JO304 teaching guide

JO304 C1 Online Journalism

4 Credits 

Peter Smith
Senior Lecturer
Office: B33
cell: 617 548 0109

Class meeting: Thursday, 12:30-3:15
Office hours: Monday, 1:30-2:30, 5:30-7:30
Office hours: Thursday, 11-12

Course Description

This is an intro class for Online Journalism. Students will use various storytelling platforms to produce stories online. We will explore how online stories differ from stories produced for “legacy” media such as newspapers and broadcast television. 

We’ll also look at how digital newsrooms use current technologies to engage in delivery of breaking news and features. Through class and online discussions, we will evaluate the effectiveness of these current technologies and methods of digital newsgathering. Your best work may be submitted for publication on

Students will configure and maintain a blog to publish their work. Guest speakers who currently work on the front line of digital journalism will provide valuable insight of specialized fields.

Required reading:


NYTimes Lens Blog 

Week to Week

Week 1, January 24

Course Introduction & Overview

  • Review syllabus and course requirements.
  • Get a blog – if you do not have one for this class go to – WP links
  • Discuss class exercises.
  • Sign up for all accounts that you may be missing and set-up blog.

Students will use Twitter and Instagram to promote their blogs.

All assignments must include at least one Instagram post during completion of the assignment with #304c1.
This photo can be of your subject, a scene setter from your story location, or an interesting detail to raise interest and anticipation for your story.
In general, you will post stories to your blog and tweet the short link of your blog post with the goal of driving traffic to your blog to grow your audience.

Next Week:
  • Make sure your blog is set-up. You can get a free blog from

Week 2, January 31
Mobile Reporting – smartphone shooting and editing.
Setup and link Instagram and Twitter accounts to blog.

  • Review composition, background, light and moment.
    Learn how to edit your image on your smart phone: crop, tone, correct exposure. 
    Shoot raw files if possible.

Class exercise:
shoot, edit and tweet photos of  Kenmore Square using a smart phone – embed in blogpost. 

Due today:
Post a feature photo of Kenmore Square.

For next week:

Week 3, February 7
Editing Workshop

Five weather features due during class. 
Post a slideshow of five features by 2 pm so that we can review in class.
Captions are important – include who, when and where, with a short blurb for context. Add why if possible.

Wordpress workshop:
Wordpress lab – work on populating your site with social media links, customizing your blog, embed media, use categories, tags, format and add pages.

Week 4, February 14

Lecture/Demo/Class Exercise
Using iMovie and Adobe Premiere Pro
How to shoot and mic a visual sequence (workshop)
Audio recording basics using an audio recorder,  Zoom H5 Setup
Adjusting audio input level, mic placement

iMovie/Premiere Pro Video Workshop  
Using a smart phone to shoot video, and a Zoom audio recorder to record ‘nat’ sound
Workshop: Shoot and edit a short sequence
White Balance + Camera video settings
1080px24fps, use 1/50 for shutter speed
Shoot b-roll, learn to create sequence
180 degree rule

Shoot a sequence of a process that is visual. Mic audio for high quality ‘nat’ sound.

Week 5, February 21
edit visual sequence in class

View:  Adobe Premiere 
Read  Adobe Premiere Tutorial
Read:  Apple iMovie tutorial 
View:  How to edit in iMovie (video)

Learn how to start your project, use editing tools, set in/out points, add b-roll clips to project,  adjust sound and export movie.

Week 6, February 28

Visual Sequence due at 1:30 pm – post to blog, 20 second video + 125 words
Review stories
Assign:  News Track Story, 250 words; use screen shots and links
Begin research for final story pitch.

Week 7, March 7

In Class:
Assign Twitter Story – tweet three photos and three video clips from the North End. Use up to three of your own tweets and three from your classmates to produce a story about the North End on your blog (six tweets total, three photo, three video) + 250 word story to accompany it.

News Track Due (250 words); Premiere workshop continued
Review News Track stories

Homework: finish research for final story pitch.

Spring Break March 14

Week 8, March 21

Assign Twitter Story
Review Person-On-The-Street Topic
Podcast assigned.

Week 9, March 28

Lecture/demo/exercise – How to shoot and mic ‘person on the street’ 
Review Premiere Pro, how to sync audio + make multicam clip

Pitch final project

Week 10, April 4

Twitter story due at end of class (class edit) – review (250 words)

Review Progress on Person-on-the-street video due + 250 words. Work with your partner to capture high quality video and audio interviews. Sync sound in post. Share files, produce your own story.

Week 11, April 11

Due: Podcast 5 minute pilot. Solo story.


Week 12, April 18

One-hour of editing time to finish edit and post POTS story
Critique: person-on-the-street. 

Week 13, April 25

Due today:

Rough draft of Visual Story due end of class, 90 seconds + 250 word story
Shoot three sequences, plus an opening and a closing shot. Each sequence should include four clips. Each video sequence must be accompanied by ‘nat’ sound recorded with zoom recorder. Add on camera interview – record interview with Zoom recorder and use a lavalier mic. Use a DSLR or iPhone for this assignment. Edit in Premiere Pro.

(-5 points off rough draft if not completed)

Week 14, May 2

Finish final draft of Visual Story and upload
Review Blog + final


Assignment Descriptions

Slideshow – five weather shots (10 points) February 7
Solo produced. Five well captioned photos captured with smartphone. Show a variety of situations and camera angles.  DSLR may also be used for this assignment. Write blurb to accompany slideshow.

Visual Sequence  (10 points) February. 28
Shoot and edit a four-clip sequence of a visual process. Capture high quality ‘nat’ sound to play with clips. Edited piece should be about 20 seconds and be accompanied by caption of 125 words. This could work well as a profile of a parking-meter cop, a waitress, a printer, a barista, etc. This can be developed into a final project. Post to blog. This is a solo or team project.

NewsTrack assignment (10 points) March 7
You will choose a news website that you will monitor throughout the semester. You will blog analysis and commentary about work that appears on the site. What insights of your analysis can help you to improve your blog?

Examples of questions to explore in your analysis:

  • How well do they integrate multimedia and other features designed to attract and engage their audience?
  • How often do they launch new features?
  • How does their coverage compare to other media (newspaper, TV, etc)?
  • What tools/methods are they using to drive traffic?

Neighborhood Story using Twitter (10 points) April 4
Find a topic to cover the North End. Tweet three photos and three videos. Use #jo305c1, #northendstory. Use Tweetdeck. When you blog your story, use three of your tweets and three from classmates. You can coordinate with your partner to make sure you have six tweets that work with your story. You can also use any other tweet from the class. Intersperse the tweets within your text story of 250 words. This story is solo produced, but you can coordinate with your partner.

Podcast (10 points) April 4
This story is solo produce. You need to interview at least one guest and explain the nature of your podcast in a five-minute, well edited show. Include a 25o word pitch on your blog post to explain what your show is about, why it is relevant, who your audience is, how you would serialize, who future guests may be and who might sponsor it.

Person-on-the-street (10 points) April 18
Combine five video street interviews with a 250 word story on a single topic. This is a team project. High quality audio will be captured by the interviewer and the videographer will frame and capture the video. Video can be captured with an iPhone or with a DSLR.  The high quality audio will be synced to the video in Premiere by creating a multi-cam clip. Intersperse video in word story and post to your blog.

Final Project (30 points) Rough Draft April 25, Final Draft May 2
This is a team project. You must use three video sequences for this story, and use an opening and closing clip. Add an audio interview to play over part of the b-roll sequences and use ‘nat’ sound liberally, +250 words. Deduction of 5 points if rough draft deadline is missed.

