This class meets every Thursday (with the exception of Thanksgiving Break Nov. 28) over a total of 15 weeks and 14 sessions beginning Thursday Aug. 29 and concluding Thursday Dec. 5 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:10 p.m. in Johnson Center, room 311.


INSTRUCTOR: Steve Klein, Adjunct Professor, GMU


GMU office: Thompson Hall, room 206
Office phone: 703-993-1090 (COMM office at GMU)
Personal e-mail (best bet!)
Web page:
Home phone: 703-218-2839 (please do not call after 9 p.m.)
Office hours: Immediately before class or by appointment
To leave work: Use my mailbox in COMM office, Thompson 212

Comm303, Writing Across Media, is the prerequisite course for any of the other Media Writing courses offered by the Communication Department (Comm 351, 352, 353, 361, 399, 450, 454, 455 and 475). The course focuses on basic writing skills and practice and is an introduction to various forms of media writing: print, features, broadcast, public relations and advertising. The goal of the course is to help students learn to use the language correctly; to be accurate; to respect and work under deadlines; and to recognize, gather and assemble news into readable form. Since most careers in communication require writing on deadlines in a collaborative environment, this course allows students to develop such skills.



· Students will prepare writing assignments every week, both in class and out of class, sometimes utilizing e-mail to file an exercise on deadline.
· You will read, observe and discuss how news is presented on a daily basis – not just in class -- throughout the semester.
· Don’t miss class. There are only 14 of them (and only one after Thanksgiving)! Class participation will be 10% of your final grade.
· In-class exercises cannot be made up outside of class (so don't miss class!).
· Out-of-class exercises must be turned in on time (on deadline).
· All writing assignments must be type-written. Hand-written writing assignments will NOT be accepted.
· Class sessions will integrate individual writing assignments with in-class group exercises in order to give students experience in editing and critical thinking.
· Guest speakers will contribute to the class’s understanding and study throughout the semester.

REQUIRED TEXT (please bring to every class)

· Fred Fedler, John R. Bender, Lucinda D. Davenport and Michael W. Drager. Reporting for the Media (7th Edition, Harcourt College Publishers, 2001, Fort Worth, Texas).
· Goldstein, Norm. The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual," (Reading. Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.), 2002.


· Dictionary and thesaurus (I suggest Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, which is available in paperback).

SUPPLIES (please bring the following to every class):

· A 3.5-inch PC computer disk.
· A 3-ring binder or folder in which to keep all returned/graded assignments and additional reading assignments. 


Honesty is a must for those who engage in journalism. George Mason University's "Honor System and Code" is outlined in the University Catalog and online on the GMU website at With regard to this course, acts of dishonesty include, but are not necessarily limited to, cheating on examinations, plagiarizing material from other sources, making up material or sources of information, and/or submitting work for this course originally completed for other courses without instructors permission. The penalty for academic dishonesty is failure of the course.


In all discussions and assignments, this course emphasizes the importance of avoiding identifications and descriptions that serve to perpetuate stereotypes about gender, age, dialect, disability, national origin, race, religious affiliation and sexual preference. It is expected that discussions will be open and honest, but abusive language or behavior will not be tolerated. Because of the sensitive nature of the computers, no food or drink will be allowed in the classroom, nor will smoking be tolerated.


To provide an equitable learning environment for each student, the instructor will readily adjust to those students who may have special needs.  If you have special needs in the classroom, please bring a letter from Disability Support Services confirming and describing your special need at the start of the semester (or of your diagnosis).  You may also have Disability Support Services write your instructors directly.  All such information will be held in confidence.


