Campaign Reporting 
General Course Information:
Jour 132.10 Campaign Reporting (Fall  2000)
11 am - 12:15 pm  Tuesday and Thursday
Phil. 411
Instructor Information:
Albert L. May
Associate Professor
Office Address: 801 22nd St., NW, Suite T409E, Washington, D.C., 20052
Telephone Number: 202-994-9014
Fax Number: 202-994-5806
Office Hours: 2 - 4 pm Tuesday 
Reading Materials:
  • "The Boys on the Bus" by Timothy Crouse (Crouse) 
  • "A Journalist's Guide to Public Opinion Polls" by Sheldon R. Gawiser and G. Evans Witt (Witt) 
  • "The Control Room:  How Television Calls the Shots in Presidential Elections" by Martin Plissner (Plissner) 
  • "Feeding Frenzy" by Larry Sabato (Sabato) 
  • Election 2000: Politicians and the Press,  Nieman Reports, Summer, 2000.  (Nieman) 

  • Recommended
  • Associated Press Stylebook 

  • Web Related
  • Media Studies Journal, Winter, 1997, Covering the 1996 Presidential Campaign - Articles from this issue will be assigned topically. 
  • Media Studies Journal, Winter, 2000, Campaign 2000 - Articles from this issue will be assigned topically. 
  • by CNN and Time Magazine - General site for keeping up with this year's political developments.
  • Washington Post Political Coverage - General site for election year, including calendars, past stories and links to other political sites. 
  • Project Vote Smart - One of the oldest and best web-based clearinghouses on issues and candidates.
  • Poynter Institute Campaign Resources - Explore this site for a wealth of links to campaign coverage, reference material, campaigns, government agencies and other links. 
  • Course Description
    This is an advanced writing course to develop news gathering and writing skills and to apply those skills to the coverage of political campaigns. Through hands-on experience, readings, and discussions, students will learn reporting techniques to illuminate how campaigns work and how politics affects the lives of citizens. Through in-class exercises and outside assignments, students will hone the writing skills needed to bring clarity, context, reader appeal and objectivity to news stories and news features. Through lectures and class discussions, students will study the history and practice of political journalism. 
    Jour 111
    Method of Instruction
    The unfolding 2000 campaigns will be a laboratory for the course, and students should be prepared for changes in the course schedule to take advantage of developments.

    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. All writing in the computer lab should be done in Word. 

    Tests: There will be no midterm. The final exam will cover the readings and lectures. Among other things, it will test knowledge of the changes in political journalism since the publication of the landmark book, "The Boys on the Bus" by Timothy Crouse. The final will constitute 20 percent of the grade.

    Class Assignments: In-class and take-home reporting and writing exercises and quizzes will occur periodically. They will constitute 20 percent of the grade.

    Stories: Drawn from actual congressional campaigns developing in the 2000 elections, the stories will be written over the course of the semester for 50 percent of the grade. Students will select a contested race for the U.S. House or Senate. This could include a House district or Senate seat  from a student's home state or in the Washington area. Students should discuss their choice of a race with the instructor.  All stories must be double spaced with standard margins and type size. Students are encouraged to read and watch news media coverage of the 2000 campaigns, but any use of material from that coverage in stories for the class must follow the rules of attribution.  Plagarism will not be tolerated, and students should be familiar with university's honor code.  Reporter notes are subject to request. Each story will count for 10 percent of the grade. Unless otherwise specified by the instructor, deadlines are the start of class on the dates below.


    Method of Evaluation
    Stories will be graded on content, writing and newsworthiness. Grades will be lowered for errors in AP style, grammar, word usage and spelling, and for missed deadlines and factual errors. The grades for stories that contain a misspelled name will be lowered a notch, automatically. 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 professional standards and contains factual errors would receive an F.

    Note: Rewriting will be allowed for the four major news features, which are stories 1, 2, 3 and 5.  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 and meeting story deadlines 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:

    Class Assignments:  20%
    Stories:  1 - 5:  50% (10% for each story)
    Final Exam:  20%
    Participation: 10%


    Story 1, Campaign Setup: Sept. 19
    Story 2,  Campaign Finance: Oct. 10
    Story 3,  Issues: Oct. 26
    Story 4,  Poll Exercise (in class): Oct. 31
    Story 5,  Post Election: Nov. 16