“Journalism is not content. It need not be a profession or an industry. It is not the province of a guild. It is not a scarcity to be controlled. It no longer happens just in newsrooms. It is no longer confined to narrative form. So, then, what the hell is journalism? It is a service whose end is an informed public.”

– Jeff Jarvis

Course Information                  

  • Fall 2014
  • MW 11:10 a.m. – 12:25 p.m.
  • 302 Coppee Hall

Instructor’s Information

  • Phone: (610) 758-6520
  • Office: 204 Coppee Hall
  • Twitter: @jeremylittau
  • Email: jjl409@lehigh.edu
  • Office Hours: Monday & Wednesday 1-2 p.m.

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to take skills you already have and apply them to new platform contexts.  In this case, the skills are your ability to gather information and report and the new contexts will be the all of the multimedia tools available to you on the Web. But this course is more than that. It’s an immersion into the life and culture of the Web. We’ve been talking about how media is changing, but you’re going to have a front-row seat to media change as someone who is producing in this new world. If you devote yourself to the material, you will come out a changed journalism major and one who is ready for this new media world.

Course Goals

  1. Become proficient at gathering and editing information using digital tools
  2. Use social media as a tool for information gathering and dissemination of the stories you tell
  3. Spot the elements of the story that are best told visually, in written word, in sound, and graphically
  4. Gain experience doing community journalism


  1. Treat others with respect.
  2. As a courtesy to your fellow students and your professor, please silence your cell phones while class is in session.
  3. Computers are vital to the learning process in this course, but I ask that you show respect to both your fellow students and me by using them only for class-related activity.
  4. All work in this class is public, as it is with any journalistic enterprise. Videos, tweets, blog posts, and stories you produce for this class are considered open and must not contain locks or blocks on your accounts. You will receive a 30% penalty for any work that is done under blocked publication settings. If you aren’t comfortable with your work being out there for the public to see, you need to find a new career. This is what media makers do.


There is no textbook for this course, but we will do web readings. There are two purchase requirements that take the place of the book:

  1. A smartphone (either Apple or Android) that runs downloadable apps such as Instagram, Vine, Flickr, and Twitter. If you don’t have a smartphone, an iPod Touch that is 5th-generation or newer is acceptable but you should have this approved by me. You must bring your phone and connector cable to every class session. I will not announce when we’ll be using them, and failure to consistently come prepared will result in grade reduction.
  1. You’ll be required to purchase web hosting space and a URL for this class. You’re going to create a professional web site as the class goes along. This will cost about $40 and we will set it up on the first day of class, so you’ll need to bring a credit card to class. The professional site will host your blog as well as be configured to host your professional work. We will learn HTML along the way to help you learn how to do more with your site.
  1. The flexible nature of this class means that sometimes deadlines shift. We have a shared class Google document that I will update with deadlines.

Important notes

  1. In this class, you’ll be shooting video and publishing on YouTube. It is important that, as with any journalistic form of information gathering, you respect the rights of those whom you are interviewing. In this case, that means full disclosure of what you’re doing video for and the fact that it’s going to be published on YouTube and/or your project site. For legal reasons, you should get this at the start of the video, on camera. When you start recording, tell them you’re doing this for your J230 course and that the video will be published online and YouTube and possibly other sites. Ask for them to acknowledge that they understand this. Be sure to save these clips, because they are your backup in the rare case someone gets angry at what you produce.
  1. Second, you are expected to observe copyright rules in the course of your blogging and videos. All materials for this class should conform to commercial copyright laws.  That means you may use text, images and music in your work only if they are copyright-free, Creative Commons or you have obtained permission to use it. This is crucial because your work will be published and available on the Web.
  1. Finally, this class is experimental in nature because this part of the field evolves in new ways every week. Flexibility on the schedule is going to be key, so please pay attention to all announcements about schedule changes in class. You will be responsible for changes, but I will be completely clear about it beforehand.
  1. Wear comfortable shoes to class! I’ve been known to send students out on campus for assignments during class.