Blog and participation (10 points) May 2
Branding, well formatted, good navigation, bio and picture. All assignments posted on your blog, appropriate use of tags and categories, accurate navigation. Pictures posted on Instagram for all assignments.

Course Objectives:

Students will study key industry trends, technologies and multimedia reporting techniques in order to gain an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the web and other digital platforms as a journalistic medium. With this knowledge as a foundation, students will learn to produce content specifically for digital platforms.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this course you will know how to:

  • Write specifically for social media.
  • Think “digital first” and produce content for multiple platforms on deadline.
  • Use social media tools to build a following and brand yourself as a multimedia journalist.
  • Produce basic multimedia stories incorporating elements such as slideshows, audio, maps, data visualizations and video.
  • Work solo or in a team environment to produce digital content.
  • Curate the torrent of information online to add context to stories.
  • Understand the differences between producing for the web and other digital platforms versus traditional mediums.


Read daily
Links to other assigned reading and examples for discussion will be posted on online.

Required Supplies

  • Two SD cards, 16GB, Class 10 or higher for use in a camera and audio recorder. (Buy the largest capacity that your wallet can withstand.)
  • External hard drive formatted for Mac. 
  • Tip: Put your name and contact info somewhere on your equipment so that you can be reunited in the event that you leave it in a classroom or elsewhere.

Required Accounts

Please set up accounts on the following sites/services:

  • Gmail
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Vimeo
  • wordpress blog
    Note: We’ll be adding more throughout the semester.

Equipment Checkout
We have an equipment depot located in the basement of the building (B-17) where you can check out cameras, audio recorders, tripods and other equipment. You can reserve equipment online at Make sure that you have your student ID with you when you pick up gear.

Laptop and external HD:

Before you arrive to class, be sure to have a laptop that meets COM’s recommended specifications. This link also has a guide to help you choose an external hard drive. Make sure that your external hard drive is formatted to either Mac or Windows depending on your laptop type. Mac external hard drives should be formatted to ‘journaled.’

Adobe Creative Cloud:

You will need to download Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Lightroom for this course.  You can download them once you sign up for Adobe Creative Cloud using your Kerberos username and password. This must be completed at least two days before the first class meeting.

Check out gear for class:

You will need access to the following computer applications:

  • Text Edit
  • Adobe Lightroom (or other image editing application)
  • Premiere Pro (or other video editor)
  • iMovie

We will also use a number of free or very low-cost web-based options for producing multimedia. Details to come.

General Grading Policy

A  – Excellent work that met or exceeded the requirements. Writing reflects solid research, interviewing, accuracy, attribution, conforms to AP style; multimedia elements (video, photos, audio, interactive) are sharp, focused, clear, appropriately selected, properly captioned, tagged, credited and functional. Could run as is, or with very minor edits.

B  – Good work with a few errors. May contain minor problem with focus, spelling/grammar, style, balance, organization; several multimedia elements are subpar (out of focus, poor sound quality, etc.) or exhibit one or two technical glitches. Could run with some editing.

C  – Average work. Failed to meet some of the requirements of the assignment. Shows lack of news judgment, accuracy, balance, etc., technical errors, subpar multimedia elements, poor selection of interactive elements. Could only run with significant editing or a complete overhaul.

D  – Below average work that shows little or no understanding of the requirements of the assignment, numerous grammatical, style errors, major factual errors and failure to use assigned technology and tools properly.

F (0-55) – Failure to turn in by deadline or significantly flawed work.

Percentage-based Grade Scale

A: 93-100B+: 87-89.99C+: 77-79.99D: 60-69.99F: 0-59.99
A-: 90-92.99B: 83-86.99C: 73- 76.99
B-: 80-82.99C-: 70-72.99

GPA conversion


Course Policies

Please restrict unrelated internet browsing, e-mailing, texting or other unassigned online activity to the break we’ll have most weeks.

When we have guest speakers, please, no loud typing. Tweet, yes, but be discreet about it so as not to distract our guests and the rest of the class.

