Friday, December 11, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What's coming up

Our schedule for the remaining weeks of the semester (subject to revisions):

NOV 3  TOPIC: Massachusetts Open Meeting Law< moved up, so we can peer edit Thursday In-class work on features and blogs. Get ready to present your blogs to the class for critiques next Monday.
NOV 5 FIRST DRAFT FEATURE DUE (1,000) words. PEER EDIT Firm up issue story ideas. NEXT: Write issue pitch to present next class. Read and complete worksheets for Chap 20 on police, Chap 24 on Government and 25 on Reporters and the Law. Review Massachusetts Open Meeting Law.
NOV 10 Issue pitch. PRESENT BLOGS Discuss chapters. WRITE: 500-word Issue PRE-First Draft to peer edit next class.

NOV 12 Peer edit Issue pre-first drafts

Final FEATURE (1,000 words, 15 percent of total grade)***********DEADLINE EXTENDED UNTIL NOV. 17*************************

NOV 17 FIRST DRAFT ISSUE (1,000 words with 4 voices, 2 of whom are "experts") AND FINAL DRAFT FEATURE due. Discuss chapters NEXT: Read and complete worksheets on Chaps. 26 on Taste in Journalism and 27 on Morality.

NOV 19 - TOPIC: Ethical reporting Discuss Chapters 26 & 27; in-class work on issue paper, blogs
NOV 24 In-class work on Issue paper; continue chapters discussion.
NOV 26 - NO CLASS/Thanksgiving
DEC 1 FINAL ISSUE PAPER DUE. (1,000 words 20 percent of total grade) Review for FINAL QUIZ.
DEC 3 END OF SEMESTER QUIZ Discuss summary/analysis writing.
DEC 8 - In-class deadline assignment: Watch film and write SUMMARY/ANALYSIS (10 percent of final grade) on deadline, due at end of class.
DEC 10 - LAST DAY OF CLASS/ recap/ Final blogs presentations

Massachusetts Open Meeting Law

The Massachusetts Open Meeting Law is written to ensure that publicly elected bodies don't meet outside the public view. It requires that notice of a meeting of a quorum of members (the number of members needed to take official action/vote) of a public body, such as Amherst Town Meeting, Amherst Select Board, Northampton City Council or Boston City Council, do not meet without the meeting having been "posted," where the public can see it, 48 hours in advance of the meeting.  

At a public meeting, a  quorum of officials may announce that they are going into a private meeting known as an executive session if one of 10 exceptions to the Open Meeting Law pertain. Roughly speaking these, reasons are:

1) "To discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, rather than professional competence, of an individual, or to discuss the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual."
2) "To conduct strategy sessions in preparation for negotiations with nonunion personnel or to conduct collective bargaining sessions or contract negotiations with nonunion personnel'
3) To discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining by union employees
4) To discuss deployment of security devices or personnel
5) To investigate charges of criminal misconduct
6) To discuss real estate transactions
7) To comply with federal grant regulations
8) To discuss applicants for employment
9) To meet with a mediator
10) To discuss trade secrets

Recent determination that the Amherst School Committee violated the Open Meeting Law:
MassLive story about decision:

Friday, October 30, 2015

Blog inspirations

Example of blog post with infographic and GIF
New York Times multimedia story: Greenland is Melting Away 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Good article on how a word can get misused, overused and lose its meaning

"Has Diversity Lost Its Meaning," by Anna Holmes in the New York Times Magazine, Oct. 27, 2015
‘‘Diversity,’’ Chang says, ‘‘has become a code word for ‘all those other folks.’’’ The problem with code words is that theyre lazy: Theyre broad rather than specific, and can provide cover for inaction the ‘‘I dont know how to do this or what it means, so can someone else please do the work for me?’’ maneuver.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Deadline stories on students stress and ways to reduce it

Does the lead make an assertion? Does it synthesize information in the story? Is it thought-provoking? Is it a good lead-in to the main story/most important points?

Are assertions substantiated? Are they properly attributed? Does the reporter make unsubstantiated pronouncements?

Is it easy to read and clearly written with a logical flow?

