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 the students and the instructor, I try to include activities that are more interesting than straight lecture, such as discussions, critiques, hand-on application of what we are learning, etc. The success of this ormat 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. Your peers are counting on you to be in class and to participate.
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 have an emergency, you must provide documentation to me, such as an accident report or towing bill. If you do not have documentation, you will receive a zero for the work due or that you missed.
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.
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.
Finally, it is unacceptable to skip another class to work on a project for this class. Also, do not ask me for an excused absence to work on another course. If either of these occurs, it will greatly lower your participation grade. Plan accordingly and be organized.
I reserve the right to determine what, exactly, constitutes an excused absence or when a late arrival is excusable.
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.)
Policies: Classroom/Conduct/Academic Dishonesty
No cell phones, headphones, music, computer games, nor texting/IMing/e-mail/camera devices of any description are to be used during class: ZERO TOLERANCE. This means all aforementioned devices (and presently unknown versions of such) are to be turned off and out of your sight and mine. This policy is based on my view that these things are distracting, hence counterproductive to the learning goals in this course. Violation of this policy will be considered a conduct issue and an extremely bad plan. If your phone rings during class I reserve the right to answer it. If you feel compelled to send a text during class, I reserve the right to complete the text before sending it.
Eating and drinking are not allowed by the computers because we are working with expensive equipment that can very easily be damaged by food or drink. Food and drink may be left on the bookcase by the door. Any misuse or abuse of equipment will result in expulsion from the lab for the semester and/or assessment of replacement/repair costs. Students are expected to adhere to the Standards of Conduct as published in the Student Handbook. Students should refer to the current MSU student handbook and activities calendar for University policies and Student Honor Creed on academic dishonesty, class attendance, student’s rights, and activities.
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.”
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. MSU Student Honor Creed ii. MSU Undergraduate Catalog
iii. MSU Student Handbook
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."
On the Internet, plagiarism is especially easy. DO NOT give in to the temptation to copy-and-paste other people’s work! Your work must be your own. If you plagiarize as a professional and get found out, you will damage if not destroy your own reputation and do great harm to the reputation of any organization you work for. In this class, plagiarism will have dire consequences.
Plagiarism: Plagiarism comes from the Latin word plagiarius, which means kidnapper. Webster’s Dictionary defines plagiarize as to take (ideas, writings, etc.,) from (another) and pass them off as one’s own-plagiarizer. Plagiarism includes the deliberate as well as inadvertent failure to properly attribute. All of the work you do in this class should be the work of you. Violation of this policy will result in the student and/or group receiving a failing grade for this course. IGNORANCE IS NO EXCUSE...IF IN DOUBT-ASK! Students in this course should adhere to the MSU Student Honor Code.
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.
Social justice is one of Midwestern State University’s stated core values, and I consider the classroom to be a place where students will be treated with respect as human beings, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Moreover, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided the students can agree to disagree. It is my expectation that ALL students be able to consider the classroom a safe environment.
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.
Research and Creative Opportunities at MSU
Enhancing Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (EURECA) is a program that provides opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in high-quality research and creative activities with faculty. EURECA provides incentives and funding through a system that supports faculty and students in a cooperative research process. For more information contact the Office of Undergraduate Research, (940) 397-6275 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information and resources are available at http://www.mwsu.edu/eureca.