The final grade for this course will be based on the quality of your work. You'll be evaluated on each assignment. At the end of the semester, they'll be given these weights:

Assignments                                  Total Points

Class participation                                       10%
Short pieces/exercise                                  20%
Quizzes                                                          10%
Paper No. 1                                                   15%
Paper No. 2                                                   15%
Exam No. 1                                                    15%
Exam No. 2                                                    15%
TOTAL:                                                        100%

· Your classroom ethic: Regular attendance, timeliness, participation and attentiveness are expected. Progress is important. Classes will begin and end on time. Quizzes will begin at the beginning of the class.
· Deadlines: Adherence to deadlines plays an important role in this course. Journalists meet deadlines; their job is on the line if they don't. Deadlines set for stories in this course are final; those turned in late without an excused absence will not be accepted. You must e-mail or call the instructor if you miss class because of illness or emergency. In-class assignments cannot be made up.
· If you think class may be cancelled because of inclement weather, listen to the radio or call 703-993-1000


GMU utilizes an 11-point +/- grading scale. The Department of Communication has adopted the following scale for core and basic courses, which will be used to assign final grades in COMM 303:

· A+: 97 to 100 (outstanding work of publishable quality).
· A: 93 to 96.
· A-: 90 to 92.
·  B+: 87 to 89.
· B: 83 to 86 (publishable with editing and minor changes).
· B-: 80 to 82.
· C+: 77 to 79.
· C: 73 to 76 (publishable only with major changes).
C-: 70 to 72 (1.67).
· D: 60 to 69 (unpublishable because of fundamental problems).
· F: 59 or less (unacceptable; lack of basic skills or work not submitted). 


This class is designed as a prerequisite to prepare you to turn out good, clear, tight writing on demand.  As a result, there will be a lot of writing in this class and individual assignments will be reworked whenever possible.  You will be completing short news articles and leads, in-class assignments, and two papers.  By the end of the semester you should be able to produce polished, edited writing that is succinct and clear.

The two assigned papers will allow you to apply the material covered in class and to investigate career options open to you as a Communication major interested in writing.  Each paper should be 3-to-5 pages long, double-spaced, and should consist of original prose that is technically correct (APA style is acceptable; one letter-grade bonus for using AP style correctly and consistently). Grammatical correctness is particularly important considering the subject of the course.

The following criteria will be used to evaluate each paper:

1) Does the paper fulfill the assignment?
2) Is the piece well-rounded?  Is there a beginning, middle and end?
3) Does the paper demonstrate an understanding of the issues?
4) Is the paper grammatically correct with no technical errors?
5) Is there clarity, coherence and conciseness?  Is the language crisp and lean?
6) Papers must be handed in on deadline.
There will be two major tests (exams). Only in extreme circumstances can exams be made up without prior arrangements.

Paper No. 1 is a  media analysis.You will pick a topic that is being covered in the news and analyze the way three separate mediums (chosen from print, magazine, broadcast and online) cover these stories within a 10-day period.  Your essay, which utilizes APA or AP style, should include such aspects as: special features unique to the medium; play (placement of the story), length of story or report, completeness and presentation of information, etc. Use detailed examples. Your paper should be divided into roughly the following basic sections:

1) A brief introduction to the news story you have chosen, the basic background (nut graph) and why you chose it.  Indicate the media sources you have selected to compare and the dates of coverage.
2) The first medium and how they covered it.  The extent of their coverage, placement, presentation, special features, etc.
3) The second medium and how they covered it, etc.
4) The third medium and how they covered it, etc.
5) A summary of your findings and conclusions.

Remember: Be specific and use concrete examples that help the reader understand the different perspectives of your example from each medium.

Paper No. 2 will focus on a medium that interests you. You will interview someone who is active in the field and write a feature story.  You should visit the work place (phone, online interviews, etc. are not fully completing the assignment.)  Find out what a typical workday is like. In general the paper should break down as follows:

1) A proper feature story lead to bring the reader into the story (perhaps an anecdotal lead).
2) A nut graf.
3) A description of the opportunities available in this medium, how technology affects it, and where it is going in the next one-to-five years.
4) An interview with someone working in this medium. This interview should contain direct and indirect quotes (but NOT quote fragments).
5) A discussion of the workplace, working conditions, typical workday, etc.
6) Briefly summarize your conclusions.


Writing Across Media / Comm 303-004

NOTE: This weekly schedule is subject to change as the semester procedes. Please consult your weekly class e-mail newsletter as the final word for class updates and schedule changes.

