Digital Journalism

COM466 – University of Washington


  • Office Hours : Monday, 3.00 – 4.00 and by appointment
  • Office : 251B Communications Building (beside the elevators)

1. Course Overview

It’s not news to write that journalism is in transition, given that one of Seattle’s daily newspapers shut down its print operation in March 2009. The closure of the Seattle P-I is a real-world example of how changes in technologies and institutions are affecting the practice of journalism. In this course, we explore these changes while also learning new journalism techniques and tools. We emphasize the role of the journalist in providing information and context necessary to a functioning democracy.

By the end of the course, you will be able to cite examples of how news organizations and individual journalists have responded to these challenges, and you should also have a clear sense of how you might use these new tools yourself. You will actively blog, Flickr, RSS, Soundslides tag, Twitter, wiki, Vimeo and YouTube. (Notice new “verbs” in that string?)

Our class meetings revolve around brief lectures (some will be guest lectures), class discussion, collaborative team work, and hands-on skill development.

Learning Outcomes
After completing this course, students will:

  • Create an audio story that conforms with digital journalism audio conventions
  • Create compelling digital photographs that conform with current news conventions
  • Create an audio slideshow that conform with current news conventions using SoundSlides
  • Create a video news story that conforms with current news conventions
  • Use social media tools to promote their work
  • Explain how digital technologies are impacting the business of journalism
  • Critically assess current digital journalism practices
  • Research and secure a personal URL

Student Responsibilities

  • Be prepared for class; have reading and assignments done on time (newsroom deadlines rule)
  • Spend time outside of class working on readings, projects, and correspondence
  • Participate in active learning inside and outside of class (in other words, both on-line and face-to-face). That means asking questions, helping classmates answer questions, and working with one another to solve problems.
  • Be in class. It’s the only time we’ll have to work face-to-face.
  • Regardless of your experience with digital technologies at the start of the class, I expect you to challenge yourself so that your skills are greater at the end of the quarter than at the start.

Course Requirements
We will read book chapters and articles from journals, trade magazines and popular publications. Assigned readings may be found through the library’s eReserve system or through open web links. Students must have a working UW e-mail address and check mail regularly. Internet access is required. Basic computer literacy is required.

Books We’ll Be Using In Class:

  • Briggs, M. (2007). Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive: A digital literacy guide for the information age. J-Lab: TheInstitute for Interactive Journalism, University of Maryland. (Free! Download PDF)
  • Gillmor, D. (2004). We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People. O’Reilly. (online)
  • Locke, C. et al. (2000). The Cluetrain Manifesto. Basic Books. (online)

In addition:

  • A subscription to for technical support with software
  • A (free) subscription to NewsU for digital journalism tutorials
  • A USB (“thumb”) drive to share files (bring to class daily)
  • A pair of headphones (bring to class daily)
  • News gathering equipment (your own or checked out through the department)

II. Course Structure and Teaching Strategies

Teaching methods for this course will include lectures, demonstrations, student presentations, guest lecturers, reading, and writing assignments. The class functions more like a workshop than a traditional lecture-driven survey course.

Classes may feature a guest lecturer who is a leading professional or scholar in digital journalism. Class discussions (both in-class and online) are a key element of the course, and students are encouraged to ask questions, offer their own observations, and share their own experiences with new technology and digital journalism.

The course instructor will coordinate all class material, keep in close touch with each student in order to assess and meet individual needs, and evaluate all course assignments. Communication outside of class will be via a class mailing list; students must have a working e-mail address and check mail regularly.

Instructor’s Educational Philosophy
My goal is to provide a stimulating environment for learning. Course material includes both theory and application, with an emphasis on application to real world problems and situations. Written and oral reports are required because these skills are needed in the work environment in general, and in journalism, communication management, and consulting in particular. Students are required to  collaborate as this is a practical skill; the means used demonstrates theories and technologies explored in class.

III. Evaluation

There are no exams in this course; instead, there are several assignments. Each of these assignments is required to successfully pass the course.

Your grade for this class will be based on a possible total of 1000 points; and your score will be directly translated into the 4.0 scale. Participation in the class and lab discussions will count towards your final grade. Regular attendance, contributions to the discussion of themes, and engagement and leadership in class exercises will result in a high participation grade.

Assignments will be turned in via Catalyst or on your blog. We will create blogs at

Students with work or family conflicts should make arrangements with the instructor before missing class or an assignment.

IV. Course Policies

By becoming a member of this class, you agree to abide by these rules and any other policies not explicitly stated here that are detailed in the UW Student Conduct Handbook.

You are responsible for all assigned readings and materials presented in class lectures. You should be aware that missing class could adversely affect your performance on assignments and homework. It is your responsibility to obtain all materials missed by working with other students (do not expect the professor to provide this information). It is also your responsibility to complete all assignments, even if you missed the class where the assignment was made. Material is available online.

Academic Honesty
You are expected to produce original work and properly cite the thoughts and works of others. All sources must be properly cited; just because information can be found online does not mean it is exempt from citations! Plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses and are not tolerated by the University. For more information, please refer to the University’s Academic Honesty policy.

All work must be completed on time. Late submissions will not be accepted, except with advance notice of extenuating circumstances (sudden illness, death in the family, and so forth). Errors (facts, spelling and grammar) will result in a reduced grade. You are expected to produce original work and properly cite the thoughts and works of others. Plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses and are not tolerated by the University. For more information, please refer to the University’s Academic Honesty policy.

Classroom Environment
Students and faculty are responsible for creating a good learning environment. We will use computing technology in the classroom during labs; specific uses of computing technology will be announced in advance with detailed instructions.

Students may use laptops or other portable devices for taking notes. However, these portable devices should not be used to engage in non-classroom activities, such as surfing the Net, checking e-mail, playing games or listening to music. These activities would certainly divert your attention away from class and could distract other students as well, thus corrupting the learning environment. I reserve the right to end your use of a portable device, ask you to move, or revoke the privilege of using wireless devices in the classroom.

During class breaks, students may use portable computing devices or lab computers for personal use as long as they respect other class members. Material visible on the computing device should not be offensive or incendiary. Any music played during breaks should be at a level conducive to classroom civility.

Courteous Discourse
Whether in class or online, students are expected to conduct themselves with professional courtesy and decorum. Please make constructive comments; flames and insults are not acceptable. Disagree with the idea, not the person!

The instructor will not give incompletes except under exceptional circumstances.

To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disability Resources for Students, 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924/V, 206-5430-8925/TTY. If you have a letter from Disability Resources for Students indicating that you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss the accommodations that you might need for the class.

E-mail Communication
E-mail communications among members of this class should reflect respect for the rights and privileges of all members of the academic community. This includes not interfering with university functions or endangering the health, welfare, or safety of other persons. In addition to the University of Washington’s Student Conduct Code, there are additional policies for this class:

  • E-mail communication from a student to the instructor will be acted upon, if possible, within 24 hours (M-Th). If an e-mail from a student does not receive a response within 48 hours, then the student should investigate other ways of contacting me (telephone, office hours, etc.). E-mail to the instructor must have clear, not cryptic, subject lines and should include the course number (COM 466).
  • Students are responsible for checking their UW mail regularly; instructor and class mailing list mail is directed to the student UW address, as it is the official e-mail address for class enrollment.
  • E-mail communications should not include any CCing of anyone not directly involved in the specific educational experience at hand.
  • E-mail communications should not include any blind-CCing to third parties.


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