Fall 2015

Instructor: Professor Vicki Michaelis,

Teaching assistant: Christina Kirchner,

Grady Sports academic advisor: Carlo Finlay,

Class meeting: 12:20-2:15 p.m. MW in Journalism 243

Office: Journalism 234

Office hours: 3-4:30 p.m. MW or by appointment

Class web site:



  • Learn and practice elements of good journalistic storytelling, including description, anecdotes, details, dialogue, character and plot development.
  • Learn and practice elements of good journalistic writing, including ledes, nut grafs, simple construction, active verbs, punctuation for pacing, fresh similes, metaphors and analogies.
  • Continue developing basic competency with audio and visual forms of storytelling, including podcasts and infographics.
  • Build the background knowledge and source list necessary to cover a beat.
  • Identify and report a wide range of sports stories beyond the field of play.
  • Refine interviewing skills.
  • Develop and hone content- and line-editing skills.
  • Learn and practice basic principles of search engine optimization.
  • Present stories on a variety of digital and visual platforms.
  • Promote content on social media.
  • Test and innovate on new platforms while applying journalistic fundamentals.


Stories (60% of your grade): You will produce three in-depth stories this semester. They all will be generated from your beat coverage. One story will be a profile, one will be a trend story and one will be a different story type (not a profile or trend story) that you choose from the Story Types list on the class web site.

The stories should not be tied to specific games. I want you to explore stories outside of event coverage this semester.

Remember that every story must answer these two questions for the reader: 

  • Why now?
  • Why should I care?

You must turn in a complementary multimedia element (infographic, photo gallery, audio or video sidebar) with the story type of your choosing and the trend story. You cannot do the same type of multimedia element (e.g. an infographic) for both stories.

You can produce one of the three stories as a video, if you choose. This is not a requirement. Please note that the multimedia element for any video story cannot be a video.

The profile and story type of your choosing should include originally reported quotes (ones that you get directly) from at least four different sources. The trend stories should include originally reported quotes from at least six different sources. An SID or other public- or media-relations employee would count as a source only in special circumstances, which you need to clear with me before using that person as a source.

  • You must include the contact information (email address and/or phone number) with the final version of your story. Failure to do so will result in an automatic 10% deduction in your assignment grade.
  • If you accessed athletes and/or coaches through a sports information director or someone else, give me that person’s contact information.
  • The required source minimums do not include documents or reports or information you find on the Internet. Those would be additional. It includes only people you interview, either in person or by phone.
  • You should not have SIDs or anyone else conduct interviews for you. You should not conduct any interviews via email. You must clear any exceptions with me in writing (via email) before agreeing to them. I will automatically deduct 20% from your assignment grade if I find out you did not conduct an interview in person or by phone, unless you have cleared an exception with me in writing.

Assignment lengths and deadlines are below (I also will include these in the class schedule week by week). If you miss deadline on the final version, you will receive a zero on the assignment (see Rules, below). If you miss any of the other deadlines, I will deduct 5 percent from your overall assignment grade.

  • Profile (1,000-word story or 2 1/2-minute video). Need at least four sources. See description and examples in Story Types. Worth 15 points total.
    • Budget line and list of possible sources due via email to Prof. Michaelis by midnight Thursday, Sept. 10.
    • Draft/storyboard due, via Google doc, by midnight Monday, Sept. 21. 
    • Final version due, via Google doc, by midnight Wednesday, Sept. 30.
  • Story type of your choosing (750-1,000 words or a 90-second to 2 1/2-minute video with accompanying multimedia element). Need at least four sources. Worth 20 points total.
    • Budget line and list of possible sources due, via email, by midnight Monday, Oct. 12.
    • Draft/storyboard and idea for multimedia element due, via Google doc, by midnight Monday, Oct. 26.
    • Final version and completed multimedia element due, via Google doc, by midnight Thursday, Nov. 5.
  • Trend story (1,200 words or three-minute video). Need at least six sources. See description and examples in Story Types. Worth 25 points total.
    • Budget line and list of possible sources due, via email, by midnight Wednesday, Nov. 11.
    • Draft/storyboard and idea for multimedia element due, via Google doc, by midnight Thursday, Nov. 19. 
    • Final version and completed multimedia element due, via Google doc, by noon Monday, Dec. 7.

All stories will be graded according to how much editing your work would need before being published or broadcast by a professional media outlet, as outlined below.

  • A (90-100%): Needs only minor editing.
  • B (80-89%): Needs some structural editing but no additional reporting.
  • C (70-79%): Needs some structural editing and some additional reporting.
  • D (60-69%): Basic framework in place but needs significant additional reporting.
  • F: Assignment needs to be entirely redone.

Participation (25% of your grade): You will be required to participate in online discussions and exercises and to be an engaged contributor to class discussions and activities. For every instance in which you do not meet these standards, I will deduct a point from your participation grade.

