multimedia journalism

eng 2041
introduction to multimedia journalism

Mike Lyons • office:  Merion Hall 116
office hours: monday, 1-2 • wednesday 1-2 in Merion 150 • or by appointment
twitter: @jmikelyons

“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
-Pablo Picasso

about the course

Journalism seems simple enough. It is the timely observation and chronicling of events, occurrences, people, and places for others. Telling stories. Simple indeed. The difficulty comes in the execution; doing journalism is not so simple. The chronicling (writing down, recording) part is tough. So is the observing.

In this course we will tackle both. We will also analyze the ethical and legal challenges facing journalists and the cataclysmic changes the craft and profession are undergoing.  I have divided these different ideas into two broad categories: craft (writing, editing and reporting) and context (journalism’s evolving role in society and what it looks like online). Craft will occupy most of our time, but it is important to take an occasional step back for perspective and that’s where classes on context come in. Journalism now lives in a larger digital media context and part of our work in this course will be to figure out that context.


This course is about producing compelling, important, timely stories. Producing those kinds of stories requires a grasp of the fundamental tenets of journalistic writing. This style likely differs from writing that you are asked to do elsewhere in the university. Journalism is providing information to people and in this class we will do that using a variety of formats.

A sound grasp of journalism also requires a basic grounding in the consequences of telling stories to an audience. So this course also includes discussion of the role of journalism and “the media” in society.

The objectives for the course are that by the end of the semester you will:

• Improve your ability to communicate to a broad and diverse audience.
• Develop critical, creative and analytical storytelling skills.
• Critically evaluate a work’s clarity, concision, accuracy, fairness, style and grammar (both textual and visual).
• Tell stories using a variety of elements – words, audio, photos, video.
• Better understand and be able to critically evaluate journalism’s role in society.

books, etc.

The most important texts in this class will be the ones you produce. Your writing will often drive discussion and analysis. So be prepared to share your writing: not at first, but soon.

Three books (required):

• Mark Briggs, Journalism Next
Associated Press Stylebook
• Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Production (RGMP, a free dowload) RGMPbook

The first two books should be available at the SJU Bookstore, but I don’t care where you buy them. Just get recent editions.

In addition to this syllabus, an online schedule will be posted on my blog under “current courses” at There you will find the readings (with links where appropriate) and class topics, assignment due dates, etc.


This course is not just writing. Producing meaningful stories now requires a fluency in several types of devices and programs. We will integrate multimedia elements in our work from the very beginning. Knowing how to use technology in a compelling way is as important in this course as being able to write well.

The university will provide the gear – cameras, audio recorders, etc. – you need to produce stories. However, you will need some sort of storage device. A large-capacity thumb drive will work for much of what we produce. But you will need a sizeable memory device such as an external hard drive. You can get a 300 Gb drive from somewhere like Best Buy for well under $100. This will serve you well for lots of things. Your device must be at least 16 gbThe cameras, audio recorders and other equipment you will need is available in the IT checkout counter in the basement of Merion Hall. There is a two-day limit on checkouts, which is strictly enforced. The best way to meet that deadline is to plan your assignment well so you know exactly when you will need it and then pulling your files onto your storage device.

community of learners

Those of us who teach courses in the communications program view these classes as a connected community of learners. If you take more than one communications course you will likely see familiar faces. The courses are connected in their use of technology as well, but we have a finite number of cameras and audio recorders. So it is critical that you borrow equipment only when you need it and return it promptly after you are done using it. It is very likely that someone else will be waiting for it. In some classes, including this one, your participation grade will suffer if you hoard equipment (that is, you don’t return it on time). Your bank account will suffer too.


Grading a creative endeavor like journalism is difficult, but there are certain identifiable principles common to all good storytelling. This is no different in journalism.

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.

There are five “main” production assignments:

• Speech/talk/event assignment
Cover an event and produce a 500-word story with audio and at least one photograph.

• Website analysis
Choose from a list of website and do an in-depth analysis of a site. This will be submitted as a series of blog posts.

• Audio/image slideshow
A 3- minute story that includes still images combines with audio.

• Multimedia feature
A story that includes text, audio, stills and video arranged any way you like.

• Blog creation/maintenance
Creating and keeping up with your blog is a big part of the course. You will hand this in at the end of the semester as a portfolio.

A group of smaller assignments will also be part of your grade. These include weekly blog posts and assignments done in class or as homework. I will keep a running list of these on my blog and on Blackboard.

Another requirement of the class is to pitch at least two of your stories to The Hawk newspaper. More than two is extra credit.

Finally, participation is a key component of the grade. This class will not work unless everyone participates. Participation includes: attendance, discussion and being a good steward of the equipment.

Grade composition (total – 200 points)

Speech/talk/event assignment            20 points
Website analysis                                     15 points
Audio/image slideshow                        25 points
Multimedia feature                               30 points
Blog creation maintenance (portfolio)  40 points
Small assignments                                    25 points
Participation                                              25 points
Hawk pitches                                             20 points

Total                         200 points


Get stuff in on time and come to class. It’s as simple as that. Each 24-hour period, including weekends, something is late will cost you a letter grade. Extensions can be provided for documented illnesses or family emergencies. You need to notify me in advance to get an extension on a story. These will only be granted for emergency situations. Exams or assignments in other classes don’t count as emergencies. Good deals on plane tickets that take you out of town early for fall break don’t count either. Sorry.

on cell phones and civility and being a knucklehead

Please put your phones on vibrate when come in and forget about texting until class is over.
Also, we will talk about many controversial things this semester that many of you will have strong feelings about. Please respect the opinions of others as you would like to have them respect yours. Lastly, the success of this course depends on the constructive criticism of your classmates’ work so basically don’t be a knucklehead.

students with disabilities

Students with Disabilities:  For those who have or think that you may have a disability  (learning, physical or psychological), are encouraged to contact Services for Students with Disabilities, Room 113, Science Center, 610-660-1774 or 610-660-1620 as early as possible in the semester. Accommodations can only be provided to student with current (within three years) documentation.

Students are encouraged to discuss their instructional (“reasonable academic adjustments”) and accommodation needs with me.

All student requests for extended time to take examinations in a distraction free environment, must be discussed with the professor a minimum of one week prior to the scheduled date of the exam; the student must complete the Extended-Time Request Form and obtain the professor’s approval; and submit the form to the office – Services for Students with Disabilities a minimum of 3 days prior to the date of the scheduled exam.  Failure to follow these procedures could result in a denial of the request.

Exceptions to assignment schedules require prior written approval of the professor.

The syllabus and course schedule are subject to change – you will be notified in advance of any modification.

academic dishonesty

Journalism depends fully upon honesty and a commitment to the truth. I am assuming none of you will take any unethical shortcuts in your work. In case you are unsure about what constitutes academic misconduct, here are some rough guidelines:

• All work must be your own.
• You must accurately quote and represent all sources in your stories.
• Making up quotes, presenting material as your own interview quotes when you have simply lifted it from a Web site, inventing sources are examples of serious academic dishonesty.

For more information on academic dishonesty consult the university’s policy here:

Penalties for academic honesty could include failure of the course or worse.

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