Agricultural Journalism 3210
Fundamentals of Communications
Fall Semester 2008 (WI/Humanities)
Bill Allen, Teaching Assistant Professor of Science Journalism
1-98 Agriculture Building
Office Hours: 9:30-10:30 a.m. Mondays, 2:00-2:50 p.m. Tuesdays or by appointment; also on the Rec
Center indoor track: 12:30-1:20 p.m. Mondays
Teaching Assistants: (Office hours by appointment only unless otherwise noted)
Phone: 573-424-8218; Office hours 9:30-11 a.m. Mondays in 1-98 Ag., or by appointment.
Class Time & Location: MWF 11:00-11:50 a.m. in 12 Middlebush
Course Web Site: On Blackboard
o Working With Words: A Handbook for Media Writers and Editors, Sixth Edition, by Brian S.
Brooks, James L. Pinson and Jean Gaddy Wilson (2006)
o What Good Is Journalism? How Reporters and Editors Are Saving America’s Way of Life, Edited
by George Kennedy and Daryl Moen (2007)
Additional readings will be placed on the AgJ 3210 Blackboard Web site or handed out.
Course references (not required) will be Webster’s New World College Dictionary and the Associated Press
OUR GOALS AND PHILOSOPHY
Become a more effective communicator, with emphasis on powerful, concise writing.
Write about the human impacts, economics, politics and science of issues in the life sciences, including
agriculture, biotechnology, the environment, food and natural resources.
Discover what it’s like to be a journalist, what motivates good journalists and how to use their techniques to
become more successful in your career.
Discuss current controversies involving the free flow of information to the public in a democratic society,
with an understanding of their history and philosophy.
Get better at detecting spin doctors, hoaxers, scam artists and other enemies of truth.
Increase your ability to understand the complexity of your world.
What You Get: At the end of this course, you will be a better writer, thinker and consumer of information from the
news media. You will gain listening, note-taking, communication and critical-thinking skills crucial for succeeding
in the workplace and performing your duty as a well-informed citizen in a democracy and on your planet.
Instructor Responsibilities: Bill Allen and the TAs will do everything possible to conduct this learning experience
in a meaningful, useful, stimulating and enjoyable way. They will make sure that we “travel safely” in class
discussions. They will be available to help students whenever possible. They will maintain a spirit of exploration
and discovery and encourage high standards of conduct and intellectual rigor for themselves and their students. They
will be responsive to student interests, needs and requests.
Student Responsibilities: This class requires a substantial amount of independent work. Students must accept
Knowing all details of course policies and assignments as listed in the syllabus and as announced in class.
Learning, and telling the instructor when they are not learning.
Sticking to deadlines. Completing reading, writing and other assignments on time and coming to class
prepared to discuss scheduled issues.
Taking part in class discussions.
Taking advantage of Bill’s experiences and knowledge.
Conducting themselves with poise, integrity and otherwise in a manner which reflects honorably on
University of Missouri. (Important: see notes below on plagiarism and other forms of cheating.)
Avoid this trap: It is easy for some students to lull themselves into a false sense of security during the first few
weeks of this course, thinking it’s easy, and then be shocked and angered when the grades come back on their first
writing assignments. We grade with rigor, although this is not a difficult course if students do the readings, attend
class and take the work seriously.
Week 1: Aug. 25: Course introduction. “News media.” Parts of a newspaper.
Aug. 27: Syllabus questions. Why write effectively? Business writing.
1. Pick up and at least lightly read a local newspaper of your choice.
2. Read the following two newspaper articles on writing and speaking in the business world (They
can be found on Blackboard under Course Documents):
-- “New York Times: Corporate Writing Problems”
-- “Wall Street Journal: Managing Your Career”
A note on why: These readings will help you understand why learning to "write and think like a
journalist" is going to help you no matter what your career. They will also begin to establish the
difference between essay writing and news writing. And you'll begin to become familiar with
newspapers and news.
Aug. 29: What do journalists do?
Reading due: WGIJ, pp. 1-16, “Introduction” and “Americans and Journalism: We Value but
Criticize It”; also, pick up and at least lightly read a national newspaper of your choice.