Is there a lot of information? Are there memorable scenes or vivid "nuggets" of information?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Chapters 11 & 14 questions

Chapters 11 on Layered Reporting/Digging for Information and 14 on Sources

1) A reporter writes an advance story for a concert taking place on Saturday, using a press release from the  concert promoter. Is this Layer I, II or III reporting?

2) A reporter goes to an Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals meeting and hears that the Amherst Brewing Company has been granted a permit to move into a vacant building on University Drive. She calls one of the neighbors living next to the building to get a reaction to the news, which she incorporates into her story about the ZBA's decision. Is this Layer I, II or III, and why?

3) After reviewing a half-dozen ZBA decisions, the reporter realizes that the ZBA has been granting more permits recently than it usually does. Coincidentally, one of the board members was not recently re-appointed by the town manager, who was quoted as saying that the board member doesn't get along well with other people on the board. Wondering whether the increase in permits and the non-appointment of the board member are related, the reporter interviews a number of people on the board, neighbors and the town manager. The reporter writes a story saying the board is now granting many more permits BECAUSE the former board member was not reappointed. Level I, II,  III and why?

4) What is a "pseudo-event" and a famous example of one?

5) What are some ways in which officials "manage" the news? (page 237)

7) What are the two basic types of sources?

8) Are high-ranking officials and company managers better sources than their secretaries or lower-level employees?

9) What is a "pseudo source"? Give an example of one, either from a real or theoretical example.

10) Is a reporter who is best friends with the secretary of defense a better or worse choice to write a story about the war in Afghanistan than a reporter who doesn't know any governmental officials personally?

11) Would the secretary of defense be a good choice of a source for a story about the housing crisis?

12) How can a reporter tell if a source is reliable?

13) What are some specific ways in which a reporter can tell if a webpage is reliable?

14) Is it good to mix human and written sources in a news story? Give an example of how you could mix the two in a feature story.

15) Do direct quotations need to be in the speaker's words all the time? Explain.

Lead and nutgraph examples


The Lonely Death of George Bell


They found him in the living room, crumpled up on the mottled carpet. The police did. Sniffing a fetid odor, a neighbor had called 911. The apartment was in north-central Queens, in an unassertive building on 79th Street in Jackson Heights. EVOCATIVE  LEAD WITH CAREFULLY CHOSEN ADJECTIVES

The apartment belonged to a George Bell. He lived alone. Thus the presumption was that the corpse also belonged to George Bell. It was a plausible supposition, but it remained just that, for the puffy body on the floor was decomposed and unrecognizable. Clearly the man had not died on July 12, the Saturday last year when he was discovered, nor the day before nor the day before that. He had lain there for a while, nothing to announce his departure to the world, while the hyperkinetic city around him hurried on with its business. CINEMATIC DESCRIPTION FOCUSES ON THE SUBJECT THEN PANS TO THE CITY

Neighbors had last seen him six days earlier, a Sunday. On Thursday, there was a break in his routine. The car he always kept out front and moved from one side of the street to the other to obey parking rules sat on the wrong side. A ticket was wedged beneath the wiper. The woman next door called Mr. Bell. His phone rang and rang.

Then the smell of death and the police and the sobering reason that George Bell did not move his car. SENTENCE MIMICS THE CRASHING INTO CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE SOBERING REALITY

(NUTGRAPH comes next and sums up why this story is important and how it is representative of something that happens to some people and is sad):

Each year around 50,000 people die in New York, and each year the mortality rate seems to graze a new low, with people living healthier and longer. A great majority of the deceased have relatives and friends who soon learn of their passing and tearfully assemble at their funeral. A reverent death notice appears. Sympathy cards accumulate. When the celebrated die or there is some heart-rending killing of the innocent, the entire city might weep.

A much tinier number die alone in unwatched struggles. No one collects their bodies. No one mourns the conclusion of a life. They are just a name added to the death tables. In the year 2014, George Bell, age 72, was among those names.


