JOUR277 Public Affairs Reporting

Department of Language & Literature: Journalism

I. Course Number and Title
JOUR277 Public Affairs Reporting
II. Number of Credits
3 credits
III. Number of Instructional Minutes
IV. Prerequisites
JOUR175 (C or better)
V. Other Pertinent Information

This course will be scheduled in a computer lab/classroom so that students can learn computer skills necessary for success in today's journalism field.

The Department of Language and Literature has determined that journalism courses require a 5,000 word minimum in writing assignments.

VI. Catalog Course Description
This course is an introduction to public affairs reporting, including coverage of local government, public schools, courts, crime, and social services. Students cover town government and school board meetings, trials, and the police beat. Emphasis is on students producing stories suitable for publication in the College newspaper or local media.
VII. Required Course Content and Direction
  1. Course Learning Goals

    1. Course
    2. Students will:
      1. cover various beats, including the police, courts, town government and live speaking events;
      2. demonstrate an understanding of municipal budgets, taxes, and bond issues;
      3. display an understanding of how civil and criminal cases move through the courts, how to make sense of arrest records and uniform crime statistics, and how social service agencies work;
      4. demonstrate an understanding of the press freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as libel law; and
      5. maintain their own blog or website in which they archive their articles.

    3. Core (if applicable)
    4. Category III
      Critical Thinking/Problem Solving
      Students will:
      1. use methods, concepts and theories in new situations (Application Skills);
      1. integrate and/or combine knowledge from multiple sources to create new knowledge. (Synthesis);
      2. assess the credibility of a communication and the strength of claims and arguments. (Evaluation Skills).

      Information Literacy
      Students will:
      1. determine the nature and extent of the information needed;
      2. determine the technologies and information formats appropriate for the information identified;
      3. access needed information effectively and efficiently;
      4. evaluate information and its sources critically and incorporate selected information into their knowledge base and value system;
      5. develop an understanding of many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and access and use information legally and ethically.

      Responsible Citizenship
      Students will:
      1. demonstrate an understanding of major ethical concerns;
      1. identify the effects of a person's actions on the community.
  2. Planned Sequence of Topics and/or Learning Activities


    Students read assigned chapters from the textbook and take quizzes based on those readings. They take weekly news quizzes and are required to read a newspaper or news website on a daily basis; they demonstrate that they understand the importance of staying abreast of current events and know where to find a variety of news outlets and sources, including online and in print. Students read documents such as municipal budgets, arrest reports, and court documents.


    Students write spot-news stories as well as longer, more in-depth "enterprise" types of articles; they write a series of news-writing exercises; in-depth articles for the class in the basic news beats including police, town government, and the courts; and articles for the College newspaper.

    Journalism Fundamentals

    Students cover events in a variety of news "beats", including the police, courts and town government; produce in-depth articles for those beats; cover live events such as city council meetings; and use the reporting tools used by journalists. Students obtain information from a variety of sources, including internet websites, online databases and public records, and critically evaluate various sources of information for accuracy. Students conduct interviews and maintain a blog or website in which they archive their articles. Students help to produce and maintain a course blog that contains articles written by the class.

  3. Assessment Methods for Course Learning Goals

    1. Course
      1. Students take a series of quizzes based on the readings in the course textbooks.
      2. Students take weekly news quizzes to assess their knowledge of current events.
      3. Students complete a series of timed news writing exercises to assess their news-writing skills.
      4. Students write a series of news stories for the class and for the College newspaper. These stories are edited and graded by the instructor.

    2. Core (if applicable)
      1. Critical Thinking/Problem Solving: Students' critical thinking skills are evaluated in the context of accuracy and reliability of information they gain from a variety of sources, including interviews with contacts, websites, electronic databases, and public records.
      2. Information Literacy: Students writing is evaluated on the student's ability to determine the most effective and efficient sources of information, including internet websites, online databases, and public records; obtain information from these sources; assess the reliability of both the source and the information; and demonstrate that they are able to incorporate the information without copyright infringement.
      1. Responsible Citizenship: Through discussions and evaluation of their writing, students are assessed on their understanding of plagiarism, libel, and objectivity and fairness of news coverage. By studying and evaluating specific examples of newspaper work by professionals, students demonstrate their understanding of the need to promote the public good and recognition that their actions carry responsibilities and consequences.
  4. Reference, Resource, or Learning Materials to be used by Student:

    Texts: Instructors must select a text that focuses on the process of reporting and writing. Other texts may include a news agency style guide, a handbook, or other reference texts selected by the instructor. See course format.

Review/Approval Date - 4/99; Core Goals/Objectives added 4/05; Revised 5/2010