Journalism: Investigating the Truth

Course Overview

Units at a glance

In this unit, you will learn about the changes in American journalism between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 21st and how advancements in technology helped speed these changes along. Focusing on key figures and events in American history, this unit will help you see the connection between each generation of journalism, from print to radio to television to digital. You’ll see how everyone from William Randolph Hearst to Jon Stewart has changed the way we understand news — and how you, as reader and citizen, participate in it.

In this unit, you’ll learn about how the Internet and the digital world we now live in has changed how the four major types of news media – newspapers, magazines, radio, and television – do their primary work. We’ll first examine the focus of each medium, identifying how journalists tell their stories and what the focus of each medium is. We’ll also discuss interesting figures and events within the newspaper, magazine, radio, and television worlds to demonstrate how the genre’s focus is reflected. Then we will discuss how each of these traditional types of news media has been absolutely transformed by the digital world.

Being a member of the press comes with serious responsibilities. It’s not enough to tell a great story – journalists are also responsible for following the law, both international and American. But more than that, everything a journalist does should follow a set of ethics that goes beyond the law. In this unit, you’ll learn the important basics of press law and its history, the code of ethics journalists should follow, and a few cases of journalists who have gone very wrong. By the end of this unit, you’ll understand not only what a journalist can’t do but also what every journalist should strive to do every day.

Every journalist is a storyteller, and those stories have a structure. Understanding how to be the best journalist possible is more than just knowing the facts or finding a great person to interview – it’s about understanding how to know your audience and speak directly to them. In this unit, you’ll learn about rhetoric, or the act of speaking or writing, and more about the three key parts of that act: the author/speaker, the subject, and the audience. By the end of this unit, you’ll understand how you can make your writing and speaking more powerful, in journalism or other media, by understanding your role within the rhetorical triangle.

If you live an online life, as most of us do, you’re probably more likely to respond to a picture than to words. Whether you are on Facebook or Twitter or someone’s blog or a newspaper’s website, when you see an interesting picture, you’ll stop and “read” it much faster than if that story were told in words. The power of the image has created an entire profession – photojournalism. But can photojournalists be replaced by cell phone cameras and Instagram? As social media affects journalism more and more, the changes to the way we tell stories continues to change as well. In this unit, we’ll tackle that question, and show you that the world of photojournalism, social media, and advertising are linked around one thing the power of the image.

When you pick up a newspaper or read online about the latest game, community event, or international crisis, you expect to find certain things in each story. You may not even recognize what those qualities are, but you know something is wrong if they are not there. News stories follow a similar pattern and, depending on their topic and focus, even a similar structure. In this unit, you’ll learn about the different types of news stories and how you can create your own. You’ll learn how to choose a topic, structure your story, and develop and write it following the journalism tradition and get a chance to practice those skills in your own article!

Journalists are asked to tell the world a story every single day and their job is to tell the truth. The best way to make sure that you’re telling the right story is to make sure that you have the right information. Researching sounds like such a boring task, but the truth is that you research all the time. Any time you ask Siri for the answer to a question or Google to find the directions to a new restaurant, you use research skills. In this unit, you’ll learn how to approach research in a digital world, the best strategies to get the best information for your story, and how to decide if the source you’ve found is the best one.

Journalism is all about using your senses and being on the scene. No one really believes that a story can be truly told from behind a computer screen. You can’t capture the color and life of a story unless you’re there – and that’s the reporter’s unique challenge. Reporters doing their job are on the ground, pencil or wireless recorder or cell phone in hand, recording what they see so that they can bring it back to their readers. In this unit, we’ll talk about the types of sources that form the bulk of every reporter’s information arsenal: observational and personal sources. You’ll learn how to gather and use this information most effectively, as well as what can happen when these sources are not used as well as they could be.

Every reporter and journalist produces stories that have to get the approval of one person: the news editor. Whether that editor oversees a newspaper section or a magazine as a whole or is responsible for supervising a broadcast newscast, the process of getting a story approved by an editor is the final hurdle for any journalist. Editors and producers look for not only interesting stories that contain good information but also error-free writing. Editors are, for lack of a better analogy, the “teachers” of the journalism world. They check work, suggest changes, demand revisions, and give approval when a final product meets their criteria. In this unit, we’ll talk about how you can take the skills you’ve already learned throughout your school years about the writing process and apply them to your writing as a journalist, as well as how to understand what an editor may be asking you to change. The revising process is the final part of a writer’s day – and perhaps the most important so that’s what we’ll talk about here.

If you could be a fly on the wall of a newsroom, either broadcast or daily newspaper, on any random day, you might be surprised at how similar the process of creating the news really is. From the morning meeting to assign stories to the pressure-filled race to go to press or on the air, reporters and editors and photojournalists are in a mad scramble not only to get the story right but also to get the story in on time. In this unit, you’ll learn about the process of publication from the flow of a day to the layout of a news broadcast or newspaper. You’ll learn the steps you need to create your own newspaper or news broadcast. Then you’ll take the work you’ve been doing throughout the course and do just that!

Course Highlights

Discover how technology is influencing today’s journalism.
Explore how to create a great story for your audience.
Learn to find and cultivate good-quality sources.
Plan, write, and edit your own news story.

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