Week 2: Sept. 1: No class. Labor Day holiday.
Sept. 3: Integrity: How cheating affects you. How to avoid plagiarism.
Reading due: Preface and Chapter 1 of The Cheating Culture on Blackboard under "Course
Documents." (30 pages) Be prepared to discuss your thoughts and write about the reading in class.
Also, read, fill out and sign the "Agreement on Conduct" (under “Course Documents”). Pay
particular attention to Section B.1.a. and B.1.b.
Also, take the "Academic Integrity Quiz" at http://osrr.missouri.edu/quiz/index.html . Note which
questions you miss and what the correct answer is.
Writing due: Turn in your signed copy of the “Agreement on Conduct.” This is required to
continue in this course. Again, it can be found in “Course Documents.”
Sept. 5: First TA session. Associated Press (AP) style.
Reading due: in WWW: Appendix "Wire-Service Style Summary" (pp. 355-65); and Copy
Editing Marks (inside back cover) -- all of the left-hand column (except "small capitals" and "bold
face") and only the top seven entries in the right-hand column. Be prepared for an in-class exercise
A note on why: These rules on abbreviations, acronyms, symbols, dates, titles, places,
capitalization, regions, titles, editing marks and other topics are widely used -- not just in
journalism but also in the workplace, correspondence and public communication of all kinds.
Therefore, it's worth your time and effort to learn them now. We also will be judging your use of
these rules when we grade your writing this semester.
Writing due: Student profile sheet. (1 point) The template for this can be found on Blackboard
under "Course Documents."
Week 3: Sept. 8: View “All the President’s Men,” Part 1.
Reading due: the following items, which are key to understanding the movie, "All the President's
Men," are all in Course Documents:
1. “Bill's summary of 'All the President's Men'”
2. “Original Washington Post Story”
3. “How to Write a Movie Review in AgJ 3210." Be ready to assess this question when you watch
the movie and write the review: What does the movie show about the lives of reporters, and what
do you think of that kind of life?
Note: If you are unable to view the movie during class, you must view it on your own and turn in
the assigned paper by the stated deadline.
Sept. 10: View “All the President’s Men,” Part 2.
Sept. 12: View “All the President’s Men,” Part 3.
Week 4: Sept. 15: What is journalism for? Its history and philosophy.
Reading due: WGIJ, pp. 18-31, “Journalism: The Lifeblood of a Democracy”
Sept. 17: Conciseness.
Reading and Writing due: “Conciseness,” Chapter 12 in WWW. Read carefully pp. 240-245.
Scan pp. 246-273 and pick five words or phrases from those pages. Write five sentences using
them. Then write five corrected sentences. (Only computer-printed assignments will be accepted.)
Turn in at beginning of class. (3 points)
Sept. 19: The Passive Vampire. Why obfuscation is our enemy.
Reading due: Study pp. 66-70 in WWW. This is the section on "Active Voice Versus Passive
Voice." It is only four-plus pages, but it's important for success in this course, and success in
Writing due: Movie review of "All the President's Men." (2 pages minimum, 20 points) In your
review, center on this question: What does the movie show about the lives of reporters, and what
do you think of that kind of life?
(Before writing this paper, I strongly advise you to re-read “How to Write a Movie Review in AgJ
Week 5: Sept. 22: Quotes, commas and writing as art.
Reading due: "Writing as a Journalist," Chapter 11 in WWW. Also in WWW, Chapter 9,
"Punctuation," read the sections "Commas," "Quotation Marks," "Hyphens" and "Apostrophes."
Sept. 24: Hard news. Leads. Inverted pyramids. Getting right to the point.
Reading due: WWW Chapter 14, “Writing News That’s Fit for Print”
Sept. 26: TA session. Good sentences and usage.
Reading due: If you have not already mastered grammar, usage, phrases, clauses and sentences,
study the following chapters in WWW: Chapter 1, "Grammar Basics," paying particular attention
to learning the "Checklist of Common Mistakes" on pp. 8-15; Chapter 2, "Phrases, Clauses and
Sentences;" and Chapter 8, “Usage” (you can just scan Chapter 8). In exams and writing
assignments this semester you will be held responsible for knowing this freshmen-level material.
