Download the Reporting Syllabus Fall 2014

Download the Reporting Class Schedule Fall 2014

JOUR 300.02 Reporting 

Fall 2014

Instructor Associate Professor Rachele Kanigel
Class Meetings Mondays 4:10 to 6:55 p.m.Humanities Building, Room 312
E-mail/Twitter / @jourprof
Course Website
Office HUM 344
(415) 338-3134
Office Hours Mondays & Wednesdays: 11 a.m. to noonTuesdays: 1 to 2 p.m. and by appointment


This course is the boot camp of SFSU’s journalism department. It’s a time for you to find out if you really want to be a journalist — and to see if you can cut it. We will use the cities of San Francisco and Oakland as a laboratory. The first day of class you will be assigned a neighborhood in one of those cities. By reporting on the life of that neighborhood for 15 weeks you will learn about demographics, politics, history, crime, the legal system and city planning. You’ll also pick up reporting techniques and tools that will help you in nearly any career you choose.

I run this class like a newsroom. You are reporters. I am your editor. Like professionals, you will be expected to come prepared, be on time and be inquisitive.


The course will help you develop the following of the Journalism Department’s core learning outcomes:

  • News Judgment:

The ability to identify and develop story ideas through observation, reading and paying attention to the environment

  • Critical and Independent Thinking:

An ability to synthesize information and think independently and work through problems using inference and logic.

  • Cultural Competence:

An understanding of a variety of cultures and how those cultures influence perspectives, attitudes and personal interaction with the world.

  • Writing:

Concise, clear, and accurate writing that engages the audience with compelling storytelling.

  • Analytical Competence:

An ability to discern and weigh the quality of information gathered, as well as know how to analyze and interpret it.

  • Research and Reporting:

An ability to methodically find information through the Internet, public documents and personal interviews.

  • Ethics, Integrity and the Law:

An understanding of the ethical standards and constitutional laws that guide journalism excellence.

  • Critical Evaluation:

An ability to critically evaluate your own work and that of others for accuracy and fairness, clarity, appropriate style and grammatical correctness.


By the end of the semester you will be able to:

  • Report – Know how to cover a beat; to report stories using interviews, library and Web research, public documents and other journalistic research tools; develop a diverse pool of sources and understand how to interview people different from you.
  • Write in a journalistic style - Be able to write news and feature stories suitable for publication; understand the fundamentals of newswriting; write different kinds of stories of varying lengths using different structures.
  • Develop strong ethical habits – Understand why it is wrong to plagiarize, fabricate information or editorialize in news and feature stories; know how to obtain and use information in a responsible way.
  • Think critically - Be able to think like a journalist, evaluating sources of information for credibility and accuracy; cultivate a sense of news judgment; intelligently critique a newspaper


To enroll in this course, the Journalism Department requires students to have passed Journalism 221 Newswriting or its equivalent with minimum grade of C, and to have completed GE Segment I, Segment II, and the U.S. History and Government requirements.

Additional prerequisite: ability to type at least 25 WPM.


You will be quizzed almost every week on local, national and international news events.

(You should read other newspapers and news websites regularly, particularly The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The San Francisco Examiner, The Oakland Tribune, the San Jose Mercury News,, as well as local online and print publications that cover your assigned neighborhood. You should also watch and listen to broadcast news as much as possible)

Suggested readings:

This course meets university requirements as the department’s designated GWAR (Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement) course. To that end, substantive attention is given in each class to writing instruction with an emphasis on clear, concise language; accessible, grammatically correct sentence structure; organization of content; effective transitions between leading points; clarity and flow of information from one point to another; accuracy in spelling, grammar and punctuation, as well as tense agreement, correct modification and use of homonyms. The Reporting course will include intensive instruction and testing in writing skills.


This class requires a great deal of writing and computer research so you will need to have easy access to a computer and the Internet. If you don’t, you can use computers in this classroom, the library, the department’s labs and elsewhere on campus.

