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« Past Syllabus: The Rhetoric of Web Publishing | Main | Cyberprof reflects on Pollner semester »

April 25, 2006

Past Syllabi: JOUR 494 Pollner Seminar Syllabus

University of Montana, Missoula:

Who controls a free press? Blogging and the citizen journalists' challenge to Mainstream Media

Fall 2005 Syllabus

Instructor:  Dr. Christine Boese
Meetings:  11 am to 1 pm Mondays in 2nd Floor Journalism Library & Honors Computer Lab
Class Blog:  www.serendipit-e.com/494private 
Office Phone:  406-243-2934
Office:  208 Journalism Building
Office Hours:  1-3 pm Weds., Tues., Thurs. unless I'm meeting with other classes. I'll also be available M-F during the day most days

Texts and Electronic Tools:

Available in the campus bookstore. The Gillmor text can also be downloaded free online at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/wemedia/book/index.csp, but I want you to bring the book to class, so you'll need to print the whole thing out somewhere. Also, the two optional texts are usually available with two-for-one discount pricing as a package deal at Amazon.com.


We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, For the People. Dan Gillmor. O'Reilly Media Books, 2004. See also http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/wemedia/book/index.csp.


The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog. Rebecca Blood. Perseus Publishing, 2002.

We've Got Blog: How Weblogs are Changing Our Culture. Perseus Publishers ed. Introduction by Rebecca Blood. Perseus Publishing, 2002.

Blog Software:

Each student will be setting up at least two (if not more) individual blogs as a course requirement. One will be a blog publishing forum and the other will be a professional journalism portfolio you can use to archive your clips and career achievements and show to potential employers (also part of your final grade). DO NOT jump ahead, as I will walk you through the process if you don't have a blog already. There are certain advantages to pre-planning and I want to make sure you understand the features and options before you plunge in.

The software I hope all will use (unless you are already a web-tech whiz-bang) can be found at Typepad.com. There is a low monthly fee, but I want to make sure you set up the account that will best fit your needs. I know that free blog accounts can be set up at places like Blogger.com (and even LiveJournal, egad!), but ultimately you will find future options limited at the free sites, and this is an investment in your professional credibility. Whiz-bangs may consider excellent products such as WordPress or Drupal, but prepare to be technically challenged by the installation and maintenance (and onerous comment spam, something Typepad has cured).

Finally, I'm hoping some adventurous students will take a stab at podcasting this semester, and Typepad just set up the easiest on-ramp to podcasting I've seen so far, to go along with its streamlined interface for photoblogging and mo-blogging. Typepad has also indicated that video-blogging will also be supported with the new podcast features.

Course Description

New Yorker press critic A.J. Liebling wrote in 1960, "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." In this course we will examine and participate in one of the most radical restructurings of media ownership since moveable type displaced monks copying manuscripts by hand. Now the price of owning a "press" has fallen to nearly zero. In this time of great social change, the media landscape and its "powers that be" seem thrown into chaos. Some (like RIAA) are fighting the changes while others embrace them. The stress of change also releases great creative energy. These are exciting times for journalists! We will compare the social structures and technologies of broadcast and interactive media, and discuss the idea of a coming "convergence." We will also launch our own blogs and join the larger blogging "ecosystem." Along the way, we'll conduct online research into the bloggers' challenge to mainstream media (or MSM, as they call it), in an attempt to discover what is giving this grassroots journalism movement its power.

No specialized technical knowledge or web-building skills are required to take this course. We will learn to maintain web templates and style sheets with blog software. We will also learn practical writing strategies and media management skills for interactive journalism. By the end of the course, each student will have created a polished professional portfolio blog as well.


This course will look at the impact of blogging on journalism and journalists as bloggers from the standpoint of effective writing and micropublishing practices, basic technical skills, and in the context of the history and evolution of media and technology, particularly the idea of media convergence and the tensions between what is often called "old media" and "new media."

