Course Descriptions

Click to view the full schedule of Spring 2016 journalism classes. Please contact your advisor if you have any questions about the schedule.

191 Journalism Success: Thriving as a Major (Roche, Fox, Sibii)

This first year seminar will introduce students to the traditions and expectations of the Journalism Department, as well as resources and opportunities that will help them as they move through the major. Through workshops and exercises, students will meet faculty, get to know campus media and career services staff, learn about the writing and academic expectations of the program. Open to Journalism majors and SBS exploratory track students.

201 Introduction to Journalism (Pasha, McDermott, Zamith)

In this course, we will study the principles and practices of journalism as well as journalism's role in a democratic society. We will explore journalism's impact on public policy, private lives, and the increasing role of citizens within the context of the contemporary convergence of multimedia. Class discussions will address the historical development and future of the field, including new technologies and changing strategies. Techniques, methods, and models guiding the contemporary practice of journalism will be given particular emphasis. We will cover news, feature, and profile writing, cultural commentary, op-ed, and narrative journalism. The fundamental skills of a journalist will be introduced, including research and interviewing, fact-checking and attribution, style and persona. Guest speakers may include journalists who can speak to specialized areas of journalism. Open to Freshmen and Sophomores of any major. 

225 Readings in Journalism (Sibii, McBride, Blais)

Throughout this course, students will read works from journalists from a variety of genres to gain insight on how they gathered and reported news and information. From the drama of covering the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to covering Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's historic Presidential race and the development of an entirely different type of journalism online in the form of blogging, students will examine the techniques and ethical mores utilized by those who gather, write, broadcast and post information. 

292N News Literacy (Fox)

What is fact? What is fiction? Can we even tell the difference any more? Today's 24-hour news environment is saturated with a wide array of sources ranging from real-time citizen journalism reports, government propaganda and corporate spin to real-time blogging, photos and vidoes from around the world, as well as reports from the mainstream media. In this class, students will become more discerning consumers of news. Students will use critical-thinking skills to develop the tools needed to determine what news sources are reliable in the digital world. Through readings, class discussion and written assignments, students will deconstruct stories, breaking down broadcast, print, web, and social concepts such as objectivity, opinion, bias and fairness and how all contribute to the mix of news reports in today's digital landscape. 

300 Newswriting and Reporting (Carey, Forcier, Tuttle, Parnass, Foudy, Pasha)

Journalism 300 is required of all Journalism majors. This course introduces students to basic reporting and newswriting skills, including interviewing, researching public records, fact-checking and covering spot news, obituaries, speeches, court cases, public meetings and other hard news. This class includes numerous in-class and out-of-classroom  reporting and writing assignments. The Associated Press Stylebook is taught. The class takes place in a computer lab, and fulfills the Junior Year Writing requirement.

301 Introduction to Multimedia Reporting (Roche, Tuttle, Kyle)

This class enables students to build on the reporting and writing skills learned in Journalism 300, while gaining the technical skills for storytelling in online platforms, such as basic web production, using digital images, and creating audio podcasts. Students write in-depth stories on topics of serious public concern that may include education,  the environment, the economy and technology. Students learn how to find and use government and advocacy group sources, and how to navigate the wealth of online data and documents. Students gain experience and confidence in reporting, writing and revising longer news stories. This course is a prerequisite for more advanced multimedia courses. 

310 Going Global: Changes in International Journalism (Pasha, Sibii)

This course explores the challenges and issues facing journalists covering global affairs. Students will explore intercultural communication, overcoming biases in reporting, the use of social media to serve as a platform for news reporting, and examine the work of foreign correspondents from a critical perspective. Through a mixture of readings and news writing, the course will also broaden students understanding of current affairs on the global stage. 

320 History of American Journalism (List, Forde)

We will examine the major innovations and styles in journalism, including the historical context into which print fits, the arrival of press freedom, the invention of faster presses, the Penny Press of the 1840s, the story press period in the 1890s, and the Muckrakers, objective reporters, investigative journalists, the literary journalists of the 20th century and today, and the arrival of the Internet. The institutional framework for journalism, including the First Amendment and the business structures of publications, will fill out the historical context in which these innovations took shape. We will have a special interest in the history of technologies in journalism. 