At the end of the semester you will be scored in each of the categories below and each category accounts for a percentage of your overall grade. Each assignment or activity will have a category, and the points you earn help determine how much of that category’s percentage you earn (for example, if you get all of the points in the Blog/Social Media category you get all the points possible in that assignment category (roughly 260 points possible by the end of the semester), then you’ll get 30 percentage points toward your grade because that category is worth 30% of your grade. If you get 90% of the points possible in that category, you’ll get 27 percentage points. And so forth

General assignments  (25% of your grade):  The week-to-week work in this class will follow a consistent pattern. I’ll give you an assignment on Wednesday to take home and complete by the following Monday. We’ll come to class Monday, talk about it, and go over it. Then we’ll do another version of it in class as a lab. This will give you two chances to practice every tool we learn in this class.

  • Out of class assignments: Worth 20% of your grade. This encompasses weekly assignments, Glass assignments, and CodeAcademy work.
  • Lab assignments: Worth 5% of your grade. Note you cannot make these up if you miss with an unexcused absence.

Web Documentaries (25% of your grade): You will do two of these this semester. The specifics on this assignment will be given out in September.

Capstone project (25% of your grade)  We will have twin final projects to give you a way to demonstrate all the skills you’ve amassed this semester. The first is building your professional web site. The second is a larger converged story package on a topic of your choosing; you can work in pairs on this or individually (I expect double the output on team projects, though). More on this to come, but you’ll have at least 6 weeks to work on both.

Blog/Social media (25% of your grade):  The assignment is located at the end of the syllabus.

Grading scale

How do you determine your grade? Add up all the percentage points you earned in each category out of the 100% possible. Then match the number you get to the scale below; the numbers here are the bare minimum you need for the corresponding grade level. You must get at least 60 of the available final-grade points to avoid an “F” grade for this course.

  • 94 = A
  • 90 = A-
  • 87 = B+
  • 84 = B
  • 80 = B-
  •  77 = C+
  •  77 = C
  •  70 = C-
  • 67 = D+
  • 64 = D
  • 60 = D-


Absences: This class requires participation, and so coming to class is critical. If you do miss class, you’ll need to get caught up from another student and except in extreme emergencies you should still turn work in on time. While I’m happy to provide extra help, I do not re-teach the material. Just like showing up for work is important, you are responsible for showing up to class. What are excused absences? Being sick, for one, but I must be notified before class. Any notification after class requires a doctor’s note, and after your second missed class due to sickness I will require a doctor’s note for every instance (to prevent abuse of the policy). Family emergencies also are excused but should be documented with the Dean of Students office before they are allowed.

Deadlines: Deadlines are important. They make the media world go. If you don’t file that story on time or get that marketing pitch out on deadline, someone else is there to take your place. Missed deadlines mean missed opportunities. Any missed deadline carries a 20% grading penalty on the final grade you receive for that assignment. I won’t accept any work that is more than a week late – it’s an automatic zero. Due dates can be found on our ever-updating class calendar.

Academic dishonesty: Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated and at the bare minimum will result in an “F” grade for the course. Academic dishonesty includes (but is not limited to):

  • Lifting text from other sources without quote marks (even if you just change a word or two).
  • Not attributing information you got from a source.
  • Recycling work or parts of assignments done for another class (known as “self-plagiarism”).
  • Collaborating with others to discover answers together.
  • Not observing intellectual property rights in terms of copyright
  • Lifting design or code from someone else’s work and representing it as your own

Don’t be afraid to ask if you aren’t sure where or when to cite the appropriate sources. When in doubt, it is up to you to ask. Ignorance of the rules is not a justification for breaking them and it does not matter whether the act was intentional or unintentional when it comes to punishment. In addition, even though some of the writing is less formal in this class, I still expect you to give proper credit for any material you get from other sources. Three resources I highly recommend:

Unless I explicitly make exceptions for an assignment in writing, these standards are in effect for all work done in this class. The type of assignment doesn’t matter. I expect honesty and for you to give credit to sources.

