MCom 100w

Writing Workshop


School of Journalism & Mass Communications, San José State University

MCom 100W – Writing Workshop in Mass Communications
Spring 2015, Section 2, M/W 3-4:15 p.m. in DBH 222

>> download 100w syllabus for spring 2015 (pdf) <<


Completion of ENGL 1B (with a grade of C or better) and core GE classes, satisfactory WST score, and upper division standing (60 or more earned units). Journalism and PR majors should also have successfully completed JOUR 61.

Course Description

Advanced writing across the media — advertising, journalism and public relations. The focus is on writing and research for an increasingly convergent media, from the Web to print and broadcast. This class is designed for students who plan careers in media-related fields.

Learning Outcomes & Course Goals

The emphasis in this class is on good clear writing. Exercises and projects are related to news and news writing, public relations and advertising. Assignments will include writing a news story, news release, broadcast copy, query letter, memo, and a feature or trend story.

To satisfy university GE requirements for Area Z, you must write a minimum of 8,000 words for this class. Regardless of your final grade, you must demonstrate that you have met the 8,000-word requirement to pass this class. You must also successfully complete the Student Learning Outcomes listed below.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

CLO3: Demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of groups in a global society in relationship to communications.

CLO5: Demonstrate knowledge of professional ethical principles and the ability to work ethically in pursuit of truth, accuracy, fairness and diversity.

CLO6: Demonstrate the ability to think critically, creatively and independently.

CLO7: Conduct research and evaluate information by methods appropriate to the communications professions in which you will work.

CLO8: Write correctly and clearly in forms and styles appropriate for the communications professions, audiences and purposes they serve.

CLO9: Critically evaluate your own work and that of others for clarity, accuracy, fairness, appropriate style and grammatical correctness.

CLO11: Demonstrate the ability to use tools and technologies appropriate for the communications professions in which they work.

Required Texts / Readings

Note: If you have little or no prior news-writing experience, you may also want to refer to one of the following texts: Inside reporting: A practical guide to the craft of journalism by Tim Harrower or Writing for the Mass Media by James Glen Stovall.

MLK Library Liaison

Toby Matoush, Asst. Librarian, Martin Luther King Jr. Library
(408) 808- 2096 /

You may want to check out the journalism and mass communications library guide at the King Library.

Course Requirements & Assignments

The emphasis in this class is on good clear writing for news media, public relations and advertising. Assignments include writing news stories, news releases, broadcast copy, query letters, memos, blog posts, essays, summaries, and a feature or trend story. (A complete list of assignments can be found on the Assignments page of this blog at

I expect your writing to be entry-level professional quality (and if it isn’t there yet, it should be by the end of the semester). Correct use of the English language and AP (Associated Press) style are standard in this field so be mindful of grammar, spelling, punctuation and AP style in your writing. Errors will significantly reduce your grades.

Assignments are due at the start of class (put them in the red folder on the instructor’s desk); blog assignments must be posted before the start of the class on the day when they are due. Please refer to the class schedule for all assignment due dates.

Please Note: SJSU classes are designed so students are expected to spend a minimum of 45 hours per unit of credit, including preparing for class, participating in course activities, completing assignments, etc. More details about student workload can be found in University Policy S12-3 at

Grading Policy

This course must be passed with a C or better as a CSU graduation requirement.

In total, the assignments, exercises and tests for this class are worth 950-1,000 points. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • AP style quizzes and exams = approximately 20 percent of your grade
  • In-class exercises and activities = approximately 15 percent of your grade
  • Outside writing assignments = approximately 40 percent of your grade
  • Blog posts = approximately 25 percent of your grade

Writing assignments will be graded on accuracy, organization, clarity, creativity and style, as well as on AP style, grammar, punctuation and spelling. To receive full credit, carefully read the directions for each assignment before you begin writing. If your paper does not fulfill all the requirements of the assignment, you will not get full credit.

Be sure to thoroughly proofread your work before you submit it. If your paper is off the mark, or if it contains more than three AP style or grammatical errors, it will be returned to you for revision and resubmission and you will automatically lose one grade — that is, a “B” paper will become a “C” paper.

If your assignment contains a fact error, it will be graded “0” and returned to you for revision and resubmission. You can earn up to 50 percent of the original grade with a good revision.

Here is an overview of the grading standards used in this class:

To receive an “A,” your written work must comply with all requirements of the assignment, be well organized and well developed, and demonstrate a clear understanding of audience and purpose. Your writing should contain no logical or factual errors, and demonstrate your ability to use language and construct sentences effectively and correctly. It should also display a measure of creativity, and be essentially free of grammatical, mechanical, usage and AP Style errors.

“B” work demonstrates the same competence as “A” work, but with some slight weaknesses. It may fall short on one of the assigned tasks, show less facility with language, or contain some minor grammatical, mechanical, usage or AP style errors.

“C” work completes all tasks set by the assignment, but shows weaknesses in the fundamentals (e.g., organization and development, understanding of audience and purpose). The sentence construction may be less mature, and the use of language may be less correct than in “B” work.

