JOUR199 Getting Started in Journalism

FreshI:  It's project time!

We should by now be finishing work on our last individual assignment, due in final form at the end of finals week: a WordPress site (in a directory named portfolio on your hosting account) that you will be expected to use throughout your time as a journalism major to showcase examples of work you perform in each class and in various jobs and internships you participate in.

Net ID

This long-term portfolio / gallery of your work should include an online resumé and will be useful not only in job searches but also will be evaluated in your senior year as evidence of everything you have learned. It should be in some theme other than the default and should be adjusted so that it employs useful widgets, sidebars and menus and gets rid of any default items that do not contribute to your primary purpose. As time goes on, well after this class, you will be able to update both the content and the design.

Our other, major project will be a team effort to create an insider's guide website targeted at high school seniors considering becoming freshmen at U of I. Every class member shares one responsibility: interviewing before the start of class Tuesday, Dec. 5, a total of 10 people and recording their answers to a standard set of questions, one question per student. In addition, individual students have other assignments that also will be due at the same time.

Shared crowdsoucing assignment

Each class member should ask each of these questions of two different people (10 people total):

Select only freshmen. Try to get as diverse a group as possible — different majors, genders, residence halls, ethnicities, etc. No friends, roommates or classmates. Ask each to spell his or her first and last name and provide his or her age, hometown and major. Record audio of the students' answers and take a head-and-shoulders photo of each person (cropped as shown).

Do this in as quiet an area as possible, placing your microphone, cell phone or recorder near the interviewee’s mouth, being careful not to jostle it while recording or to interrupt your interviewee's answer. Once you start recording, ask for permission and explain that this is for a website your class is producing. Use a camera or your smart phone to shoot the picture against as plain a backdrop as possible. Avoid using flash.

Before 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, submit all work to the U of I Box folder created for that purpose and for which you should have received a separate message. Use the filename lastname_firstname for each file and put the MP3 and JPEG in a folder named for a key word from the question (night, food, best, decide, wish, etc.). Format for the photo should be .jpg, 250 x 360 pixels, quality 80 of 100. For the audio, in should be MP3, 11025 Hz mono, 32 bit, 20 Kbps CBR. In class, we will show everyone — or a small group of editors — how to use Adobe Audition to edit down the MP3s (see video below) and how to use Adobe Photoshop to crop and save the photos. Audio files will display like this sample from Don Henley's very old song, "Dirty Laundry":

If you have questions, ask coordinators Niani Scott or Sam Boyle.

Individual assignments

In addition to the crowdsourcing, each student will be working on an individual story or other project. We will want photos, audio, video or graphics with many of the stories, as discussed in class, so you may want to record your interviews in all ways imagineable. For video, consider purchasing an inexpensive cell-phone tripod to hold your phone steady.

For now, however, the main thing we'll be concentrating on is the written story text, to make sure we have what we want to say down cold. In your reporting, look for a human face with which to start each story — an individual exemplary of or impacted by the issue who can narrate what the story means to him or her in relatable, emotional, personal terms. After you've established that, pull back to a broader view that includes facts and figures about how widespread the situation might be or provide background or official answers to questions. All the while look at this as an exercise not in writing a report or article — and especially not in doing mindless P.R. for the university — but in actually telling a story. Be engaging, maybe even a bit edgy, and let the emotions of each situation shine through.

Each writer should plan to meet with the designated editor of the story throughout the process to discuss how information will be gathered, then meet again first with the story editor (who also can help with reporting, writing and gathering audio-visual or graphic elements) and then with both the instructor and the editor to go over how the story is progressing. We'll want solid first drafts by 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, and final drafts two days later, so there's not a lot of time to procrastinate with this work. Here are the assignments and the reporter / editor tandems:

Easiest classesOlivia BreauxMatt Haufe
Staying close to campusQuinn BrosnahanHampden Keil
Underage bar sceneAndrea CannonMatt Rice
ROTC and activitiesMatt HaufeConnor Josellis
Greek graphicMatt HaufeOlivia Breaux
Arts and creativityAcacia Hernandez Amari Maisonet
Mono misdiagnosisHampden KeilNiani Scott
Stereotypes of majorsKati PotaczekDanielle Prazak
Winter clothes followupKati PotaczekJose Zepeda
Partying not at barsStephanie QuirkDanielle Prazak
Student athletes' livesMatt RiceAndrea Cannon
Differentiating greeksNiani ScottSam Boyle
Wasted meal plans, dorms Tara SohnsDanielle Prazak
Random roommatesSam TinagliaKenya Williams
International isolationZihan WangSam Boyle
Friends as roommatesKenya WilliamsQuinn Brosnahan
Bikes and safetyJose ZepedaSam Tinaglia

In addition, Sam Boyle will create a logo for our site and collaborate with Devin Brown, Tara Sohns and Connor Josellis on selecting and customizing, as necessary, a WordPress theme and design for the site and eventually posting the material. Initially, this team — especially Devin Brown and Connor Josellis, who have limited story responsibilities — will be responsible for assembling some form of slideshow or video of campus landmarks and other locations that might not be explained on campus tours.

Amari Maisonet will be our overall video editing coordinator, and Danielle Prazak will be our overall text editor, who will give each story an additional edit after each writing / editing team has finished work on it.

Accessing the actual site

Our site will be at You may log in to the WordPress administrative interface at using the same user ID and password as you do for this site. You may change your WordPress password and complete other WordPress profile options as desired once you have logged in.

Everyone in the class has at least "editor" access. Connor, Devin, Sam Boyle and Tara have "administrator" access. Editors can add, change, publish or delete posts and comments by anyone but cannot change site settings, install plugins or themes, add users or change passwords, which are among the additional things administrators can do. If, as the project progresses, you find that you need some of these abilities, contact any of the administrators, who can either perform the function for you or give you status as an admnistrator.

Your class mugshots have been added to your WordPress profiles in case we want to use author photos on the site.

For the general reading public, we also will a shorter URL:

Production and editing teams

In hope of completing the site before class Tuesday, we will meet before then as teams to handle various production and editing duties. All content created for the site is due no later than when editing begins, at noon Saturday. This is a "drop dead" deadline.

Team leaders are responsible for making sure their teams complete their tasks in a timely manner and for interfacing with other team leaders regarding areas in which collaboration is needed.

General site design and navigation2 p.m. FridayDevin (leader), Connor, Sam B. and Tara
Selecting, designing and integrating crowdsourcingnoon to 4 SundaySam B. (leader), Hampden, Matt R., Niani and Sam T.
Detailed editing, style and fact-checking of storiesnoon to 3 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. SundayNiani (leader), Acacia, Danielle, Jose and Quinn
Obtaining, editing and integrating photos4 to 5 p.m. Friday and 4 to 5 p.m. MondayMatt H. (leader), Amari, Kati, Olivia, Stephanie and Zihan
Obtaining, editing and integrating non-crowdsourcing audio and videonoon to whenever SundayAmari (leader), Jose and Kenya

Responsible for making sure the various teams work together are, for overall quality control, Niani and, for overall user experience, Connor. Still to be assigned to a team is Andrea, who was sick Thursday.

If anyone needs to reach the instructor, he will be available throughout the period at (217) 355-0016, 377-5018 or 244-8317.

To help ensure that everyone gets appropriate credit for teamwork, everyone in class will complete a peer evaluation form that will inform the instructor's grading of the project.