Dan Kennedy's
home page @ NU

Syllabus and Online Reading List
JRN U640 • Spring 2008
Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:50 to 4:30 p.m.

Dan Kennedy
117 Holmes Hall
Office phone: (617) 373-5187
Cell phone: (978) 314-4721 (call any time)
E-mail: da {dot} kennedy {at} neu {dot} edu
Class blog: jrnu640.blogspot.com
Office hours: Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 to 11 a.m.; Thursdays, 2 to 3 p.m.


A course subtitled "The Journalism of the Web" is, in a sense, a course about all of journalism. Newspapers increasingly are mere adjuncts to their Web sites. Television and radio stations have repurposed much of their content for the Web. Moreover, media that appear to be quite different in the analogue world — that is, newspapers, magazines, television and radio — are very much alike in the digital world, as news organizations of all kinds increasingly combine text, photographs, video and audio. It's all zeroes and ones.

But there is far more to Web-based journalism than mere convergence. The Web makes possible new forms of reporting and new ways to connect with the public through such technologies as online chats and staff-written blogs. It has also given rise to new competition, both from established media that are now available well beyond their home bases to new types of media that would have been inconceivable before the rise of the Web. With young people, in particular, gravitating toward social media such as Facebook, news organizations are attempting to combine what they have to offer with social networks such as Digg and NewsTrust. Moreover, the Web, and especially easy-to-use blogging software, enables anyone to be a journalist, which has sparked what is often called the "citizen journalism" movement.

In this course we will explore what I call the six concentric circles of Web-based journalism, starting at the core of the traditional newsroom and moving farther out with each circle:

  • Computer-assisted reporting via Web-based resources
  • Enhancing traditional reporting with multimedia features, links, original source documents, mash-ups and the like
  • Using the Web to interact with what citizen-media pioneer Dan Gillmor calls the "former audience" — blogs, online chats and beyond
  • New competition from established media
  • New competition from new media
  • The "former audience" becomes the media through citizen journalism, media- and politics-savvy blogs
This course will consist of some lecturing, a lot of Web and multimedia demonstrations, extensive classroom discussions, readings, and guest speakers. By the end of the semester, you will be familiar with the concepts and trends that are revolutionizing the way we think about journalism.

This is a time of great pessimism about traditional forms of journalism such as newspapers, magazines and television. I hope you will all become forward-looking optimists over the next few months.

Required reading

There is no textbook for this course. However, I expect you to read extensively in order to keep up on what’s going on in this rapidly changing field. Since you will all be writing blogs about developments in Web-based journalism, you will find that this reading will be essential raw material.
  • "Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive," by Mark Briggs. Published in 2007 by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism and the Knight Citizen News Network. This is a free book published as a PDF file under a Creative Commons license. It is an excellent introduction to how to be a digital journalist in the 21st century. Although hands-on digital journalism is not the focus of Reinventing the News, you should nevertheless be familiar with the concepts explained in this book.
  • Every aspiring journalist needs to read a major metropolitan daily newspaper. Two of the best — the New York Times and the Washington Post — also are doing some pretty innovative things with their Web sites. You need to become familiar with both of these sites. You're probably already reading the Boston Globe. The Globe's Web site, Boston.com, is something you need to be familiar with as well.
  • Our class blog. This will be our principal forum for in-class communications about additional readings, assignments, guest speakers and the like. You'll need to check it every day. If you're not already doing so, you should subscribe to all your favorite blogs with an RSS reader such as Google Reader.
  • Our online reading list, which is laid out week by week at the end of this syllabus. I will supplement these readings from time to time as the news warrants, which is one of the reasons you need to be attuned to the class blog.
  • Online new-media sites. You'll find more listed on our class blog, but among the most important are PressThink, by New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen; MediaShift, by new-media expert Mark Glaser; and the Online Journalism Review.
School of Journalism attendance policy

The School of Journalism requires that you attend at least 80 percent of all scheduled class meetings. If you miss 20 percent or more of scheduled classes for any reason, you will automatically fail. Every absence will have some effect on my assessment of your class participation, which will be factored into your final grade. Chronic tardiness may result in my marking you down for additional absences. Reinventing the News is an intensive, seminar-style course heavily dependent on everyone's active engagement. If you're not there, you can't engage.