MassLive: Haymarket Cafe in Northampton makes bold move to end tipping, increase wages by Laura Newberry

NORTHAMPTON -- Sonia Perez does it all at Haymarket Cafe on Main Street.The 25-year-old mainly works in the kitchen, where she's paid $13 an hour, but helps out when needed as a server in the restaurant area or a barista at the cafe on the top floor.She's likely to make a considerable amount more as a server if tips are good, she said, but even so, her paycheck varies too much to be called stable."Some days you're tipped well and it's great," Perez said. "Other days you barely make enough to make ends meet."

NUTGRAPH COMES NEXT and explains how Perez is representative of wait people who will be paid more at a local restaurant that is eliminating tips, something that is being talked a lot about now:The unsteady financial reality and pay inequities between wait staff and back-of-the-house workers is recognized by Haymarket owner Peter Simpson, who has a kitchen background himself. That's why as of of Nov. 22, Haymarket Cafe will do away with tips and instead pay all employees $14 an hour, a rate that will increase by $1 each year until reaching $17 an hour in 2018.

EXAMPLE 3:Business boostersUMass homecoming football game draws crowds downtown, too

By CHRIS LINDAHL @cmlindahlAMHERST — When is a pre-game not a pre-game? When people leave a tailgate party at kickoff and head off in search of other amusements.And for many, that seemed the order of the day — to the delight of downtown Amherst restaurants, bars and shops.

NUTGRAPH comes next and puts this homecoming into perspective by pointing that homecoming, in general, is good for Amherst:

Homecoming weekend at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is typically a boon for business, when alumni and parents of current students camp out in town in search of a good time.
d as proof, one needed to look no further than Antonio’s Pizza on North Pleasant Street. At 4 p.m., the scene was more akin to a weekend night than a pre-dinner lull, with crowds spilling out of the glass doors and onto the sidewalk.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Updated Schedule

OCT 8 Revised: Thursday, Oct. 8 @ 4 p.m.

Kathy Forde presents the Cole Lecture: The Role of Journalism in the Enduring Struggle for Racial Justice in Communication Hub, N301

After talk: Blog groups post on deadline a  short summary of event with 1) one or more photos 2) strong lead and 3) solid nutgraph. If you have time to finish a story, that would be ideal.  If not, follow nutgraph with some reader friendly points and direct quotations. This should be a polished blog post. ( 5 percent of final grade)

OCT 13 NO CLASS/ Monday class schedule

OCT 15 TOPIC: accidents, obituaries and courts Feature pitch. Discuss chapters on accidents, obituaries and courts. Hard copy of pre-first draft feature will be due for peer editing Thursday, Oct. 22

OCT 20 In-class deadline writing by blog groups (5 percent of total grade) Interview a minimum of four people on campus on subject to be determined and get photos with permission for 500-600 word blog piece on deadline.   Next: Read Chaps. 11 on layered reporting and 14 on sources.

OCT 22  TOPIC: "Layered" reporting FINAL DRAFT PROFILE DUE (1,000 words, INCLUDE WORD COUNT, 10 percent of total grade) Hard copy of pre-first draft feature due for peer editing.
 If time, discuss Chapters 11 and 14.
OCT 27 Review for MID-TERM QUIZ. Discuss potential Issue paper topics & interviews with 2-3 "experts." 
OCT 29  ***MID-TERM QUIZ *** If time, work on features and blogs

Monday, October 5, 2015

Attribution, quotations, summary

Attribution: It can be the difference between plagiarism and solid reporting.

Some good tips for attribution:
What do the following attribution-related terms mean?
  • On the record
  • On Background
  • On Deep Background
  • Off the Record


What is quote worthy? 

How to punctuate quotes. 

Never quote anonymously.

