Syllabus

CRN Section Time Day Location Instructor
61565 AB1 10:00AM – 11:50AM TR 1 Gregory Hall Meyer, E

This course is designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of journalistic reporting and writing as they apply in all media — print, broadcast and online. Included are such subjects as finding engaging topics, interviewing sources, identifying other ways of getting information, gathering and evaluating facts from documents and data, covering meetings and events, covering a topical beat, organizing information for impact and writing in powerful and appropriate journalistic forms.

The class is entirely hands-on and professional in focus. No tests, essays or papers are planned. All homework will be professional journalistic assignments.

The class meets from 10 to 11:50 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in Room 1 in the northeast corner of the lower level of Gregory Hall.

So we don’t have to waste everyone’s time repeating information, punctual attendance is expected. As an incentive, whenever two or more students who are supposed to be present are absent or tardy, doors will be closed and late arrivers will not be allowed to enter until after a pop quiz on current events and readings assigned for that day has been administered.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR

The instructor is Eric Meyer, an associate professor of journalism, former associate dean of the College of Media and a more-than-40-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 40 statewide awards this year, 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 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 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, chair of the College of Media curriculum committee, and a member of the provost’s Council on Learning Outcome Assessments, the Senate Admissions Committee and the Journalism Department executive committee. He previously served on the campus  Enrollment Management Strategy Committee, the systemwide Academic Programs Approval Process Working Group and the campus General Education Board and also served as chair of undergraduate deans and on several campus-wide technology panels.

  • OFFICE HOURS — Noon to 1:50 p.m. and 3:30 to 5:50 p.m. Tuesdays, 5 to 5:50 p.m. Wednesdays and noon to 1:50 p.m. Thursdays. By appointment (some weeks) 1 to 5:50 p.m. Mondays, 1 to 1:50 p.m. Wednesdays and 5 to 5:50 p.m. Thursdays. Other times, call (217) 244-8317 or email ekmeyer@illinois.edu.

Tentative course schedule

The plan, subject to modification as the semester progresses, is to introduce students to a different technique 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 topic. 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, though it may have a final project due during finals week.

A very tentative schedule for the semester, subject to change upon review of forms submitted in the first week of class:

  • WEEK 1 — Introductions
  • WEEK 2 — Story ideas
  • WEEK 3 — Interviewing
  • WEEK 4 — Covering events
  • WEEK 5 — Locating data
  • WEEK 6 — Evaluating data
  • WEEK 7 — Covering a beat
  • WEEK 8 — Profile writing
  • WEEK 9 — Opinion writing
  • WEEK 10 — Print
  • WEEK 11 — Audio / video
  • WEEK 12 — Online
  • WEEK 13 — Project

textbook and required items

There is no  text for this course. Reading material will be posted to this website as the semester progresses. If you wish to consult a text for supplementary reading, many of the topics discussed in the class are also discussed in Inside Reporting by Tim Harrower. The book probably is worth reading for this class. However, because no tests will be based off of it, it is not officially listed as required.

Students also should plan to keep up with the news throughout the semester, regularly reading one or more local print newspapers and one or more national or regional newspaper websites and regularly watching or listening to local and national news broadcasts on TV and radio. Many assignments in the class will be local in nature, so making a point to regularly read the Daily Illini and News-Gazette and watch newscasts from stations like WCIA-TV in addition to your normal preferences for obtaining news will be important. Remember: As a journalist, you need to keep up on all the news, including news you personally aren’t particularly interested in.

Bring your laptop or a removable storage device that will work with classroom laptops to class each week.

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.
  • ATTENDANCE — Attendance and regular use of the course website 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. Review campus police handout.
  • GRADING — This course uses portfolio grading with the ability to re-submit assignments until they reach a satisfactory level. 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 a minimal number of course sessions, 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 minimal standards, students will receive a course grade of A.