Spelling, style and grammar count! When you submit an assignment points will be deducted for spelling, grammatical and AP style errors.

Professionalism: You will be called on to critique the work of your classmates and occasionally discuss ethical issues. There may be times when you disagree with another student’s comments. You will be expected to deal honestly, but professionally, with your classmates and the instructor of this course.

In addition to the assigned reading, you should read and watch “traditional” news in order to be able to discuss and analyze differences between the mediums.

Class Attendance
You are expected to be in class each week, on time. Roll will be taken. If you are ill or must miss a class for another reason, please alert me as soon as possible BEFORE class via email (preferably) or text.

If you have an illness or emergency which can be documented, your absence will be excused. However, you will be expected to complete any assignments that you missed during your excused absence. Missed assignments are due by the next class. Multiple unexcused absences will affect your final grade.

Late Assignments
Deadlines are a key concept in journalism. If you miss a deadline in the real world you might lose your job. Get used to filing assignments on time. Unexcused late assignments will not be accepted in this class.

We will occasionally hear from speakers who work in online media. Because they are busy professionals whose schedules change constantly I have not listed specific dates and times for their appearances (well, most of them). I will announce speakers close to their scheduled date of arrival.

BU policy on recording in classes

Please note that classroom proceedings for this course might be recorded for purposes including, but not limited to, student illness, religious holidays, disability accommodations, or student course review. Note also that recording devices are prohibited in the classroom except with the instructor’s permission.

Grades are based on quality, content, and punctuality of work submitted.  Late assignments lose one grade (A to B) for each week they are late. Assignments that are not turned in receive zero credit. The final grade is an average of all grades received during the semester.  Assignments are DUE at the end of class.


BU has strict guidelines on classroom behavior and practices when it comes to treatment of students and guests on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability, genetic information, military service, national origin, or due to marital, parental, or veteran status. Discrimination for any of these reasons is prohibited. Please refer to the Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Policy for more details.



If you are a student with a disability or believe you might have a disability that requires accommodations, please contact the Office for Disability Services (ODS) at 617-353-3658 to coordinate any reasonable accommodation requests. ODS is located at 19 Deerfield Street, up on the second floor.



All student-athletes should be provided with a sheet from Student-Athlete Support Services regarding absences throughout the semester. These sheets should be handed in as soon as possible to avoid potential conflicts and so arrangements can be made to provide for missed lecture notes, classwork, or discussion.

How to Get an A in This Course

  • Be here each week, on time, ready to engage.
  • Complete all reading and assignments on time.
  • Exceed expectations!
  • Participate in class and online discussions. Stay up to date about issues and news related to online journalism and share that knowledge. Rock Twitter, your Newstrack blog and our class Facebook page with your observations.
  • You get extra credit for: Being enthusiastic, inquisitive, and open to learning new things.
  • Think ahead. Anticipate upcoming requirements such as BU News Service assignments and the final project. Structure your time to do your best work.

Plagiarism and Fabrication

The College of Communication rules on plagiarism is applicable to this course.


“Plagiarism is the act of representing another person’s creative and/or academic work as your own, in full, or in part. It can be an act of commission, in which one intentionally appropriates the words, pictures, or ideas of another, or it can be an act of omission, in which one fails to acknowledge/document/give credit to the source, creator and/or the copyright owner of those words, pictures, or ideas. Any fabrication of materials, quotes or sources other than those created in a work of fiction is also plagiarism. Plagiarism is the most serious academic offense that you can commit and can result in probation, suspension, or expulsion.”

Academic Code of Conduct

Be sure to read and comply with Boston University’s Universal Academic Conduct Code for undergraduate students.  It is available at:   Recording of Classes Statement Please note that classroom proceedings for this course might be recorded for purposes including, but not limited to, student illness, religious holidays, disability accommodations, or student course review. Note also that recording devices are prohibited in the classroom except with the instructor’s permission.