University statement regarding academic honesty

Northeastern University is committed to the principles of intellectual honesty and integrity. All members of the Northeastern community are expected to maintain complete honesty in all academic work, presenting only that which is their own work in tests and all other assignments. If you have any questions regarding proper attribution of the work of others, please contact me prior to submitting the work for evaluation.

A personal note: The two capital offenses of journalism are fabrication and plagiarism. Commit either of these and you can expect to receive an "F" for the course, with possible referral to OSCCR. My presumption is that you are honest. But as Ronald Reagan said, "Trust, but verify."

Special accommodations

If you have physical, psychiatric or learning disabilities that may require accommodations for this course, please meet with me after class or during conference hours to discuss what adaptations might be helpful to you. The Disability Resource Center, 20 Dodge Hall (x2675), can provide you with information and assistance. The university requires that you provide documentation of your disability to the DRC.

Assignments, deadlines and grades

1. During the first two weeks of class we will start blogs. I expect you to post items of 350 words or more at least three times each week. You may blog about anything you like, although, given the focus of this course, I expect you to be especially attuned to new-media topics. We're going to work on making your blogs as multimedia as possible, too. If you can take pictures with your cell phone and transfer them to your computer, you can add photos to your blog. Your blog will count for 20 percent of your grade.

2. Class participation is vitally important in this course. Starting Week 3, I will begin each class with a 10- or 15-minute presentation/demonstration from a student on a topic of your choice related to new media or Web-based journalism. Since you’ll be blogging, there should be no shortage of material. I envision this class as a seminar, which means that I also expect regular in-class contributions from all of you. Your class participation will count for 20 percent of your grade.

3. At the midterm, you will turn in a 1,500-word feature story, again on a topic of your choice related to new media or Web-based journalism. At a minimum, your story must be accompanied by a one-page memo outlining how you think your story could be enhanced with Web features such as links, multimedia, online chats and the like. Ideally, you will submit your story in electronic form with links and some multimedia features. Deadline: Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the beginning of class. Your midterm feature story will count for 20 percent of your grade.

4. Your final project will be the same as your midterm, only more in-depth: a 2,500-word feature story on a new-media or Web-journalism topic, also with either a multimedia presentation (preferred) or a detailed memo on how to enhance your story for the Web. Deadline for a one-page story pitch: Monday, March 17, at the beginning of class. Deadline for your first draft: Wednesday, April 9, at the beginning of class. I will return your story to you, with comments, on the last day of class — Wednesday, April 16. The deadline for your final draft will be sometime during finals week, on a day and time to be announced. Your final project will count for 40 percent of your grade.

Semester schedule and online reading

We will try to stick to this schedule as closely as possible. However, we need to maintain some flexibility to accommodate guest speakers and other special events.

Weeks 1 and 2:
Jan. 7, 9, 14 and 16
Weeks 3 and 4: Jan. 23, 28 and 30
Weeks 5 and 6: Feb. 4, 6, 11 and 13
  • Repurposing content for the Web. What is "convergence journalism" and why is it important?
  • Reading/viewing
Weeks 7 and 8: Feb. 20, 25 and 27

Weeks 9 and 10: March 10, 12, 17 and 19
  • The Web has given established news organizations unprecedented reach, which is both an opportunity and a threat.
  • Reading/viewing
Weeks 11 and 12: March 24, 26, 31 and April 2
  • The Web has given rise to new forms of journalism, such as Slate and Salon, The Smoking Gun, Romenesko, NewsTrust, podcasts and YouTube — not to mention the ever-growing world of blogs
  • Reading/viewing
Weeks 13 and 14: April 7, 9, 14 and 16
  • The "former audience" becomes the media, from large, national, politically oriented sites such as the Daily Kos to hyperlocal projects such as H2otown
Finals week
  • The final draft of your project will be due on a day and time to be announced.