Week 6: Sept. 29: More about news and leads. How to cover a news conference. Where does
broadcast news come from?
Reading due: WGIJ, pp. 34-53, “NPR Offers News and Companionship”
Oct. 1: News Conference 1.
Reading due: In preparation for the news conference, read the advanced reading on the speaker
Writing due: three questions you prepare after doing the reading. These should be questions you
might ask at the news conference. These must be typewritten (computer-printed) and have your
name on them. Print two copies – one to turn in at the beginning of class and one for your
reference during the news conference. NOTE: CREDIT WILL NOT BE GIVEN FOR “FLUFF”
QUESTIONS THAT FAIL TO SHOW EVIDENCE OF READING AND THOUGHT. (3 points)
Oct. 3: Discuss NC-1 problems and writing challenges. Writer’s Block. Hometown news.
Reading due: WGIJ, pp. 55-77, “The Hometown Newspaper Builds Community”
Week 7: Oct. 6: The Letter Home explained. News analysis: how to organize the final project.
Writing due: News Conference 1 story. (minimum 2 pages; 20 points) Your story will be
evaluated for these qualities: 1. Hard-news lead and inverted pyramid structure 2. Content (For
example: How well did you summarize the speaker’s most important points? Did you give enough
detail to support the points?) 3. Accuracy (Did you accurately use facts and quotes from the news
conference and reading?) 4. Style (journalistic, concise; omit needless words) 5. Grammar
(especially clear phrases, short sentences).
Oct. 8: Exam 1. (75 points)
Sample exam and course study guide posted in Course Documents.
Oct. 10: TA session. Revising the NC-1 story.
(NC-1 stories returned to students.)
Week 8: Oct. 13: News Conference 2.
Reading due: In preparation for News Conference 2, read the advanced reading assigned.
Writing due: Based on that reading, prepare three questions you might ask at the news
conference. These must be typewritten (computer-printed) and have your name on them. Print two
copies -- one for you and one to turn in at the beginning of class. NOTE: CREDIT WILL NOT BE
GIVEN FOR “FLUFF” QUESTIONS THAT FAIL TO SHOW EVIDENCE OF READING AND
THOUGHT. (3 points)
Also, turn in the revised News Conference 1 story. (minimum 2 pages; 20 points) This story will
be graded based on the same criteria as the original assignment -- plus how well you responded to
your TA's comments. STAPLE YOUR FIRST STORY TO THE BACK OF YOUR REVISED
STORY. IF IT IS NOT, PAPERS WILL BE RETURNED UNGRADED AND YOU WILL LOSE
Oct. 15: View “Good Night, and Good Luck,” Part 1.
Reading due: "Edward R. Murrow Obit" in Course Documents. This article is key to
understanding the movie, "Good Night, and Good Luck."
Also, I recommend that you re-read "How to Write a Movie Review" in “Course Documents.” Be
ready to assess this question when you watch the movie and write the review: Was Murrow a
liberal journalist and was CBS a liberal TV network? Note: If you are unable to view the movie
during class, you must view it on your own and turn in the assigned paper by the stated deadline.
Oct. 17: View “Good Night, and Good Luck,” Part 2.
Writing due: News Conference 2 story -- at beginning of class (Note: 2 pages minimum, 20
points). Your story will be evaluated the same way as the first news conference story.
Week 9: Oct. 20: Stakeholders, gatekeepers and spin. State of the media.
Reading due: WGIJ, pp. 79-97, “Watchdogs of Government Serve Citizens.” Also, examine the
"National Entertainment State" chart in Course Documents. Pay particular attention to the
organization of this chart and how various news media firms are owned by parent corporations
that may or may not appear to be media-oriented. Optional reading: "Spin Alley," by Lisa Stone,
to learn more about gatekeepers, stakeholders and spin in the political arena, especially
presidential politics (available in Course Documents).
Oct. 22: “The PR Submarine.”
Reading due: "The Third Man," from the book, Trust Us, We're Experts. It's in Course
Oct. 24: Assessing sources and claims: the role of facts, hearsay and
history. Viral ads.
