Multimedia Storytelling


CMA 304

Online Journalism

Fall 2017


This syllabus is subject to change. Students will be responsible for keeping up with the adjustments made during class.

Note: The syllabus in Blackboard contains hyperlinks to required readings.


Dr. Elizabeth Atwood

Phone: 301-696-3231; (office) 410-788-4284 (home) e-mail:

Office: 208 Rosenstock

Class: Tuesday & Thursday 8:30-9:45 a.m.



Office Hours: 1 2 p.m. Thursday or by appointment.

Required textbooks:

  • The Associated Press Stylebook


Required social media:

Students are required to have the following accounts:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter (Use #CMA304 to identify Tweets of interest to this class.)
  • WordPress
  • YouTube
  • Gmail account
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat


Required equipment:

  • You will need a working iPad with an up-to-date operating system.

Required Apps on the iPad:

  • iMovie
  • Voice Record
  • WordPress
  • YouTube

Required software:

  • Audacity (free) or Adobe Audition (on lab computers)
  • Basic photo-editing software

Course information: This course will cover the principles and practices of multimedia journalism, including writing and editing for online media; blogging; gathering and editing images, audio and video for online use; and legal and ethical issues facing multimedia journalists.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this course will:

  • Develop a practical understanding of the practice of multimedia journalism
  • Become familiar with ethical and legal considerations in the practice of multimedia journalism.
  • Become familiar with the basic applications that allow information to exchange over the Internet, including HTML and CSS
  • Understand the concept of convergence and how it affects journalism
  • Understand various forms of online journalism, including blogs, hyperlocal and news aggregator sites
  • Gain practical experience in story research and presentation, particularly the techniques of multimedia storytelling
  • Learn the role of social media in reporting stories and building brand
  • Develop a sense of professionalism by communicating accurately and meeting deadlines.



This course aligns with the following CMA program goals in teaching students to:

  1. Communicate appropriate and clearly in forms specific to the audiences and purposes they serve.
  2. Use multimedia tools effectively and create communications specific for the audience and purposes they serve.
  3. Identify legal principles applicable to communicators.
  4. Develop strategies to confront moral and ethical dilemmas facing communicators.
  5. Research critically, evaluate the results and present them in a cogent manner.
  6. Apply business fundamentals to the creation and distribution of mass media.
  7. Evaluate the influence of media on society.

This challenging class requires you to apply the journalism techniques you have learned in previous classes to create stories in ways that were not possible before the advent of the internet. The focus of this course is on content and how journalists can use the internet as a tool to disseminate it. You will learn the basics of writing and editing for online journalism sites. You will create and maintain a blog during the course of the semester, and you will produce a multimedia story project. Because this is a journalism class, accurate reporting and writing are paramount.

Your work will be displayed for all to see on the internet. Keep that in mind as you report and write. Strive to do you very best work.

Note: While this course will help you navigate a number of different technologies, it is first and foremost a journalism course. The focus will be on the journalism – the reporting and the story – not on the tools. Nor is this a Web design course. Students interested in learning more about website design are encouraged to take IT 180.

To do well in this class, you must read and observe how news is presented online on a consistent basis. Sites worth monitoring include,,, The Huffington Post and You also should follow new organizations and journalists on Twitter.


Class work, homework and outside writing assignments must be submitted to Blackboard for grading. I will not accept assignments that are emailed to me or handed to me on paper. You also will be expected to check Blackboard regularly for announcements and assignments. Copies of lectures will also be posted to Blackboard the day they are given.


Because a significant portion of your grade will be based on in-class work, attendance is required. However, I know life happens. For that reason, I will allow you 2 absences—excused or unexcused. Any work missed due to absence must be made up within one week of your return to class. Missing three or more class periods may result in your dismissal from the class.


If any personal or health problems occur during the semester, see me about arranging extra help before getting behind on assignments.


Inclement Weather


Snow happens. In the event that our class must be canceled because of school closing or a delayed opening, you will still be responsible for the assigned readings. Be sure to check Blackboard because I may present alternative lectures or assignments.



Classroom courtesy

  • Be on You will lose attendance points for habitual tardiness.
  • I do not permit cell phones use in my class except in certain lessons. Turn them off and put them away.
  • You may use iPads and laptops for taking notes or writing assignments, however, if their use becomes disruptive, you will not be permitted to use them.



CMA 304 carries some fairly rigorous expectations. You will need to learn to perform consistently under inflexible deadlines. If you don’t, you won’t be prepared to work as a professional communicator. You must have all assignments ready no later than the beginning of the class period for which they are due. A late assignment is a missed deadline.