You must have an e-mail account and provide your e-mail address so we can communicate throughout the semester. You’ll also need a phone where sources can reach you. Since your sources are busy and may have to return your phone calls, I recommend you have an answering machine or voicemail account. Make sure to change any humorous or less-than-professional greetings so that sources will take you seriously and call you back. Smartphones are increasingly becoming a vital tool for journalists and it’s recommended that you have a cell phone that allows you to access the Internet, shoot photos and video and record audio. You may also want to have a broadcast-quality audio recorder, such as the Zoom H1 or H2.


This semester we’ll be using, a website on WordPress, to help facilitate communication. I will put additional readings, assignments and changes to the class schedule on this website so please check it regularly, at least weekly.


This class will probably prove to be one of the most time-consuming of your college career. To succeed, you will need to devote 10 to 15 hours a week to it. Consider it a part-time job and plan your schedule accordingly. Make sure you have at least one full day or two half days free during the week when you can go to government offices, meet with city officials, peruse government documents, sit in court and do other things that can only be done during the business day. You may also need to go to one or two night events. If you work full time on weekdays it may be impossible for you to complete the course assignments.


Plagiarism, the passing off of someone else’s work as your own, is a serious offense against scholarship, journalism and honesty. It is regarded as a serious offense by this university and this department.

In journalism, the object is to develop one’s own original body of work, based on one’s own reporting and research, and delivered in one’s own “voice” — in one’s own writing — in an effort to give the reader as faithful a rendition of the truth of things as we are capable.

By contrast, plagiarism delivers what someone else has researched and written under the pretense that it is one’s own work. The plagiarist lies to the reader by pretending the stolen writing is original, depriving the real author of credit, and denying readers the right to form opinions based on the real sources of information.

To call this a disservice to journalism is putting it in the mildest terms. When a journalist steals someone else’s work, it damages the credibility of all his or her associates, calling into question the integrity of the publication in which the plagiarized work is published.

Plagiarists fail their readers, their profession and themselves. San Francisco State University calls plagiarism “literary theft” and treats it as a disciplinary issue. Journalism Department professors regard plagiarists as liars and thieves and read their assignments with a disbelief beyond skepticism. Any assignment found to be plagiarized will receive an F.


The First Amendment assures freedom of speech and with that privilege comes great responsibility. Journalism plays an important role in our democratic society and therefore must uphold the highest ethical standards. Protecting the integrity of journalism also means protecting the journalistic credibility that audiences expect from reputable sources of news. As an institution of journalism education, it is our obligation to demand journalistic excellence from our students, following best practices of the profession and a code of ethics. This document is to guide students as they may struggle with ethical dilemmas that may present themselves routinely in their position as student journalists and interns.

This department abides by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, and in its broadest terms that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. While this document cannot be all-inclusive, it will touch on the most important aspects of ethical behavior as a member of the Journalism Program, a coveted and privileged position. If you are ever in doubt about what to do in a situation, do not hesitate to consult with a Journalism Department faculty member. Saying that you didn’t know is not a good enough response to a breach in ethical standards. It is your responsibility to find out if you don’t know or are unsure.

What to do:

Be professional. Always represent yourself as a San Francisco State Journalism student, particularly before an interview. This can be tricky in social situations where conversation is casual. There have been instances when people have revealed things not realizing they were speaking to a journalist. If such a situation occurs and what’s revealed to you may be important for a story, tell the person who you are and that you want to use the information in a story. Remember you are representing not only yourself, but also the department. Make us look good. Dress appropriately when on assignment. A guide to use is dress as your interviewee will dress – business attire if you’re interviewing a businessperson or public official, more casual clothing in a less formal setting.

Always strive for accuracy and fairness. It is difficult to be completely unbiased, but your safeguard against bias is checking with a variety of sources. Get outside of your circle and make sure you talk to people other than the usually cited experts or sources. Look for the shades of gray, for those are usually the most interesting places to dig into a subject. Go out of your way to check, then check again, then check one more time.