330 Literary Journalism (Forde)

Literary journalism has been called by many other names: narrative journalism, literary nonfiction, literary reportage, creative nonfiction, and the New Journalism.  Exactly what literary journalism is has been a matter of debate, and while we will discuss the particulars of this debate throughout the course, for now, we need a working definition. Mark Kramer, former director of Harvard’s Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism, has defined narrative or literary journalism as the use of “storytelling techniques to convey news.” To put it somewhat differently, it is the use of the classic tools of fiction writers—character, plot, conflict, theme—to tell factual, nonfiction stories of the present moment. While literary journalism has recently become popular across a range of expressive genres—newspapers, magazines, books, radio, the web—it has a rich history, flourishing at particular moments in the history of the American press and the broader print culture. In this course, we will explore this history and ask critical questions about the epistemology, narrative and reportorial conventions, and ethical standards of journalism. We will read some prominent works of literary journalism and analyze their potential meanings and craft. We will write critically about the works we read. And finally, we will try writing our own works of literary journalism.

332 Sports Journalism (Fox)

A hands-on course aimed at how to write, edit and cover sports stories. Interviewing skills will be honed in this class, and you will need a flexible schedule in order to cover games outside of classes. Students will learn to write a variety of stories ranging from straight game stories to previews to features and breaking news. Students will read and analyze successful writing styles from sportswriters in all mediums, including broadcast and the web.

333 Introduction to Visual Storytelling (McDermott, Zamith)

This course introduces the skills necessary to produce journalistic photographs, video, infographics and graphic design, as well as the critical and creative perspective necessary to understand how visual stories work best in the journalistic ecosystem. Students will develop visual literacy, read diverse perspectives on visual journalism, ponder ethical questions and discuss the importance of visual issues in contemporary media. In partnership with their classmates, students will apply these lessons to produce their own credible visual stories. Students may use their own cameras, but they are not required to own or buy one.

345 Media Criticism (Whitehead, Sibii)

This course does not bash journalists as hopelessly biased or incompetent. Rather, it seeks to impart such things as thinking skills and media literacy. Students can expect this course to cover some, but not all, of the following topics: the causes -- technological, economic, cultural, ideological -- of the historic upheaval now occurring in American journalism; some of the crucial elements of the upheaval; and how this upheaval is affecting both the role of the individual journalist and the mission of journalism; the concept of framing; the evolution of the concept of "objectivity"; the critique of newsworthiness; media representations; concentration of media ownership; net neutrality; theories of media effects; and media business models."

383 Entrepreneurial Journalism (Roche)

Today’s journalism student will most likely spend spend at least part of his or her career not as an employee, but as an entrepreneur or independent freelancer. This course will examine the Gig Economy, how it works for people with journalism skills, and how to find and create opportunities. Students develop new skills they’ll need to succeed in their fields of interest. These might include:  idea strategizing and development, marketing and audience development through social media, time and business management. Students will learn about how they can transfer their journalistic skills, and nuts and bolts like how to find clients, what to charge for your work, and how to manage your small business as a writer. Two major projects will include a case study of an independent, profit-making journalistic websites, and the development of a site of their own, from concept to business plan. Several other shorter projects will also be required. Attendance in the classroom is required. 

391SB Intro to Sports Broadcasting (Kyle)

This 3 credit performance class is aimed at preparing sports journalists for broadcast. Students will cover sports stories over the weekend, then perform game previews, postgame wrap-ups, halftime reporting, reporter debriefs, on-set analysis based on their reporting. These assignments will be compiled into the Amherst Wire Weekly Sports Wrap-up shows that will be recorded in the broadcast studio. Students will take turns anchoring the show and doing their reporting on camera. 

392F Florida: The News Capital of the U.S. (Blais)

Since the sixties, the state of Florida and the city of Miami in particular have been ground zero for news events that have had far-reaching national and international repercussions. Each week we will examine at least one such moment in Florida's history and / or its present, with an eye toward understanding the ways in which the state is likely to shape Presidential politics in 2012.

393B Philosophy of Journalism (McBride)

Blends ancient wisdom with modern film in hopes of provoking original thoughts from students about the present and future for journalism and themselves. In this age, when cynicism rules, this course seeks to engender hope and solutions from the only place it can come from—you!

393N Radio Reporting and Podcasting (Barrington)

This course introduces students to writing and reporting for radio or podcasting. Students will practice pitching stories, arranging and conducting interviews, as well as writing and mixing radio scripts.   The course explores how writing in broadcast journalism differs from print. Students will practice writing in a conversational style that works for “the ear”.  This is a “hands-on” course that requires students to report, record and write several stories on deadline. It’s designed to give students the confidence to pursue audio stories for broadcast or the web.

394C Community Journalism Project (McBride)

The Community Journalism Project is an intermediate reporting class that sends students into ghettos, barrios, and poor white and working class communities of Western Massachusetts. Journalists have become increasingly out of touch with the majority of the population. The working class, the poor, minorities are often overlooked in the mainstream media. This course puts students into the homeless shelters, food pantries, health clinics, community centers, public schools and low-wage job sites in hope of finding solutions and answers from the real experts. Intensive field work, substantial newswriting, and devotion to reading comprise the calculus of this course.  Each week we will travel to the High School of Commerce in Springfield.  As writing coaches we will produce collaborative professional quality multi-platform news pieces in concert with these students.

395L Science Journalism (Braun)

Many of the most fascinating, beautiful, and enduring mysteries confronted by humanity are of a scientific nature. And some of the most important political debates of the day hinge on a complex mingling of hard evidence and lingering uncertainty. This course will lay out an array of essential conceptual skills for reporting, writing, and analyzing news about science and technology. In addition to breaking down how scientific discoveries and controversies are typically framed and discussed in the news, students will also learn useful tools of the trade, including how to apply important quantitative literacy skills to scientific claims; an appreciation for and ability to assess the role of scientific evidence in policymaking; and a detailed understanding of the ways in which science is conducted, as well as the ways in which the public understands scientific research. As part of their exploration of these topics, students will conduct science reporting within the UMass research community.

395M The African American Freedom Struggle and the Mass Media (Forde)

Our subject in this history course is the black freedom struggle across the 19th and 20th centuries, and we will study it through the lens of communications and media. Why? Communications and media play a critical role in political and social change. They help to create community, shape public opinion, expand and constrict public memory, and inform current political discourse. The narratives that survive from our past shape our perception of who we are and how our world works. But there are also narratives that get shoved aside and ignored. One goal of this course is to revive some of those discarded stories and present a broader, deeper, and more complicated view of African American history. Additionally, we will consider the way African American history has been retold and re-imagined over time by political actors and other who were eager to make use of it in our nation’s political discourse. We will pay special attention to the freedom struggle's rich history in Massachusetts. 

395N Broadcast News Reporting (Kyle)

This class is an introduction to broadcast news writing, videography, editing and visual storytelling. Students will learn the basics of reporting, videography and broadcast journalism. They will produce a variety of reports to expand their understanding of the various formats, styles and types of reports used in the media. Students will also work on news judgment, sourcing stories, interviewing subjects and writing and editing their stories for broadcast  and the web.

397BU BU Conference on Narrative Journalism in the Digital Age (Blais)

Boston University Conference on Narrative Journalism in the Digital Age: This weekend conference in April takes place on the Boston University campus under the direction of Mark Kramer. Top-flight practitioners will present on issues and challenges facing beginning journalists as well as longtime professionals. After the spring semester begins, the conferees from UMass will meet from noon to two on select Fridays before and after the conference, beginning with Friday January 22nd. Students will be required to attend the BU conference. 1 credit pass/fail. 

397DJ Data-driven Storytelling (McDermott, Zamith)

How can journalists use data to find stories? How can they tell stories through data? This hands-on course provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to begin gathering, analyzing and visualizing interactive, data-driven stories. Students will work in small groups to tackle questions pertaining to ethical data sourcing, data analysis and making data meaningful for the public. They will also produce their own exciting and thought-provoking digital news stories. Prior experience with advanced statistics, web design or computer programming is neither assumed nor necessary, and course content will adapt to students' collective skills. However, a willingness to experiment, learn new technologies and embrace iteration in a cooperative environment is a must.