My goal for this course is not to turn you into technical experts, but rather to prepare you to confidently enter and succeed as content-generators and micropublishers in this new journalistic landscape. We will also critically study and analyze these latest trends in interactive journalism from the standpoint of your future employment in journalism, where you may find yourself managing a citizen journalism site or interactive element of a larger media enterprise. There are currently few "blog experts" in traditional newsrooms right now, but upon completing this course, you will be able to cite your specialized knowledge and experience as an additional asset on the job market.

In this class we will look at the world of blogging from three different perspectives: 1) as online readers or consumers; 2) as active bloggers; 3) and as reporters who work as online researchers covering this new "blog beat."

This class will involve active, hands-on learning, with interactive discussions (face-to-face and electronic) and student presentations rather than straight lectures.

I am waiting to set the course schedule until I learn more about you, your experience and interests, as well as your technical backgrounds. The course will look into a series of topics, with weekly research presentations by students or student teams as jumping off points for informal discussions. YOUR interests will also drive these topics, so feel free to suggest a topic for the class to pursue! I plan to explore the history of blogs, the power struggle between bloggers and mainstream media (MSM), the citizen journalism movement, blog ecosystems, gaming Google (or not), cliques and lynch mobs, flash and smart mobs, mo-blogging, podcasting, photoblogs, blog ethics and so on.

This course will help you improve your ability to adapt to fast-changing web cultures and trends, as well as to critically examine the social effects of those trends. It will not be organized around creating a list of "RULES" for blogs, because the web is in a constant state of change. Rather, we will learn to ride the chaos with critical tools to grow and thrive with the web as it continues to evolve as a force in our culture.

Technically, each student will create and maintain a blog in the course, and contribute to our class discussion blog (required weekly). While I do not lean toward "how-to" software courses, I will teach you to read CSS files and maintain and tweak your own templates.

Your professional portfolio blog will be part of your final project in the course, planned and developed in individual conferences with me. We will use it to put your best foot forward!


Coursework will be evaluated as follows:

Student/Team Topic Presentations:  20%

Participation:  20%
(attendance, private class discussion blog, individual blogs,
keeping up with RSS feeds of classmates, and face-to-face
classroom activities and discussions)

Mid-Term Exam:  15%
(short answer, based on concepts from readings and handouts)

Final Course and Professional Portfolio Blog:  45%

Tentative Class Calendar

This is subject to revision and modification as events in the blogosphere (or student suggestions) arise. Check the class blog from week to week to see if the assignments have changed. Handouts or links will be passed out in class.

Unit One: Looking at blogs as critical readers

Week One, August 29

Introductions, discussion of course software and policies. Getting on Bloglines. Assignment to listen to regular podcasts listed on the class blog.

Week Two, September 5, Labor Day

Virtual class. Assignment: cyberspace immersion. Read Bloglines and listen to Podcasts daily, and read and post to our class blog.

Week Three, September 12

Discussion: Blogs and Katrina, charting a story through the blogosphere. Assigning research teams.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor Introduction & pp. 1-43, History of Blogs.
Optional Readings: "We've Got Blog" Intro & Part 1, A Brief History, "Handbook" Chapter 3, Creating and Maintaining Your Weblog, Chapter 4, Finding Your Voice.
Lab: Setting up individual blogs!

Unit Two: Looking at Blogs as Journalist-Bloggers

Week Four, September 19

Discussion: History of Blogging, led by Research Team of Christina W and Trista S. Discussion continues on Class Blog.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor pp. 44-87
Optional Readings: "We've Got Blog" Part 2, Meet the Bloggers, "Handbook" Chapter 5, "Finding an Audience."
Lab: Building Typelists, Photo Albums, taking your blog public.

