Spring 2014 syllabus

Objective: There has been an explosion in the use of social media and blogs. Technology is changing so rapidly that professionals – journalists, writers, publicists, corporations, political campaigns, etc. – have been trying to keep up with evolving online expectations to engage/inform others without embarrassing themselves or the organizations for which they work by making errant social media choices.

That’s where this class comes in.

During this course, we will be exploring how professionals utilize blogs and social media to both gather and disseminate news and ideas, as well as how various organizations have attempted to implement social media guidelines in order to keep their employees out of trouble. In addition to studying what others do online and how social media affect the 24/7 news cycle, you will learn how to create your own online content. You’ll be starting a public blog (you may use a pseudonym), commenting on other students’ blogs, engaging others on Twitter and making and posting videos, photographs and audio content. In other words, you’ll become an online and social media guru. But before you can claim that title, we need to get to work.

Required texts: Books are available at the campus bookstore.

  • Journalism Next (Second Edition) by Mark Briggs
  • The Online Journalism Handbook by Paul Bradshaw and Liisa Rohumaa

Recommended: A collegiate dictionary/thesaurus (hard copy or an app).

Associated Press Stylebook (hard copy or the app).


  • Blog entries/blog participation: 35 percent
  • Twitter engagement: 15 percent
  • Project 1: 15 percent
  • Project 2: 15 percent
  • Project 3: 15 percent
  • Attendance and participation, 5 percent

Blog entries/blog participation: You will be expected to create a blog focusing on a specific content area. You are asked to post quality, well-written blog entries at least twice a week and add photos, video and/or audio. The blog will be publicly available (meaning: show your best public face because people outside this class will be able to read it). Students are not required to use their full names in their blogs and may use pseudonyms, although you must share the URL with me and the class. In fact, students are expected to regularly read fellow classmates’ blogs and post substantive comments on a variety of blogs. Included among the types of entries you will be expected to write: An interview, an analysis (including links), an informational post (including links) and a review. Blog entries are expected to represent your best work. They shouldn’t contain typos, sloppy writing or dead links.

By the end of the semester you should have published 20 blog entries and 15 substantive comments on blogs in your topic area.

Twitter engagement: Twitter is the vehicle through which professionals are not only engaging one another, but are also spreading news stories and ideas through the social network. News organizations expect reporters to regularly tweet, and those working in journalism, public relations, publishing, retail and politics use Twitter for many reasons from taking the public’s pulse, to promoting work products including articles, blogs, TV shows, films, products and candidates. You will be expected to create a Twitter feed that is associated with your blog and learn how to use it wisely. I will be following your Twitter account – which may have your full name, a pseudonym or even your blog name — and grading you based on the quality of your Twitter content, its professionalism, its level of engagement with others and its creativity.

Project 1: Students will select a news story or event (like the State of the Union Address, the Oscars, the Super Bowl, etc.) and follow it through the news cycle. Students should assess how it was depicted on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and on news organization web sites.

Project 2: Students will analyze how a professional organization uses blogs and social media. Students should assess the group’s media presence and make recommendations on how the organization could better reach its intended audience. Examples of organizations include: news organizations, retail outlets, professional organizations (like Major League Baseball) and political campaigns (the White House’s social media presence).

Project 3: Select a controversial issue that people are talking about within your blog’s subject area, research it and create a post for your blog about it. You may be creative by interviewing people or using graphics and/or video to supplement your writing if you wish. This should be your most well-researched blog item.

Attendance and participation: This is a discussion-heavy course. During our classes, we’ll be not only discussing the readings, but we will be doing in-class research and social media activity. At the beginning of every Tuesday class, we’ll be discussing what’s new in the world of news and online journalism. This is the time to mention a story you’ve seen during the week. We will also spend significant class time assessing one another’s blogs and social media activity. This is my long-winded way of saying: You need to attend class. If you don’t, your grade will reflect that.

One more thing … we will be using all kinds of technology in this class from laptops and tablets to smartphones. Oftentimes, we’ll be looking at Twitter feeds or web sites. However, that does not mean that it’s open season on texting, Facebooking, online shopping, etc. during class hours. Please be respectful of others in the class and do not engage in personal, online activity during class. If there’s a call that you must take, please step into the hallway. Better yet, wait until after class, unless you’re fielding a call from the President.

Workload: Students are expected to spend an average of 12 hours per week on out-of-class work for each week of the semester.

Student Info:

CASA: If you have difficulties in this class and feel as though you need extra help beyond what we can accomplish during my office hours, please consider visiting CASA (Center for Academic Support and Advising) for free tutoring. You can reach CASA at: 508-626-4509. Visit their web site here.

Academic Honesty: You will be expected to adhere to the University’s Academic Honesty code which can be found in the Undergraduate catalog:

“Academic honesty requires but is not limited to the following practices: appropriately citing all published and unpublished sources, whether quoted, paraphrased, or otherwise expressed, in all of the student’s oral and written, technical, and artistic work; observing the policies regarding the use of technical facilities.”

