Instructor: Alex Schaffert

Phone: (626) 583-5148


Office hours: by appointment

This class – “Introduction to Online Media” – concentrates on the journalism involved in Web work, and the processes involved in putting together online news and information sites. You will learn the basics of constructing online story packages: planning, reporting, editing, determining the best use of multimedia, Web site production, and visual presentation. You will also develop a critical vocabulary, basic understanding and solid foundation of what works well on the web and why. As a student majoring in journalism, understanding how the Internet and other digital technologies have changed the business of journalism is imperative.

Students will do a series of in- and out-of-class exercises. Some will require students to act as reporters; others will have students be editors and/or producers. These assignments will complement the work you are doing in your core print and broadcast courses. While students won’t be expected to master creating entire Web sites from scratch, you will be exposed to the various steps involved in producing a news Web site. More importantly, you will master the technical basics and editorial skills required of journalists working for online news sites such as or

After taking this class, you should have the basic tools and skills to apply for an entry-level editorial job with an online publication, including a portfolio of online projects that you are proud to show to a prospective employer during a job interview. Ultimately, whether you end up working in online news or not, having that knowledge and that digital portfolio will prepare you for success as a journalist working in a changing news landscape.

Although expectations may vary somewhat for broadcast and for print/text students, all students will be expected to produce work of publishable quality. This includes professionalism in presentation, editorial decisions, editing, spelling and grammar. Work produced for class publications and other class assignments is expected to be of the quality seen in comparable professional sites, and will be graded accordingly.

Please note that specific assignments, readings and weekly subjects may be revised as the course progresses. I will distribute an updated class schedule in digital format as appropriate.


I am the Director for Digital Media at 89.3 KPCC, the largest public radio station in Los Angeles and the third-largest public radio station in the country. I lead a team of online editors, web producers, programmers, designers, production assistants and interns who collaboratively produce, a daily news website for Southern California. Before that, I worked for several years as a Producer and Sr. Web Producer for NBC Universal. I have Masters degrees in Media and Business Administration.


At least once per semester, you will show your work to an outside professional, and I may invite other guest speakers to class. Getting feedback from working professionals is very valuable and I hope you use these opportunities to ask questions and learn more about the industry.


Through this course, you will acquire the skills to develop a basic online story package with multiple elements, including text, visuals (video, photos, graphics, etc.), audio, interactivity and navigation. You will:

  • Complete at least three online news-feature story packages (approved by the instructor before work begins; the format for story pitches will be specified for each assignment):
    • Story Project 1 – The Basics: Print or broadcast-based online story package. You will take a completed or in-progress print or broadcast story and develop an online story. This will likely require additional reporting (more research, interviews, shooting, re-editing). Stories must be original, individual work. University policy prohibits the use of the exact same story for two classes.
    • Story Project 2 – Building Up: An original multimedia project developed, reported, written and edited specifically for this class.
    • Final Project – Time to Shine: An original online story package developed, reported, written and edited specifically for this class, as part of a larger class project. Note: This will be presented by students during the assigned day/time during finals week (see schedule for dates). The final package should show that the student has mastered the selection of media types that best tell a story, while also being ambitious to exercise the skills learned during the semester. I will judge the Final Project in context of a Digital Portfolio which all of you will complete for this class. You will present the Final Project and your Digital Portfolio to class.

The Final Project should contain appropriate video and/or audio, unless a rare exception is granted beforehand by the instructor because of the nature of a specific project. Students who do not have camcorders for other classes can check out camcorders from the ASC Tech Equipment Room.

Other expectations:

  • Completing each weekly assignment on deadline.
  • Complete several smaller projects. These may be in-class assignments or tutorials, critiques, assignments with a 24-hour window or other small project. Some may be brief; some may be complex.
  • Contribute to a personal blog, using it as a platform for publishing and establishing it as a portfolio of your work.
  • Using critical thinking skills relating to what news organizations are doing online and how you can integrate those lessons into your own work.
  • Demonstrate your understanding of online publishing, Web 2.0, design, typography, color, photo usage, and ethics and copyright law in a series of unannounced quizzes.
  • Speak knowledgeably about interactive site design and be able to deconstruct and analyze basic usability aspects of web sites.
  • Understanding online ethics and basic copyright law.
  • Understand the environment and direction of the online news industry.