Week Five, September 26

Discussion: Mapping the Blogosphere: Ecosystems, Linklove, Blogrolling, gaming Google, and other publicity and promotion strategies, led by Research Team of Kristi and Peter C.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor pp. 88-109 & handouts
Optional Readings: "We've Got Blog" Part Four, "Handbook" Chapter 6
Lab: Assessing results, show and tell

Week Six, October 3

Discussion: Blog Mobs: Cliques, A-lists, lynch mobs, smart mobs, flash mobs, mo-blogging, photoblogs, v-logs, led by Research Team of Amanda D and Denny L.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor pp. 110-157 & handouts
Optional Readings: "We've Got Blog" Part 4
Lab: Making the turn to journalism: how to go about it?

Week Seven, October 10

Discussion: Warblogging and political blogs, a backgrounder on the Pollner Lecture, led by the instructor.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor pp. 158-190 & handouts
Optional Readings: "We've Got Blog" Part 5, "Handbook" Chapter 7
Lab: Pushing the limits of your blog: bells & whistles & podcasts oh my!

Week Eight, October 17

Midterm short-answer exam based on readings, and class discussions face-to-face and online.
Reading Assignment: Handouts & links.
Lab: Thinking about portfolios, usability, templates, and design.

Unit Three: Blogs as Your Beat: Cyberspace research and investigative journalism

Week Nine, October 24

Discussion: Citizen journalism and the rebellion against mainstream media (MSM) led by Research Team of Joe P and Tim K.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor pp. 191-235 & handouts.
Lab: Designing your portfolio and blog empire, maintaining your blogs

Week Ten, October 31

Discussion: Legal issues and challenges for blogs and bloggers, led by Research Team of Beth B and Sara L.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor pp. 236-end & handouts.
Lab: Building portfolios, expanding your blogs.

Week 11, November 7

Discussion: How to cover the "Blog beat:" A reporter's responsibilities, led by the Research Team of Dylan T, Nicole T, and Erin M.
Reading Assignment: Handouts & links.
Lab: Entreprenuers: how to launch blog-based micropublishing ventures.

Week 12, November 14

Discussion: Negotiating credibility and ethics for blogging and bloggers, led by the Research Team of Krissi and Jaime D.
Reading Assignment: Handouts & links.
Lab: Cascading Style Sheets and advanced templates.

Week 13, November 21, Thanksgiving week

Discussion: Implications of interactivity, collaboration, and community for both old and new media, led by the instructor.
Reading Assignment: Handouts.
Lab: Work on Final Projects.

Week 14, November 28

Discussion: Open class debate on Old or New Media: Convergence or Conflict? Reflecting on what we have learned.
Lab: Wrapping up final projects, begin class presentations of the finished work if necessary to give everyone enough time.

Week 15, December 5

Final Project Presentations in the Lab, with feedback for Finals revisions.

Week 16, Final

All contributions to class blog and revisions to individual and portfolio blogs must be complete by MIDNIGHT Sunday, December 11th for portfolio grading.

Research Team Topics & Presentation Dates

I've very nearly got the class readings schedule firmed up, and here is a key part of the seminar structure (and 20% of your grade).

Depending on which topic you choose, you will either be presenting some additional research in teams of two or with me assisting. What you are really doing is acting as seminar discussion leaders on that particular day, drawing the rest of the class into the topic as well. The class will be doing readings on the same topic, but you will have the job of digging a little deeper online and filling in some of the gaps.

We'll talk about this more in class, and assign topics Monday, but I wanted to give you a chance to scope out the schedule ahead of time.