I will deduct one letter grade per day for late assignments. If an assignment is four days late, you can earn no higher than 50 percent (F). I will not accept any assignment that is more than one week late. Missed assignments will be scored at 0.


Assignments are due at the beginning of the class period.

Exceptions can be made for documented serious illnesses that require trips to the emergency room or hospitalizations, and notifications from the Dean of Students.  Students must see me as soon as they return to class in order to set up a schedule for making up missed assignments.

General grading criteria on writing assignments:

(“A” & “A-“)) Publishable work. It is a story that is clear, interesting, and well-written. It has good organization, effective quotes, smooth transitions and no spelling, grammar, or accuracy errors.

(“B+”, “B”, & “B-“) Publishable with some editing. It may have some minor spelling or grammatical errors. The lead is effective. The body is cohesive and well-organized.

(“C+” & “C”) Requires extensive editing to publish. Several sections must be rewritten. The lead may be buried or fail to focus on the most important aspects of the story. The body of the story is disorganized and contains many minor errors. Significant information is missing.

(“D”) Needs a complete rewrite to be published. The facts are presented ineffectively. The story contains an unacceptable number of spelling, grammar, or accuracy errors.

(“F”) Contains major factual error(s). Names are misspelled. The facts are so distorted that they could not be rewritten and published.

You will be graded based on professional standards. That might seem a high expectation but most of you are only a year or two away from entering the workforce and any lower standard would be unrealistic and unfair. You should rightfully expect to be prepared to enter the professional world with ease and to perform with competence. Employers will expect you to contribute from day one. You are capable of doing that. Success in this course means you are prepared to do that.

As you might suspect, deciding what is “publishable work” is not an exact science, but is based upon my judgment with more than 30 years of experience as a reporter and editor. For a number of reasons, it’s often easier to identify what doesn’t work than what does. That means you’ll get far more negative than positive feedback at times. A thick skin is considered a tool of the trade. You must learn to benefit from your mistakes, make a serious effort to build on your strengths, and work on your weaknesses.

This course aims to help you develop the skills, self-awareness and grace-under-pressure to become a communications professional. This is important not only if you are going into journalism, but also for careers in marketing or public relations.

Guidelines for writing and reporting:

  • Do not plagiarize, fabricate, or submit work you have done for another class.
  • You may not use photos from other websites without permission.
  • You may not use family members or close friends for your sources.
  • Except for your blog, you should not write about events with which you are involved.
  • You may not use quotes or other information published in other news sources. You must do original reporting.
  • In writing for the media, accuracy is paramount. Therefore, writing that contains factual errors, including misspelled names, will be marked down one letter grade for each mistake.
  • Proofread and correctly edit your copy! Punctuation, grammar, spelling and AP style errors will cause you to lose grade points.

About my grading system:

You can keep track of your grade in Blackboard. Your grade is based on a 1,000-point scale. You start with 0 points. You will accumulate points as you complete projects throughout the semester. Divide the points received by points possible and you have your grade.  Do not rely on the Blackboard calculation, which drops missed assignments.

I make every effort to grade papers within a week after they are submitted. If you do not see your grade within two weeks, ask me about it. It is your responsibility to be sure your work is submitted properly and that I see it.





I DO NOT tolerate plagiarism or fabrication of any kind. This includes failing to attribute quotations and information gathered from sources you interview. Also, you may not gather quotations published in other sources and pass them off as your own. Journalists value their integrity and strive to present the truth to their audiences to the best of their ability. You will be asked to live up to these standards as well. Instances of academic dishonesty will result in a failing grade on the assignment and no chance for a re-do. I check student work through SafeAssign.



Students with physical, psychological, or learning disabilities must be registered with the college’s Disability Services Coordinator. The coordinator will help you prepare a plan for services and will forward authorization for the specified services to class instructors. Please contact me early in the semester to provide the necessary documentation, and to arrange for appropriate accommodations on exams.


Center for Academic Achievement and Retention (CAAR):


The CAAR office is located on the third floor of Rosenstock Hall and provides a wide range of academic supports for all students.  Services range from math and writing tutoring to individualized one-on-one meetings to discuss any barriers that might prevent you from reaching your full academic potential.  If you ever need help, feel free to stop by.  We won’t always have all the answers, but we will definitely work with you to try to help you find the supports that you need.


Disability Services:


The Disability Services office provides academic support for students with disabilities.  Examples of disabilities include, but are not limited to, mobility impairments, blindness/low vision, psychiatric conditions, recurring medical conditions, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and others.  The following are examples of academic accommodations:

  • Extended time on exams
  • Note-taking support
  • Textbooks in alternative formats (electronic, audio, etc.)
  • ASL interpreting services

If you have a documented disability and are interested in finding out more about academic accommodations, please contact CAAR.



Blog: 150 points

Online Portfolio: 75

Mojo Assignment: 100 points

Campus news story: 150 points

Design of CMS site: 50 points

Multimedia story project: 350 points

Podcast: 25 points

Class assignments/homework: 100 points

Project descriptions:
Blog (150 points)

You will set up and maintain a reported blog for the duration of the course at Choose your topic carefully. Students who struggle in CMA 304 often run into trouble because they cannot keep up with their blogs. Your topic should reflect your professional or personal interest and should help you develop the contacts and resources you will need for your final project.

  • You are required to write 14 posts (each post, except the pillar post, is worth 10 points; the pillar post is worth 20 points) (150 points).
  • The posts must span the duration of the semester and you must post at least once a week to receive credit. You may post more often and are encouraged to do so, but only one post per week will count toward your grade.
  • Each post must include at least one hyperlink.
  • Each post should include a comment on a recent event or another’s blog post or a news item related to your topic.
  • At least three of the posts must contain original reporting obtained from interviews you conduct. Sources must be named and authoritative (not just what your friends and family say).
  • Posts should be about 300-350 words each, except the pillar post, which should be 350-500 words.


Posts will be graded on content, mechanics, and the quality and relevance of the link.  Links to examples of blogs and blog guidelines can be found on the blog resources page in course documents.


Portfolio. (75 points)

In addition to the blog posts, you will use WordPress to build your personal brand by creating a portfolio of your work. You will create a page(s) that reflect(s) your accomplishments and career interests. The page(s) will include photographs, a resume, a biographical statement, and at least five samples of your work. You may use work created in this class.

Campus news story (150 points): You will report and write a 500- to 750-word campus news story that incorporates the unique capabilities of the internet to provide information to audiences. The story must be written objectively in third person. It must include:

  • at least three named, credible human sources
  • at least two hyperlinks
  • at least one original photograph
  • one additional multimedia element (slide show, video, interactive map or audio recording)


You are required to submit a written and oral proposal. The proposal should describe what the story is, why it is newsworthy, and the sources you expect to interview.

You must submit a completed draft of the story for peer review. The draft should be completely reported. Your peers and I will give you feedback on style, grammar, organization, etc., and interactive elements so you can fix any mistakes before posting it to the WordPress site. Failure to submit a draft will result in a 25 percent deduction on the final grade.

Design of the Content Management System site: (50 points) Using a template that will be provided, you will upload to a CMS system all of the stories and art your class produces for the campus news story assignment. You will decide what stories go where, select the art and write SEO-friendly headlines for the stories.

Mojo assignment (100 points): Today’s journalists must report and write on the go. This assignment has multiple parts:

  1. You will cover a story on deadline such as a meeting, speech or sporting event.
  2. Post at least two tweets about the event as it is happening. (10 points)
  3. Post about the event on Facebook within two hours after the end of the event. (10 points)
  4. Post a photo of the event to Twitter and Facebook (5 points)
  5. File a 350- to 500-word story within two hours after the end of the event. (75 points)


Begin looking right away for a news event you can cover for this assignment.


Podcast (25 points)

Using audio-editing software such as Audacity or Adobe Audition, you will create a podcast suitable for airing on Halloween.

Multimedia final project (325  points):

Working in a small group (2-3 students) you will plan and execute a news website focused on a topic of interest to the Hood community or a college-age audience. You will work with your group to decide on the topic and plan the website components.

Each member of the group will:

  1. Report and write one 800- to 1,000-word news story, or two smaller stories of the same word count.

Your story(ies)  must include at least five credible and authoritative human sources. You may not interview close friends or family members. You may not write in the first person or include your opinion.

You must include an Alternative Story Form element, such as a list, Q&A, bio box, etc. This does not count in the word count.

You must make your story pitch to the class and your topic must be approved in advance (before the draft is due). Writing on a topic other than one approved by the instructor will result in a grade of 0. Although the proposal is due Nov. 9, you should start to think of your final project topic sooner.

You will be assigned to your team based upon the subject of your blog. For that reason, as you report your blog throughout the semester, start to think of project ideas.

