Syllabus – Smock – Monday

CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
Interactive Journalism II
Spring 2011


John Smock
Contact Info: Email:
Mobile: Smock: 917.687.0732
Office Hours: Smock: Tuesdays 3p-5p, Friday 11a-1p

Adjunct Instructor: Russell Chun
Contact info: TBD
Office Hours: Thursday 2-5pm

Course Dates & Location: Monday 1:00p-4:50p, Jan. 31 -May 16

Classroom: Rm. 438

About the Course

Interactive Journalism II concentrates on providing students with intermediate-to-advanced interactive storytelling abilities. The course will expand on reporting, writing and visual storytelling for interactive media taught in Interactive Journalism I, as well as cover new dimensions of digital reporting such as data presentation using Flash.
Other advanced skills students will learn in the course will include collaborative deadline digital reporting, higher-level multimedia storytelling using new techniques in Final Cut Pro and Photoshop, and the advanced use of other web-based tools such as blogging platforms, social networks, podcasting and liveblogging. Material developed in the class and in concert with work produced in Craft II will be showcased on individual student portfolio sites designed and maintained as part of the course.

Course Outcomes

At the completion of Interactive II, students will be able to:

  • Conceive, report and produce intermediate-to-advanced visual stories.
  • Determine the best tools to create and deliver a particular story.
  • Plan, report, write and produce online breaking news on deadline using various Web tools and multimedia, including live coverage tools.
  • Write search-friendly text blurbs, headlines and captions on deadline for multimedia.
  • Conceive, report and produce data-driven Interactive graphics, using both applications and Web tools.
  • Conceive, report and produce engaging crowdsourcing projects.
  • Create, build and maintain a news/portfolio website on the WordPress platform, applying search engine optimization concepts and tools.
  • Tap social media tools and networks to show a demonstrated increase in traffic to and engagement with their content.
  • Write concisely and clearly for the Web

Craft II Partnership

In addition, we plan a partnership between Interactive II and  Craft II in which students will leverage their work from Craft II to fulfill much of the reporting requirements for their Interactive II assignments.

The primary benefits of this partnership to students are:

  • To improve the quality of interactive storytelling by ensuring Interactive II students leverage their reporting from Craft II work to produce compelling Interactive pieces.  Note that not all the students’ reporting will be done via Craft II; Interactive II has a share of reporting time which students may use to enrich their pieces as necessary.
  • To provide sufficient story production time for Interactive II students and allow the teaching of storytelling that harnesses tools, technology and interactivity by limiting the requirement for from-scratch reporting in the Interactive II course.

A larger objective is to prepare students for a converged news industry, reinforcing that discussion of how particular stories are best gathered and presented in the professional world is increasingly a part of newsroom editorial considerations.

Major Assignments

Each assignment module below includes required milestones for: a) story development & pitching, b) planning and research, c) newsgathering, d) draft/storyboard, e) final production and f) revision. An electronic pitch form shared with their Craft II course instructor will require students to identify not only the central focus of the story, its significance, relevance, news value and key steps/tools/resources the student will use in the reporting process for the story, but also to clearly identify the interactive and/or multimedia scope of the story, and why that media is the best way to tell the story.

Student work will be showcased online in portfolio sites developed as part of the class and supported by the school, and critiqued in a master class at the end of each module. Students will be encouraged to submit superior and/or timely work for publication elsewhere, including school outlets such as the New York City News Service and The Local.

  • Assignment One: Platform Development: Students create fully realized digital portfolio platforms, including web sites and social media, and campaigns using those platforms, as well as plans for (or execution of) innovative delivery methods, such as via tablet computer. IMPORTANT: Students will be expected to maintain a weekly spreadsheet/diary in order to track social media campaign activity, audience metrics, improvements/customization for their platforms, and any new content.

o   Module 1a/Platform: Concepts and tools for building your digital portfolio and brand

o   Module 1b/Platform: Developing your portfolio web site.

o   Module 1c/Platform: Developing your social media portfolio; plus tracking performance of your platform.

  • Assignment Two: Data Journalism: A substantial interactive editorial project using data-rich information to tell a story, whether through infographics, timelines, process interactives, interactive maps or other clickable graphics.

o   Module 2a/Data Journalism: Concepts and tools for data storytelling.

o   Module 2b/Data Journalism: Planning and reporting your data-rich story.

o   Module 2c/Data Journalism: Producing your data-rich story.

  • Assignment Three: Multimedia Journalism: A substantive editorial project using any one of varied multimedia tools (video, audio, photo essays or audio slideshows) to tell a story.

o   Module 3a/Multimedia Journalism: Concepts and tools for advanced multimedia journalism.

o   Module 3b/Multimedia Journalism: Planning and reporting your multimedia story.

o   Module 3c/Multimedia Journalism: Producing your multimedia story.

  • Assignment Four: Live Digital Coverage: Digital coverage of a daybook event, using live blogging, live webcast/podcast and mobile coverage tools from the field. Students will work in collaborative teams for this assignment.

o   Module 4a/Live Coverage: Concepts and tools for live digital coverage.

o   Module 4b/Live Coverage: Planning and reporting your live story.

o   Module 4c/Live Coverage: Producing your live story.