NPR's ethical guidelines with respect to anonymous sources:

Good blog post by Jack Shafer on anonymous sources:

Quote from Shafer:

"Anonymity benefits sources by allowing them to feed their versions almost unimpeded to the press if they locate a gullible or corrupt reporter. Anonymity benefits reporters, too, by potentially increasing their byline counts, by giving them “scoops” (however spurious or short-lived), and by signaling their availability to other anonymous sources.
"The downsides of anonymity, of course, are too many to list in a column, but here are two: Anonymous sourcing reduces the pressure on official sources to take responsibility for their utterances. And it promotes the gaming of news outlets, with anonymous sources gravitating to the most pliant reporters and editors. Neither is good for the news."
Blog post on New York Times tag lines when reporters use anonymous sources:

Summary: Cuts to the chase, touches on the most important points

How to write a summary tips:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Class blog links

Isaac and Katie:
Mike, Troy, Sarah:

ESPN's Kate Fagan at UMass

ESPN reporter Kate Fagan often addresses issues of bias based on sexual orientation and race, but it wasn't until she wrote about  a promising athlete's suicide, she said,  that she realized "what a privilege mental health is."

Fagan discussed her widely-read story, "Split Image," about University of Pennsylvania track team member Madison Halloran's death with about 75 journalism students and members at the University of Massachusetts, Thursday,  asking for feedback as she turns the article into a full-length book.

A columnist and feature writer for ESPN, Fagan was a University of Colorado basketball star, who played pro basketball in Ireland for a year before beginning a career in reporting. In 2012, she wrote an ESPN column and later a book about the life-changing experience of coming out as gay to her basketball team led by conservative Christians.

After she finally came out for good five years ago, her writing got better, Fagan said. She was no longer bitter and inside herself too much, she said. She could listen better and be more empathetic.

But it wasn't until writing about Halloran's death that she considered "the privilege of waking up every morning and at least being content to be alive," Fagan said.

Halloran was an apparently fun-loving person until she went to UPenn on a track scholarship. Although the photos she posted on Instagram gave the impression she was happy, she suffered from depression and jumped from a parking garage to her death after a few months at college.

In an ESPN video Fagan showed, Halloran's father acknowledged there was mental illness in his family, the most difficult aspect of the story to discuss with the family, because of the stigma attached to mental illness, Fagan said. In the book she is working on now, she plans to research the mental health treatment options available to college students, and she said she was eager to hear perspectives from the UMass students in the audience.

Another angle of the story that interests Fagan is the disparity between people's digital life, the snapshots from their life they post online -- and the gaps in between. After "Split Image" was published Halloran's family gave Fagan access to her computer, allowing Fagan to read Halloran's messages to friends. Halloran didn't tell her friends how depressed she was, often adding "lol," "ha, ha, ha" or an  emoji of a monkey covering its eyes to her messages.

Fagan asked students whether the gap in Halloran's digital and her real life is as significant as she thinks it is to the story.

In her own life, Fagan said, she's "kind of having an existential crisis about being online so much. Sometimes you need to give your brain time to think."

After her talk, a long line formed of students eager to talk to Fagan.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cliches, euphemisms, stereotypes and conscious and unconscious bias

Cliches, euphemisms and stereotypes don't  just contribute to shoddy, non-value-added writing, they can obscure and distort meaning.

For instance, what would be wrong with referring in a story to the MX Missile by the Pentagon's euphemistic name for it, the LGM-118 Peacekeeper?

Writing about euphemisms in "Politics and the English Language" in 1948, George Orwell said that

 "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. 

"Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. 

"Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them."

Here's a good parody of cliched, empty and abstract language and images intended to distort meaning and manipulate:

Another video parody:
This unsparing, even mean-spirited satire targets unconscious bias/ stereotyping:
Quote from accompanying blog post:

"Typically other people's problems seem simpler, uncomplicated and easier to solve than those of one's own society. In this context, the decontextualized hunger and homelessness in Haiti, Cambodia or Vietnam is an easy moral choice," (columnist Faria  Zakaria explains. "Unlike the problems of other societies, the failing inner-city schools in Chicago or the haplessness of those living on the fringes in Detroit is connected to larger political narratives. In simple terms, the lack of knowledge of other cultures makes them easier to help."

The reporter doesn't "reduce" issues but attempts to describe them in their complexity through close reporting, research and seeking to understand the "larger political narratives" that inform them.


More from George Orwell in "Politics and the English Language" on cliche's, tired language and other enemies of direct communication:

On tired, stale, cliched writing:
 "...modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. "

On pretentious, inflated, abstract language:
 "The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink."

