J202 Fall 2017

Lecture: Monday 9:30 to 10:55 a.m.
2195 Vilas Hall


Welcome to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW-Madison! I hope you have rested up over break and are prepared to work hard, because we’re going to cover a lot of ground this semester. We’re going to work together to provide you with the practical and conceptual toolkit you’ll need to work in a professional media role. Much of our time will be spent on various forms of media writing, critical thinking and developing your ability to take what you know and adapt to changing scenarios. You will also develop skills for both informative and persuasive communication, such as research, writing, editing, analysis, as well as video, audio and Web production. By the end of the semester, you’ll be ready to use those skills in higher-level classes in the school.

You’ll be able to find everything you need to know for this class on the course website (yes, the one you are currently reading) at It will be updated regularly with more information about assignments, readings, tip sheets, quiz keys and more. Check the website regularly. We’ll only use Learn@UW for grading.

By the end of this semester in J202, you should be able to do these things:

  • Write clearly, concisely, effectively and efficiently for a variety of media platforms and formats
  • Think critically (asking the right questions in interviews, collecting and analyzing information, and putting together information)
  • Review information, decide what is important and communicate it in an appropriate way
  • Create professional, ethical work that uses proper grammar and style
  • Work well in partnership and teams
  • Speak and write with authority about current events and trends
  • Meet deadlines and competing demands
  • Evaluate how to best present stories in a variety of formats, including audio, video and online — and produce them that way


The rumors about J202 are true: you’re going to work hard. Very hard. But by the end of the semester, you will be proud of all that you’ve accomplished and have to show for the work you’ve done. Most students feel pretty pressured right out of the gates. But by Week 12, you’ll be looking back and marveling at how far you’ve come. Reaching that level of achievement will require a strong commitment from you.

You are expected to be in every class — that means every lecture and lab — and to be an active participant when you’re there. J202 involves a mix of individual and group work, and you have a responsibility to be a strong contributor across the board. Participating in class discussions, group work and other assignments will translate to higher grades, but you’ll also get more out of the class. Everything you do in J202 has a purpose. You won’t find any busywork here. So actively engaging with everything asked of you will result in better preparation for later J-School coursework, as well as internships and jobs.

You’re not going to do this alone, of course. I’m ready and available to be part of your learning experience. I love learning from all of you, and I’ll make every effort to get to know you this semester. Please come visit me during my office hours (I’ll announce more than my regular weekly hour at certain times in the class), and email me or contact me on Twitter at any time. (Just know that I’m not always as active and available between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.) Please don’t hesitate to contact me via email, our Facebook group or phone at any time, but please understand that I often do not respond in the evening. With my teaching and “real life” schedule, it may take 24 hours to get back to you. Plan ahead, so you’re not left hanging. My favorite part of my job is getting to know you and building a relationship with you. This is a hard course with a ton going on, and I can only help you succeed if I know who you are and how things are going.

Here are the elements that make up your grade:

  1. Individual assignments (15 percent, lowest score dropped)
  2. Midterm writing assignment (5 percent, no drop)
  3. Group projects (10 percent, no drop)
  4. Individual story (30 percent, lowest score dropped)
  5. Final project (25 percent, no drop)
  6. Quizzes (10 percent, lowest score dropped)
  7. Engagement and participation, including portfolio site and blog (5 percent, no drop)

Every assignment is graded from 0 to 100. By showing up, doing the work and turning it on time, you start with a 70 and earn and lose points from there. The better you do on meeting the expectations for the assignment, the higher your grade will be. Any fact errors, spelling or grammar mistakes, poor analysis, style issues or other problems that take away from the quality of your piece will mean fewer points.

You will get a zero if you fail to turn in an assignment, submit it after the appointed deadline, or miss a class when an assignment is given, critiqued or turned in. So, don’t miss class or deadlines. In the real world, there is no excuse for not turning in a story or assignment when it’s due. I spent more than a dozen years in my professional career hitting deadline after deadline — it can be done with proper planning and hard work.

I know many of you track your grades closely, but there are so many assignments coming at you this semester, you will find it difficult to keep track of your grade at any given time. No one assignment will make or break your grade, so you’ll want to consistently do well over the entire semester. In case you oversleep or forget about an assignment, remember that some of the lowest scores are dropped. If you have any questions about how you are doing, please seek me out to discuss it.

You may make up an assignment under two related conditions:

    1. You have an excused absence (such as an illness documented by a health care professional; participation in a UW-sponsored activity, such as a sports team or artistic performance; or observance of a religious holiday).


2. You notify your TA and me in advance of your absence.

If you need an excused absence for a planned event (obviously not illnesses or deaths in the family), you must notify your TA and me by email within the first two weeks of class. Make sure to send me your name, section number and TA, date of absence and the reason you’ll be absent. Personal plans, such as family travel, don’t qualify as excused absences.

