MCOM 257 Journalism & New Media I

Mass Communication and Communication Studies Department

Towson University

Spring 2018–Class meets in MC 110 for both sections

Class meeting time: M/W 9:30-12:10 in MC 110 (7 week section)

Course description: An introduction to the writing skills required in print, broadcast, and online journalism, and emerging news media formats. This course is designed for students choosing the Journalism/New Media track in the Mass Communication major. The course is a gateway to the first of two in a convergence journalism sequence in which students will learn to report, write and present news for all major media platforms used in contemporary journalism. Prerequisite: Students must have received a C or higher in MCOM 101.

Jenny Atwater
Office: Media Center, 204
Office Hours: Monday: 12:30-2:00; Tuesday: 11-12; Other days by appt.

EMAIL (| Office phone: 410-704-2004


1. Learn news values and news judgment, i.e. “what makes the news.”
2. Learn the basic writing style for online news media and emerging news media formats.
3. Learn the basic writing style for broadcast news media.
4. Learn the basic writing style for print news media.
5. Become aware of some of the commercial, ethical, and legal issues affecting converged journalism and develop an understanding of how to create accurate and fair news reports in that environment.


  • News assignments may include: a one-source news brief, a StoryCorps-style audio clip and brief, basic text stories (event, localized news, obituary, public meeting such as a county council meeting or a court hearing), one feature or profile, and one slideshow. Each will be published to your website and accompanied by photos/video/audio taken by you.
  • A midterm exam.
  • A final exam demonstrating your knowledge of textbook readings and ethical and legal issues.


To complete this course successfully, you will need:

  • A can-do / figure-it-out attitude. In the interest of full disclosure, I must warn you: I do not know the answer to every question. This leads me to two points here: 1) Your job is to get the story. So, for example, if one source isn’t calling you back, it’s your job to figure out another source for your story. I can give you suggestions, but I won’t reduce the number of sources required for your story. 2) There’s a lot of technology in this course. If you’re having problems with your Droid, for example, I may not be able to help since I use an iPhone. If you’re having a problem that we haven’t addressed in class, your first duty is to Google it, search the help docs, and look through the help forums. Chances are someone else has already figured out a work around.
  • A WordPress-driven website. All of your stories will be published to your website. Also, this site will be the basis of your professional portfolio and identity.  Register for a free blog on The blog name should be your professional name, as in: (Required)
  • Books: Inside Reporting , the Associated Press StylebookThe Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency (Required)
  • Computing: Access to a computer, access to a digital camera (a simple digital point-and-shoot is fine for this class), a video recorder, and an external hard drive. For MCOM 258, where you will be editing video, you’ll also need a portable drive that has at least 250 GB of storage and is fast enough to edit video. If you plan to take Broadcast I and II, I recommend you buy a LaCie Rugged. I also recommend Iomega drives because they come in a variety of sizes and are a little less expensive.


Since this course is intended to teach you the basics of the business, it is also the appropriate place to begin practicing the professional standards that will be expected of you in the workplace. In the classroom, this means:

  1. Meeting deadlines without complaint.
  2. Attending and actively participating in all classroom meetings.
  3. Exhibiting professional behavior during class by refraining from: checking email, facebook or other websites during class;  making or receiving phone calls or text messages during class;  leaving class for water or bathroom breaks.
  4. Allocating an appropriate amount of time outside of the classroom for assignments, interviews, lab work, and consultations with the professor.
  5. Understanding that it is YOUR responsibility to turn in your work on time. I will NOT seek out missed assignments from you.

As your professor, you can expect that I will:

  1. Be fair in applying class policies, grading criteria, while adhering to industry values and standards.
  2. Conduct useful discussions that will help you complete your assignments and provide some one-on-one feedback during lab time.
  3. Answer email promptly between business hours on business days (generally 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday).
  4. Post and keep office hours. (This is the appropriate time to discuss personal matters such as missed deadlines and class absences, questions regarding grading or missed coursework. This is also a good time to get my feedback on assignments you are working on before they are due. I am always happy to read and comment on rough drafts.)


Late assignments
This is a journalism course and you are expected to meet deadlines. Late assignments are not accepted. This includes classroom items such as quizzes and exams. If you are late to class, you’ve missed a deadline. Quizzes are given right when class starts. If you are more than five minutes late, you will not be able to take the quiz.

A special note about exams: if you are going to miss your midterm or final exam, you must contact me before the exam to let me know. To make up the exam, you must provide written documentation of an illness or emergency. You must make up the exam as soon as possible.


Students are expected to attend all classes. Frequent absences may affect your final grade.

Excused absences: It is the policy of the university to excuse absences for illness, injury, religious observance, participation in university activities and compelling, verifiable circumstances beyond your control. If you are requesting an excused absence, you must provide documentation. Graded assignments, quizzes, tests, etc., may be made up in the case of an excused absence.

Unexcused absences: All other absences are unexcused. For the  7-week class, students are allowed one unexcused absence per session. If you miss more than one class, you will lose all 10 points of your participation grade. Full semester students are allowed two unexcused absences. If you miss more than 2, you will lose all 10 points off of your participation grade.  If you are late to class (more than 5 minutes) you will lose 3 points off your participation grade for each three times that you are late. 

