Course Syllabus 2020-2021 Kemp
Non-Fiction 1 & 2
Welcome to Non-fiction! As you probably know, this course is the prerequisite to Advanced Journalism and thus, regardless of your course intentions next year, you will be prepared to continue to pursue journalistic writing among other modes of writing.
“Journalism can never be silent: That is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.”
-Henry Anatole Grunwald, Time Editor
I am excited to be teaching this course and working with each of you individually as well as the class as a whole as we spend the next nine months (don’t worry...it will fly by; you’ll see) experiencing, recording, thinking deeply and responding to the events that unfold locally, nationally and internationally. Even more exciting to me is that, after years of teaching, I know that each of you will grow and progress over the course of the year and I look forward to bearing witness. My request of you is to be open to the learning. Look to me for guidance, but also find it within yourself to realize your own potential.
- Unit I: News and Investigative Writing
We will examine and discuss the influence and dilemmas of investigative reporting as we read excerpts from Bob Woodward’s All the President’s Men, John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood and other news articles. Through readings, discussions and supplemental article analyses, we will ponder the following questions:
To which code of ethics should all journalists adhere?
What responsibility does the press have?
Is it possible for the press to go “too far” in reporting?
What constitutes a “good” news story?
You will learn about the different types of news stories and the elements and composition of a newspaper that influences the response of the audience. Throughout the unit, you will learn and refine strategies to gather information for a news or sports story then draft, revise and publish a news story as you analyze the strategies and dilemmas of the reporter(s) profiled in the texts. You will demonstrate your understanding of what makes a “good” news story by learning and practicing critique and feedback of peer work.
- Unit II: Interviewing and Storytelling
In this second unit of the course, you will learn interviewing techniques to gain information to tell an authentic story. The central questions of the unit include:
As unbiased journalists, how do we help people tell their stories?
What strategies can be used in an uncomfortable interview?
How does a reporter show empathy, yet stay distant enough so as not to favor one source over another?
How can a photographer’s choice of photos change the way readers perceive a source?
You will hone your writing and journalistic skills as you read A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind. We will study race in America and the media’s role particularly over the past year in uncovering the systemic racism while simultaneously maintaining its position as part of that system. You will also study how journalists tell a story with multiple ideas from a single source’s narrative.
- Unit III: Data Journalism
In the third unit, we will engage with data and editorial/opinion writing to begin to understand distinctions between causation and correlation as we read professional pieces of data journalism and you will construct your own data sets. The questions at the center of this unit include:
How does one balance opinion and fact for best impact?
What constitutes a well-written opinion piece?
What is an editorial?
How can opinion pieces affect our community?
What’s the difference between causation and correlation?
We will read excerpts from texts such as Fast Food Nation, Rachel and her Children or Nickel and Dimed as we engage in discussions and evaluations of appropriate data collecting and conclusions. You will write short opinion pieces after gathering evidence to make a point. You will become proficient at the process of selecting topics and identifying possibilities for data sources in order to construct an argument. Many of the skills honed in this unit build on the argumentative writing you have used in other classes including social studies and science.
- Unit IV: True-Crime and Review Writing
In this unit we will study how to write reviews of everything from film to books to restaurants. We will read the nonfiction novel In Cold Blood and look at the reviews and public acclaim surrounding this publication of an obscure genre. We will look briefly at the differences between journalism and “true crime” writing. We will also explore Truman Capote’s strategies and legacy.
What is “true-crime”?
How is review writing’s purpose both different from & the same as other forms of journalism?
How is the style of review writing different from other forms of journalism?
What constitutes a well-written review?
What ethical concerns surround reviewing a local business?
- Unit V: Reporting America at War
In this unit, we will discuss and debate the unique aspects of war reporting as well as its necessity in a time when journalism is evolving rapidly. Unlike the other units of the course, this unit predominantly involves learning about the craft of journalism through reading with shorter writing pieces meant to provide practice at literary analysis rather than journalistic writing. The questions at the center of this unit include:
How has war reporting changed historically?
