Communication and Media Studies 404

COMS 404: Specialized Journalism

Prerequisites: COMS 104, COMS 204, COMS 130, and COMS 330, or permission of instructor
Corequisites: COMS 481

Credit Hours: (3)

Strategies for computer assisted reporting, practice in gathering information from first-person participants and expert sources, and experience in writing investigative and exploratory articles and/or documentary scripts. The course concentrates on several themes evident in journalism today, including diversity reporting, community journalism, financial reporting, reporting for the web, international issues and others.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

This course is designed to introduce students to modern information gathering and research techniques specific to certain topics in print and electronic journalism (e.g., television, radio, cable, and www). The course will familiarize students with strategies used in finding and verifying information from public, private and first person sources, including: computerized databases; libraries; federal, state and local government documents; records and reports; business, scientific and institutional and other information sources.

Students are also introduced to the changing nature of the mass media and the problems and opportunities of information gathering and dissemination. Telecommunications networks and satellite services, along with local area networks and net modem applications, may be among the topics considered. In addition, students are introduced to international media issues. Also, the rights and responsibilities of journalists and others gathering public information will be discussed in detail, with a look at federal and state Freedom of Information acts, "Sunshine" laws and other open-access issues. The importance of avoiding invasions of privacy and respecting copyright protection is emphasized.


Detailed Description of the Conduct of Course

The course will include lectures, demonstrations, possible field visits to local and state government offices and certainly interviews with people in the community. Wherever possible, the latest technology will be employed in order to familiarize students with tools they will need in the future. Students who are television/cable reporters will work with students in COMS 346 who will serve as videographers and editors for the in-depth news stories.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Students will learn how to quickly and accurately find and verify information, how to interview people from diverse backgrounds, how to "feel" the pulse of a community and reflect what is going on in it.

This course will include instruction on how to put together longer, in-depth pieces. Students will learn standard library and electronic database research techniques applicable to a variety of sources. The course also may include discussions of relevant topics and ethical situations in journalism. Students will also be introduced to rapidly changing global technologies which are affecting news reporting and research.


Assessment Measures

Stories and scripts written for print and electronic media will be produced. These in-depth scripts/stories will be submitted to the print or electronic medium of the student’s choice for possible distribution. Exams and other assignments may be given at the instructor's discretion.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

Revised 2013

October 2005 Approved Clay Waite, Chair

May, 2011