Ask, don’t assume. Don’t be afraid to ask what may seem to be an “obvious” question. Journalists can sometimes get into trouble because they assume rather than ask. Better to ask than to print or produce the wrong information.

Correct your errors. We all make mistakes, but the best journalists admit to them and correct them publicly. Check with your professor or student editor to find out how best to proceed.

Expose injustice, and give voice to those who rarely have one. This is the motto of some of the best journalists in the profession.

Be careful about pitching the same story to multiple publications or classes unless it’s clear such a practice is allowed. When in doubt, ask your professor or editor.

What not to do:

Do not fabricate anything. If you do, ultimately you will be caught and the fall will be mighty and great. The department’s policy on fabrication: If you are caught, you will receive an F on the assignment. But worse than that, such behavior will call suspicion on all of your work and you will be tainted as a liar and a fake. Usually people get themselves in these situations because they are unprepared and deadline pressure weighs on them. Don’t corner yourself. Prepare for interviews ahead of time. Do your research ahead of time. Locate sources ahead of time. If you have trouble with any of these things, faculty are ready and happy to help.

Do not plagiarize. This is another self-destructive path because you will get caught. The department’s policy on plagiarism: Assignments found to have copied work without citation of the source will receive an F. But again, if you are caught, you have made an unattractive reputation for yourself. People get themselves in this situation for a variety of reasons. Sometimes students think it’s OK to copy and paste from the Internet if it’s common knowledge. The best practice to follow: Whenever in doubt, cite the source and if you want some guidance, ask your professor.

Do not cheat. We expect academic honesty. Check with your professor about what exercises and assignments are for your eyes only.

Avoid conflicts of interest. These conflicts include but are not limited to preparing journalism assignments on subjects or institutions in which the student has a financial, family, or personal involvement, or a personal stake in the outcome. Do not become part of the story. In some cases the appearance of a conflict is just as problematic as an actual conflict of interest. When in doubt, ask your professor. Disclose all potential conflicts to your professor or editor before you begin your assignment.

Do not engage in conduct unbecoming of the department during class, while online or while on assignment. Such misconduct includes but is not limited to disruptive behavior, physical or verbal abuse, property damage, theft, lewd or obscene behavior, and discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or place of origin.


This course aims to be accessible to students with disabilities or medical conditions that may affect any course assignments or participation. Communicate with me about any accommodations that will improve access to the course. You can also contact the Disability Resource Center at 415-338-2472, Voice/ TDD.
All students may seek additional help from the Learning Assistance Center on campus.
At the LAC, tutors and faculty work with students to complete assignments while practicing effective reading and writing strategies, either individually or in small groups. The LAC focuses on all stages of the writing process:  understanding and fulfilling writing assignments, narrowing a research question, finding and evaluating sources, drafting and revising, following citation guidelines, and editing.

To contact the LAC:

Phone: (415) 338-1993

Location: HSS 348

Hours: Mondays-Thursdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Be aware, sensitive and inclusive of our diverse world in your story selection, sourcing, reporting and asset collection. Capturing the diversity of our communities is key to accurate storytelling and journalism.

Consider all points of view in any story, and seek to understand cultural factors and perspectives, particularly those beyond your own.

Learn to identify and push beyond stereotypical portrayals based on ethnicity, culture, gender, religion, sexual orientation or physical disability.


