This course introduces you to techniques of computer-assisted reporting. Building upon your basic reporting and critical thinking skills, the course will show you how to use the computer as a tool in news gathering and data analysis. You will learn how to find and critically evaluate information from the Internet, principally the World Wide Web. Next, you will review statistics and mathematical relationships, such percentage change, and analyze data using a spreadsheet. You will download data from the Web and analyze it. These efforts will become the basis for asking questions for stories. The data analysis is only the beginning. Anyone familiar with a computer can squeeze answers out of a computer, but it takes a competent journalist to ask the right questions. You must determine the meaning of the information and show your viewers, readers, or listeners how it affects them.
Prerequisites: (1) News Writing and Reporting I and (2) Electronic News Gathering
By the end of this course, you should be able to:
1. Define computer-assisted reporting
2. Explain why journalists 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 using Excel
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:
§ USB flash drive
Final grades will be based on class participation and attendance, projects, critiques, homework, quizzes, and exams.
Class participation and attendance (also called professionalism): 10%
Exercises, homework and quizzes: 30%
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, 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. Professionalism means that you’re here, ready to engage in new opportunities. You are expected to arrive on time, be prepared, actively participate, and stay 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. If you miss class you get a “zero” for that day’s participation.
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. 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.
Your class participation and attendance grade is made up of (a) your coming to class, (b) your input during class discussions, (c) your completion of in-class assignments. 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 1/3 letter grade for each instance beyond two absences. Three tardies = one absence. Five minutes or more late = one tardy. Twenty minutes or more late = one absence. Leaving before class is dismissed = one absence. If you have difficulty with the attendance and participation (professionalism) requirement, you may be dropped from the class.
I reserve the right to determine what, exactly, constitutes an excused absence or when a late arrival is excusable.
Some additional guidelines:
a. The main statement from the MSU Student Honor Creed should be a guiding principal for you: “As an MSU student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else to do so.”
b. I reserve the right to drop any student with an F if he/she engages in any form of academic dishonesty. I further reserve the right to recommend other sanctions as may be appropriate. Students are also encouraged to consult the following sources for additional discussion of students’ rights and responsibilities regarding cheating, attendance and general conduct:
i. The MSU Student Honor Creed
ii. 2010-2012 MSU Undergraduate Catalog
iii. 2011-2012 MSU Student Handbook
c. In addition, the university requires faculty to provide this statement to all students: “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. The “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 educational purposes.”
Federal privacy law prohibits me from releasing information about students to certain parties outside of the university without the signed consent of the student. Thus, in almost all cases I will not discuss your academic progress or other matters with your parents. Please do not have them call me. Regardless of these important legal considerations, it is my general policy to communicate with the students, not their parents, even when a student has signed a consent form. College students are adults and are expected to behave accordingly.
If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information that needs sharing, or if you need special accommodations in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.