schedule on pg. 2).
b. Each major story must be a minimum of 1,500 words. (This syllabus has almost 1,900.)
c. Each major story must include a list of sources. The names, titles and phone numbers of the persons you interviewed and the dates they were interviewed must be attached to each story (source list). The source list must be typed on a page separate from your story.
d. Major stories must be based on several sources.
e. Stories must be typed in Times 12-point font, black ink. They must be flush left on the page. Spacing between lines should be 1.5 and the first sentence of each paragraph must be indented one-half inch.
f. Students should generate multiple story ideas prior to due dates in case one is not approved.
g. Students whose story idea is not approved must submit a new story idea no later than the next class period.
h. Story notes must be well organized and typed.  Photocopies are acceptable.
i. These assignments are due at the beginning of the class period on their due dates.
Story 1 – idea due January 29; February 12 notes due; February 26 story due
Story 2 – idea due March 4; March 18 notes due; April 1 story due
Story 3 –idea due April 8; April 29 notes due; May 9 story due by 10 a.m.
2. EIGHT WEEKLY NEWS BRIEFS = 25 points each
These are very short news stories, but do not require idea approval or notes.  Due Dates:  February 18 & 25; March 3, 10 & 17; April 14 & 21; May 5 [at the beginning of lab period]
These may be writing assignments, research and/or interviewing exercises, quizzes over lecture information, or other exercises relevant to media writing, and will be held at the discretion of the instructor.
4. MID-TERM EXAM: Friday, March 11 = 100 points

Grading Standards

1. LATE WORK WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. If it’s late, it’s a zero.
2. Fabricating sources and facts, and/or quoting people without actually interviewing them, earns you an “F” for the course.
3. Any factual error in the final version of a story will result in a ZERO grade for that story.
4. Points will be deducted from assignments with misspelled words, poor grammar, incorrect punctuation and Associated Press style errors.
5. Numerical grades will be awarded for all assignments.  Since this is a media writing course, quality work includes not only clarity of thought and correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, but also meeting the goals of good journalism and using correct journalistic style.  The grading scale is: 
      A = 90% -100% (exceptional/outstanding)
      B = 80% - 89% (above average)
      C = 70% - 79% (average)
      D = 60% - 69% (below average)
      F = Less than 60% (unacceptable)
**NOTE:  The instructor reserves the right to adjust or cancel assignments as the course progresses.  The method of calculating the final grade will remain the same, regardless of the total number of assignments for the course:  A percentage will be obtained by dividing the total points a student achieves for his assignments by the total possible points for all the assignments; a grade will be assigned according to the percentage scale outlined above.

Final Exam

05/09/2016 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.

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.

Late Paper Policy

LATE WORK WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. If it’s late, it’s a zero.

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

Attendance:  Students are expected to attend, be prepared for and participate in class.  The instructor reserves the right to drop any student from the course who misses more than three class periods.  Makeup work for any absence is at the discretion of the instructor.

Other Policies

1. Attendance:  Students are expected to attend, be prepared for and participate in class.  The instructor reserves the right to drop any student from the course who misses more than three class periods.  Makeup work for any absence is at the discretion of the instructor.
2. Academic Dishonesty: Plagiarism is: (1) using someone else’s source material (published or unpublished, including the Internet) without following accepted guidelines of giving credit; or (2) submitting work for credit that is not your own. THE INSTRUCTOR WILL TAKE APPROPRIATE DISCIPLINARY ACTION FOR STUDENTS CAUGHT CHEATING, PLAGIARIZING OR FABRICATING INFORMATION. The MSU Student Honor Creed in your student handbook and the university catalog reinforces this policy:  “As an MSU student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else to do so.” Plagiarism is lying, cheating and stealing. 
3. Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act: Any student with a disability who is registered with the MSU Office of Disability Support Services (940-397-4140, CSC Room 168) and needs specific accommodations, or requires other considerations because of a disability, should notify the instructor at the beginning of the semester to ensure that these accommodations are provided.
4. Limited Right:  By enrolling in this course, the student expressly grants MSU a “limited right” in all intellectual property created by the student for the purpose of this course. This “limited right” shall include, but shall not be limited to, the right to reproduce the student’s work product in order to verify originality and authenticity, and for educational purposes.
5. FERPA:  The instructor abides by the provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.  The instructor also will not release a student’s academic information or discuss a student’s academic progress or class attendance with his/her parent/guardian, relatives or friends.  Additionally, the instructor will not discuss a student’s grades with him/her during class, over the phone or by email.  STUDENTS WHO HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THEIR GRADES MUST MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH THE INSTRUCTOR.
6. Disruptive Behavior:  Any student’s classroom behavior that interferes with either the instructor’s ability to conduct the class or other students’ ability to benefit from the instruction – or violates any other Standard of Conduct applicable to the classroom environment – will result in his/her removal from the class.  (See MSU Student Handbook, “Standards of Student Conduct.”). Please:
k. Turn off the sound on your cell phone during class.  No text messaging either. 
l. Turn off your iPods and similar technology. 
m. Be polite. 
7. Senior Portfolio:  Please note that all mass communication majors are required to submit a portfolio as part of their internship course, which is a pre-requisite for Senior Production.  This requirement is a part of MSU’s reaccreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is non-negotiable.  Through the portfolio, students are required to demonstrate communication competence through the written word and visual communication; two examples of each competency are required.
As you go through this and other classes, you are responsible for saving course work that could be included in your senior portfolio.
Please see your instructor, adviser, the department chair or any mass communication faculty member for handouts with more information (“Mass Communication Senior Portfolio Competencies” and “Mass Communication Senior Portfolio FAQ”).  These handouts are also available on the department web page:
8. Other:
a. You may be asked to provide your assignments on a portable computer medium (e.g., jump/thumb drive). Do NOT email your assignments to the instructor without express written permission to do so. You are expected to print out and turn in hard copies of your assignments for this course and may use the Mass Communication Department computer lab for this purpose.  You must have a signed Mass Communication Department Equipment Agreement on file with the department if you wish card-key access to the computer lab outside of class time.
b. If you use the lab computers during class or the lab period for ANY purpose other than the course assignments, you will be dropped from the course.
c. Do not bring food or drinks into the lab.  If you do, it will be immediately disposed of.
BE AWARE THAT the instructor reserves the right to change any part of this syllabus for any reason, and will give sufficient notice if changes are necessary.

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