JOUR199 Getting started in journalism

Course syllabus

This experimental class, designed exclusively for incoming journalism majors not immediately eligible to enroll in JOUR 200, will give students a head start on other journalism classes with quick, hands-on introductions to some of the most commonly desired techniques and technologies, including such topics as finding interesting stories, gathering and organizing information, writing in journalistic forms and using major technological tools to present your work. Its unique syllabus will let class members help select the topics for hands-on practice before those topics come up in greater detail in later classes. Students also will learn how to create a professional portfolio that will include work from all their classes throughout their career in the journalism program.

The instructor is Eric Meyer, an associate professor of journalism, former associate dean of the College of Media and a more-than-30-year veteran journalist. He planned Page One news coverage and directed photo, graphics and design staffs at the Milwaukee Journal; started and eventually sold an award-winning online news and e-commerce website that he operated in partnership with American Journalism Review magazine, currently owns and publishes three community newspapers in Kansas that have won a record 25 statewide awards for two years in a row, and has served in myriad other roles, including as a visiting professor of social media at the Dallas Morning News.

A Pulitzer Prize nominee for coverage of computer hacking, he has helped write technology master plans for media corporations, served as a new-media consultant to nearly 350 companies worldwide and even worked briefly in media relations for politicians and has produced award-winning advertising designs along with news and online designs. Author of two books on information design and new-media content and business strategies, he has been a keynote speaker at international symposia from London to Tokyo. At U of I, he is a subcommittee chair for the Senate Educational Policy Committee that reviews all curriculum proposals for the campus, is a member of provost's Committee on Learning Outcome Assessments, the campus's Enrollment Management Strategy Committee and the systemwide Academic Programs Approval Process Working Group. He previously served as chair of undergraduate deans and on several campus-wide technology panels.

  • OFFICE HOURS — 1 to 1:50 and 4 to 4:20 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and, by appointment, 1 to 5:50 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. During working and evening hours, feel free to contact him at ekmeyer@illinois.edu or (217) 244-8317.

Tentative course schedule

The plan, subject to modification as the semester progresses, is to introduce students to a different technique or technology each week, followed up by a homework assignment as a practice exercise that will be critiqued in class. After briefly reviewing the exercise, we will quickly move on to another technique or technology. Each submitted exercise may be resubmitted if it does not meet minimal standards, as determined by the instructor. All projects must be submitted and must meet minimal standards, and students must miss no more than three course sessions, to pass the course. The course has no textbooks, no tests and no final exam.

If technology cooperates, most demonstrations will be recorded on video and made available to students in unedited format for review outside of class. In addition, all students may use their university login to obtain free access to training materials from Lynda.com.

Although free trial versions of most software are available, students are strongly advised to use the software on classroom computers as various essential configuration settings may differ and make initial learning more difficult. Each student's iCard should allow access to the lab when classes are not in session and the building is open. It typically remains open until 11 p.m. nightly.

A very tentative schedule for the semester:

  • WEEK 1 — Introduction
  • WEEK 2 — Audience and metrics
  • WEEK 3 — Interviewing
  • WEEK 4 — Writing
  • WEEK 5 — Editing
  • WEEK 6 — Designing
  • WEEK 7 — Data visualization
  • WEEK 8 — Interaction and animation
  • WEEK 9 — Online
  • WEEK 10 — Content management
  • WEEK 11 — Audio
  • WEEK 12 — Video
  • WEEK 13 — Project

Course policies

  • ACADEMIC INTEGRITY — Any work that is fabricated, that relies on material obtained from friends or relatives or that makes unauthorized use of the work of others (including plagiarism, infringement of copyright or unapproved collaboration) will receive a failing grade. Flagrant violations may merit more severe penalties, including a failing grade in the course and referral to the student's home college for academic discipline.
  • ACCOMMODATION OF DISABILITY — Students are responsible for making known any accommodation needed for reason of disability. Only the accommodation, not the disability, need be disclosed. Requests should be directed to the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services.
  • ATTENDANCEAttendance and regular use of the course website and classroom equipment are required. More than three absences for any reason may result in a failing grade for the semester.
  • True emergency absences beyond a student's control are dealt with on a case-by-case basis provided the instructor is notified as promptly as possible. Notices from the "emergency dean" are helpful but neither required nor automatically accepted. For all other absences — including field trips, job conflicts or interviews, and projects in other classes — in-class work may not be made up, but work that would have come due will be accepted in advance.
  • For absences resulting from a student's religious practices or formal participation in scheduled sports events or similar activities of an officially recognized university group, work to be performed entirely during a missed session may not be re-created; however, a grade matching the student's average on all similar work to date will be entered as if the student had completed the in-class assignment.
  • Any student who for any reason, even an excused or explained absence, has missed more than three course sessions or failed to submit more than three assignments by deadline will be deemed to have become seriously deficient academically and could be barred from additional participation and required to drop the course, possibly with a failing grade.
  • EMERGENCIES AND SAFETY — During the first class, identify at least two ways to exit the building. Except in severe weather, the best choice is to flee. Second best is to hide quietly, with cell phones silenced, behind barricaded doors. Fight if there is no other option.
  • GRADING — This course uses letter grading only. Each assignment submitted will be graded by the instructor as either satisfying minimum requirements, exceeding those requirements or requiring additional work. Students will be notified as quickly as possible if a project requires additional work. By the end of finals week, if a student has submitted satisfactory work on all assignments and missed no more than one course session, the student will receive a course grade of B. If any assignment remains unsatisfactory or if the student has missed more than one course session, a lower course grade will be earned. If projects exceed standards, students will receive a course grade of A.

About the computer lab

Computers in Room 31, which was completely re-equipped with new hardware and software over the summer, run Mac OS X. If you're a Windows user, most programs operate exactly the same on the two operating systems. Log in with your NetID and Active Directory password. If you cannot remember your Active Directory password:

  • Have someone who remembers his or her password log in to a computer and go to the university's Password Management web service. Answer "forgot password" questions then log in with the NetID and NetID password of the person who can't remember his or her Active Directory password and change the Active Directory password to something more memorable.
  • Go to the Technology Services Help Desk, 1211 Digital Computing Lab, and show your identification so the password can be reset. You can also message the desk at consult@illinois.edu or phone 244-7000.

At the Password Management site you can set security questions. This is highly recommended. If you forget your password in the future, you can go there and answer a security question, then reset your password or unlock your account.

College of Media printing policies allow liberal free printing for class purposes. A print quota system will determine how many printouts you can make and will charge a nominal fee to your university tuition and fees account for any excessive printing. Always use your own login and remember to log off so someone else cannot misuse your quota.

A small window, run by a program called PaperCut, appears on each screen and tracks each student's quota, displaying his or her current balance. Students may view all transactions by clicking on Details. . . or by logging in to PaperCut outside the lab.

Your iCard will allow you into College of Media labs outside of class to work on homework for this course. Lab attendants may or may not be on duty in Room 31 or another Media lab (Rooms 1, 3, 9 and 13), all of which have the same software. Gain access at other times by slowly swiping your iCard on the door labeled "Room 29."

Lab doors must remain closed and locked when lab attendants are not on duty. Only students whose iCards are programmed into the door lock are allowed to enter. Spot checks and other security measures enforce this restriction. Exterior doors are locked around 11 p.m. daily. You must arrive before then. Those already in the lab when the building closes may remain. However, for security reasons you should not plan to remain in the lab after midnight, and for reasons of common courtesy you should not enter the lab when another course is in session.