In addition, students will be expected to complete in-class exercises and outside homework assignments to develop skills needed to produce their major projects, as well as to meet the milestones along the way to the project’s completion.

Labs: Tech Tools & Training

In order to allow for extended technical training on the wide range of tools and techniques required for advanced interactive storytelling, a fourth hour has been added to this year’s Interactive II course. See the week-by-week schedule for labs being planned, subject to change.

Regarding tools and technical training, note that we do not expect students to learn in-depth technical skills similar to those of professional technical producers or programmers often employed by online newsrooms. But we will provide opportunities to fully understand the capabilities of these tools and, where feasible, give hands-on training in the tools.

The tools and techniques covered during the course will include, but not be limited to:

  • HTML
  • CSS, or cascading style sheets
  • WordPress (customization via CSS, plugins, themes, domain mapping)
  • Flash

o   Understanding the software interface: Timeline, Stage, and Layers

o   Understanding when and where to use Flash: pros and cons

o   Alternatives to Flash

o   Creating buttons and the importance of visual feedback for interactivity

o   Understanding frames and keyframes

o   Navigating the Timeline: non-linear navigation

o   ActionScript 3.0: Object-oriented programming, Event Listeners and Functions

o   Methods for Timeline navigation (stop, play, gotoAndStop, gotoAndPlay)

o   Flash workflow and file formats

o   Integration of video, bitmaps, and sounds into Flash

  • Data visualization tools (infographics, timelines, process interactives, interactive mapping)
  • Advanced Photoshop

o   Advanced selections for vignetting

o   Making composites and working with layers

o   PNG-24 output and transparencies

o   RAW file management

o   Photo editing ethics: tools for image manipulation

  • Advanced FinalCut Pro (including creating stills and graphics for web, techniques for audio editing)
  • Social media platforms & analytics
  • Audio-video distribution platforms
  • Live blogging tools
  • Llive webcasting/podcasting tools
  • Live mobile newsgathering tools

Week-by-Week Outline

Intro to Interactive II/Course overview. Planning your stories. Working with Craft II. Module 1a/Platform: Concepts and tools for building your digital portfolio and brand. LAB: Web basics (content management systems, file transfer, HTML & design). WordPress (site setup, domains, theme selection)

LAB: An Intro to basic Word Press, HTML and CSS

Module 1b/Platform: Developing your portfolio web site. Lab: WordPress, Part 2 (HTML/CSS/plugins); Design. Mini-Lab: Flash exercise based on tutorial/homework

LAB: Design/Photoshop; Flash refresher(1 hr)

Module 1c/Platform: Developing your social media portfolio; plus tracking performance of your platform. Lab: Analytics & social media & metrics. Audio-video distribution platforms (Youtube/Vimeo/BlipTV channels, iTunes podcasts, etc.). Master Class: Showcase & critique of student platforms, plus review of weekly tracking.

LAB: Platform Critique


Module 2a/Data Journalism: Concepts and tools for data storytelling. Lab: Advanced data visualization (infographics – timelines, clickable graphics, process interactives, interactive maps)

  • What is information design, “data journalism”?
  • Historical examples and lessons from Tufte; finding the most effective visuals for the data
  • Kinds of charts and graphs: static
  • How can interactivity add to the presentation/understanding of data?
  • Where to find data
  • Examples
  • Typical production process and project structure (SWF and XML), Dynamic vs. Static
  • Flash Lab: moving beyond timeline navigation and using Object properties; MovieClip methods, properties and Dynamic Text properties

LAB: In-class Flash work
Module 2b/Data Journalism: Planning and reporting your data-rich story. Lab: Flash

  • Storyboarding and wireframing
  • Quick visualization tools; Many Eyes, Excel, Google
  • Flash and other off-the-shelf, free web tools (Vuvox, FlashMo, Code libraries with import)

LAB: In-class Flash work

Module 2c/Data Journalism: Producing your data-rich story. Lab: Flash, Part 2

LAB: In-class Flash work


Master Class: Showcase & critique of student data journalism projects, plus review of weekly tracking. Lab: Field newsgathering techniques for the web news stories (distinct web approaches to gathering audio, video and stills)
LAB: In-class Flash work


Module 3a/Multimedia Journalism: Concepts and tools for advanced multimedia journalism.

  • Examples of multimedia projects
  • Choosing the right tool to tell the story
  • Basic structure of the slideshow, web video story and audio piece


LAB: Advanced video/audio production techniques (audio, video, stills)


Module 3b/Multimedia Journalism: Planning and reporting your multimedia story.

LAB: Advanced video/audio editing techniques, Part Two. Advanced audio clinic (advanced FinalCutPro).
NOTE: If have ProTools, can get support from school. Reaper is unofficial support only.

Module 3c/Multimedia Journalism: Producing your multimedia story.

LAB: Advanced imaging editing and graphics techniques (Photoshop, including transparencies, advanced selection techniques and PNG-24 outputting).


Master Class: Discussion and review of portfolio sites thus far.

LAB (extended): Showcase & critique of student multimedia journalism projects, plus review of weekly tracking.

Module 4a/Live Coverage: Concepts and tools for live digital coverage.

  • What is live-coverage?
  • What are tools?
  • Examples
  • Discussion/identification of events
  • Working in teams

LAB: Live blogging, live webcasting/podcasting, live mobile tools.

Module 4b/Live Coverage: Planning and reporting your live story. Lab: Crowdsourcing techniques
LAB: Crowd-sourcing tools and techniques


Module 4c/Live Coverage: Producing your live story

LAB: This day may be for field work

Master Class: Showcase & critique of student live coverage projects. Review of student platform tracking.


In assessing students’ work, I will focus on the following factors applicable to all assignments:

  • Quality: Is it executed with skill and subtlety? Has it been edited well and polished?
  • Effort and Application: Has the work been prepared with careful thought and attention to detail, and does it take appropriate advantage of the relevant tools?
  • Organization and Presentation: Is it presented clearly and in a professional manner suitable for a wide audience?
  • Punctuality and Completeness: Is it on time and complete, and does it fulfill the assignment?

There are two levels of grading in this class. Grades for individual assignments are based on the level of professionalism of the finished work, with an “A” being professional quality work with minimal editing required, and a B being good quality student work. By contrast, grades for the class will be based on your overall performance as a student measured against your peers in the class.

The weights of assignment and other grades are as follows:

  • Platform Development: 20%
  • Data Journalism: 20%
  • Multimedia Journalism: 20%
  • Live Digital Coverage: 20%
  • Attendance & Professionalism: 20%

It is a serious ethical violation to take any material created by another person and represent it as your own original work.  Any such plagiarism will result in serious disciplinary action, including possible dismissal from the CUNY J-School.  Plagiarism may involve copying text from a book or magazine without attributing the source, or lifting words, photographs, videos, or other materials from the Internet and attempting to pass them off as your own.  Student work may be analyzed electronically for plagiarized content.  Please ask the instructor if you have any questions about how to distinguish between acceptable research and plagiarism.

Also note that while we actively encourage students in this course to use their reporting/newsgathering work from their Craft/Broadcast Craft class for their assignments in Interactive II, you are not to “plagiarize” your own work, that is, to use finished work from one course to fulfill assignments in another. Again, please review with the instructor any questions about reuse of your work from one class to another; we’ll be spot checking material during the term to ensure adherence to this policy.

Photo policy: Do not “lift” or “borrow” images from other web sites for use on your web site or blog without credit or “courtesy of” text. Permission must be provided by creator of the content for any image to be used, unless it is being used for “fair use,” purposes such as to comment on the image or because the image itself is part of the news you are reporting. Since such permission is often difficult to obtain, especially on deadline, and “fair use” difficulty to define, we strongly recommend that instead you use only those images you have created yourself, or which you have obtained via the AP Photo Bank, or other photo service for which the school has obtained licensing, or which are explicitly labelled as “creative commons” and available for your use. IMPORTANT: This matters, not just as a plagiarism issue, but as a legal copyright issue that could create problems for you in the school or beyond, in the workplace. Apply the old journalism adage: “If in doubt, leave it out!”


Deadlines on assignments – as in any newsroom – are sacrosanct and should not be missed without exceptionally good reason, and only when the instructor is notified in advance. Per your student handbook, late assignments will be assessed a one-half grade penalty for every day it is late. For the purpose of this class, a day is a 24-hour period beginning immediately after the deadline has passed. Assignments that are late less than a full 24 hours will also result in a drop in grade, at the discretion of the instructor.

Participation & Lateness Policy

Participation and attendance are also important ingredients to your success in the class, and that’s especially so given the workshop format, where so much of the learning will take place hands-on during class time. Full participation in class is mandatory.

Lateness is strongly discouraged, especially without advance approval by the instructor. Excessive or repeated lateness will result in a reduction in grade. If you’re anticipating being late (such as because of a conflict, like a job interview), you must discuss it beforehand with the instructor.

Absences other than related to medical or family emergency must be discussed beforehand with the instructor. Do NOT assume automatically they will be approved. Medical emergencies do not include “feeling sick” – for routine illness, advance notification to the instructor is mandatory. Unexcused absences will automatically result in a markdown in your participation grade.

Per school policy: “As a professional school, the CUNY J-School has the same expectations for professional behavior as a news organization.  Reporters are expected to show up every day ready to work and J-School students are expected to attend every one of their classes.  This is not college, where classes sometimes are skipped on a whim.  Reporters who don’t show up don’t have a story – and pretty quickly, they don’t have a job.

“If you cannot attend one of your classes, you are expected to notify the professor with the reason and get an excused absence. A medical or family emergency is generally sufficient reason for an excused absence from the CUNY J-School, just as it is from a job.  An unexplained or unexcused absence is never okay and will lead to a lowering of your grade.  It is within the professor’s discretion to determine what qualifies as an excused absence.  Similarly, arriving late for class on a regular basis also will lead to a grade reduction for unprofessional behavior.”

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