JOUR277 COURSE OUTLINE AND FORMAT
This class is all about producing in-depth enterprise journalism, the kind of stories that aren't necessarily based on press conferences or official handouts but based on the observations of the reporter. These stories will be longer than the ones you did in Jour175. Instead of doing roughly 10 stories of 500 words each, you'll be doing roughly five stories of 1,000 to 1,500 words.
You'll produce a story from each of the major
beats - cops, courts, town government and local schools, along with
other stories that I assign. Typically you'll have two to three weeks to
do each story. The key to this class will be in digging up stories
yourself. I can help you with this process but I want you to try to find
stories that are substantive enough to merit 1,000 words or more.
You'll do this by doing what reporters everywhere do - sitting in on town council and school board meetings, talking to cops, local business people, judges and so on. Also, read your local paper and your local version of Patch.com - they may have ideas. What you're looking for are not necessarily singular events but ongoing issues that affect the community, ones that people there are wrestling with and that may be a source of conflict.
Once you have an idea for a story run it by me. If I'm good with it then get started. Obviously these stories will require much more extensive reporting than you did in Jour175. You'll need to talk to people from all sides of the issue, and don't just focus on local officials. Talk to the people affected. If you're writing about a crime wave in a housing development, interview people who live there. If you're writing about how the recession has affected the local economy, talk to local business people, and so on. You get the idea.
In addition to interviewing people, be sure to get things like hard data and statistics. For instance, if you're writing about an increase in crime you're going to need stats showing how much crime is up. If the school district has a budget deficit, you're going to need dollar amounts. All of these stories will require a combination of human sources and hard data.
Also, the emphasis in this class is on producing stories that will make great clips, meaning I want your stories to be published, if not in the Centurion then in other local publications, in print or online. As we move through the semester we can talk about places you might submit your work.
One other thing - think visuals. A great story needs a good picture, graphic or visual to go with it, so as you do your stories think about opportunities to get pictures to go with them.