Students are expected to have a basic understanding of computers, e-mail and Web browsing; no specialized technical skills are required. By the end of the semester, students will be skilled in:

  • How the web works
  • File structures
  • FTP software (Fetch/Filezilla)
  • URL basics
  • HTML/Web-page creation software
  • Web apps/tools/software
  • Effectively using blog software
  • Understanding tiers for multimedia
  • Optimizing photos for the Web (Photoshop basics)
  • Audio production (Audacity)
  • Audio slideshows (iMovie, Soundslides)
  • Creating Web video (Flip)
  • Web Design/Infographics
  • Social Network reporting (Twitter)
  • Creating a banner (Photoshop)
  • Understanding Web metrics

In the event of technical breakdowns, appropriate alternate procedures for submitting work will be accepted (e.g. if unable to successfully post a project to the USC Web server, burn onto a CD or bring in on USB drive) after having made arrangements with the instructor.


  • Required Textbooks:
    • Journalism Next: A practical Guide to Digital Reporting and Publishing by Mark Briggs
  • Readings Other readings may be assigned as needed, and will be online or free.
  • Class website: A regularly updated course schedule and other materials can be found at
  • Blackboard: While the majority of class materials will be posted on the class website, we may occasionally make use of Blackboard. I will let you know when you need to access blackboard. Students can sign into Blackboard by visiting
  • USB flash drive: Although not required for in-class work or homework, you will find it convenient to have a flash drive to organize and transport files and assignments. Be sure to label your flash drive so it can be returned if you lose it.
  • Software: Please download/install these applications on your personal computers:

FTP program (Fetch or FileZilla at

Audacity (

SoundSlides Plus (Demo is ok

iFlip software (

  • Web accounts: Please have an account for these Web services:

Vimeo (

Google ( – you may already have one)

WordPress ( – just a username)

Twitter (

  • AP Stylebook: Your work is expected to conform to AP style. You may wish to bring your stylebook to class.


You are expected to learn software quickly and mostly on your own. As this class is focused on the journalism of online journalism, you are expected to know the basics before you come to class. You can do so in the following ways:

  • Open Web Tech Office Hours

Web Technologies staff will host office hours several times a week in the iLab (ASCJ 229) so students can come in and ask questions and get additional help.  Office hours are posted outside the iLab. Make use of this resource in order to get help with tech questions. Talk with your instructor for any specific class related questions.

  • Ask me about specific tutorials for certain skills

There are lots of tutorials available to learn basic online journalism skills. A good site to get started is Let me know what you need help with and I can point you to specific tutorials that I have found useful.


You are expected to keep up with local news by following the Los Angeles Times, either in print or online. In addition, you should regularly visit:

  • A mainstream, print-oriented national news site (like
  • A mainstream, broadcast-oriented national news site (like
  • A non-traditional information sites (like, or
  • An online journalism/media industry news sites (,,


Unannounced quizzes will be given throughout the semester and will cover assigned readings and material covered in class.


Basic criteria: You will be graded on clarity; organization; accuracy; fairness/balance; completeness/omissions; AP style, grammar, punctuation and spelling; ability to meet deadlines.

Specific criteria:

  • Projects earning an A are professional and ready to publish; they are accurate, clear and comprehensive, and include multiple online elements. Headlines and text are well written and require only minor editing for AP style, grammar/punctuation/spelling and consistency. Visual or audio elements are relevant (e.g., no video just for the sake of having video), and edited or cropped effectively and appropriately. The project has been submitted on deadline.
  • Projects earning a B require more than minor editing, and have a few style or spelling errors. There is at least one significant online element omitted.
  • Projects earning a C need considerable editing or rewriting. There are online elements missing or incomplete.
  • Projects earning a D require excessive rewriting and have numerous errors. They likely go little beyond the original print or broadcast story (if there is one), or are sloppy and/or unprofessional. They are not publishable and should not have been submitted.
  • Projects earning an F have failed to meet the major criteria of the assignment, have numerous errors or both. They may be misleading or contain content from third parties used without attribution. They are not publishable and should not have been submitted. A story that has a factual error that is material to the story merits an F.  There should be no exceptions. A misspelled proper name also merits an automatic F.

Furthermore, all assignments will be graded on a scale of 1-100, and then translated into traditional grades. For example, here is what every error on an assignment will cost you:

AP Style, Punctuation, minor spelling errors or coding/broken links = Two to five points each.

Clarity, organization = Five to seven points for short stories; seven to 10 points for longer stories.

