Sampler of photos, features and news with a digital twist

MCOM356 Syllabus

Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies

Feature Writing MCOM356

Section 001

Spring 2018

Tuesday, Thursday, 8-9:15 a.m., MC110

Taught by JoAnne C. Broadwater, Lecturer

Towson University, Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies

Office: Stephens Annex 142

Email:, Emails received between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday will be responded to within 24 hours.

Office hours: TTh 1:45-3:45 p.m

Office Phone: 410-704-3947

I teach Feature Writing, Journalism/New Media I and Introduction to Mass Communication classes at Towson University. I started my career in journalism at The Sun, the major metropolitan daily in Baltimore, where I advanced to the position of reporter. I have a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and I earned my undergraduate degree right here at Towson University. I have more than 25 years of experience as a freelance reporter and writer of feature and news stories. I did most of my work on assignments for The Sun. I am passionate about writing and I have been teaching students at Towson University since 2005. When I’m not helping my students to improve their reporting and writing skills, I love riding horses and caring for chickens on my family’s small farm. I also enjoy writing feature stories, shooting photos and taking barre, yoga, spin and step classes.

Keep up to date on class news by following my blog:

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(This syllabus is a tentative plan for the upcoming semester. I will let you know in advance of any changes made to enhance student learning, provide valuable educational opportunities and allow for unforeseen events.)

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

Prerequisites: MCOM255/256 or MCOM258. Department policy requires me to tell you that students must complete one of these courses before MCOM356.

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:

Write feature stories utilizing appropriate interviewing, researching and outlining techniques.
Discharge any feature writing duties with acceptable quality and speed for mass media and organizational publications.
Brief Description of Course Content:

Feature writing is an exciting field that presents a journalist with opportunities to have amazing adventures, meet incredible people and learn something new every day. The world is full of amazing stories and all we have to do is look about us with curiosity to find them before we embark on our information-gathering and writing.

Our class will be run as a newsroom and all of your stories will be written for publication in the Baltimore Watchdog, our department’s online newspaper. You will be the reporters and I will be your editor. If you do a good job, you’ll earn a good grade and your story will be published. Stories that are not done well will not be published and will earn a lower grade.

We’ll start by learning how to develop story ideas for feature stories from hard news to soft. We’ll study the writing process and learn to hunt for amazing sources who will fill our stories with information to intrigue our readers. We’ll do lots of in-class writing, completing exercises to help us fine-tune our skills. (Four of these exercises will be feature skills development practices that I will collect throughout the semester for grading. No worries. The due dates are listed below. Other classwork may also be collected for extra credit opportunities from time to time.)

We’ll start the semester by reflecting upon our own interviewing techniques as we read a few chapters from the book, “It’s What I Do.” This memoir demonstrates the storytelling skills of combat photojournalist Lynsey Addario, who strives to immerse herself in the lives of her subjects. She wants them to be more than a snapshot, more than a list of questions and answers. For our first assignment we’ll watch a short video, complete some written questions about the Prelude, Chapters 2 and 4, discuss our responses and write a journal entry about the interviewing philosophies expressed in the book and our own interviewing techniques. We’ll consider what inspires Addario’s journalism and look at how we can become inspired writers. Maybe we’ll learn something about ourselves.

This course will include four primary writing assignments. The first two should be at least 600 words with at least two expert sources. The second two should be at least 1000 words with at least five expert sources. There will also be a fun Instagram assignment that is tightly focused on one person’s slice-of-life 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.

All feature story assignments will have lots of choices about story type and topic. You’ll also have the opportunity to read one of your three stories to the class during the semester. Reading aloud and listening to others read aloud will help you to develop a practiced ear that will assist you in your own writing. Your goal is a polished, musical quality in your work; listening to the words that you write will help you improve rhythm and cadence. Classmates will be asked to offer constructive suggestions for students to use in their revisions.

We will have a mid-term and a final exam that will include course content from lectures, writing and skills.

Required Textbooks:

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War. By Lynsey Addario. (Please read Prelude and Chapters 2, 4 and answer discussion questions by the third day of class.)