  1. Sept 19: History of blogs and blogging as a web phenomenon and social movement: Christina & Trista S
  2. Sept 26: Mapping the Blogosphere: Blog ecosystems, linklove, blogrolling, gaming Google, and other publicity and promotion strategies: Kristi A & Peter C
  3. Oct 3: Blog Mobs: Cliques, A-lists, lynch mobs, "smart mobs," flash mobs, mo-blogging, photoblogs, v-logs: Amanda D & Denny L
  4. Oct 10: Pollner Lecture Backgrounder: Instructor leads discussion on warblogging and the effect of blogs on politics: Chris B
  5. Oct 17: Midterm
  6. Oct 24: Citizen journalism and the rebellion against Mainstream Media (MSM): Joe P & Tim K
  7. Oct 31: Legal issues and challenges for blogs and bloggers: Beth B & Sara L
  8. Nov 7: How to cover the "blog beat": A reporter's responsibilities: Dylan T, Nicole T & Erin M
  9. Nov 14: Negotiating credibility and ethics for blogging and bloggers: Krissi & Jaime D
  10. Nov 21 (Thanksgiving week): Implications of interactivity, collaboration, and community for old and new media: Chris B
  11. Nov 28: Open class debate on old vs. new media: Convergence, symbiosis, or conflict? Reflecting on what we have learned
  12. Dec 5: Final Project Presentations

Inventory and Criteria for Portfolio Final

Portfolio Inventory

These are the items that should be clearly linked and present in your final portfolio for my class (your professional portfolio may be different than your class version. You can use your third blog for the class-specific stuff, so long as all the links are there, working, and items can be easily found):

Portfolio/Semester Reflection Cover Letter

A Professional Journalist's Portfolio Blog Site:

  1. Introduction/Professional Cover Letter.
  2. Resume' and/or Vita.
  3. A Category/Listing of Publications with links to electronic versions of clips and published images (plain text version, link, and PDF if possible). If you have a lot, perhaps you will make categories for different things, like "Kaimin Clips," "Internship Clips," etc. to make a more logical and clear navigation.
  4. If you don't have many published clips, create a category of class project clips and sites you've worked on (plain text version, link, and PDF if possible).
  5. Links or a showcase of other professional projects you've worked on (freelance work in technical writing, business writing, web writing and design, layout and design, Flash, interactive media, photography, audio, video).
  6. Anything else that puts your best foot forward as a job candidate.
  7. Optional: a Typelist blogroll of other sites you've worked with professionally.


  • References names or addresses. Say "References available upon request."
  • Your street address or phone number (identity thieves and fraudsters harvest this information online to rip you off). Use your email address and web URL as your primary form of contact

A Vital and Ongoing Personal/Individual Blog
with evidence of involvement in at least one blog community or ecosystem (our class's ecosystem and beyond).

Any Additional Blog Projects you have undertaken,
in this class or outside it (that you want to claim). This includes links to any streaming podcasts you've tried, or video clips or audio slide shows.

Any Additional Web Projects you've worked on, in this class or outside it (that you want to claim).

A Copy/Paste Capture of both the Technorati and Google search results for your most well-known blog, with the name of your site in QUOTATION MARKS. (You will want to configure Google Preferences to show 100 results)

Portfolio Grading Criteria

The best overall portfolios will be attractively designed and easy to navigate. All items in the inventory above should be easily accessable, and all links should work.

What to include in the Portfolio/Semester Cover Letter:

This is perhaps the second most important part of your portfolio, after its wholistic completeness. And this is the thing you should do last, and perhaps also revise through several drafts.

In this letter addressed to me, you should look back over your experience of the semester, from where you started to where you are now, reflecting on what you've learned about blogs, the blogosphere, and the citizen journalism movement. This letter serves an indirect PR function because it introduces and explains all the work that is in your portfolio, but lathering on flattery or overtly brown-nosing will be obvious and will serve you far less well than honestly talking about what you've learned and will take away from the class.

Parroting the teacher is not necessary to get a good grade! Rather, if you have a bold or contrarian-style opinion about blogs, it is not enough to just state it. You must back up your statements with REASONS and SUPPORT. You should do the same thing if you happen to agree with the teacher's POV as well. You can also provide links to representative sites that illustrate the points your are making.

In short, your Semester Cover Letter is a bit like a personal manifesto for you, for this point in time.