You are required to submit a draft of your project text as well as web enhancements. The story must be completely reported, but your group and I will review the text grammar, spelling, style and organization, and the web enhancements for effectiveness and execution. Failure to submit a draft will result in a 25 percent deduction on the final grade. A project that is full of typographical and grammatical errors will not be posted to the Web. If it cannot be posted to the Web, you will lose 100 points on the final project grade.

The story or stories must be enhanced for the Web with:

  1. At least three original digital elements of at least two different kinds (photos, videos, graphic illustrations or Google map, audio slideshow or audio.) You must use an element that you did not use in the campus news story.
  2. At least three hyperlinks.
  3. An interactive element such as a discussion question or poll.


The group working together will:

  1. Edit the stories and art.
  2. Select and modify the WordPress theme (You may use News Pro or select a free theme).
  3. Decide which stories and art go where on the site.
  4. Proofread the site for all aspects of good site design.
  5. Research and determine which social media platforms are most suitable for publicizing the site. Write a one-page paper describing the social media platforms you decided to use and why. Post blurbs or teasers to those social media platforms.
  6. Present the completed website and social media outreach to the class.

Note: This is a group project and so all members of the group will be graded on the design and presentation of the Web pages as well as the social media description paper and promotion. As a result, all members of the group are responsible for making sure links work and headlines are accurate.

Individuals will be graded separately for the project text, visual and audio elements and interactive components.


Final project deliverables:
The story pitch and source list: Your proposed topic, why this topic is newsworthy and at least five specific (named) sources you will interview for your story. You must include their contact information and what information you expect them to provide for your story. You also must include a proposed story board, listing the web elements you expect to provide to tell your story. (25  points)

  • Text of project with hyperlinks (100 points)
  • Visual or audio elements (photos, graphics, video, audio, audio slideshow) (75 points)
  • Interactive elements (poll, discussion question) (5 points)
  • Completed Web pages (100 points)
  • Social media posts (10 points)
  • Presentation (10 points)



Class Work/Homework

Class work and homework assignments will be given to reinforce readings and practice concepts learned in class. A student with an excused absence may make up the missed work, but it must be submitted no later than one week after the original due date.



Course Schedule

Aug. 22: Intro — Creating a brand.


State of the media overview

Tips for building brand

Social media resume

Journalism Students Need to Develop Their Personal Brand

Aug. 24: Electronic Portfolios and graphics resumes

Due: Your Mission Statement


WordPress tutorial—Getting Started

Aug. 29:  Introduction to blogging.



Word press tutorial: Adding pages, posts, links

Due: Resume, biographical statement, personal image in Blackboard.

Aug 31: Building your blog readership.

Read: SEO

Due: Your blog topic and URL

Sept. 5: Writing for the Web


Making good links

Sept. 7: Writing for the Web—Alternative Story Forms

Due: The pillar post.

Sept.  12: Evaluating Online Sources

Sept. 14: Law and Ethics

Sept. 19:  Social media tools—Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, others.


Introduction to social media

When Social Media Became News

Sept. 21:  Reporting on the go

Due: Mojo Story Proposal

Sept. 26: More Mojo practice

Sept. 28: Working with images—photos and slide shows

Oct. 3: Working with images—maps

Oct. 5: Working with images— video

Last day mojo assignment will be accepted.


Oct. 12: Blog Updates and Campus News Story Proposal

Due: Campus News Story Proposal

Oct. 17: Story planning.

Final project groups assigned. Begin planning final project.

Oct. 19: Telling stories with sound

Oct. 24: More on audio

Oct. 26: More on audio

Oct. 31: More on audio

Nov. 2: Introduction to content management systems

Read: Tutorial on News Pro Theme.

Due: Campus News Story and Web enhancements and peer reviews.

Nov. 7: Content Management Systems, cont’d.

Due: Revised Campus News Story

Nov. 9: Content Management Systems, cont’d .

            Due: CMS pages

Final project proposal due

Nov. 14: Web Page Design

            Group Work on Projects

Nov. 16: Nuts and Bolts—HTML

Read: HTML lesson


Nov. 18: Nuts and Bolts—CSS

Read: CSS lesson



Nov. 28: Group Work on Project

Due: Draft text & art of multimedia project.

Nov. 30:  Group Work on Project

Dec. 5:  Group Work on Project

            Due: Revised text & art of multimedia project

Dec. 7Project presentations

            Due: Social media postings
Last day blog posts will be accepted.

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