Orwell's tips for writing meaningful sentences:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

This video is just for comic relief because this is such a serious topic:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Interview video link and schedule updates

Interview video links:
Jen -  Jacqui interviews Danielle

Mike's Interview: Mike's Interview

Sarah's Interview: Sarah's Interview

Troy's Interview: Troys Video Interview

Updated Schedule

SEPT 17 TOPICKinds of Stories  REVISED:Class to attend presentation by Linda Greenhouse and write 650-750- word speech paper due by Sunday, Sept. 20

FIRST ASSIGNMENT DUE: 400-500 written piece with photo based on your interview of a classmate. (5 percent of final grade) NEXT: READ: Chapter 16 on speeches.

SEPT 22 Analyze interview videos. Discuss Speech chapter REVISED: Discuss profiles.   NEXT: Write a brief profile pitch to present to class.

SEPT 24  Profile pitch. NEXT: Read and complete Chapters 2 & 3 worksheets (on blog, under worksheets tab) WRITE and BRING IN TO PEER EDIT A HARD COPY of 500 word "pre-first draft" profile with lead, nutgraph and quote(s).

SEPT 29 TOPIC: Cliches, stereotypes, euphemisms, conscious & unconscious bias: Turn in pre-first drafts. Peer edit. NEXT: read and complete worksheet on Chap. 7 on the Writer's Art.

OCT 1 REVISED Meet in Ziff Gallery for talk by Kate Fagan At 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, ESPN writer Kate Fagan will visit UMass Journalism to talk about sports journalism, her career, and her story titled "Split Image." "On Instagram, Madison Holleran's life looked ideal: Star athlete, bright student, beloved friend. But the photos hid the reality of someone struggling to go on." 
Blog groups will post 500 words with photo(s) on deadline:

NEXT: Read Chap. 8 on Features.
POSTPONED In-class, deadline writing assignment #6: In pairs, interview 4 people on campus on subject TBA; write 500 word story on-deadline with quotes from each of your sources. (5 percent of total grade)

OCT 6 -  TOPIC: Attribution, quotations, summary FIRST DRAFT PROFILE DUE (1,000 words, INCLUDE WORD COUNT) PEER EDIT. Discuss feature stories.
NEXT: Read and complete worksheets for Chapter 18 on Accidents and Disasters and Chapter 19 on Obituaries. Write Feature Pitch for next class.

OCT 8 Revised: Thursday, Oct. 8 @ 4 p.m.

Kathy Forde presents the Cole Lecture: The Role of Journalism in the Enduring Struggle for Racial Justice in Communication Hub, N301

After talk: FEATURE PITCH If time, work on blogs. NEXT: write 500-word feature PRE-first draft to peer edit next class. Read Chapter 21 on Courts

OCT 13 NO CLASS/ Monday class schedule

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Interviewing and Speech story tips/example

Journ 300 – FALL 2015
Sept. 10 class:
  • We’ll pick a speech/event to attend and write about. The assignment and an example from a previous class is below.
  • We’ll review the leads from your first day pieces in groups of 3
  • The same group of 3 will arrange among yourselves which of you will interview each other and who will film it using your camera or phone camera. Figure out the subject you’ll interview each other about and prepare questions in advance so that you will get some meaningful information in 3 minutes or less. Upload the finished videos to Youtube and send me a link. Make sure the privacy settings will allow me to open it. We’ll watch and analyze these in class later. 
  • A 500-word mini-profile about the same classmate you interview will be due soon.


  • Class interview example;


1) The lead should get to the heart of the event -- NOT just say it occurred.

2) Include in the first few sentences of the story A) what the occasion was, B)who sponsored it, C) where it was held and –D) how many attended. Include the title if there is one. It’s not necessary  to cram in every detail, such as what time it was held.

3) Nutgraph: This takes the reader beyond the lead and sums up in a few sentences the major points the speaker made or the basic gist of his/her argument/case/presentation. It’s a roadmap to the rest of the story. Can be combined with the paragraph that includes the title, name of occasion etc.

4) Body of story: Take the reader through the points that the speaker made in support of his or her case/main point/argument/presentation. Each paragraph should have a strong topic sentence. Provide specific examples and direct quotes.

5) Interview 3-4 people who attended for their reaction/thoughts. Don’t forget to include this at the end of your paper!

Speech story example: Journalism professor speaks at 2nd UMass Tedx talk By Kristin Lafratta

 On a cold Monday night, Professor Shaheen Pasha, assistant professor of journalism, spoke along with seven other professors at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s second ever TEDx event, where she invited listeners to release all feelings of fear and shame in order to reach their goals.

THIS COULD BE REVISED TO READ SOMETHING LIKE THIS:  Release all feelings of fear and shame AND YOU CAN reach YOUR  goals, Professor Shaheen Pasha, assistant professor of journalism urged students last night. (PUT THE BEST INFORMATION FIRST AND FIX IT IN TIME.)

Pasha spoke to an audience of nearly 200 people in the Isenberg School of Management’s Flavin auditorium, sharing intimate details of her life to remind listeners that every person has a life story worth sharing.

TED, technology, entertainment and design, is a national, non-profit organization owned by the Sapling Foundation, that holds conferences around the world. TEDx Talks invite the world’s brightest progressive thinkers to speak for 18-minutes about a topic they are both knowledgeable and passionate about.

Other speakers included marketing professor Cynthia Barstow who spoke about her breast-cancer prevention organization “Protect Our Breasts,” operations management professor Anna Nagurney who spoke about networking and her efforts to invent a new format for the Internet, and assistant professor of information systems Ryan Wright who discussed ways to improve “mindfulness” when using technology.

Pasha’s began by telling the audience how she begins her classes by asking journalism students about their life stories. “I either get the glassy, dulled, glazed look…or I get the nervous giggle, or more often than not I just get the shrug,” she said.

Pasha added that students think they have no story. Often they think their story is irrelevant or that it does not matter, though Pasha said she felt such modesties “couldn’t be further than the truth.”

After receiving a master’s degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism, Pasha had various jobs as a journalist, including work as a daily columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a banking and legal reporter for CNN Money. She later worked in Dubai as an Islamic finance correspondent for The Brief, a legal magazine. She also taught print and online journalism at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. All of these accomplishments were possible, she said, when she disposed herself of fear and shame.

“I started realizing all the things that were hindering me: fear and shame, unnecessary emotions,” Pasha said. “I started talking to people and developing their stories into mine.”

She told listeners of a conversation that took place between her and the chairman of Enron, Kenneth Lay, who was on trial for accounting fraud. She said she was covering the trial, and interrupted to ask Lay a question. He told her she didn’t understand what it was like to fight for what you got, and she identified with him.

“For a second I understood I was him,” she said. Pasha went on to tell how she lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. She added that her parents were “intelligent, hard-working” immigrants from Pakistan. “The American dream hadn’t worked out from them yet,” she said.

“Endless bills, secondhand clothes, endless battles with critters and vermin that somehow took offense that we were living there,” Pasha said when describing their apartment. “Filled with fear because we were ashamed.”

She described a friend with whom she rode the subway everyday, who was gunned down. She began to have dreams of leaving Brooklyn and being an international journalist. “I would sit on the subway…and try to dream big,” she said. “I want to see all the color and light that is out there…I’m going to get out of my cage.”

She succeeded in breaking out of her “cage” by going to Pace University and later Columbia, and then settling down into suburban life in New Jersey – though it wasn’t the kind of life she imagined. “I was secure and bored out of my mind,” she said. “I wasn’t doing what I was meant to do…a lot of it was fear because I didn’t want to make the wrong choice.”

Pasha said she sat down and asked herself in a very journalistic manner if she was where she wanted to be in life. When she found her fears were keeping her from her goals, she overcame them.

“I quit my job at CNN and I took my then 4-year-old old daughter and 3-month old son and got on a plane and flew to Egypt,” she said. Though she didn’t speak a word of Arabic, she said, “It was the best decision I ever made.”

