Sampler of photos, features and news with a digital twist

MCOM356 Syllabus



Fall 2017 Semester

Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies

Syllabus: MCOM356 Feature Writing, Section 001, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, MC100 

Taught by JoAnne Broadwater. Click here to find out a bit about me and click here  to contact me.

(Note: Instructor has the right to change the syllabus with advance notice.)

Course Description: Researching and writing journalistic articles for publication in newspapers, magazines, and other media.

Prerequisites: MCOM255/256 or MCOM258. Students MAY NOT take this course concurrently with either of these classes.

(It is university policy that students may not attempt a course for the third time without prior permission from the Academic Standards Committee. Information regarding this policy may be obtained through Enrollment Services.)

Core Learning Goals:

  • Recognize and employ models and practices of written communication specific to a particular discipline or profession.
  • Recognize and employ techniques of formatting and documentation appropriate to a particular discipline or profession.
  • Integrate material effectively from outside sources into their own prose.
  • Analyze and evaluate complex discipline-based claims and current research questions.
  • Demonstrate a developed ability to compose clear effective prose, including through the practice of revision.
  • Produce professional prose that follows accepted conventions of grammar, punctuation and style.

Departmental Course Objectives:

At the end of the course, the student should be able to:

  1. Write feature stories utilizing appropriate interviewing, researching and outlining techniques.
  2. Discharge any feature writing duties with acceptable quality and speed for mass media and organizational publications.

Required Textbooks:

 Inside Reporting: A Practical Guide to the Craft of Journalism, Third Edition. By Tim Harrower.

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War. By Lynsey Addario. (Please read Prelude and Chapters 1, 2, 3 by the third day of class.) 

2017 AP Stylebook.

Additional readings to be assigned throughout the semester.

Brief description of course content: 

  • Unit 1: Defining Feature Writing
  • Unit 2: Research for Feature Writing
  • Unit 3: Food Writing
  • Unit 4: Travel Writing
  • Unit 5: Podcasting


Assignments and Grading (total of 1000 points): 

Addario Discussion Questions  (3 @50 points each)                150  points

Addario Themed Blog Entries   (3@50 points each)                 150 points

Feature Skills Development       (2@100 points each)              200 points

Food writing story                        (1@150 points)                       150 points

Instagram story                                                                               100 points

Travel writing story                                                                        150 points

Final assignment                                                                              100 points


Click here for a complete semester schedule with assignments and due dates. 

MCOM356 Important Due Dates

Sept 5: Discussion questions #1 (assignment sheet)

Sept 5: Addario blog entry #1(assignment sheet)

Sept 19: Discussion questions #2 (assignment sheet)

Sept 21: Feature Skills Development #1

Sept 28: Addario blog entry #2 (assignment sheet)

Oct 3: Discussion questions #3 (assignment sheet)

Oct 3: Addario blog entry #3 

Oct 5: Feature Skills Development #2

Oct 17: Instagram Story Part 1 (assignment sheet)

Oct 24: Instagram Story Part 2 (assignment sheet)

Oct 31: Food Writing Story(assignment(rubric) (examples of food writing) 

Nov. 9: Suzanne Loudermilk profile(assignment sheet) (rubric)

Nov 16: Travel Story (assignment) (rubric)

Dec 7: Last day of classes: Final assignment due/class presentations (assignment)(rubric) 


Click here for grading criteria. All of your grades will be posted on Blackboard which you may access through this link.

Attendance is required at all classes; students are also required to arrive on time.  Attendance/lateness policy is posted here.

Policy Regarding Late Submission of Work: It is expected in the profession that journalists always meet their deadlines so all of your assignments must be turned in at the beginning of class on the due date. I WILL NOT ACCEPT LATE WORK  WITHOUT A DOCUMENTED EXCUSED ABSENCE. 

I will make ONLY one (1) exception to this rule for each student during the semester. One (1) assignment may be turned in NO LATER THAN 48 HOURS AFTER THE TIME OF THE CLASS ON THE DUE DATE. (If the assignment was due at the 11 a.m. Tuesday class, it must be turned in by 11 a.m. on Thursday.) I will not accept any assignment after that. When a student chooses to take this exception, the assignment grade will automatically be lowered by the equivalent of one (1) full grade level in points from the actual grade earned. For example, an assignment that earns a B would automatically be lowered to a C. The specific number of points earned will be determined by the value of the late assignment. The student may not participate in peer editing on the due date and should not ask a classmate to edit his/her work. 

Students will receive only one opportunity to submit work up to two days late. Any other late assignment will earn a zero (0).

Other policies about assignments:  All writing and multimedia must be your original work. Stories will be written from information gathered in telephone or in-person interviews with  expert sources (knowledgeable persons with credentials) unless assignment specifies otherwise.

All assignments must be written and multimedia must be produced during the current semester. Do not recycle work from previous classes or from other classes during this semester. Do not recycle any of your work that has been published. DO NOT MULTIPLE SUBMIT ARTICLES TO DIFFERENT CLASSES. This is considered to be academic dishonesty and will result in a failing grade on the assignment or for the course. 

Elements among those that will contribute to the grade include spelling, grammar, punctuation, readability, order of information, AP style, general accuracy, topic selection, organization, use of quotes, completeness, quality and quantity of reporter’s notes, good transitions, quality of expert sources selected, quality of telephone and/or in-person interviews, effective lead, accuracy, etc. Quality of photos and video will also be considered.

Students will peer edit the written portion of a classmate’s work on some assignments. On the occasions when we do peer editing, students will have the opportunity to make corrections to the written portion of their assignment.

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

Need some help writing news style quotes? Click here.

And here’s a checklist to help you remember some of the basics of news writing. 

 Instagram photo/story:  This assignment requires students to take an artistic photo for posting on Instagram along with a 350-word highly focused story that is written in a non-traditional journalistic style.

Examinations:  Exam may include textbook content and/or writing. You must take the final exam during the scheduled time for your section. University policy states that no student may take this exam at a different time. If you are unable to take the final exam at this time, it is recommended that you drop the class.

Academic Integrity Policy: All student work including assignments, presentations, and tests must adhere to the university’s Student Academic Integrity Policy The policy addresses such academic integrity issues as plagiarism, fabrication, falsification, cheating, complicity in dishonesty, abuse of academic materials, and multiple submissions. See the last page of this syllabus for the department’s policy concerning plagiarism and cheating. Penalties to violation of academic integrity ranges from F for the assignment to F for the course, in addition to a report filed in the Office of Student Conduct and Civility Education.

Classroom policy on cell phones and other forms of technology: Keep computer screens black and turn the monitor to the side; turn cell phones off, pack them away in a backpack or purse.

University policy for students with disabilities: This course is in compliance with Towson University policies for students with disabilities as described in Students with disabilities are encouraged to register with Disability Support Services (DSS), 7720 York Road, Suite 232, 410-704-2638 (Voice) or 410-704-4423 (TDD). Students who suspect that they have a disability but do not have documentation are encouraged to contact DSS for advice on how to obtain an appropriate evaluation. A memo from DSS authorizing your accommodation is needed before any accommodation can be made.

University policy for Student Athletes/University Activities Participants: Provide a letter from your coach with a schedule of games/competitions during the semester. Take any tests and prepare any assignments that conflict with this schedule before the test or due date, not after.   Provide a Notification of Absence from Class Form for every absence throughout the semester.


Here are other Towson University policies:

COFAC Civility Code

Towson University’s Policy on Weapons

Department of MCCS policy on academic dishonesty:

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