  1. Thou shalt stay in touch. E-mail is the best way to reach me. I’m an addict; I check it throughout the day. If it’s an emergency and you need an immediate response, call me. Or come to my office. I’m on campus Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays (see office hours above). When you e-mail me, use common sense. E-mails may not count as part of your grade, but they count as part of my overall impression of you as a student. Misspellings, grammatical errors, rants and whining leave indelible marks.
  1. Thou shalt not miss deadlines. Most assignments will be collected at the beginning of class. The deadline is 9:35 p.m. (Some assignments will be turned in via e-mail – see syllabus). Stories turned in after that will not be accepted and you will get a zero for that day’s work. Do not e-mail your assignments unless you have made arrangements with me in advance. Aside from your hospitalization or a death in your immediate family, there are no exceptions. Plan ahead.
  1. Thou shalt turn off all cell phones. When you enter class, turn off your cell phone and all electronic accessories unless we are using them for a class exercise. No, you may not step out of the room to take a phone call.
  1. Thou shalt not e-mail, browse the Internet or look at Facebook in class. If you want to take notes on a laptop that’s fine but if I catch you with your Facebook page, e-mail program or a website not related to the course open, you will not be able to use your computer in class for the rest of the semester.
  1. Thou shalt not misspell names or alter facts. The department has a strict rule on misspelled names: Any assignment with a misspelled name (including mine) or a major factual error gets an automatic F. The same goes for plagiarism or fabrication. We will discuss plagiarism early in the semester and you will be asked to sign a plagiarism pledge.
  1. Thou shalt attend class every week. Attendance is mandatory. Treat this class like a job. If you have to miss a class for a legitimate reason, such as illness, you MUST call or e-mail me in advance to be officially excused. In-class exercises and quizzes cannot be made up, no matter what kept you away. This class only meets once a week. Those who have more than two absences – excused or unexcused – will be in peril of failing the course. Keep in mind that when you miss a class you risk missing important class discussions, updates and changes in the syllabus. I sometimes adjust the schedule in response to class needs or news events; if you are not in class, it’s your responsibility to find out what happened.
  1. Thou shalt get to class on time. Walking in late is rude and disruptive. Quizzes will be given and assignments will be accepted at the beginning of class. If you are late to class more than two times it will affect your grade. You are also expected to stay for the whole class session.
  1. Thou shalt type all assignments. All assignments must be typed, double-space and follow Associated Press style and basic rules of grammar. I will not accept handwritten assignments.
  1. Thou shalt keep copies of all work. Stories have been known to disappear. Keep a photocopy or electronic backup of every assignment you hand in.
  2. Thou shalt rewrite assignments if thou wants to improve thy grade. You can rewrite most stories to try to improve your grade. Rewrites are due one week after you get the original assignment back. To get a higher grade, you must make substantial improvements, which will likely involve additional reporting. Your final grade for the assignment will be the average of the two grades. Rewriting is not an option for the beat report and public records assignments.


Your grade will be based on:

Weekly writing assignments 50 percent
Blog 10 percent
Quizzes and class participation 5 percent
Final exam 15 percent
Final assignment 20 percent

Final grades will be calculated according to this point scale:

92-100 A
90-91 A-
88-89 B+
82-87 B
80-81 B-
78-79 C+
72-77 C
71 and below No Credit

You need to earn at least a C for the course to count toward your major requirements.


You will be expected to do a lot of interviewing for this class. To ensure you get diverse perspectives and get the most interesting quotes possible, you will need to interview roughly three sources for every person you quote. You must provide a source list, including names, titles, phone numbers and email addresses, for each person you interview at the end of every story. I expect your source list will have at least two to three times the number of people quoted in each story. I may occasionally contact your sources for verification.

You may NOT interview friends, co-workers, roommates, lovers or relatives for assignments. You must have at least two degrees of separation from each source (for example, you can’t interview your cousin but you can interview your cousin’s co-worker if you don’t have any other relationship with that person).


Unleash your curiosity. Feel free to interrupt during class time to ask questions. If you are not bubbling over with questions you should probably start thinking about another field.

If you are not going to be in class you can leave assignments for me in my mailbox in the journalism department office or slip them under my door. But I must get them by the deadline.

This syllabus is subject to change. I will inform you in class of any alterations, but it is your responsibility to keep track of changes in deadlines and assignments. Good luck!


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