Omissions = Five points.

Misspellings (of proper names) and/or factual errors = Automatic “F” on the assignment.

NOTE: Just because this is a Web journalism class, it does not mean journalism standards are lowered. The same high quality of work will be expected.


  • Attendance/preparation/participation/citizenship (10 percent)
  • Quizzes (10 percent)

Quizzes usually will be unannounced and will be given at the beginning or very end of class.

  • Class assignments (15 percent)
  • Project 1 (15 percent)
  • Project  2 (20 percent)
  • Final project (30 percent)

Assignments and projects will be judged on elements including text, visuals (photos, graphics, video), interactivity, navigation and adherence to assignment specifics. Design and color decisions will be judged on appropriateness and usage of concepts discussed in class. Because the class is cumulative, students should demonstrate an understanding of all previously covered concepts in each assignment, even if the assignment does not specifically address those issues.

Assignments and projects are to be turned in on time and in a professional manner, edited to AP style, and by the assigned deadline (some projects may be time-specific). Late assignments get a failing grade, but should be completed nonetheless as they may qualify for a grade up to a “C” under the rewrite policy. Students should turn in each assignment as specified – some may be sent by e-mail, some turned in as hard copy, some posted to your web space. Do not remove materials from your web space until you have received confirmation from your instructor that the material has been graded.

NOTE: This class will be carried out like a newsroom. The instructor is your editor and you need to be in communication during the assignments. Don’t miss deadlines.


Students are expected to be in class and on time every week. Attendance will be recorded weekly. Missing classes will affect your participation mark. Excessive absences may result in a non-passing grade.

If a class is to be missed:

  • For illness: The student must leave an e-mail message at or a phone message at (626) 583-5148  prior to the start of class or the absence will be considered unexcused.
  • For reason other than illness: Instructor approval before class day must be sought.
  • Students are responsible for getting the class notes from other students in the class; instructors aren’t expected to hold separate “catch-up” sessions outside of class.


Quizzes and specific in-class assignments cannot be made up. Assignments that are turned in late will receive an F, but might be able to be turned in under the rewrite policy (the highest grade the student would receive would be a “C.”)

Exceptions are granted to these rules under very specific circumstances. For example, if a student has sought advance permission to miss one class, and has done so several days/weeks in advance, special arrangements can be made.


Plagiarism is defined as taking ideas or writings from another and passing them off as one’s own.  Plagiarism is a serious violation of the School of Journalism’s policy on academic integrity, and a student found guilty of plagiarism is subject to dismissal from the journalism major.

The following is the School of Journalism’s policy on academic integrity as published in the University catalogue:

“Since its founding, the USC School of Journalism has maintained a commitment to the highest standards of ethical conduct and academic excellence. Any student found guilty of plagiarism, fabrication, cheating on examinations, or purchasing papers or other assignments will receive a failing grade in the course and will be dismissed as a major from the School of Journalism. There are no exceptions to this policy.”


USC seeks to maintain an optimal learning environment.  General principles of academic honesty include the concept of respect for the intellectual property of others, the expectation that individual work will be submitted unless otherwise allowed by an instructor, and the obligations both to protect one’s own academic work from misuse by others as well as to avoid using another’s work as one’s own.  All students are expected to understand and abide by these principles. Scampus, the Student Guidebook, contains the Student Conduct Code in Section 11.00, while the recommended sanctions are located in Appendix A.  Students will be referred to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards for further review, should there be any suspicion of academic dishonesty.


This is a professional degree program. As such, students are expected to deal with each other and with their instructors in a collegial manner. This includes being on time, being courteous, keeping noise to a minimum when a student or the instructor present pitches or lectures in class. It also means you should immediately talk to your instructor if you have any concerns about the course, grading, fellow students, the length of time it takes to get back graded assignments, etc. If you are still not satisfied that the issue has been resolved, you should contact Laura Castaneda at

For the purposes of this class, you are a bona fide member of the working press.  You should expect to be treated with all of the normal courtesies and privileges afforded to the press. In return, you are expected to represent the profession in a dignified and appropriate manner. If you do not take yourself seriously, be advised that no one else will. When conducting your outside reporting, we expect you to dress and comport yourself as a professional.


The value of professional internships as part of the overall educational experience of our students has long been recognized by the School of Journalism. Accordingly, while internships are not required for successful completion of this course, any student enrolled in this course who undertakes and completes an approved, non-paid internship during this semester shall earn academic extra credit of one percent of the total available semester points for this course.

