Sunday, March 12, 2006

Online Writing -- My Journalism Class Lecture Notes

Is there such a thing as "news writing style for the Web"?
Over at my usual blog (which also has a copy of this item), I've been updating my notes about news writing on the Web, in preparation for two bigger-than-usual classes this week. I want to be prepared, just in case the students show up... and I hope the no-shows will still learn something if they just read my notes.

Here they are:

(Actually, the verbose notes are a trap. Students who attend will watch me follow some links and wander away from those notes. Something I say or do during that wandering will be on the exam. Guaranteed.)

Those notes mostly apply to newswriting, but one of my presentations will be for a more general intro-to-communication course. I'll feel free to digress even more there -- and I'll probably be more entertaining. (If all else fails, I'll let, and take over.)

The intro-newswriting course is Thursday. I teach three 18-student writing-lab sections of that course, but the Thursday session is for all sections -- well over 100 students on a good day. However, by the luck of the calendar I'm delivering the large group's last lecture before spring break -- and a Thursday evening lecture at that, probably the last class before vacation for everyone.

I've been warned that even on routine weeks, half the class may get up and leave as soon as they've finished their weekly current-events quiz... the part of the weekly lecture that "affects their grade." I think we're about 10 years past the time that the magic of the Web would compel full attendance. To make matters worse, I'm sending out a page of "lecture notes" that will take students many hours to read, if they follow all the links and get as distracted by them as I do.

I'll try to keep things interesting. Come to think of it, I've rarely lectured to this large a crowd before. As a former student, I don't remember walking out of any big lectures part-way through, maybe because my classes were rarely large-hall affairs, or maybe that shows I was as boring a student as I can ever be as a lecturer? I do remember falling asleep in class a few times, which was rude too, but I didn't do that on purpose. Should I bring my banjo to class to liven things up? We'll see.

One link I didn't put on my Web-writing-for-journalists page is a 12-year-old article by Jon Katz. It's not about writing style, but I still think it's instructive: Online or Not, Newspapers Suck, which asks, "How can any industry which regularly pulls Doonesbury strips for being too controversial possibly hope to survive online?"

That one is better for a discussion session, not a lecture. But I'll tell the class whether I agree with it... and maybe that will be on the exam, too.

Meanwhile, this being a weblog, if you have any suggestions for things to add to my lecture -- or take out -- feel free to use the green "comment" link on my other blog's copy of this note.

Note for students in JEM 488 Online Publishing: This page was posted to Blogger by e-mail. Here's how:
(I had to go back in and edit it to make the links work. If there's a way to do that by e-mail, I haven't searched the Blogger help pages for instructions. If you know how to e-mail blog items with links intact, add that to the comments on my other blog, or just mention it in class.)

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