Washington Reporting  (Spring 2001)
General Course Information:
Jour 134.10 Washington Reporting
12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m
Phil. 411
Instructor Information:
Al May
Associate Professor 
Office Address: MPA 417
Telephone Number: 202-994-9014
Fax Number: 202-994-5806
Email: almay@gwu.edu
Office Hours: Wednesday  2-4 p.m.
Reading Materials:
  • All the President's Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward 
  • The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual 
  • The Money Men by Jeffrey H. Birnbaum 

  • Web Related
  • The U.S. Congress Handbook (optional) - Can be ordered from web site, by telephone, 1-800-229-3572, or Amazon. Be sure you get 2001 version, which should be out soon. The ISBN number you want is 0-9701474-0-6
  • U.S. House Press Gallery - A reporter's window on the House 
  • Regional Reporters Association - Web site of organization for Washington correspondents who report from a regional perspective. Valuable background and links. 
  • C-SPAN - Web site for the cable coverage of Congress. Good for schedules and programs. 
  • Congressional Quarterly's Congressional Calendar - Plan your stories and be familiar with the congressional schedule
  • Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics     - Students from the outset of the course should familiarize themselves with the basic code of ethical conduct for journalists. 
  • Information Technology Services     - Students in this course will need competency in Word and in Windows. Basic classes are offered through the university's ITS. Follow this link to learn more.
  • Course Description
    Examination of reporting and writing techniques employed in news coverage of the national government, with an emphasis on serving a regional readership or audience. Using Washington as a laboratory, students focus on contemporary issues and newsmakers in the legislative and executive branches of government. 
    Jour. 111 
    Method of Instruction
    The course blends lectures and readings with hands-on exercises and other practical applications. In this semester, students will report and write stories drawn from the unfolding story of the 107th Congress and the new Bush administration. The approach will be that of a regional correspondent in Wasington writing for a audience outside of the Beltway. Students should remain flexible to take advantage of the upcoming events. 

    As in a modern newsroom, computer literacy will be expected along with writing competency.   Unless otherwise specified by the instructor, all outside class assignments will be posted as Prometheus files in a word processing format that can be edited by the instructor. Students will use Word in the lab and should be familiar with it. Students who are unfamiliar with Word should enroll in short courses offered by GW's Information Technology Services. See above link to ITS. 

    Tests: There will be a midterm on readings and lectures in the course.   There will be no final examination with a story assignment in lieu of an exam.

    Class Assignments: Writing and reporting assignments will occur periodically. They  often will involve live events. Quizzes may also occur periodically and would count in this category.   The AP stylebook should be brought to each class meeting.

    Beat Stories: Each student will select a member of the U.S. House to report on as part of their beat. To maximize access, it is recommended that the student select the House member who represents their hometown or a member from the Washington area.  The choice of the House member must be approved by the instructor. Students will write stories about their House members following specific assignments.  All stories must be double spaced with standard margins and type size. 

    Final Project:  The final third of the semester will be devoted to the subject of the role of money in Washington. Students will use campaign finance data, voting records, lobbying reports and other sources to produce a final in-depth story.

    Students are encouraged to read news media coverage of their beat but any use of such material in stories must follow the rules of attribution. Be prepared to produce original notes and explain how each story is reported. Plagiarism will not be tolerated, and students should be familiar with university's Code of Academic Integrity and journalism's generally accepted ethical rules. A copy of the Society of Professional Journalist's code is linked above. Unless otherwise specified, deadlines are the start of class on the designated date.

    Method of Evaluation
    Stories will be graded on content, writing and newsworthiness. Grades will be applied as though stories were presented in a newsroom. To receive an A, a story should be of publishable quality or near publishable quality, requiring only modest editing. A story receiving a B would be one sufficiently developed that it could be published in the current news cycle with more reporting and some rewriting. A story that requires more reworking than can be accomplished in the current news cycle would receive a C. A story receiving a D would fail to meet minimum reporting and writing standards, requiring a complete overhaul. A story that shows disregard of those standards and contains factual errors would receive an F.  Grades will be lowered for errors in fact, AP style, grammar, word usage and spelling.The grade for stories that contain a misspelled name will be lowered a notch, automatically.  Missed deadlines will also result in grade reductions and the reductions will become increasingly extreme with repeat behavior. 

    Note: Rewriting will be allowed for the beat stories and the final project. Stories that receive an A may be rewritten for practice, but will not be graded again. Stories that receive a grade of  A- to  C- may be rewritten for regrading but it will result in no more than one letter improvement.  Stories that receive a D or F must be rewritten but they will receive a final grade of no more than a C. Failure to rewrite in these cases will result in an F.   All rewrites will be due at the next session of class, unless specified differently by the instructor. 

    Participation: Punctuality in attending class will be expected. Unexcused absences will count against the final grade, even if no written assignments are required in class. Students should be prepared to discuss their writing during class and critique the work of others during class discussions. Attention in class will be expected, and e-mailing and other non-instructional uses of the computers during a lecture are prohibited. 

    Grade distribution:

      Beat Stories: 
        Story 1:        5%
        Story 2:       10%
        Story 3:       10%
        Story 4:       15%
      Beat Total:  40% 
      Midterm: 10% 
      Class Assignments:  20% 
      Participation:  10%
      Final Project:  20%

    Important Deadlines:
    Feb. 8:   Story 1
    Feb. 20: Story 2
    Mar. 6:   Story 3
    Mar. 29: Story 4
    April 26: Final Project