Years later Pasha would see students she taught on TV, reporting protests on international news outlet Al-Jazeera. She continued to pursue journalism in an area of the world where journalism was not welcome by the government.

She realized that though they were worlds apart, the people of Egypt faced the same obstacles as she had. “How similar our hopes and dreams and were. And shame,” she said.

Pasha finished her speech by concluding that though her story had not changed, she is now more aware of it, and how much it had been influenced by others. Whether a cab driver in Cairo, an African prime minister, or a rich Pakistani lawyer, Pasha believes every person she has met is a part of her story.

      “Your story is not boring, it’s not lame, it got you to where you are,” she said. “Decide what you want your story to be.”

      Listeners in the audience found Pasha’s story to have an impact on how they view their own life stories.

“I had been one of those students who didn’t think much about their life story,” said sophomore Halley Ames. “But after hearing Pasha talk, she influenced me to reevaluate where I want to be in life.”

Sophomore Mirabella Pulido felt Pasha proved how important confidence is. “I like a good underdog story,” she said. “It just goes to show where motivation and being comfortable with yourself can get you.” 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Fall 2015 syllabus

JOURN 300: NEWSWRITING and REPORTING, FALL 2015  Tuesday/Thursday 4-6 p.m. Integrative Learning Center S413
Open to sophomore, junior and senior journalism majors. Required for major. Fulfills junior year writing requirement.

Description and Learning objectives: Journalism 300 is a hands-on, nuts-and-bolts news writing and reporting class. Upon completion, you should be able to :
• Determine what is news
• Identify and pitch a good story
• Report and conduct interviews
• Use the news story "formula," especially leads and nutgraphs
• Have an understanding of the kinds of stories there are and how to tell them
• Write original, logically organized narratives free from clich├ęs, euphemisms and unexamined assumptions
 • Edit your peers’ pieces according to news writing standards
• Uphold journalistic principles of fairness, accuracy, telling the truth and serving the public good

Email me anytime at, 413-588-4274 (cell)
Syllabus, schedule and assignments are posted on the class blog:

REQUIRED TEXT: Melvin Mencher, News Reporting and Writing (latest edition) - McGraw Hill

AP Style Guide online, assigned readings TBA and daily newspapers and news magazines. Try to scan online and/or in print at least one of the local newspapers including the Collegian, Daily Hampshire Gazette or Springfield Republican every day. Each class, one or more students will bring in a newspaper article and comment on news coverage, structure, style, choice of stories or contrast between coverage. Being conversant with what is in the news is essential to writing it.

Grades are based on timely and thoughtful completion of in-class and out-of-class writing assignments and quizzes, multi-media blog, attendance and in-class participation. Writing criteria include news judgment, clarity of writing, grammar, accuracy, organization, spelling, conciseness, use of AP style, and meeting deadlines. Although the big picture things like news judgment and solid reporting are important, misspelling names and other seemingly minor shortcomings can ruin a story and your reputation, so they will count. Numerical equivalent of grades: A=95, A-=92, A-/B+ =90, B+88 etc.  Explanation of how grades are calculated is in the course schedule/calendar.

Not making appointments or missing the action will also undermine your career and the class. You MUST tell me BEFORE class if you are going to be absent for a legitimate reason. (I read my e-mail regularly and you can call my cell anytime.) Otherwise you will receive zeroes for the day’s assignments. Please do not be late or leave early. More than three absences and/or repeatedly being late or leaving early will result in a significantly lowered final grade, with the grade being lowered by a full half grade for each absence over three. CELL PHONE RINGERS MUST BE TURNED OFF. NO TAPING WITHOUT ASKING FIRST. NO READING ONLINE DURING CLASS!

In-class writing assignments usually won’t be longer than 2-3 typewritten pages. Most major assignments are 1,000 words or 4 pages. First drafts must be in turned in on-time for credit. Not turning in a first draft or turning in an insufficiently complete first draft will result in a zero for the first draft and a significantly lower final draft grade. Among your assignments are a profile, feature, coverage of a speech, issue piece, deadline assignments, blog, minor assignments, quizzes.

Any instance of plagiarism or any other form of cheating is cause for course failure.