Summer 2012
Reporting and Editing for Print and Online, JOUR 699
Updated May 18, 2012

 Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman
Zits  © King Features

      “It's impossible to teach anyone to be a journalist because most of the skills necessary to be a good journalist — an insatiable curiosity, a tenacity  for the truth and a love of words — must be developed within. Those of us who have chosen to teach journalism don't really teach, we merely light the way.”
--Malcolm Gibson, College Program Guide, The New York Times Co., 1999

The class meets at 9:10 a.m.-11:40 each Tuesday and Thursday in the Multimedia (Kansan Student Media) Newsroom in Dole.
     Instructor: Malcolm Gibson, general manager and news adviser, The University Daily Kansan, 120 Stauffer-Flint, and Gina Ford, visiting professional and graduate student.
     Contact: Office: 864-7667; home: 843-8276; cell: 766-8605; e-mail: mgibson@kansan.com.
     Office hours: During working hours — I'm in my office all day, so feel free to drop in if I'm not busy — and by appointment.

     Reporting and Editing for Print and Online moves the student from the classroom environment of Multimedia Reporting (JOUR 415) and Multimedia Editing (JOUR 419) to the working professional environment of The University Daily Kansan, its Web site, kansan.com, and (we intend) KUJH-TV. You will enjoy (hee, hee) the same experience in the eight-week summer session that your counterparts in the fall and spring experience during 16 weeks. Yep, that means you do about the same amount of work in half the time! Important disclaimer: This syllabus is a working document, which means it might be altered to some degree before classes officially begin. So, stay tuned.

     Reporting (and, as necessary, editing) shifts: Each student works as a reporter and, if necessary, a copy editor on the Kansan. That includes the weekly printed product, daily responsibilities for kansan.com and, as needed, reports for Kansan TV. It also will include the Back-to-School edition, which is published at the beginning of the fall semester. Note: You should consider the summer Kansan a daily product because there will be a “new presence” on kansan.com each day, with those stories (and others) appearing in the same or modified forms in the weekly printed product.
     You should consider this experience along the lines of a full-time internship or job. The experience and the requirements you receive during the eight-week summer session are parallel to the experiences you would receive in a 16-week regular session in an advanced media course.
      Important note: You report directly to and are responsible to the editors of the Kansan for this portion of the class. Your work will be assessed by your supervisors at the Kansan. Your grade for that portion of the class will be determined from:

Those assessments.
• My evaluation of those assessments.
• My conversations with the appropriate editors and you.
• Your published work.

     In addition to the meetings with me each week, each of you will have regular meetings with the supervising editors — editor, campus editor and/or copy chief — during the semester.
     Your work at the Kansan will account for 65 percent of the grade.
     Note: An unexcused absence or tardiness likely will result in the deduction of at least one letter grade from the final course grade. A second unexcused absence and/or serious tardiness likely will result in a failing grade for the course. (See attendance policy below. Note: You are required to inform the appropriate editors and me by phone or e-mail if you miss or are late for any reporting or copy editing shift. Failure to do so will be considered academic misconduct.)

     In-class work and participation: Exercises, occasional (and, often, surprise) quizzes, in-class presentations, and other projects and assignments will be part of the in-class requirements. You will be expected to show your expertise and knowledge of skills relevant to your work, assigned readings and handouts (including essays), “common errors” that crop up during the semester, and current events. You will be expected to participate and show that expertise in open class discussions, as well as, when necessary, quizzes.
    Note: Selected stories, essays and other resources will be provided as either handouts or placed on reserve in a selected spot in the Multimedia Newsroom. (Please be respectful by not hogging the materials and putting them back in their proper place promptly._ Those requirements will be on the class schedule or announced in class.
     This portion of the class will account for 20 percent of your grade. Note on quizzes: Timed quizzes will begin each Tuesday class promptly at 9:10 a.m.
    Note: An unexcused absence or tardiness may result in the deduction of up to one letter grade from the final course grade for each unexcused absence or tardiness. A second unexcused absence and/or serious tardiness likely will result in a failing grade for the course. (See attendance policy below.)