To receive instructor approval, a student must request an internship letter from the Annenberg Career Development Office and bring it to the instructor to sign by the end of the third week of classes.  The student must submit the signed letter to the media organization, along with the evaluation form provided by the Career Development Office.  The form should be filled out by the intern supervisor and returned to the instructor at the end of the semester. No credit will be given if an evaluation form is not turned in to the instructor by the last day of class.

Note:  The internship must be unpaid and can only be applied to one journalism class.


Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester.  A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP.   Please be sure copies of the letter are delivered to me and Laura Castaneda (


Students are under a lot of pressure. If you start to feel overwhelmed, it is important that you reach out for help. A good place to start is the USC Student Counseling Services office at 213-740-7711. The service is confidential, and there is no charge.


Writing coaches are available in ASC 227 during posted drop-in times and by appointment. Note: Writing coaches will only review assignments after an assignment has been graded/marked-up by the instructor.

Print writing coaches:

Ann Herold:

Brad Hanson:

Susan Brenneman:

Jennifer Floto:  (Public Relations)

Broadcast writing coach:

Mike Daniels:


NOTE: All readings and assignments are to be done before each class. The syllabus is subject to change. I will alert you to any changes to the syllabus well in advance.

Week 1 (Aug 26): Class introduction
Getting to know everyone, syllabus review, class communication, online journalism overview, video & discussion, blog & bio assignment

  • Homework assignment: Email bio to by midnight Sept 1, set up accounts/install software, order textbook

Week 2 (Sept 2): Design and technical fundamentals
Basic technical concept, basic HTML. Create a basic HTML page and FTP the page to your USC Web space.

  • Briggs: Introduction & Chapter 1
  • Due today: Bio
  • Assignment: HTML tutorial, Readings

Week 3 (Sept 9): The “Brand of You”

Create your own journalistic brand online.

  • Briggs: Chapter 2
  • Assignments: Online production pitch for Online Package 1
  • Due today: You should have your textbook by now and you should have read the introduction and chapters 1 and 2.

Week 4 (Sept 16): Video

  • Briggs: Chapter 8
  • Due today: Online production pitch for Online Package 1
  • Assignments: Flip video assignment

Week 5 (Sept 23): Writing and editing online

  • Briggs: Chapter 4 & 5
  • Due today: Flip video assignment
  • Assignment: Work on Online Package 1

Week 6 (Sept 30): Audio

  • Briggs: Chapter 7
  • Due today: Online Package 1
  • Assignment: Audio assignment part I

Week 7  (Oct 7): Photos & Photoshop

Taking photos, downloading and optimizing them for the Web

  • Briggs: Chapter 6
  • Assignment: Audio assignment I & II, Online production pitch for Project 2 (audio slideshow)

Week 8 (Oct 14): Photos & Photoshop ctnd.

Review audio assignment, Hands-on Photoshop exercises, Pitches for audio slideshow

  • Due today: Audio assignment I & II, Online production pitch for Project 2 (audio slideshow)
  • Assignment: Photos and interview for audio slideshow

Week 9 (Oct 21): Web Design, usability, multimedia, interactivity

Advanced Photoshop workshop. Links as journalism; importance of interactivity and ways to incorporate it

  • Briggs: Chapter 3
  • Due today: TBD
  • Assignment: Continue work on audio slideshow / Project 2, ONA assignment

Week 10 (Oct 28): No formal class (ONA)

  • In-class work time: Audio slideshow / Project 2, ONA assignment

Week 11 (Nov 4): Newsroom visit

  • Briggs: Chapter 9
  • Due today: ONA assignment, Online Project 2 (Completed audio slideshow), class critique
  • Assignment: Generate 2-3 pitches for your Final Package

Week 12 (Nov 11): Data visualization & social media

  • Briggs: Chapter 10
  • Due today: Revised audio slideshow, in-class data visualization assignment, pitches for Final Online Package, select winners

Week 13 (Nov 18): The Landscape of Online Journalism, Web Tools, Online Job Market

  • Briggs: Chapter 11
  • Due today: Make sure I have a completed form for last week’s winning pitch
  • Assignment: Work on Final Project & Digital Portfolio


Week 15 (Dec 2): Final Project

  • Due today: Present Final Project & Digital Portfolio, class critique


Thur, Dec 9, 4:30 pm



2 Responses

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: