4201 Lab Syllabus

Link to Weekly Lab Schedule 

JOU 4201
Editing Lab Syllabus-Section 2671
2050 Weimer Hall
Tuesday 7:25 a.m. to 10:25 a.m.

Dr. Ronald R.Rodgers
3058 Weimer Hall

This course’s goal is to help you become a careful and precise editor of your own writing and that of others. While this is a basic journalism editing course designed to acquaint you with the skills you will need to master in order to work as an editor, what you learn in this class will:
  • Help make you a careful and precise editor of your own writing and that of others.
  • Help make you a better writer.
  • Help you excel in any media field.
  • Help you excel in any field in which clear and concise communication is an important skill.
In the semester ahead, we will focus primarily on editing, concision, fact checking, headline writing and cutline writing. You will become precision editors by mastering the elemental tools of writing and editing – spelling, grammar, punctuation, word usage and style (in this case, AP) – and the higher-order skills of editing dealing with issues of completeness, consistency, objectivity (are we being fair?), ethics, taste, sensitivity and law.
I am available to you this semester – and beyond – to talk about this class, to talk about journalism and communications, to talk about your career, or to just talk. My office hours are listed on my schedule:
  • Link to my schedule
  • Or just stop by – my door is pretty much always open, and if I am in and I am free, we can talk.
To deal with the chaos of life, the many messages I get every day, the expectation that I will respond within minutes even if the e-mail is sent at 3 in the morning, and to promote a sense of professionalism, I have established an e-mail policy. It is thus:
  • First, use the e-learning e-mail system only. This ensures your e-mail does not get lost.
  • The subject line should include your full name.
  • Your e-mail should open with a salutation (Professor Rodgers, Dr. Rodgers).
  • The body of the message should open with something like "I'm in your JOU4201 class, section XXXX."
  • The e-mail should be as specific as possible about your concerns or questions. For example, if you are asking about a lab exercise or quiz, clearly identify what exercise or quiz or whatever you are talking about.
  • Your message should be written and edited flawlessly and should contain no chatspeak truncations or contortions.
  • Your e-mail should close with your full name, student ID number, and class name and section.
  • You should also note  that  I check my e-mail  once in the morning and once in the evening  Monday  through Friday.
MMC 2100 – Writing for Mass Communication – and JOU 3101 – Reporting.
You must have passed these classes with a C or better. NOTE: I will be checking with Student Services to ensure this is so.

  • When Words Collide: A Media Writer's Guide to Grammar and Style 7th Edition by Lauren Kessler & Duncan McDonald -- Required & you are required to bring it to every class. Also known as WWC
  • The Associated Press Stylebook -- Required & you are required to bring it to every class.
  •  The dictionary I use in grading is the same as the AP Stylebook cites as the second reference to the stylebook: Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition. See AP's Note on Dictionaries
    • Here is a link to an online version of the dictionary mentioned above. Use this dictionary for all work in our class: http://www.yourdictionary.com/
  • Read  the The New York Times and Gainesville Sun.
  • If you have not already done so, sign up for NewYorkTimes.com at  http://www.nytimes.com/
Class attendance is required. No make-up tests, quizzes or exercises will be arranged for unexcused absences or tardiness. In addition, failing to file your homework by deadline equals a zero in the grade book. After your first absence, every lab you miss means your grade drops a level – A becomes A- and A- beomes B+ and so on. University-approved absences must be documented in advance. Obtaining written verification for an excused absence is your responsibility, as is arranging to complete any missed work.