If you know you will be absent, it is your responsibility to do the following: 1) Email any homework to me before class starts. 2) Check with classmates and the course website to keep up to date on readings and assignments. 3) Meet with me during office hours should you have any questions. 4) Remember that it is YOUR responsibility to make sure you keep up with your work.

Students with Disabilities
This course is in compliance with Towson University policies for students with disabilities.  Students with disabilities are encouraged to register with Disability Support Services (DSS) 7720 York Road, Suite 232, 410/704-2638 (Voice or TDD) Students who suspect that they have a disability but do not have documentation are encouraged to contact DSS for advice on how to obtain appropriate evaluation.  A memo from DSS authorizing your accommodation is needed before any accommodation can be made.

Student Athletes
Within the first two weeks of class, obtain a letter from your coach explaining your place on the team and a schedule of any away games or competitions during the semester. Make arrangements to  take any tests or prepare any assignments that conflict with this schedule before the test or due date, not after.

Legal Liability
In all assignments, students must comply with all laws and the legal rights of others (e.g., copyright, obscenity, privacy and defamation) and with all Towson University policies (e.g., academic dishonesty). Towson University is not liable or responsible for the content of any student assignments, regardless of where they are posted.

The best way to avoid plagiarism in this course: (1) Do your own, original reporting. (2) Write your own sentences. (3) Quote and attribute anything that you did not write yourself. (4) Get a head start on deadlines so you do not have to face temptation. (5) Do not try to recycle projects/stories from your other classes without prior permission from me. The university policy on academic integrity states it is a violation to submit “substantial portions of the same academic work (including oral reports) for credit more than once without authorization of the instructor(s). What constitutes a ‘substantial portion’ of the same work is determined soley by the university. Please familiarize yourself with the MCCS plagiarism policy. All cases of plagiarism will be handled according to this policy.

Legal Liability
In all assignments, students must comply with all laws and the legal rights of others (e.g., copyright, obscenity, privacy and defamation) and with all Towson University policies (e.g., academic dishonesty). Towson University is not liable or responsible for the content of any student assignments, regardless of where they are posted.

College of Fine Arts and Communication Civility Code

All COFAC students, staff, and faculty are expected to exhibit and practice civil behaviors that exemplify: (1) respecting faculty, staff, fellow students, guests, and all university property, policies, rules and regulations; (2) taking responsibility for one’s choices, actions and comments; (3) delivering correspondence – whether verbal, nonverbal, written, or electronic – with respectful language using professional writing standards and etiquette; and (4) accepting consequences of one’s choices and actions.
The use of offensive, threatening or abusive language, writing, or behavior will not be tolerated and can lead to academic dismissal. Further information about civility can be found in Appendix F of the university catalog, or at this link:

TU Weapons Policy

Towson University prohibits students from bringing weapons to campus. Please click on the link above for more information.

And finally…
Towson requires me to remind you that you may not attempt a class for the third time without prior permission from the Academic Standards Committee. Information regarding this policy can be obtained through Enrollment Services.


There will be at least 200 points available in this class. They will come from:

  • Quizzes: usually worth up to 5 points
  • News stories and briefs: worth up to 12 points each
  • Newsroom 101: 20 points
  • Midterm exam: 50 points
  • Final exam: 50 points
  • Participation: 10 points

Story grades are given using this grading scale:

A or A- | 90 – 100 | Publishable work. It is a story that is clear, interesting, and well-written. It has thorough reporting, good organization, effective quotes, smooth transitions and no spelling, grammar, or accuracy errors.

B+, B, B- | 80 – 89 | Publishable with some editing. It may have some minor spelling or grammatical errors. The lead is effective. The body is cohesive and well-organized. The reporting covers almost all of the important information.

C+ or C | 70 – 79 | Requires extensive editing to publish. Several sections must be rewritten. The lead may be buried or fail to focus on the most important aspects of the story. The body of the story is disorganized and contains many minor errors. In reporting, it missed some pertinent information.

D+ or D | 60 – 69 | Needs a complete rewrite to be published. The facts are presented ineffectively. The story contains an unacceptable number of spelling, grammar, or accuracy errors.

F | Below 60 | Contains major factual errors or distortions. Names are misspelled. Could not be rewritten and published.

Other course grading notes:

Students may receive upper level elective credit with a D, but this course will not count among MCOM credits.

A course grade of FX is given for non-attendance or failure to withdraw. If you stop attending class but do not withdraw, this is the grade you will receive.

An I or incomplete can only be given “verifiable medical reasons or documented circumstances beyond their control” (Towson University Undergraduate Catalog).

If you receive an F or FX, you may only repeat the course once. After repeating the course, students will only receive credit for the course once and the highest of the grades will be calculated. The lower grade will remain on the transcript with an “R” before it to indicate the course was repeated. For the transcript to reflect the repeated course, students must submit a Repeated Course Form to the Records Office. Transcript adjustments are not automatic (Towson University Undergraduate Catalog).

Letter grades will be assigned according to this scale:

93-100 A
90-92 A-
87-89 B+
83-86 B
80-82 B-
77-79 C+
70-76 C
60-69 D
0-59 F