JRN 300: The Digital Newsroom

Fall 2016

Wednesdays 9:00 a.m.-noon

Willcox W10

Course Site:


Dr. Kate Fink, Assistant Professor


(Email is the best way to reach me; I usually respond within 24 hours)

Office: 223N Choate House

Office hours: M (Willcox Hall) 12-1 p.m., 4:30-6 p.m.

W 1-2:30 p.m.

Th 5-6 p.m.

Please make office hours appointments on Starfish.

Course description:

Over the past two decades, shifts in media technologies, corporate structure and the organization of public life have combined to change the practice of journalism. This course explores these shifts, with an eye to seeing how they affect journalism’s role in society. This is also an advanced reporting course, in which students will gain experience writing, interviewing, and exercising news judgment while using tools and techniques for reporting and publishing multimedia stories in the digital age.

Course objectives:

­–Understand how journalism is changing in the digital age and why

–Create and maintain blogs on newsworthy topics

–Use social media effectively as a reporting tool

–Practice mobile journalism that integrates text, audio, and visual elements

–Develop and interact with news audiences

–Learn about professional expectations for journalists

Learning outcomes:

As a result of completing this course students will be able to

–Identify digital newsgathering tools

–Choose appropriate platforms for effective storytelling

–Exercise news judgment in the development of a single-subject news site

–Build audience interest around a particular area of news coverage

–Demonstrate skills that news organizations expect of future hires

Required readings:

Briggs, M. (2016). Journalism next: A practical guide to digital reporting and publishing. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Sage/CQ Press.

The Associated Press Stylebook (a relatively recent print version, or you can subscribe online at

Other readings will be posted online.

You should read multiple credible news sources, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, NPR, and BBC, on a daily basis.

You should also follow reporting on the future of journalism on sites such as Nieman Lab, Poynter, Columbia Journalism Review, MediaShift, and First Draft News.

Required technology:

Our class website will serve as a hub for most of our activities:

Some of our class time will involve hands-on work with digital tools, so having a laptop, tablet, or smartphone in class may be useful. However, you should silence, stow, and otherwise not use electronic devices unless they are part of a class activity. Take notes by hand.

You will create free accounts on WordPress, Slack, Feedly, and Twitter (or you may use existing accounts if you have them). I encourage you to use additional social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Vine, YikYak, Reddit, and Quora.


Pace University students have access to, a site that hosts go-at-your-own-speed tutorials on a variety of tools. You must access it through the university’s website and log in with your Pace credentials in order to use it for free. You are not required to take any tutorials for this class, although you may find it useful to browse its offerings on WordPress, photography, audio, and video. Also, if you want to boost your employability as a digital journalist, I highly recommend checking out tutorials on topics such as Photoshop, Excel, and Python.


15% Class participation

15% Reading responses

20% Individual website

40% Pleasantville news website

10% Final exam


Class participation: Your grade is based on attendance as well as your active involvement in class discussions and activities. Characteristics of good participation include:

  • Taking part in small and large group conversations
  • Contributing interesting, insightful comments
  • Presenting good examples of concepts being discussed, including from assigned readings
  • Building on comments of others
  • Raising good questions
  • Listening respectfully and with interest
  • Attending all class meetings and being on time

You will be evaluated each week on a 10-point scale; just showing up earns you a 6. I strongly encourage active class discussion. You may also earn participation credit by sharing your ideas (about topics other than the assigned readings, since you’re already required to respond to those) by emailing me before class or by tweeting (make sure you include @katherinefink and #pacemcva in your tweet so that I see it).


Reading responses: You will respond to readings in the comment section of the Pace Digital Newsroom blog by 11:59 p.m. the day before class. Your responses should be at least 200 words, and you should be prepared to discuss them in the next class. Responses should go beyond a simple regurgitation of what you read. Focus on things that surprised you, confused you, and/or related to something you have read about or experienced personally.