    Portfolio and beat memo:
Each student will prepare a portfolio that will include copies of all your reporting efforts and other work, as assigned. This portfolio will be compiled in a manner acceptable for presentation to prospective employers. Details will vary depending on individual needs. Requirements include a cover letter (to an appropriate contact person), a one-page resume with references, and photocopied clips, with appropriate commentary when necessary. The reporting portion of your portfolio will include clips for all stories produced during the semester. The final section of your portfolio will include all graded work, in-class work, handouts and other relevant materials, such quizzes. If you don't understand, please ask.
    Beat memo: Throughout the semester, you should keep a list of productive sources for your beat and individual stories. At the end of the semester, you will write a beat memo that will include a description of the beat and your responsibilities, the main sources and any stories that need to be “followed” or pursued in subsequent editions and semesters. Your beat memo will be passed along to the editors and individual reporters working for the Kansan in the fall semester. We will discuss the beat memo in class. If you have any questions, please ask then or during our one-on-one meetings.
     The final critique and portfolio, which will include your beat memo, account for 10 percent of your grade (50% for portfolio; 50% for beat memo).
   Note: Late submissions will be docked one letter grade and one letter grade per day thereafter.

    Individual meetings (“Meetings with Malcolm”): Each of you will meet with me, one-on-one, once each Wednesday for about 15 minutes at predetermined times. Those meetings will focus on issues important to your reporting, writing, editing and professional development. The discussion will include what stories you are working on and how best to develop those stories. You will be prepared to review all your work, particularly areas needing improvement, and to provide important feedback. The responsibility for initiating and maintaining these conversations is yours, not mine. If you don't understand, please ask.
     Assessments and interactions from those meetings will account for 5 percent of your grade. The grade will be determined on the quality of your interaction with me on issues central to the course and your work and grades on assessments. Note: An unexcused absence or tardiness will result in the deduction of up to one letter grade from the final course grade. A second unexcused absence and/or serious tardiness likely will result in a failing grade for the course.

Required books and materials

oldmanstack    • Associated Press Style Book and Libel Manual (latest or recent edition).
    • The University Daily Kansan Policy, Style and Layout Guide (latest edition). I do require that you learn it — well and quickly.
    • Access to a good dictionary and thesaurus.
    • Material on Professor Gibson's Wonderful World of Reporting and Editing Web site, which is available at www.ku.edu/~gibson/copyedit/, and his Multimedia Editing Web site at www.ku.edu/~edit/.
     • A three-ring binder for your porfolio, which also will include all graded work, in-class work, handouts and other relevant materials.


    • Daily newspapers, such as the Lawrence Journal-World, The Kansas City Star, USA Today, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. I also recommend national news shows on television and radio, especially NPR's “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
    • The Careful Writer by Theodore Bernstein.
    • The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.


    In the workplace, people who fail to show up for work without notice are soon fired. You will approach this course as you would your chosen profession. Obviously, attendance is mandatory for all shifts. An unexcused absence or repeated tardiness will result in up to a one letter grade deduction from your final course grade. A second unexcused absence and/or serious tardiness likely will result in a failing grade for the course. If you miss or are late for a required shift, you must inform the appropriate persons at the Kansan — and me — as soon as possible. Failure to do so also can be treated as academic misconduct. Any appropriate penalties will apply.
     Attendance also is mandatory for the class sessions. If you cannot attend class or if you are going to be late, you must contact me before class. If you do so, you might be excused. If you do not, you will receive a zero on that day's assignment, whether there is a graded assignment or not, and suffer other penalties as they apply, which likely will include a full letter reduction in your final grade for the class. A second unexcused absence and/or serious tardiness likely will result in a failing grade for the course. Note: Do not schedule interviews during class periods. “I have to miss class because I have an story...” is not an acceptable excuse (unless Strong Hall is burning down!).
     There will be no make-up work for missed exercises and assignments for unexcused absenses, and all deadlines must be met. Any missed deadline will result in a penalty of one letter grade and, then, one letter grade per day thereafter.
     If you don't understand, please ask.