  • Before the end of the first week you will:
  • Set up your own Twitter account and send me the link.
  • Go to my Twitter account  (ronrodgers) and follow me. For notes on work and notes regarding editing and the class, regularly review my tweets.
  • Set up a Gmail account and a Dropbox account. Either of these are the places to store copies of your exercises whether completed or in progress.
You will keep an editing journal on a blog created for this class and update it weekly. Please include links to all digital sources or citations to all print sources. The journals include four simple tasks that are common to copy editing. Each weekly journal entry – slugged Week 1 etc. must consist of the following:
  1. A "word of the week": Choose a word that you either read or hear in a news report and that caught your attention. Give a specific citation or link for when and where the word was used, as well as a brief account (in your own words) of how the word was used. Then provide a dictionary definition for the word, two etymologies for the word (ideally from two different dictionaries), and a short explanation of why you found the word interesting.
  2. A "catch of the week": The “catch” can be any example you find of sloppy (or non-) editing. You must state when and where you found the error and explain the nature of the error (including how it should be corrected).
  3. Headline challenge: Each week, you must find a “duh” headline and write a better headline that would fit in the same space (the new headline can be up to two characters/spaces shorter or longer than the original). The headline must improve upon the original and be accurate. You will include the original headlines and the articles so I can assess accuracy.
  4. A favorite passage of the week: Pick a line or two of prose from a newspaper or magazine article – or any other journalistic venue – that you find to be especially well written. Each must include a copy of the passage, provide a full citation or link, and explain why you chose it.
Note: You must do your own work. I don’t want to see repetition between journals. I will edit/correct the journals, and grade them in the same way I would your editing exercises (see grading rubric). I will also grade your headline as to whether it improves on the original. I am simply the subjective arbiter of why, though I will do my best to explain why.
In Week 2 we will create groups of four or five people. 

Before the beginning of Week 15 you will have completed stories around one topic for a Wordpress  News Blog you have created as a group.
This means you need to collaborate in the news judgments and editing of this blog and its stories.
I will require a Peer Evaluation of each member of your group at the end of the semester.
Any problems during the semester with group members, work it out on your own.
Just remember you have the Peer Evals at end where you can be honest about the performance of others.

Here are the parameters and what I will be considering in grading.
  • Your News Blog should have a title and it should have an rss feed (send me the url).
  • Your News Blog should contain at least one long-form piece of journalism from each member of the group related to your blog.
  • Each story should be at least 700 words long, which is about 20 inches considering that there are 25-35 words in a column inch.
  • Each story should be reported and written this semester. No recycling of stories from the past.  Recycling will be considered plagiarism.
  • Each story should be original content. No stories you have written for some other publication this semester. If you want to publish elsewhere afterward, then please do.
  • Think of these long-form stories like a narrative magazine piece. No long, boring meeting or process stories.
  • Each story should have at least one piece of art with cutline. Other bells and whistles are also welcome.
  • The site should include at least on video shot by a member of your team. 
  • Each story should contain links.
  • Each story should have a well-written headline.
  • Each group member will receive the same grade.
  • The one thing that could make one grade lower than the others is predominantly negative Peer Evaluations
  • In grading, I will consider such things as:
    • The look and design of your blog
    • The editing of the stories and their originality
      • This will include all the issues of editing we consider in this class, to include the nuts and bolts of mechanics to higher-order skills of editing dealing with issues of completeness, consistency, objectivity (are we being fair?), ethics, taste, sensitivity and law.
    • The quality of your cutlines and headlines - especially whether the latter are written with SEO in mind.
    • The use of links and other interactive devices.
    • The quality of your photos and cutlines.
    • The quality of your video(s).
    • Your Peer Evals
Prof. McAdam's Word Press Basics 
Here is a site you might find helpful: 12 Wordpress Plugins

Your course grade is 40 percent lecture and 60 percent lab.