Reading due: "Twain, Barnum and Jumbo" in Course Documents. This is an excerpt from Mark
Twain's writings in which he recounts two versions of a story about P.T. Barnum. Try to figure out
which of the two versions you believe. Be prepared to explain why. Use the "Twain-Barnum
Study Guide" in Course Documents. Using the study guide is not required, but it will help guide
your thinking. This is an exercise in assessing sources. Also, note Barnum's manipulation of the
media. No writing on this reading is required in advance, but it may be required in class.
Writing due: “Good Night, and Good Luck” movie review (minimum 2 pages; 20 points). See
"How to Write a Movie Review in AgJ 3210" in Course Documents for an explanation on how to
complete this assignment successfully. In your review, assess this question: Was Murrow a liberal
journalist and was CBS a liberal TV network?
(NC-2 stories returned to students)
Week 10: Oct. 27: How words hurt people and the nation: Sexism, racism and other “isms.”
Reading due: Chapter 13 in WWW, "Sexism, Racism and other ‘isms.’" Be prepared for an
exercise on this material.
Oct. 29: Soft leads for the news analysis story. Foreign journalists.
Reading due: WGIJ, pp. 98-112, “Journalism Builds New Democracies”
Oct. 31: TA session.
Writing due: the "Letter Home" assignment (minimum 2 pages; 30 points). For a brief description
of the assignment (covered in the Oct. 6 class), see Course Documents.
Week 11: Nov. 3: News Analysis discussion: problems, challenges, approaches.
Nov. 5: Investigative reporting. Media ethics.
Reading due: WGIJ, pp. 113-126, “Investigative Reporting Saves Lives.” Also, read and become
familiar with the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). You can find it at
this Web site: http://www.spj.org/ethics_code.asp
Nov. 7: Journalists defending the U.S. Constitution.
Reading due: two stories by William Allen: on the Alabama teen and the Florida woman. Both
are in Course Documents. Be prepared to discuss in class and write your thoughts.
(Letter Home returned to students.)
Week 12: Nov. 10: Veterans and informed citizens. Your News Media Pyramid.
Nov. 12: Journalism and blogs.
Nov. 14: The news media stink/The news media are great.
Writing due: News Analysis story. (minimum 4 pages; 100 points) See your Oct. 6 lecture notes
for details of this assignment. For students who need extra help, an abbreviated version of the
assignment, “News Analysis-Overview,” can be found in Course Documents.
Week 13: Nov. 17: The world of podcast news.
Listening assignment due: Listen to the podcast of the Nov. 14 (a Friday) PBS show
“Washington Week.” To find this podcast, go to
http://www.pbs.org/weta/washingtonweek/rss/index.html . Once there, read the instructions
carefully. Download the full program for Nov. 14 (i.e., not the Webcast extra). DO THIS
DOWNLOAD WELL IN ADVANCE. You may need to learn how to download a podcast from
the Web to your computer (and, if you want, your iPod or mp3 player if you have one.) This may
involve downloading free software located at the Web site. Come to class prepared for an exercise
about the show.
Nov. 19: Hoaxes in history and journalism.
Reading due: "Hotheads: Discover" and "Wild Animals," both posted in Course Documents.
Listening due: the 57-minute 1938 CBS radio "Men from Mars" broadcast, aka "War of the
Worlds." This program moves at a slower pace than the stories you're used to hearing and seeing
today, but it's a riot. In 1938, radio was THE hot medium. As you listen, try to imagine living back
then. The broadcast is available as an mpeg file in Course Documents.
Nov. 21: TA session. News Analysis stories returned to students. Discuss how to revise the
News Analysis story.
++++++++ Thanksgiving Break +++++++++
Week 14: Dec. 1: Journalists and war. Guest: Terry Ganey, Columbia Tribune.
Reading due: “Terry Ganey on War Reporting.”
Writing due: Prepare three questions you might ask Terry Ganey. These must be typewritten
(computer-printed) and have your name on them. Print two copies -- one to turn in at the
beginning of class. Be sure to show in your questions that you have read the assignment. (3 points)
Dec. 3: Confidential Sources and the Public Right to Know. Guest:
MU Prof. Charles Davis, National Freedom of Information Coalition.
Reading due: Current readings to come. These will be posted in Course Documents.