Required university syllabus statements

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting accommodations, please contact both your instructor and the Office of Academic Support Services, University Center C212 (610-758-4152) as early as possible in the semester. You must have documentation from the Academic Support Services office before accommodations can be granted.

Principles of Equitable Community: Lehigh University endorses The Principles of our Equitable Community. We expect each member of this class to acknowledge and practice these Principles. Respect for each other and for differing viewpoints is a vital component of the learning environment inside and outside the classroom.



Blogging Assignment

Goal: To generate a blog and social media presence about some topic all semester that will be incorporated into your professional site. This will become a type of digital resume for you, showing future employers that you’re thinking about the field you want to enter.

The best way to describe this work: “Lots of work with little structure. Make up format as you go. Welcome to journalism in 2014.” If you do this assignment well, you’ll locate your own work within the context of an online community, contribute to it, and amplify others’ contributions. This takes work and is considered an every-day activity in this class. That community might be Reddit or a simple hashtag, but it should be something tangible.

Topics? You should pick some topic broad enough for it to have a newsy component but narrow enough that you can write specifically about it. It would help if you have some prior knowledge about the basics. I don’t want these to be “my thoughts on X” posts. You should be writing like a journalist, as if this were a well researched column or editorial. Again, the goal is that if an employer were to look at your social media and blogging efforts, they can see some interest in the career you’ve chosen.

The social media requirements for this portion of your grade – not all of these are doable depending on your topic, but I want to see some evidence that you’re participating. Also, we’ll be learning some of these tools (such as Twitter lists) as we go, so I don’t expect you to do all of these right away. But pay strong attention to the social media units in September!

  • Finding hashtags for the communities in your interest group.
  • Build social tools to help you follow news and information in this topic such as Twitter lists. Follow people who are important, interesting, or useful on your topic.
  • Participate in social activity such as chats on your topic’s hashtag.
  • Curate news in your topic area via Twitter
  • Curate blog posts in your topic area via Twitter
  • Build a social profile in that reflects your being a part of the community. This means considering a Google+ and Facebook page presence that publicizes your work and hosts new posts. I don’t want you to pick random social tools, but rather ones that make sense for your topic.

Blogging requirements

  • Phase 1: September – 1 blog post a week, minimum 200 words. Try to keep it below 500.
  • Phase 2: October – 1 blog post of your own, plus a “week in review” roundup post that highlights the best content in your topic that you read in the past week (again, keep it short – list, links, short description). When this is working well, the social tools bullet point above will feed you all kinds of great reading in your topic.
  • Phase 3: November/December – Everything from October, plus a multimedia post per week. Maybe play with a video post embedded in your blog, or try your hand at a podcast.
  • Each post should be tweeted out with a Social Media Optimized (SMO) tweet, a link, and the hashtags in your topic area.

Evaluation standard: By the end of the semester you should be a valuable member of the community attached to your topic of interest. You should be writing, producing, following, tweeting, sharing, and replying. You should have evidence that others are reading and sharing your posts, and that you’ve been sharing others’ work as well. You’ll be graded on content production as well as my sense of how plugged in you are to the community around your topic. This is somewhat subjective on my part, but I’ve been doing this long enough to be able to tell whether you’re putting enough effort into building a following and being part of the community. You’re going to learn these tools on the go. There is some trial-and-error to this process. Your goal is to test a lot of ideas and double down on what’s working. But I do expect you to get better at this as you go along. At the end of the semester, you’ll generate a report for the class blog on your experience. Be looking at data around your retweets, replies, and blog traffic as you go along because this will be useful in your self-evaluation. I’ll be evaluating you based on what you produce, but also about your position in the community.