Violations of the Academic Honesty code include plagiarism and cheating on exams, tests, quizzes, assignments and papers. Plagiarism is defined by the University as: “claiming as one’s own work the published or unpublished literal or paraphrased work of another.”

Disability & Academic Support Services: The Ram handbook says:

“Framingham State offers equal opportunities to all qualified students, including those with disabilities and impairments. Framingham State is committed to making reasonable accommodations as are necessary to ensure that its programs and activities do not discriminate, or have the effect of discriminating on the basis of disability. The Office of Academic Support and Disability Services works with students who have learning and psychiatric disabilities as well as students with mobility or sensory (vision, hearing) impairments. The Office of Academic Support and Disability Services determines reasonable accommodations for qualified students.”

Here’s their web address.


Reading and writing assignments are due on the dates listed below.

Bring your laptop to class.

(1) Tuesday, January 21: Class introduction.

(2) Friday, January 24: History of online media. Online Journalism Handbook, pages 1-14.

(3) Tuesday, January 28: Journalists & online media. Online Journalism, pages 30-35.

(State of the Union Address, 9 p.m.)

(4) Friday, January 31: Why blog? Online Journalism, pages 74-84. Journalism Next, pages 37-44. We’ll also be comparing what we saw on social media vs. news coverage of State of the Union Address.

(Sunday, February 2: Super Bowl)

(5) Tuesday, February 4: Which blogs should you read? Online Journalism, pages 88-89. Journalism Next, pages 1-18. (In-class discussion comparing various blogs.)

(6) Friday, February 7: Why tweet on Twitter? Online Journalism, pages 85-88. Journalism Next, pages 89-113.

(7) Tuesday, February 11: Why tweet on Twitter? (Continued) Online Journalism, pages 85-88. Journalism Next, pages 89-113.

(8) Friday, February 14: Who should you follow on Twitter?

(9) Tuesday, February 18: Social media guidelines. (You’ll be expected to find an organization’s social media guidelines, bring them to class – having already read them – and be prepared to discuss them.)

(10) Friday, February 21: Creating blogs. Online Journalism, pages 34-44. Journalism Next, pages 45-62. (You’ll be deciding what your blog will be about during this class and will be assigned to create the blog.)

(11) Tuesday, February 25: Creating blogs continued. (We’ll be looking at one another’s blogs and trouble-shooting problems.)

(12) Friday, February 28: What should you write on your blog? Online Journalism, pages 80-82.

(Sunday, March 2: Oscars ceremony, 8 p.m.)

(13) Tuesday, March 4: Using photos, Flickr & Creative Commons. Journalism Next, pages 137-165. (After this class, you should post photos on your blog to accompany your content, consider creating an Instagram account.)

(14) Friday, March 7: The ups and downs of crowdsourcing. Online Journalism, pages 139-142, 149-155. Journalism Next, pages 65-80. Project 1 Due.

(15) Tuesday, March 11:  Visit with Joanna Weiss (no relation), Boston Globe opinion columnist and digital editor. Weiss will be discussing the social media and blogging expectations reporters face today. Each student should bring in a set of 10 questions each for Weiss. After class, the questions will be collected and counted as a homework assignment. Here’s a link to her articles: http://www.bostonglobe.com/staff/weiss

(16) Friday, March 14: Inaccurate information on social media. Watch CNBC Twitter documentary, PBS short video on Twitter. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Nl9xI-kAE8A)


(17) Tuesday, March 25: Graphics to supplement blog content. Online Journalism, pages 126-130. Journalism Next, pages 252-259.

(18) Friday, March 28: Skype interview session with Robert Schlesinger, managing editor of the Opinion section of U.S. News & World Report. Each student should bring in a set of 10 questions each for Schlesinger. After class, the questions will be collected and counted as a homework assignment. Here’s a link to his articles: http://www.usnews.com/topics/author/robert_schlesinger and to his Twitter page: https://twitter.com/rschles

(19) Tuesday, April 1: Podcasting, audio interviews. Online Journalism, pages 93-102. Journalism Next, pages 171-195. (During this class you’ll be expected to select a person with whom you’ll do an audio interview and post it on your blog.)

(20) Friday, April 4: Listen to student interviews in class.

(21) Tuesday, April 8: Developing an audience & participating online. Journalism Next, pages 263-311.  

(22) Friday, April 11: Case study: Using social media to promote ideas, stories and products. Project 2 Due.

(23) Tuesday, April 15: Discuss student projects. Check-in: How are the student blogs doing, traffic-wise, comment-wise? How have students promoted their content? What responses have they received? What is going on with their Twitter feeds? (We will be putting your blogs and Twitter feeds on the screen in class.)

(24) Friday, April 18: Video. Online Journalism, pages 105-117. Journalism Next, pages 197-226.

(25) Tuesday, April 22: Best practices in news video. (You will be expected to create a short video to supplement your written content and post it on your blog by the beginning of class on Friday.)

(26) Friday, April 25: View student videos. Discuss how they supplemented the written blog posts.

(27) Tuesday, April 29: Class workshop for Project 3.

(28) Friday, May 2: Discuss students’ projects. Project 3 Due.


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