The Pace Digital Newsroom blog will always pose a question related to the readings for the first commenter to answer. The commenter should then pose a question for the next commenter to answer, and so on. If someone sneaks in a comment while you’re still working on yours, too bad! You have to answer the question posed by the person immediately before you, no matter what. The final commenter’s question will be discussed at our next class.


Individual website: You will create a WordPress site on which you will write each week about developments in digital media. Each post should be at least 300 words and respond to a specific article you find on sources such Nieman Lab, Poynter, Columbia Journalism Review, MediaShift, and First Draft News. You should begin with a brief summary of the article, link to the article, and explain how the article relates to our readings and in-class discussions. Include additional links and multimedia whenever possible.


Pleasantville news website: You will contribute stories to a class website dedicated to Pleasantville news. Your duties will include pitching stories, reporting, interviewing, writing, engagement, and integrating useful links and multimedia into your posts. Assignments will include an interview with a Pleasantville resident; an interview with a Pleasantville official; coverage of a local government meeting; election-related stories; and other ideas you pitch.

A note on reporting assignments for this and other journalism courses: reporting, by its nature, requires communicating with other people and being in places at times that are not always the most convenient for you. If you are a procrastinator, and/or your schedule is jam-packed with other commitments, this course (and any journalism course) may be challenging for you.


Final exam: You will answer multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions about digital journalism and Pleasantville news.


No late work will be accepted.


You are allowed two absences before your participation grade begins to drop. In addition to not showing up for class, you may also lose participation points if you:

–arrive more than 15 minutes late

–leave early

–sleep in class

–use unapproved electronic devices (laptops, phones, tablets, etc. that we are not using for a class activity)

–read outside materials or do work for another class

–engage in side conversations

You will still be responsible for turning in assignments on time.

Inclement weather:

In the event a class session is canceled, you will be responsible for checking your email and/or logging into Blackboard to see what is expected of you. We may hold a virtual class session in place of an in-person session or you may have instructions awaiting you. If we hold a live class in Blackboard, it will take place during normal class hours.


You must act in a professional manner in your communications in class and outside of class. This means being respectful, polite and non-argumentative. It also means dressing appropriately for interviews and other meetings with people outside of class. Emails to me and/or to your classmates should contain a descriptive subject line and appropriate salutation.

Writing Center support:

The Pace University Writing Center (Mortola library 3rd floor) offers in-person, one-on-one sessions to students free of charge. Writing consultants can help at any stage of the writing process, including brainstorming topics, improving sentence structure, organizing ideas, and revising drafts. Make appointments early in the semester—they fill up!

Students with disabilities:

Pace University’s commitment to equal educational opportunities for students with disabilities includes providing reasonable accommodations for the needs of students with disabilities. To request accommodations for qualifying disabilities, students must register with the Coordinator of Disability Services. No one, including faculty, is authorized to evaluate the need and arrange for an accommodation except the Coordinator of Disability Services. Moreover, no one, including faculty, is authorized to contact the Coordinator of Disability Services on behalf of a student. For further information, please see Pace University’s Resources for Students with Disabilities.

Academic integrity:

All members of the Pace community are expected to behave with honesty and integrity in accordance with the university’s Academic Integrity policy.

Plagiarism, fabrication, or cheating will result in a failing grade for this course. You may not use assignments in this class that you have written for other classes or for prior publication. If you are ever in doubt about whether you are attributing information properly, consult the Pace University library’s resources, this guide from Purdue University, and/or me.

Stay connected with Pace MCVA:

Follow the Department of Media, Communications, and Visual Arts for information on communications-related courses, internships, events, and other items of interest. Also, use #PaceMCVA in your own posts to grab the attention of our students and faculty.

Facebook page

Facebook group




At times, I may share photos and assignments from our classes on Pace MCVA social media accounts in order to highlight great student work. If you do not want your photos or assignments shared, please let me know.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s