Homework assignments (10% of your grade): You will complete 10 homework assignments this semester, which will be detailed in the class schedule. Each is worth one point. They will be graded on a pass-fail basis. If you complete the assignment on time, you pass and receive one point toward your overall grade. If you don’t, you fail and receive zero points.

Portfolio page (5% of your grade): You will design and/or update your digital portfolio page and present it to the class at the end of the semester. The portfolio page is worth five points.

Extra credit: The primary way to earn extra credit will be through a semester-long team competition. Details are on the main Coverage Teams page on the class web site.

You might also be able to earn extra credit by attending specific on-campus discussions or events, which I will announce on the home page of the class web site.


  • AP Stylebook OR subscription to AP Stylebook online OR AP Stylebook app for iOS or Droid
  • A digital subscription to The New York Times
  • A laptop computer or tablet with wi-fi access
  • A still/video camera and an audio recorder that allow you to capture and send files in digital format.


We will be working with two textbooks in this class. You are required to have these. Reading assignments from the texts, as well as from various online sources, will be posted on the class web site.

  • Journalism Next: A Practical Guide to Digital Reporting and Publishing, by Mark Briggs, copyright 2015
  • The Digital Reporter’s Notebook, by Mark Blaine, copyright 2014

In addition, I will use the books below as references for teaching this class. I recommend you download a digital copy of these, but it is not required.

  • Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, Roy Peter Clark, copyright 2006
  • The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, copyright 1918


  1. All assignments and exercises are to be turned in by the designated deadline, unless I announce otherwise.
  2. I will not accept assignments turned in after deadline. If you miss deadline, you get a zero for the assignment. No exceptions, unless you provide documented proof of a major medical or other emergency. Problems with technology or other equipment do not constitute excusable emergencies. If we are working on a tight deadline, you are responsible for testing your equipment ahead of the deadline.
  3. Your assignments must be written to the assigned length. I will deduct 10% from the assignment grade for stories that are more than 10% shorter or longer than the assigned length.
  4. Your assignments must conform to AP style and the rules of proper grammar. If you have more than five style and/or grammar errors in one assignment, I will deduct 10% from your assignment grade.
  5. You must avoid factual errors, including misspelled names. The first one you make will automatically reduce your assignment grade by half. Any others, throughout the duration of the semester, will result in a grade of zero for the assignment.
  6. For every assignment, you must provide the contact information (email address and/or phone number) for each of your sources by the assignment deadline. You can attach the contact information to the assignment. Failure to do so will result in an automatic 10% deduction in your assignment grade.
  7. You must turn off your cell phones at the start of every class. Any exceptions must be approved by me. If your phone rings, buzzes or pings during class, it will count against your grade.
  8. We will be working with social media and visiting web sites as part of our class work and discussion. But if you are online for personal reasons during class, you will be assessed an absence for that class.
  9. You are allowed three unchallenged absences during the semester. Any absences beyond the three each will result in a two-point deduction from your overall class grade. If you have a major medical or other emergency that results in more than three absences, you must provide documentation. In general, I would classify a major emergency as something that keeps you out of all your UGA classes and activities for more than a week. I only want documentation for major emergencies. If you have a medical or other situation that keeps you out of class for just a day, that day will count against your unchallenged absences. I do not want documentation in those instances.
  10. Because you are covering beats in this class, you are allowed to miss class to conduct an interview or attend a media availability for class purposes, if you notify me at least 24 hours in advance. These absences will not count against your three unchallenged absences. However, if you do not provide 24-hour advance notice and/or I find out there was no media availability or interview – I will be spot-checking – I will deduct three points from your class grade for the absence.
  11. For other absences, you must notify me at least 10 minutes before the start of class that you will be absent.
  12. While you are in class, and while you are representing the class, you are not a sports fan. Leave your loyalties at home. Do not wear team logos or any other sports-related clothing or other items to class, or to any event you attend or any interview you conduct for this class.
  13. Be aware that any form of plagiarism will trigger harsh consequences, possibly including a failing grade for the class and expulsion from the University. If you are unclear on what constitutes plagiarism, please check with me.


  1. As a University of Georgia student, you have agreed to abide by the University’s academic honesty policy, “A Culture of Honesty,” and the Student Honor Code. All academic work must meet the standards described in “A Culture of Honesty” found here. Lack of knowledge of the academic honesty policy is not a reasonable explanation for a violation. Questions related to course assignments and the academic honesty policy should be directed to the instructor.
  2. The University of Georgia is committed to providing equal educational opportunities for qualified students with disabilities in accordance with state and federal laws including the American Disabilities Act. Help for disabled students is available from the Disability Resource Center. More information is available at If you have a particular issue that needs to be accommodated, please share it with the instructor as early as possible in the semester.
  3. Students who train or use service animals should be aware of UGA policy. A FAQ is available at
  4. The course syllabus is a general plan for the course. Deviations announced to the class by the instructor may be necessary.

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