(No written questions are needed this time.)
Dec. 5: To be determined based on current events.
Week 15: Dec. 8: Exam 2. (75 points)
Study guide will be posted in Course Documents. No sample exam will be posted.
Dec. 10: Last class. Allen Awards. Summary, discussion, evaluation.
Writing due: Revised News Analysis story. (minimum 4 pages; 70 points) This assignment was
explained in TA session Nov. 21. In summary, you are to revise and notably improve your original News
Analysis story, paying particular attention to the comments by your TA. NOTE: STAPLE YOUR FIRST
(GRADED) NEWS ANALYSIS STORY TO THE BACK OF YOUR REVISED STORY. Revised stories
without the original stapled to it will be returned ungraded and will lose significant points.
Dec. 12: No class. (MU has declared this a Reading Day.)
Week 16: FINALS WEEK: No Final Exam
Use of cell phones or any other electronic device for texting, receiving calls or any other purpose is a disruption of
our learning environment. Students who engage in this behavior after class begins will at least lose 2 points for each
instance observed by the instructor or a TA. Depending on the circumstances, the student may be asked to leave the
class for the day or the semester, and an academic integrity violation report may be sent to the Vice Chancellor for
If you wish to view the movie in one sitting and are able to acquire a copy on your own, you may do so and skip the
class showing. Regardless, you must view the movie before writing your movie review and must turn in the assigned
movie review by the stated deadline.
Format of Written Assignments
All writing assignments should be turned in using Word format. All should include your name, the class (AgJ 3210:
Fall 2008), the date, and page numbers. They should be stapled. They should have 1-inch margins all around, be
typed in size 12 font and be double spaced, but not with any extra space beyond the double space between
The deadlines in this course are hard steel. Unless arrangements are made well in advance with Bill Allen or your
TA, all papers received after the deadline (start of class on due date, unless otherwise noted) will have 20 percent of
points taken off automatically. To accept papers late would be unfair to students who meet the deadline. Later
papers will have an additional 20 percent loss for each late day.
Attendance is crucial for success in this course. That’s because not all of the learning (nor all of the test materials)
will come from assigned readings. Also, various unannounced and spur-of-the-moment point opportunities occur in
class, such as exercises and extra credit. Also, extra credit opportunities and changes to assignments are often
announced first in class.
Unless students have a pre-arranged excused absence, making up missed class activities will not be allowed.
Students who must miss class for legitimate personal reasons or pre-approved university functions should contact
the instructor as early as possible before missing class. All approved make-ups must be completed within one
week of the original date. It is the student’s responsibility to find out what was missed and make
arrangements for approved makeup work. Students with approved absences are still responsible for readings
assigned during the period. Students are excused for religious holidays, but notify the instructor beforehand.
Please let your instructor know in advance if you have any kind of conflict, illness or other reason for missing class.
Discussing it in person is fine, but you must confirm this by sending an email to the instructor.
Point Breakdown for Writing Projects
Assignment Points Pages
1 "All the President’s Men" review 20 2
2 News Conference 1 20 2
3 NC 1-revised 20 2
4 NC 2 20 2
5 "Good Night" review 20 2
6 Letter home 30 2
7 News Analysis 1 100 4
8 News analysis-revised 70 4
TOTAL WRITING POINTS: 300 20
Total Class Point Breakdown and Grading
Class Activity Points Possible Grading Scale (+/-)
Writing Projects 300 90–100% = A-, A, A+
Exam 1 75 80–89% = B-, B, B+
Exam 2 75 70–79% = C-, C, C+
Exercises 50 60–69% = D-, D, D+
Total Class Points 500 Below 60% = F
Writing Intensive (WI) Credit
Students must earn a grade of C- or better in WI classes for the WI to "count" toward MU's graduation requirements.
This policy was established by CUE (Committee for Undergraduate Education) for all general education
requirements. A WI course grade of D+ or lower may count toward college credits for electives and/or courses in the
major (and therefore be credited toward the number of hours needed for graduation), but a WI grade in the D range
will not satisfy MU's graduation requirement. Students would need to take another WI course.
