Grading a creative endeavor like journalism is difficult, but there are certain identifiable principles common to all good storytelling.
Good journalism requires more than good writing. Being a good (or even a great) writer will only get you so far here. The observing part is important as well. Observing includes digging out information, making sure it is accurate and weaving it into a narrative. It requires talking to people, lots of people, asking them questions and recoding what they say, how they say it and figuring out what they might mean. These elements are an important part of journalism and, consequently, are an important part of grading. I will ask you to push the boundaries of your comfort zone and will reward you for doing so.
Also, we will work with editors of the student newspaper The Hawk and the radio station WSJR to get the stories out to a wider audience.
There are four “main” assignments:
meeting/speech story I This story will require you to attend and report on a meeting or speech/talk.
meeting/speech story II Like the one above, but to a higher standard and including multimedia elements.
Both meeting/speech stories must be related to Saint Joseph’s or our immediate surroundings.
profile This will be an in-depth story about a single person and will include photos and audio.
audio/image slideshow A 3-5 minute piece.
Each assignment includes four parts: the cluster model, the pitch, a draft and a revision. The pitch is the written idea for your story. The first draft is simply that: the rough version. The rewrite is the final draft and the one that will eventually be posted online. I will provide more information about this process as the assignments get closer.
Between the draft and the rewrite we will scrutinize your stories in class through a workshop process. This is not designed to judge a story but to improve it through constructive criticism.
A group of smaller assignments will also account for part of the final grade. These include blogging assignments. I will assign one blog post topic per week and you will choose one topic per week to write on related to what we were doing in class that week. These can be posts related to your work (interesting side stories that you came across) or a topic related to the story itself. I will check your blogs often to keep track of your posts. These are due by 11 a.m. each Tuesday. You can’t insert these later, so if you miss a post during a week you lose those points.
Grading blog posts
Blog posts are assigned a grade from 0-3. Blogging, as Andrew Sullivan wrote, is kind of like “writing out loud.” Sometimes they will be fun to write (and read), insightful and important. Sometimes they won’t be so good. That’s the way it goes. So it’s tough to grade, but good blog posts usually include a few key characteristics. Here is some more advice. And here is the rubric:
3 – Post explores topic thoroughly but briefly (350 words max). It is conversational yet informative. We learn something from it. Includes other elements (image, photo, video etc.)
2 – Good post, but is too short or too long. Confusing or hard to follow. Contains another element.
1 – Hard to read. Too short or too long. Contains no other elements. We don’t really learn anything because it is so hard to read.
0 – You didn’t post anything by 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
Finally, participation is a key component of the grade. This class will not work unless everyone participates. But I understand that participation is easier for some than others. So the “participation” grade will be based on attendance, written comments, small-group discussion and full-class discussion.
Story assignments 50 percent
Blog posts and other assignments 30 percent
Participation 20 percent
As I noted earlier, most of the stories you produce will be public. They aren’t just for me but for everyone in class and everyone online. Journalism is a public act of creativity (versus journal writing for example) and so putting your work out there for others to read is the whole point.