2017 AP Stylebook.

Additional readings of feature stories will be assigned throughout the semester.

Tentative course calendar with subjects, timetable, due dates, exam

Week 1: Introductions; each day review syllabus, classroom organization and good classroom citizen points; attendance procedure; introduce Lynsey Addario’s “It’s What I Do” assignment due next week. Set up wordpress site.  Choose two leaders for next Tuesday’s Addario discussion. Review through class read-aloud the COFAC Civility Code. Powerpoint Class 2: Action, Angles and Anecdotes in a feature story; mistakes beginning writers make. Start thinking about story idea for  Writing Assignment Feature Story #1 practice writing assignment due Feb. 12.
Week 2:  Discussion questions/reading due Tuesday Feb 6. Class discussion Tuesday, Feb 6 led by a team of two students. Refer to posted Addario assignment for details. Journal entry due before class on Thursday, Feb 8. Submit via Blackboard before midnight on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Turn in rubric before class on Thursday.
Week 3: News feature writing, Lifestyle feature writing. Feature practice story #1 due Tues., Feb. 13.
Week 4: Adventure feature writing . Feature skills development #1 due Tues., Feb. 20.
Week 5: Food writing . Feature skills development #2 due Tues. Feb. 27.

Week 6: Fashion and Beauty writing . Feature skills development #3 due Tues., March 6.
Week 7: Trend feature writing. Feature story #2 due Tues., March 13. Midterm exam, Tues.,  March 13.
Week 8: Spring Break.
Week 9: Travel writing.
Week 10 Sports feature writing. Feature story #3 due Tues., April 3.
Week 11: Instagram feature writing. (National Geographic does it. So can you!)
Week 12: Roundup feature story. Entertainment feature story. Feature skills development #4 due Tues., April 17.
Week 13: Profile feature story. Instagram feature story due Tues., April 24.
Week 14: Calendar feature story.
Week 15: What other type of feature story shall we learn to write? Feature story #4 due May 8.
Week 16: Final exam

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.
MCOM356 Important Due Dates

Feb 6: Complete Addario reading, discussion questions due; in-class discussion today

Feb 8: Addario journal entry due

Feb. 13: Feature #1 practice story due

Feb 20: Feature skills development #1 due

Feb 27: Feature skills development #2 due

March 6: Feature skills development #3 due

March 13: Feature Story #2 due. Midterm exam.

April 3: Feature Story #3 due

April 17: Feature skills development #4 due

April 24: Instagram story due

May 8: Feature story #4 due

May 22: Final exam: Tuesday, May 22 8 a.m.

Weight of assignments toward course grade (total of 1000 points):

Good Class Citizen Points: (250 points) (8 points tallied daily for 25 days

each time goals are achieved)

Addario project: (50 points) reading, questions, discussion, blog, post

Feature Skills Development: (100 points) (4@25 points each)

Feature Story #1: (50 points) Get your feet wet writing a practice feature

Feature Story #2: (100 points) Adventure, Food, Fashion, Beauty or other Lifestyle story

Midterm exam: (100 points)
Instagram story  (100 points) Pick Your Own Story Theme

Feature story #3: (100 points) Travel, Trend or Sports, Profile feature story
Final writing assignment #4: (100 points) Pick a story type you haven’t done yet.

Final exam  (100 points)

Click here for grading criteria. All of your grades will be posted on Blackboard.

I follow Towson University’s requirement of attendance at all classes.

Policy Regarding Late Submission of Work: Please meet all deadlines for assignments by submitting before the start of class on the due date. This is a professional standard of the industry of journalism. Any work submitted after class starts is late and will receive a reduced grade of one full letter grade. Late assignments will be accepted up to 48 hours late with the grade reduction.

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 for violation of academic integrity range 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.

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.

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.

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.

Examinations:  Exam will include lecture content, writing and skills. 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.

The university requires me to include this statement: 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.

Here are other important Towson University policies:

COFAC Civility Code

Towson University’s Policy on Weapons

Department of MCCS policy on academic dishonesty


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