Academic honesty is fundamental to the activities and principles of a university. All members of the academic
community must be confident that each person's work has been responsibly and honorably acquired, developed and
presented. Any effort to gain an advantage not given to all students is dishonest whether or not the effort is
Academic misconduct includes but is not limited to the following:
Use of materials from another author without citation or attribution.
Use of verbatim materials from another author without citation or attribution.
Extensive use of materials from past assignments without permission of your instructor.
Extensive use of materials from assignments in other classes without permission of your
Fabricating information, sources or quotes in stories, whether for publication or not.
When in doubt about plagiarism, paraphrasing, quoting or collaboration, consult with your instructor. For closed-
book exams and exercises, academic misconduct includes conferring with other class members, copying or reading
someone else's test and using notes and materials without prior permission of the instructor. For open-book exams
and exercises, academic misconduct includes copying or reading someone else's work.
Classroom misconduct includes forgery of class attendance; obstruction or disruption of teaching, including late
arrival or early departure; failure to turn off cellular telephones and other electronic devices leading to disruption of
teaching; sending text messages or any other form of electronic messaging; playing games or surfing the Internet on
laptop computers unless instructed to do so; physical abuse or safety threats; theft; property damage; disruptive,
lewd or obscene conduct; abuse of computer time; repeated failure to attend class; and repeated failure to participate
or respond in class. Laptops may not be used in this class without consent of instructor.
Entering a classroom late or leaving a classroom before the end of the period can be extremely disruptive behavior.
Students are asked to arrive for class on time and to avoid early departures. This is particularly true of a large
lecture, where late arrivals and early departures can be most disruptive. Instructors have the right to deny students
access to the classroom if they arrive late and have the right to dismiss a student from the class for early departures
that result in disruptions.
Under MU policy, your instructor has the right to ask for your removal from the course for misconduct, disruptive
behavior or excessive absences. The instructor then has the right to issue a grade of withdraw, withdraw failing or F.
The instructor alone is responsible for assigning the grade in such circumstances.
Dishonesty and Misconduct Reporting Procedures
MU faculty are required to report all instances of academic or classroom misconduct to the appropriate campus
officials. Allegations of classroom misconduct will be forwarded immediately to MU's Vice Chancellor for Student
Services. Allegations of academic misconduct will be forwarded immediately to MU's Office of the Provost. In
cases of academic misconduct, the student will receive at least a zero for the assignment in question.
Professional Standards and Ethics
The Agricultural Journalism Program is committed to the highest standards of academic and professional ethics and
expects its students to adhere to those standards. Students are expected to observe strict honesty in academic
programs and as representatives of school-related media. Should any student be guilty of plagiarism, falsification,
misrepresentation or other forms of dishonesty in any assigned work, that student may be subject to a failing grade
from the instructor and such disciplinary action as may be necessary under University regulations.
University of Missouri-Columbia Notice of Nondiscrimination
The University of Missouri System is an Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action institution and is nondiscriminatory
relative to race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran. Any person having inquiries concerning the University of Missouri-Columbia's compliance with
implementing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504
of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, or other civil rights laws should
contact the Assistant Vice Chancellor, Human Resource Services, University of Missouri-Columbia, 130 Heinkel
Building, Columbia, Mo. 65211, (573) 882-4256, or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of
Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance
If you need accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with me,
or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please inform me immediately. Please
see me privately after class, or at my office.
To request academic accommodations (for example, a note taker or extended time on exams), students must also
register with the Office of Disability Services (http://disabilityservices.missouri.edu), S5 Memorial Union, 882-
4696. It is the campus office responsible for reviewing documentation provided by students requesting such
accommodations, and for accommodations planning in cooperation with students and instructors, as needed and
consistent with course requirements. For other MU resources for students with disabilities, click on "Disability
Resources" on the MU homepage.
Students are automatically excused for recognized religious holidays. Let your instructor know in advance if you
have a conflict.
The University community welcomes intellectual diversity and respects student rights. Students who have questions
concerning the quality of instruction in this class may address concerns to either the Departmental Chair or
Divisional leader or Director of the Office of Students Rights and Responsibilities (http://osrr.missouri.edu/). All
students will have the opportunity to submit an anonymous evaluation of the instructor(s) at the end of the course.