In addition, there are some other specific things I will be looking for in it:

At least one detailed paragraph introducing and discussing the first blog you made this semester, telling how you adjusted, revised, and refined it over the course of the semester, and why you did the things you did. You should also discuss feedback you got on your blog, from classmates, in class, and in the comments section of your blog. Talk about the audience for your blog, any themes you were striving to create, and how successful you feel your attempt was.

Note, you are not required in one semester to have created a famous and wildly successful blog. Failed attempts, false starts, etc. are also as much of a learning experience as successes, perhaps more so, if you  explain what you learned from what you did. Also, it would be nice if you talked about what it feels like to speak in your own voice, as opposed to the deliberately depersonalized voice of more traditional journalism.

You should also give some space to discussing your side menus and lists, your blogrolls, what you put on them, in what order, and why.

Another detailed paragraph introducing and discussing your professional portfolio blog, what your goals were in putting it together, what use you could possibly make of it, and how well it represents you. If you feel like your professional portfolio is still largely unfinished because your career development is still in progress, THAT'S OK! Talk about that. Discuss the depth of your clips, and what kind of clips or work you could show in the future that might help your professional viability.

Also note that creating this portfolio in no way commits you to a particular career path. Even if you change careers many times (as I have), your portfolio is valuable because it shows you did work at a professional level (even if it wasn't published), revealing a work ethic, a care about the product of your work, and a commitment to professionalism. That kind of thing impresses any employer. If you want to change your career focus in the future, reflecting on your portfolio here and now may help you see clearly what is needed to redirect your focus and get you where you want to go.

Another paragraph on your resume', talking about what it does for you, and what you feel it still needs.

Another paragraph introducing your clips, photos, graphic design or layout, the guts of your portfolio, reflecting on how well you think they represent you.

A final paragraph that again looks at the whole kit kaboodle and reflects on what you might have done differently, had you world enough and time. You can include here plans for the future. And if you are someone who plans to chuck the whole blog thing at the end of the semester, talk about it, and what you will gain from doing that, as well as what you may lose.

Portfolio Intro, Resume' and Clip File Criteria

The look and feel of your professional portfolio will vary widely from person to person. The most important thing to remember is that this is your PROFESSIONAL FACE that you show the world. Because it is in blog format, some personality should show through, but your Professional Resume' SHOULD NOT contain Hobbies or Personal Interests. Perhaps, if you feel a personal statement is required (far more common for artists and creative types), you might make a category for a short personal statement about who you are. I don't think I'd use the portfolio Introduction for too much personal material. Some personality can shine through there, but strictly within a professional context. Imagine in that Intro that you are speaking to some potential employer and trying to land an interview. That is all that Intro has to do. Grab an employer's interest, lead them to the resume' and clips, and motivate her or him to contact you right away for an interview.

Your resume' wording can always be polished, so get some feedback from me on formatting and wording. I used to revise people's resume's as a freelance service I offered, going back 20 years, so USE ME.

The most important thing about your clips is that they load quickly and easily. Whether you include a short paragraph with each telling about it, or not, is not important. That's your decision. Images should not be so big as to take forever to load. No audio or video files should play automatically. The user should have the option to click and load the larger files, but a low bandwidth description or text version is more important than the larger files. The larger files exist largely to provide proof that you were published where you say you were, or to provide proof that your work is your own in a world of widespread plagiarism. If they come from an online source with a live link, that provides further proof that you are legit.

If you have furthur questions about the portfolio requirements, ask me or post them here, in the comments section of this post.

NOTE: I intend to use the remaining class periods for oral presentations of completed or nearly complete portfolios, to celebrate the work you've done this semester and give you feedback so you can revise navigational problems or oversights before the official FINAL DEADLINE. Obviously, if your work isn't complete enough to show on the big screen in class, you will suffer from a lack of feedback, so try to get as much done as you can as soon as possible.

April 25, 2006 in Course Syllabi | Permalink


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