Failing work neglects one of the assigned tasks and may be noticeably superficial in its treatment of the assignment — that is, it is too short or simplistic, or has problems in logic. It may also demonstrate a striking underdevelopment of ideas and organization, and/or contain serious grammatical, mechanical, and/or usage errors that render some sentences incomprehensible. As previously noted, a fact error will also result in a failing grade.

University Policies

Dropping and Adding

Students are responsible for understanding the policies and procedures about add/drop, grade forgiveness, etc. Refer to the current semester’s Catalog Policies section at

Add/drop deadlines can be found on the current academic year calendars document on the Academic Calendars webpage at The Late Drop Policy is available at

Students should be aware of the current deadlines and penalties for dropping classes. Updates are available at the Advising Hub at

Consent for Recording of Class and Public Sharing of Instructor Material

University Policy S12-7,, requires students to obtain instructor’s permission to record the course.

  • Such permission allows the recordings to be used for your private, study purposes only. Recordings remain the intellectual property of the instructor; you have not been given any rights to reproduce or distribute the material.
  • In classes where active participation of students or guests may be on the recording, you must obtain permission of those students or guests as well.
  • Course material developed by the instructor is the intellectual property of the instructor and cannot be shared publicly without her approval. You may not publicly share or upload instructor-generated material for this course, such as exam questions, lecture notes or homework solutions, without instructor consent.
Academic integrity

Your commitment to learning is evidenced by your enrollment at SJSU. The University Academic Integrity Policy S07-2, at, requires you to be honest in all your academic coursework. Faculty members are required to report all infractions to the office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. The Student Conduct and Ethical Development website is available at Please review the university’s policies on student conduct and academic integrity, in particular the section describing academic integrity pitfalls.

Please be aware that I take the issue of academic integrity very seriously. I flunk students who submit plagiarized papers. I consider plagiarism (presenting another person’s work as your own, or using another person’s ideas without giving them proper credit) to be the “kiss of death” for any student who aspires to work in one of the writing professions.

If you would like to include any material you have previously submitted or plan to submit for another class in an assignment for this class, please note that SJSU’s Academic Policy F06-1 requires the instructor’s prior approval.

Campus Policy in Compliance with the American Disabilities Act

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need to make special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please advise the instructor ASAP. Presidential Directive 97-03 at requires that students with disabilities who request accommodations must register with the Accessible Education Center (AEC) at to establish a record of their disability.

Accommodation to Students’ Religious Holidays

San José State University shall provide accommodation on any graded class work or activities for students wishing to observe religious holidays when such observances require students to be absent from class. It is the responsibility of the student to inform the instructor, in writing, about such holidays before the add deadline at the start of each semester. If such holidays occur before the add deadline, the student must notify the instructor, in writing, at least three days before the date that he/she will be absent.

It is the responsibility of the instructor to make every reasonable effort to honor the student request without penalty, and of the student to make up the work missed. See University Policy S14-7 at

SJSU Writing Center

The SJSU Writing Center is located in Clark Hall, Suite 126. All Writing Specialists have gone through a rigorous hiring process, and they are well trained to assist all students at all levels within all disciplines to become better writers. In addition to one-on-one tutoring services, the Writing Center also offers workshops every semester on a variety of writing topics.

To make an appointment, or to refer to the numerous online resources offered through the Writing Center, visit the Writing Center website at

Classroom Protocol

  • Assignments are due at the start of class on the due date – place hard copy assignments in the red folder on the instructor’s desk. Blog posts must be published on your blog before the start of class. Late assignments will not be accepted.
  • All writing assignments submitted for this class must be original work, written by you for this class (see Academic Dishonesty section below).
  • Handwritten papers will not be accepted. All assignments must be typed and printed out, or posted on your blog, as specified by the assignment. Double space all “hard copy” papers unless otherwise instructed. Use a normal serif font, such as 12-point Times New Roman.
  • Include a word count on every assignment. You’ll need those numbers to show that you’ve met the 8,000-word minimum for this class.
  • You can revise and resubmit up to three assignments this semester to improve your grade. With a good rewrite, you can earn back up to half of the points you originally lost. Rewrites are due one week after original paper is handed back.
  • In-class assignments and tests are distributed only to those present — no make-ups.
  • You are responsible for all material covered during class, whether you attend class or not. If you are absent, it is your responsibility to get notes and assignment information from a classmate. Specifics of assignments are discussed in class, not via e-mail.
  • Check your e-mail and the class blog regularly. I sometimes respond to questions about assignments by email or with a blog post on the class blog.
  • If you are unable to attend class on a day when a hard-copy assignment is due, please submit it early or send it in with a trusted classmate.
  • CYA: Always save your work to a flash drive or email a copy to yourself. Then, if your printer or computer crashes, you can print out your assignment at the campus copy center.
  • Exercise good manners and good judgment. Discourteous behavior will not be tolerated.
  • Please advise the instructor of any extenuating circumstances early in the semester.

JMC School Policies

  • Please set your cell phone to “stun” (vibrate mode) while in class. Do not text, tweet, FB or surf the web in class.
  • Clean up after yourself before leaving the classroom.
  • No food in computer labs.

Word to the Wise

If writing is one of your weaknesses, get help early. Make friends with the writing specialists at the SJSU Writing Center in Clark Hall.

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