     Here is the School of Journalism's official policy on attendance that was adopted in Spring 2003:
     “No student may add a journalism class after the 20th day of a semester.
     “Students must attend their classes and laboratory periods. Instructors may take attendance into account in assessing a student's performance and may require a certain level of attendance for passing a course. Instructors may choose to drop students from a course, based on attendance, without the student's consent.
     “The School of Journalism reserves the right to cancel the enrollment of students who fail to attend the first class or laboratory meeting.
     “The KU Office of Student Financial Aid is required by federal law to determine whether students who receive aid are attending each class in which they are enrolled. Instructors are required to report to that office absences of students who have stopped attending and names of those who have enrolled but never have attended. Students who do not attend classes may be required to repay federal and/or state aid.
     “Students who receive any form of Financial Aid should learn all requirements including minimum hours and grades to qualify for and retain that aid.”


    The obvious objective is to improve your reporting, writing and editing skills and to prepare you for a productive and profitable career in journalism.

    In addition, the class is designed to: 

    • Develop an appreciation for strong reporting, writing and editing.
    • Develop your vocabulary and reading skills. I believe that you can write and edit only as well as you read.
    • Develop your critical-thinking skills, which reading assignments and class discussions are specifically designed to enhance. This is an essential part of your development into a successful writer, reporter, editor and manager.
    • Develop a strong sense of story development and management.
    • Develop a good working ethict and the ability to collaborate effectively.
    • Develop strong leadership skills and a strong sense of professionalism.
    • Demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of groups in a global society.
    • Work ethically in pursuit of truth, accuracy, fairness and diversity.
    • Critically evaluate your own work and that of others in all relevant areas.
    • Provide you an opportunity to develop the skills necessary for a successful career as a communicator.


    Your final grade will be determined as follows: 
65% --
Your work on the Kansan, kansan.com and KUJH-TV.
20% --
In-class work, in-class critiques and in-class participation.
10% --
Portfolio and beat memo.
5% -- Individual meetings.

     Important note on grades: If you receive a C- or lower grade in any segment (reporting, copy editing, in-class work and participation, critique and/or portfolio, or individual meetings), that can be your semester grade at my sole discretion. If you don't understand what that means, please ask. This is to ensure that you put your full effort into each segment, a basic expectation of all professionals in a working environment.

Academic misconduct

    Cheating will not be tolerated. University policies covering academic misconduct are spelled out in the current Student Handbook, which is available free in Room 213 of Strong Hall.

     In addition, here the policy regarding plagerism adopted by the School of Journalism:

     The William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications does not tolerate plagiarism, fabrication of evidence and falsification of evidence.
     Penalties for plagiarism, fabrication or falsification can include a failing grade for this course and expulsion from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
     If you have questions about what constitutes plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, please consult the teacher of this course.
     The following definitions are from Article II, Section 6, of the University Senate Rules and Regulations, revised FY98.


    The requirements for this course likely will be modified for unscheduled assignments or activities, to provide an opportunity to reemphasize certain skills, or for any other unforeseen circumstances. In other words, it can be modified to meet individual and collective needs. 

About your professor

    I came to the University of Kansas and full-time teaching in August 1996 after 34 years as a reporter, editor and news executive at daily newspapers and the Associated Press. You should know that I'm doing what I'm doing because I have a passion for quality journalism and a lifelong love of the written word. If you don’t really want to know more, that's OK, But you might want to read my bio. It’s nice to know a bit about the person who’ll be preaching the “gospel of journalism” to you for the next two months.

    Thanks and good luck.