If you need learning accommodations for disabilities of any kind, please bring me a visa from the McBurney Center within the first two weeks of class. I’m happy to work with you and your TA to make any necessary arrangements.

Here is a rough idea of how course grades will be calculated:


Rounding is not automatic and is at my discretion. A number of factors demonstrating your effort in and engagement with the class may contribute to a potentially higher grade. These include perfect attendance in class, coming to office hours with your TA and me, completion of extra-credit opportunities, and demonstrating commitment and leadership in your lab.

Academic misconduct

Nothing – and I mean nothing – is taken more seriously in J202 than our mutual integrity.

You should all know what plagiarism is. It can take many forms, but here are some things we have seen in 202 that amount to academic misconduct:

  • cutting and pasting material from other students’ papers, including work in previous semesters
  • taking from stories or papers written by others and replacing only a few words or phrases but keeping the meaning and context identical (often called “patchwriting”)
  • lifting material from websites and using in a story without attribution, such as pulling a list of health tips from the Centers for Disease Control
  • making up a source or pretending you spoke with someone you didn’t
  • drafting soundbites and asking a source to read them for recording
  • using material from another student’s reporting or interviewing without permission and attribution
  • looking at another person’s quiz while taking it
  • accessing TA lesson plans or grading guides without permission
  • allowing other students to use your material to cheat (i.e., OK’ing their plagiarism)

This is not an exhaustive list. It just gives you an idea of the things that have happened in this class and have resulted in failing grades. All work you submit must be your own writing, paraphrased and attributed material, and direct and attributed quotes from sources.

If you have questions about plagiarism or whether what you’re doing is wrong, please ask. You will not be punished for asking, but you will be disciplined for plagiarism. (For more on academic integrity, check out and We take this very seriously, so it is up to you to be sure you understand how to avoid any problems.

Like many instructors in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, we will be using Turnitin software as one tool for maintaining academic integrity. Once an assignment is submitted to Turnitin, it will be compared with published or submitted material, such as websites, print publications and a database of prior 202 work. I will receive a report with a “similarity score” and details about possible matches between a student’s story and other sources. After reviewing that report, I — not the software — will evaluate and decide whether there has been plagiarism or other academic misconduct. Your assignments will be kept in the global Turnitin database to be compared with future students’ work, but I will be the only person who can view your assignment there.

If I determine there has been academic misconduct, including plagiarism, making up quotes or sources, or turning in material that’s not your own, your punishment will include an “F” for that segment of your grade for the course and referral to the Division of Student Life for discipline by the university. Depending on the severity of the misconduct, it may also mean an “F” for your final grade.

Both of those scenarios have occurred in J202 — and it’s a nightmare for all involved. I encourage you to think not about the punishment if you choose to do something wrong but instead about all the reasons for you to choose something right. Integrity matters. Lay its foundation from the start of this course and build on it throughout your life.

We’ll have you reading a mix of texts, stories, features and interactive packages throughout the semester. You should follow along with each week’s readings on the schedule and readings spreadsheet. All readings should be completed before the lecture for the week they’re assigned.

There are four required materials for J202:

  1. The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual (2017 edition is best, but the 2016 version will work)
  2. The Media Handbook, by Katy Culver, Megan Duncan, Stacy Forster and Mike Wagner
  3. New York Times digital subscription (see for deal)
  4. Storage/backup technology:

This course will require you to do a lot of work both in lab and at home, so you will want to have some way to transfer your work between locations. In addition, it’s always a good habit to periodically backup your work. You are highly recommended to use one of the following options in order to do this:

  • Flash drive or external hard disk (minimum 4GB, but get the most storage you can afford)
  • Online storage, such as:

Media consumption
You cannot succeed in this course — or as a citizen — without consuming the news daily. At the very least, it will help you with our weekly quizzes, but you cannot hope to work in the media field without consuming what is already being produced. It is part of building a foundation for you as a communicator, whether that’s in journalism, public relations, advertising or another area of the field.

Here are some ways to stay plugged into the things we’ll be talking about in class:

  • Follow #J202 on Twitter
  • Read a local and national newspaper every day — locally, check out the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin State Journal, Capital Times or Isthmus, and nationally, the New York Times (required for J202), Wall Street Journal or Washington Post offer a full array of stories
  • Listen to or check out a daily local and national newscast on TV or radio
  • Keep up on student news through the Badger Herald, Daily Cardinal, Inside-UW (from the university administration) and
  • Take advantage of websites that pull together news for you, such as Google News
  • Seek out at least one specialty publication in an area that interests you (think Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, AdAge)

For our discussion of J202 in our first lecture, please come prepared with responses to these questions:

  • What two things surprised you most about this syllabus?
  • What three questions do you have about the course?
  • What’s one thing that’s confusing you about J202 right now?
  • What’s one thing that’s making you nervous about J202 right now?
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