Grade Scale in Lab

A = 100 to 93
B+ = 89-87
C+ = 79-77
D+ = 69-67
E = 59-0
A- = 92-90
B = 86-83
C = 76-73
D = 66-63

B- = 82-80
C- = 72-70
D- = 62-60

Your final lab grade is based on:
  • 20%: In-Class Editing Exercises of any kind, including, but not limited to, your editing, headlines and cutlines.
  • 20%: Weekly Challenges on AP style (at home on e-Learning) and at beginning of class (7:35 a.m.) on such things as current affairs (read the news), punctuation, grammar, spelling,and, possibly, items from my Twitter tweets on editing, and any other assigned readings.
  • 20%: Your News Blog
  • 20%: A series of Assessment Tests at end of semester.
  • 10%: Your engagement in this class, your attendance, your participation, your seriousness of purpose, whether you bring your AP Stylebook and grammar book to every class, and your overall improvement reflective of your hard work.
When submitting digital exercises as ATTACHMENTS to e-Learning, you must name them properly to receive credit. Following the instructions below will greatly aid the administration of the course and will ensure your assignments will be read and graded. If you fail to follow these instructions, you will lose an additional 25 points on your grade.
  • For individual assignments, name your Word files using your last name followed by an underscore (_) and the exercise slug. For example: Rodgers_Mouse_Droppings is a slug
  • Weekly AP Challenges at home through e-Learning: 100 points: On AP Style / Punctuation / Grammar / Spelling
  • Weekly Challenges at beginning of class: 100 points: On readings, tweets, game films and the news.
  • Editing Exercises: 100 points: Read this Grading Rubric
    • Also, four other things that can affect your grade:
      1. Misspelled words/names: Up to 50 points for each mistake. Yes, that is 50 points. No complaints, please. Open a dictionary or relevant reference.
      2. Fact Errors:
      Up to 50 points for each mistake in fact. This is why reference books and the Internet exist.
      3. Beyond commas and conjunctions: Allowing a story to exceed legal guidelines (such as libeling a person); to step across ethical boundaries; to ignore matters of taste and/or sensibility; and/or to be insensitive to gender and diversity could mean 5 to 100 points off depending on to what degree I feel (note that this is subjective) you should be aware of these kinds of issues of writing and editing.
      4. Not following instructions:  25 points off for each time instructions are not followed to the letter - and this includes proper slugging of exercises. 
  • Final Assessments: 100 points. Worth three grades each.
Note on Minimal Marking: When I edit and grade your editing exercises, I will not fix any mistakes.
  • I will simply place a mark on the line where the mistake exists.
  • I will also note when I think you have excelled as an editor - for which you will often receive bonus points.
  • You need to figure out what is wrong. (Own Your Own Education) Consult with your texts or peers if you are not sure. This is how we learn. 
  • Your presence in this class.
  • That you return work on time.
  • Collaboration:  Unlike many of your other courses, I want you to view this class like a newsroom where peers consult one another. Feel free to talk with your fellow students just as editors would talk with other editors. Often, your peers can be your best teachers. This, of course, would not apply during any challenges.  
  • Good academic conduct: Commit yourself to honesty and integrity if you haven’t already. If you engage in any form of academic misconduct, including, but not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, and aiding and abetting, the penalties could be severe. You are required  to read Academic Honesty. I will work under the assumption that you have done so. In addition, see link to Honor Code on front page.
  • That you become great editors of your work and the work of others.
Everything you turn in should be your own work and not that of others. Remember, I have access to the Internet, too. Sources need to be cited. All interpretations, unless cited, should also be your own. If I find that anything you submit was done by someone else, or you use exact words without setting them off with quotation marks, or you imply that an interpretation from a source is your own without crediting the source, you  have committed plagiarism and will, at the minimum, fail this course.

Please let me know immediately if you have any kind of problem or disability that would hinder your work in this course. I will do my best to help you. Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register with the Dean of Students Office, which will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to the instructor when requesting accommodation.  For campus resources, see links on the front page of my website.

Sometimes a class such as this will deal with controversial topics, so be warned that words that may be considered offensive or ideological may be spoken in the context of the subjects we are discussing. As a teacher, I have no political or social agenda, so do not try to answer in a way you believe might comport with what I want to hear or read. Feel free to advocate any position as long as you remain respectful of others' opinions, and always be able to defend your point of view.

Turn them off.
Never ever make assumptions about anything in anything you edit that you cannot fact check. If you run across something you do not think is right or needs to be corrected but you cannot fact check despite your best efforts (and you need to make the effort) - make a note in footnote mode much like the question you would ask the city desk or the reporter. Making a change without checking the facts is a FACT ERROR.

Note on Footnotes:
Put your cursor at the place you want the note to go and then hit control-alt-f. This will put a superscript number or letter at that point and at the bottom of the page where you can put your note.

For the work plan this semester, see the Lab Schedule