WEEK 1 / Aug. 26
Topic: Introduction to Course … and each other
-- Who are we, why are we here? Fill out class notecard.
-- Syllabus overview
-- Types of media writing – similarities and differences
-- Copy editing symbols

Fedler, chapter 1 (“The Basics: Format and AP Style”);
     Appendix B (“The Associated Press Style Book”)

In-Class Exercise (non-credit): Bio assignment

WEEK 2 / Sept. 5
Quiz No. 1: Begins promptly at 4:30 p.m.
     (deals with Fedler chapters 1, 2 & 21)

Topics: Basic tools of writing; ethics
Readings (for this week)
Fedler, chapters 21 (“Ethics”) and 2 (“Grammar and Spelling”)
In-Class Exercise (remaining exercises are ALL graded)

WEEK 3 / Sept. 12
Quiz No. 2: Begins promptly at 4:30 p.m.
     (deals with the AP Style Book)

Topics: News writing style and the language of news; why grammar matters
Readings (for this week):
Fedler, chapter 3 (“Newswriting Style”)
     Fedler, chapter 4 (“The Language of News”)
     Fedler, chapter 5 (“Selecting and Reporting the News”)

In-Class Exercise

WEEK 4 / Sept. 19
Quiz No. 3: Begins promptly at 4:30 p.m.
(deals with Fedler chapters 3, 4 & 5)
Writing for print: Basic news leads and the inverted pyramid 
Readings (for this week)
Fedler, chapter 6 (“”Basic News Leads”)
     Fedler, chapter 7 (“Alternative Leads”)

In-Class Exercise 

WEEK 5 / Sept. 26
Quiz No. 4: Begins promptly at 4:30 p.m.
(deals with Fedler chapters 6 & 7)
More writing for print: The body of a news story; quotation and attribution
Readings (for this week):
Fedler, chapter 8 (“The Body of a News Story”)
     Fedler, chapter 9 (“Quotations and Attribution”)

In-Class Exercise
Reminder: Paper No. 1 is due in class on Oct. 3

WEEK 6 / Oct. 3
Quiz No. 5: Begins promptly at 4:30 p.m.
(deals with Fedler chapters 8 & 9)
Topic: Interviewing

Readings (for this week)
Fedler, chapter 10 (“Interviews”)
Paper No. 1 DUE

WEEK 7 / Oct. 10
First In-Class Exam
     (deals with Fedler chapters 1-10 & Appendix B)
Topic: Covering stories (lecture deals with Fedler chapters 11-15)
Team Readings: 
Fedler, chapter 11 (“Writing Obituaries”)
     Fedler, chapter 12 (“Speeches and Meetings”)
     Fedler, chapter 13 (“Specialized Types of Stories”)
     Fedler, chapter 14 (“Feature Stories”)
     Fedler, chapter 15 (“Public Affairs Reporting”)

WEEK 8 / Oct. 17
Quiz No. 6: Begins promptly at 4:30 p.m.
(deals with Fedler chapters 11-15)
Writing for broadcast
Guest lecturer: Chris Donohue
Readings: Fedler, chapter 18 (“Writing for Broadcast”)
In-Class Exercise (non-credit)

WEEK 9 / Oct. 24
Quiz No. 7: Begins promptly at 4:30 p.m.
(deals with Fedler chapter 18)
More writing for broadcast
No new readings
In-Class Exercise

WEEK 10 / Oct. 31
No quiz
Writing for public relations
Guest speaker: Kathy Rowan
Readings: Fedler, chapter 19 (“The News Media and PR Practioners”)
In-Class Exercise (non-credit)

WEEK 11 / Nov. 7
Quiz No. 8: Begins promptly at 4:30 p.m.
(deals with Fedler chapter 19)
Writing for the Internet
Guest speaker: Bob Kimball,
Fedler, chapter 16 (“Understanding and Using the Internet”)
In-Class Exercise

WEEK 12 / Nov. 14
Quiz No. 9: Begins promptly at 4:30 p.m.
(deals with Fedler chapter 19)
More writing for the Internet
In-Class Exercise

WEEK 13 / Nov. 21
Second Exam
Topic: Convergence and multi-platform journalism
Readings: Handouts


WEEK 15 / Dec. 5
Quiz No. 10: Begins promptly at 4:30 p.m.
(deals with the news)
Topic: Careers … and what’s ahead for your in journalism
Paper No. 2 DUE