397G Multimedia Reporting (Fox)

Almost all journalism job descriptions these days require some level of multimedia experience. In this class students will continue to develop their online writing skills through blogging while learning how to create packages and tell stories with audio and video. This class will focus on ways to merge the traditional methods of storytelling and present them on the web. Students will learn what makes for good web presentations and will be introduced to tools to help them with editing photos, video and audio. Students will enhance their understanding of what makes a good web link and a good web headline. We’ll also discuss the business and ethical implications of publishing online.

397L Documentary Tradition in Literature & Film (Blais)

The thesis of this class is that in recent years documentary film has come into its own as an art form and as an expression of social consciousness, not unlike the rise of the New Journalism in the late sixties and early seventies. The reason why is a matter for conjecture: is it a failure on the part of filmmakers, or precisely the opposite? Does it take even greater imagination to process the world around us because reality has outstripped fantasy as a source of the outlandish? If this class has one central theme, it is the question of what it means to be a journalist in today’s world, in print or on film. Books and films vary from semester to semester. A recent course required the following readings paired with thought-provoking DVD’s, such as The War Room, Fog of War, Capote, Crazy Sexy Cancer, and The Education of Shelby Knox. The Selling of the President by Joe McGinniss; Miami and the Siege of Chicago by Norman Mailer; The Woman in the Washington Zoo by Marjorie Williams;  American Requiem: God, My Father and the War that Came Between Us by James Carroll; In Cold Blood  by Truman Capote.

397R Business of Media (Berman)

This course will provide a detailed examination of the current and changing state of media, the broadcast industry, the business of journalism, and various associated industries from public relations, marketing, social media, sports, and music and entertainment.  The power of broadcast media in particular, it’s expansion across multiple platforms and into social media will be closely studied. Emphasis will be given to understanding internal operating structures and business models of established and nascent media companies. Through lectures, on-going class discussion, reading and development of critical listening skills, students will be able to better identify their own specific area of interest and opportunity.  We will examine business models of commercial, non-commercial, college, internet, and community media organizations, particularly through the lens of mass audience radio stations and media companies, focusing on journalism's current and future vitality, endeavor and enterprise within these organizations. Guest lecturers will visit regularly to provide deeper real-life insight into career paths and opportunities. 

397TG Investigative Journalism and the Web (Fox)

In this class, students will be introduced to basic investigative techniques. Students will learn first-hand how to scan police records, court records, land records and such. We will study some of the great investigative stories of our time and the techniques reporters  used during their investigations. This will be a hands-on class where students will learn the basics of computer-assisted reporting, database reporting and mapping the results of your investigations. This will be a project-oriented class with students in the class reporting and investigating a topic for the majority of the semester. 

425 The Politics of Sport (McBride)

This course will examine how the politics of gender, sexual identity and race are played out in the arena of sports. Through readings, writing, documentary viewing an discussion, students will explore the ways in which sports either constructs or breaks down barriers among individuals and groups and how journalism is involved in the process.

435 Web Design for Journalists (McDermott)

Not long ago a journalist could get by with little more than a notebook, a pen, and his or her wits. Today, working in the media demands that students know an assortment of web design and web building skills. Students will learn basic web design, HTML and CSS skills, and by the end of the semester they will be able to build a basic website, including how to incorporate JavaScript plugins. The course will also cover online ethics, mobile strategy, search engine optimization, and the role of social media in successfully publishing journalism work online. Prerequisite: Journalism 301, Introduction to Multimedia Reporting, Journalism 397G, Multimedia Reporting, or consent of the instructor.

445 Journalism and Law (List)

Students will become familiar with legal concepts underlying freedom of the press: censorship, obscenity, libel, privacy, free press/fair trial, contempt, access and other legal problems affecting the mass media. The case study approach generally is used, but emphasis is on the principles and philosophy underlying various aspects of communication law as these affect the daily work of journalists.

460 Journalism Ethics (List, McBride, Sibii)

This course focuses on responsible journalism—no matter the medium. Its aim is to help those who plan to become journalists make ethical decisions and those who are consumers of the news recognize and  appreciate responsible journalism. Students will develop an understanding of the ethical questions faced by journalists in a  democratic society at a time when journalism is shifting from print/ broadcast to online and when much of the mainstream media is focused  on profit over news values and on entertainment over substance. Discussion will include: foundational ethical principles, the shift  to online journalism, accuracy and fairness, relationships with  sources, diversity, conflicts of interest, privacy, deception and  photojournalism. This course satisfies the Integrative Experience requirement. Junior and senior Journalism majors only.

491C Writing About Popular Culture (Whitehead)

This is a writing course. It consists chiefly of weekly individual conferences with the teacher. The topics for the writing assignments are chosen by the individual students themselves, and can be drawn from the popular culture.

491CJ Community Journalism II (McBride)

The Community Journalism Project is an intermediate reporting class that sends students into ghettoes, barrios, and poor white and working class communities of Western Massachusetts. Journalists have become increasingly out of touch with the majority of the population. The working class, the poor, the minority often are overlooked by the mainstream media. This course will put you into the homeless shelters, food pantries, health clinics, community centers, public schools, and low wage job sites in hope of finding solutions and answers from the real experts. Intensive field work, substantial newswriting, and devotion to reading comprise the calculus of this course.

492M Magazine Writing (Roche, Blais, Tuttle)

This class will help you learn what makes magazine journalism different from newspaper journalism. Unlike newspaper writing, magazines often demand that a journalist bring both authority and a point of view to the work. We workshop each student's paper, so each student is expected to think as an editor as well as a writer. There is substantial reading required from magazine anthologies, plus your fellow students' work. We will learn how to do the type of research necessary to produce a magazine article, and work hard to improve writing and analytical skills. Weekly writing and reporting assignments, plus one 3000-4000 word magazine feature that will require extensive field work and interviewing.

494 Media, Technology & Culture (Sibii, Braun)

This course aims to provide students with a framework for critically examining the intersections between media messages, the digital revolution and the wider sociocultural environment. That journalism has been profoundly impacted by the development of Web 2.0 applications is nowadays axiomatic. However, the precise ways in which such "new media" phenomena as Facebook & Twitter, the personal blog and the smart phone have transformed news gathering, packaging and dissemination still need to be researched and understood. Students will reflect critically on the manner in which their communication creates and, in turn, is determined by, the social and cultural world(s) in which they live. Investigating their meaning-making processes in this way should translate into an increased awareness of the causes and consequences of their storytelling choices. The course readings will deal with such issues as identity formation, social and cultural diversity, linguistic and technological determinism, ritual, perception and subjectivity, and cultural competency. This course satisfies the new Integrative Experience requirement. 

494VI Advanced Video Journalism (McDermott)

Advanced Video Journalism is designed to refine and improve video storytelling and production skills for journalists who want to share their work online. Class work will include a various news video assignments. The class will cover advanced editing techniques, scriptwriting, storyboarding, and incorporating still photography and graphics into video. Students will watch, discuss, and write about news video and news documentary online. This class fulfills the IE requirement. Prerequisite: Multimedia Journalism, 397B, Advanced Photojouralism, 497AP, or consent of the instructor.

495BP Broadcast Performance (Kyle)

This class is designed to help you understand the principles of broadcast presentation, including procedures and methods to use the voice, face and body as tools for communicating. There will be an emphasis on performing journalism on television, radio and online media. Through in-class exercises, drills and homework assignments, students will develop and practice skills for narration and on camera news delivery, including field reporting and in-studio anchoring. Upon completion of this class, students should be comfortable performing on-mic and on-camera. They'll understand how a broadcast studio operates, and they'll be well practiced in recording reports as well as doing live broadcasts.

495N Broadcast News Reporting 2 (Kyle)

The goal of this class is to take students beyond the simple mechanics of broadcast storytelling and into the area of craftsmanship and prepare them for the myriad of situations and stories a general assignment reporter will face on a daily basis. Students will become accomplished in all areas of newsroom work and will learn to produce quality broadcast journalism on deadline.

497AP Advanced Photojournalism (McDermott)

Students in this class will spend the semester photographing documentary projects, with a focus on improving visual storytelling, learning advanced strobe and Photoshop techniques, and augmenting their photos with multimedia elements including video and audio. In the process students will study outlets that publish or exhibit photojournalism and pitch their stories accordingly. We will study the documentary work of noted contemporary and historic photographers, and consider the medium’s social and economic future. Students must own or have access to a digital camera with manual functions. Pre-requisite: Journalism 397P, Introduction to Photojournalism, or the consent of the instructor.

497B Diaries, Memoirs & Journals (Blais)

The four-credit class will read from a variety of memoirs and subsequently write a personal history that combines rigorous emotional honesty with high literary standards. Readings may include the works of Mary McCarthy, Tobias and Geoffrey Wolff, Russell Baker, George Orwell, John Wideman, Mary Karr, Vladimir Nabokov, Harry Crewes, Reeve Morrow Lindbergh, Mary Gordon, David Eggers, Ernest Hemingway, Alice Sebold, Wendy Mnookin and others. (Fulfills advanced writing requirement.)

497G Journalism Launchpad (Roche)

One credit, five week seminar. Juniors and seniors face lots of decisions as they start to plan for life beyond UMass. In this course, we’ll look at some of those issues, focusing on the decision-making process, and career exploration and development. We’ll explore the career possibilities for journalism majors, and through exercises and readings, students will develop a career plan and build a resume and online portfolio that highlights their strengths and interests. We’ll also look at some areas like budgeting and interviewing and negotiating skills. 

497J Social Justice Journalism (Sibii)

This is an explanatory journalism class with an emphasis on the intractable structural issues confronting contemporary American society. Each iteration of the course will focus on one such issue (e.g., immigration, mass incarceration, gender inequality, racism in higher education), and will seek to work in collaboration with at least one NGO and one media institution. Students will report and produce a variety of journalistic stories pertaining to the chosen issue. They will also read and discuss professional and scholarly literature on subjects related to social justice/advocacy journalism (such as the question of journalistic objectivity, framing, media effects & agenda setting). Prerequisite: Journal 300 or instructor consent. 

497M Longform Narrative (Blais)

In this class, students are given a thorough grounding in the art of nonfiction narrative by using both classic and contemporary exemplars as templates. In addition, each student produces a major longform piece that upholds the hallmarks of the genre which include excellent prose, imaginative and far-reaching reporting, and an immersive approach to the subject matter. Every effort will be made to pair student work with a worthy publication. Honors component. Juniors and Seniors only.

497N Columns, Essays and Reviews (Blais)

In this class we will study exemplary practitioners of each of these forms of nonfiction prose, with an emphasis on how these models will inform our own practice. By the end of the semester you should have written two columns, one regular newspaper length and one Modern Love piece, two reviews, and a reported essay of a generous length.  We will work as a group to generate story ideas in each category.  Every piece of writing must undergo at least one revision, so there will be in essence two deadlines for each assignment: one for a draft and one for the finished product. One of your pieces must have a multimedia or visual storytelling element.  You will be required to submit at least two pieces for publication.

497P The Politician and the Journalist (Neal)

The relationships among reporters, publishers, and politicians, and how each uses the media. Using historical biographies and other texts, the class will examine past strategies by politicians and media figures. Topics include campaign strategies, Washington politics, day-to-day effectiveness in office, making arguments through the media, and how those not elected use the media. Taught by Congressman Richard Neal of the First District, Massachusetts, the class offers an opportunity for students to hear how elected officials work with the press.  

497R Special Topic—Covering Race (McBride)

Racial issues continue to dominate our psychic and social reality. They generate more fear and fireworks than any other topic in life. By taking a hard look at history, Covering Race will endeavor to reveal the complexity, nuance, and ugliness which is the legacy of racism, colonialism, and slavery. That history serves as a foundation for understanding ourselves and for a journalistic prose that both elevates discourse and enlightens readers. This course requires substantial readings and writings.

497TG Investigative Journalism and the Web II (Fox)

In this class, students will be introduced to basic investigative techniques. Students will learn first-hand how to scan police records, court records, land records and such. We will study some of the great investigative stories of our time and the techniques reporters used during their investigations. This will be a hands-on class where students will learn the basics of computer-assisted reporting, database reporting and mapping the results of your investigations. This will be a project-oriented class with students in the class reporting and investigating a topic for the majority of the semester.