How do factors such as gender influence the stories that are told about foreign conflicts?
How has technology and other facets of journalism changed the way wars are reported?
Why do reporters pursue stories in areas of conflict when there is so much risk?
Becoming a student of journalism...a routine of media consumption
You will be expected to closely read and observe the media coverage of events that occur simultaneous to our studies. In the first weeks we will look at a variety of media sources and you will be expected to maintain a focus on the news as it happens throughout the year. Come to class with questions as well as answers.
Assignments...Practice, Practice, Practice
Homework will be regular and will serve at least one of several purposes: 1) reading in preparation for class discussion; 2) practice writing; 3) preparation for practice in a journalistic skill such as interviewing; 4) research and evaluation of sources; 5) viewing and/or reading of a news source
You will have the opportunity to focus on one genre of journalistic writing each unit. Each article will adhere to guidelines of that genre and will be accompanied by either a photograph, cartoon/drawing or graphic. In most cases these images should be created by you. You will also gain experience in layout and design. Each semester you are expected to be published at least once. You can get published in print or the web edition of the Bark. For your work on these articles, be sure to seek help from not only me but also your assigned Barkie and anyone else on the paper staff. Prepare to write multiple drafts for each piece.
You are an integral part of this class, whether you realize it or not. Your attendance and engagement matters to me and your classmates. If you miss class due to circumstances out of your control (as will be the assumption...) or otherwise, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed from a peer and by looking at the course website, in the calendar section at: redwood.org/lkemp. Should you have questions after you have engaged in both of the above, then come see me ASAP or email me at email@example.com.
-Any work you submit to me will be returned to you with feedback. There will not be summative grades on assignments, articles or checkpoints. This is to keep you focused on the feedback so that you will use my comments to improve your skills and understanding of concepts.
-Your scores will be visible in Google Classroom. This is for you to track your progress as work will be provided a 1-4 score or acknowledged as having been submitted. There is often a correlation between the submission rate of assignments and your final grade; in other words, it is much more difficult to do well in the class if assignments are not completed regularly.
-Because I ultimately am required to assign a letter grade to the progress in my class, you will see letter grades on progress reports. You should use progress report grades (is limited as they are) as a measure of how well you are meeting the standards of the course including attendance and engagement in the class.
A= indicates you have exceeded requirements for assignments and class activities and you are on the path to meeting the course goals. You have likely earned 3.5s and 4s on most or all components of most summative and revised assessments. In addition, an A is earned by consistently coming to class prepared and being actively engaged in class discussions or activities. When you earn an A on a progress report, you should be looking to challenge yourself to continue to grow as a student of journalism.
B= indicates you are on the path to meeting the goals of the course. You have likely earned mostly 2.5s and 3s on most or all components of summative and revised assignments. Your attendance is regular and you contribute positively to class discussions and engage in class activities consistently although you may need to take more initiative in assignments and collaborative endeavors.
C= indicates that you are struggling to make consistent progress toward meeting the goals of the course although at times you hit the mark. You may be displaying less effort than you are capable of. You have likely received predominantly 2s on assignments indicating that you are acquiring knowledge but not always showing understanding of material we are reading or consistent execution of skills we are developing. You should plan to see me when you find that this is where your progress seems to be.
-The instructions and expectations for the course and any given assignment will indicate the criteria for meeting the standard and exceeding the standard. Be sure you take time to see me if the expectations are not clear and/or the summative score seems inaccurate based on your progress and performance.
-Ultimately, your final grade is determined by the preponderance of evidence you provide as to your acquisition of the stated goals for skills and content related to our study of journalism, article writing and the topics of the books and units we study.
-Class attendance and preparedness will be reflected in your grade as the skills and material you are expected to master require you to come to class regularly and prepared.
Keep in mind your goal in this course should not be simply to earn a grade, but to make significant progress toward improving your skills and understandings of journalism as a profession as well as an institution in a democracy.