Beginning to wrap things up

We’ll wrap up work April 19 with the final draft — including headline, photos, sound bites, whatever you have — of your profile, then will continue discussing plans for your final project  — a currently newsworthy piece that involves multiple interviews, including sound bites and probably some sort of data, breakout and photographs or video, and is at least 800 taut, engaging words in length.

As discussed in class April 17, the final project can be any kind of story about any topic you think would engage a campus audience. We will talk about the ideas orally only — no postings to our website at this point — because we want to prevent any who might be looking at our site from appropriating your idea.

You should have a general topic and some intriguing early tidbits of information you already have gathered that indicate the potential for where the story is likely to go. Whether this is a hard news piece, an investigative piece, a human-focused feature, a profile or whatever is entirely up to you. Just make sure the idea is solid and quite engaging — the type of story lots of students would really want to read and would be surprised and emotionally impacted by.

We’ll talk more about this in class and in individual sessions to be scheduled between now and the start of finals week. We’ll also have a guest, Daily Illini news editor Karen Liu, who will talk to you about opportunities for working at the DI and maybe even give you some advice as an upperclassman in the major. We’ll also do some frank chatting April 19 about your general assessment of the course and your time as a student here followed by a first report on your final projects April 24.

One note for planning purposes: We will not have class Thursday, April 26. Our last class will be Tuesday, May 1, but your story — which you definitely should consider submitting for publication at the DI or elsewhere — will not be due in final form until the end of finals week, even though we will have earlier checkpoints at which drafts will be due.

GRADING CONTRACTS DUE

Also due April 19 will be your written grade “contract,” in which you should honestly evaluate the grade you think you deserve on your work to date plus the grade you aspire for with your final project. We’re looking at one grade for your entire portfolio of work combined.

If your candid assessment of your own work vis-a-vis the work of others to date isn’t what you would hope for in a final grade, you can make up for that with a more ambitious goal for your final project. You then will be allowed to continue working on your final project up until the end of finals week to get it to that level. If in the instructor’s assessment you do, and the instructor earlier agreed to the terms of your contract, you’ll earn whatever grade you want. Fall short and you may earn a lesser grade. Exceed your contracted expectation and you may earn a higher grade.

The instructor will discuss your contract with you in a one-on-one meeting to be scheduled before the final class. Most reviews of your stories will be conducted in one-on-one sessions, too. A special system for scheduling them will be unveiled shortly.

UPDATE ON TEACHER CASE

A couple of you asked that I update you on the case of the teacher accused of having sex with his students. His preliminary hearing, originally scheduled for April 16, has been postponed until June 4. Nothing new about the case is likely to emerge until then.