COMS 104: News Writing, with Bob Stepno

office hours: 3:30-4:30 p.m. M-T-W-Th, or by appointment

Spring 2013

Section -20450- COMS 104-02
  11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. TTh, Whitt Hall 222
Section -20436- COMS 104-01
  2-3:15p.m. TTh, Young Hall 123

Syllabus (PDF) | Overview | Students | Workbook | This Week

Class Notes: Assignment reminders will be added here after class. Be sure to check here -- especially if you miss class or don't take great notes. The former top of this page (overview) has moved.)

FINAL EXAM: Usual room, new time...

Section02 (11 a.m. class) exam at 10:15 Thurs. May 9, Whitt 222;

Section01 (2 p.m. class) exam at 2:45 Tues. May 7, Young 123.

The "exam" will consist of writing a story based on information provided in class, comparable to the "Gartner" or "fire" stories. BRING YOUR AP STYLEBOOK.

Check your exam schedule for all classes, and notify your professors if you have three or more exams on the same day. There may be limited opportunities to take the 104 "exam" with the other section, but seating is limited. I'll take a poll in class to see whether the "I want to leave town before Thursday" and "I want more time to prepare" requests balance each other out.

Week 14

Week 13

Week 12

Week 11: Beyond Comm Week

Week 10: Communication Week

Week 9: Still spring, snow or not!

Week 8: Welcome back from spring break!

Here's some of what we'll be doing in class and for homework, using chapters 4 and 5 of the textbook:

Week 7: Can't believe it's March already

Sixth week: Feb. 24-30

Fifth week: Feb. 17-23

Fourth week: Feb. 10-16

Third week: Feb. 3-9

More discussion of "newsworthiness" or "news values," along with the stories you've read since the last class, my email about internships, and the Markham Nolan video below.

In class Tuesday: Add links to your favorite stories as a new post on your WordPress blog (and while you're there, make sure you remembered to save the first assignment, and look over both items for errors with the help of the people sitting next to you).

Possible quiz on Chapter 2's terminology: General assignment reporters, beat reporters, copy desk, lead, quote, attribution, liftout quote, etc.

Start Chapter 3 so we can get writing: Those "five W's," the inverted pyramid story, and the basic news lead.

Second week:

After we talk about the history and traditions of journalism, we'll look at how it is changing today. Your own What I Read reports will be part of the discussion. So will this short talk by Markham Nolan on the impact of the Web, the average citizen's "documentary urge," and tools like Twitter, Instagram, Google Maps, Spokeo and Wolfram Alpha.

(If you have a good level of journalistic curiosity, you have already started asking yourself, Who is Markham Nolan? Maybe you googled the answer before you noticed that link.)

First homework:

Overview (formerly at the top of the page)

Follow this required texts link to see my bookmark entries for those books and for some (optional) free online or downloadable texts. Also browse my bookmarks on the left whenever you're looking for information overload.

News reading is also required: Read the best and most interesting news writing you can find. Here's a start: The New York Times, The Roanoke Times, The Virginian-Pilot, The Washington Post, and the Pulitzer Prize archives.

Get to know the culture: Visit journalism groups and publications, starting with the Society of Professional Journalists (, Investigative Reporters & Editors (, Radio & TV Digital News Association (, Online News Association (, Columbia Journalism Review (, American Journalism Review (, and the resources at the The Poynter Institute.