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Database & Public Records Reporting/JOU3121 | News Workshop/JOU 3113




Multi-Ethnic Reporting

JOU3188/Fall 2006


A1/226 -- 9:30 a.m.-- 12:15 p.m. -- Sept. 6 – Oct. 18


Prof. Neil Reisner





Web Site:



ACII 318

Office Hours:

Monday, 11 a.m.– 1 p.m.


Tuesday, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.


And by appointment. (Always best to make an appointment)


And drop-in whenever I’m around, if I’m free we can talk



This course explores the challenges, large and small, of covering the news in one of the nation's most ethnically diverse regions. In addition to discussing major issues that face contemporary journalists covering increasingly diverse communities, the course will provide nuts and bolts instruction in how to cover specific communities. It will be a mixture of local history, political science and human relations.



·   To examine the challenges reporters face when covering communities whose members don’t look, talk, think or believe as they do.

·   To acquire tools and resources needed to cover those communities with depth and sensitivity.

·   To become familiar with the aspects of media culture that inhibit insightful coverage of diverse cultures.



The course is conducted in a lectures/conversation format. Students will turn in “Reaction Papers” every week in which they wrestle with topics raised in class. Each student will also conduct a “Listening Post” exercise in which they get to know a previously unfamiliar ethnicity, culture, religion, lifestyle or community.

There is no textbook, however voluminous readings for each class will be posted on the class web site.

Students are, however, expected to read all handouts and read, watch or listen to two sources of news about the neighborhood they report on. That should include daily reading of The Miami Herald and supplementary publications, such as The Miami Times, El Nuevo Herald, Diario Las Americas, The Montreal Gazette, The Jewish Journal, The Final Call, etc.



We will conduct much of our class business via three online venues.

·   Prof. Reisner’s web site, www.nreisner.com.

·   A listserv, or Internet mailing list, JOU3113@FIU.EDU

A listserv provides an easy way to exchange information via e-mail. Any mail sent to the class listserv will go to Prof. Reisner and all students in the class. Use the list to ask questions about class or assignments, to seek assistance if you run into trouble on any technique, to help out your fellow students; use it to continue the conversations we will have in class. Participation counts in this class and note will be taken of those who take advantage of the listserv.

·   A Web Log or "blog", where Prof. Reisner will occasionally post articles of interest, notifying the class via the listserv. The blog will be accessible via Reisner’s web page.


·   Attendance is mandatory and will comprise 10 percent of your final grade. Students who must be absent due to illness must bring a note from the treating physician. Absences due to traffic, assignments in other classes, interviews, car trouble, cruises, trips home for anything other than verifiable emergencies, will not be excused. Other issues will be considered case-by-case but will not generally be excused

·   Courtesy counts. Turn your cell phones off before class starts. Don’t talk on the phone or among yourselves, answer e-mail, IM, listen to your iPods or surf the web when the instructor is teaching.

·   Be on time. Arrive late more than twice and your grade may be reduced by one letter.

·   Spelling and grammar count, both in your papers and in your e-mails.

·   Format counts. Assignments that do not conform to the required format (see below) will not be accepted.

·   There is only one rule regarding plagiarism: Don’t. Any student who turns in a plagiarized assignment will fail the class and be subject to university discipline. For specifics, see the university’s Code of Academic Integrity: http://www.fiu.edu/%7Eoabp/misconductweb/1acmisconductproc.htm


·        Because of this class's foreshortened schedule, attendance is mandatory.

·        Students who do not attend the first class will be dropped.

·        After the first class, no more than one class may be missed Students who do miss a class will receive no higher than a B. Students missing more than one class will receive Fs.

·        Students who must be absent due to illness must bring a doctor’s note on their return. Certain family emergencies will also be excused.

·        Absences due to traffic, assignments in other classes, interviews or car trouble will not be excused. Other issues can be considered case-by-case but will not generally be excused.

·        Students who miss classes are responsible for assignments due on that day. 

·        Required readings must be completed before each class session. All readings will be available on the class web site.



Journalism is a deadline business and there’s nothing worse than missing one. Class deadlines will be equally sacrosanct.

·   Assignments are due in class. One-half grade per day may be deducted for papers not turned in on time, including the day of class.

·   You may leave assignments in Professor Reisner’s mailbox in the Journalism Department office. If they arrive before class, they’ll be marked on time. If after, they’re late.

·   Assignments will not be accepted via e-mail or fax.



Stories you’ll write in the real world must be formatted for the media outlet to which they’re aimed. Class assignments must also be formatted in a specific way.

·   Leave one-half page at the top of every assignment blank so Prof. Reisner can make comments.

·   Turn in two copies of every assignment, unless instructed otherwise. One will be marked and commented; the other will be kept as a record of your improvement.

·   Assignments must be printed out. Handwritten assignments will not be accepted.

·   Assignments must be stapled, each copy separately.

·   Each page of each assignment must be clearly labeled with your name, the assignment, the date, the page number and the total number of pages. The easiest way to do this in Microsoft Word is with a header.

·   One-half grade may be deducted for papers in the wrong format.



Reaction papers will be due every week.

They are intended to challenge students to examine their own attitudes toward race and ethnicity, to think about society's attitudes and to think about how the media treat ethnic issues. Students are required to write reaction papers after every class and turn them in at the beginning of the next class.

Each entry should include thoughts on readings assigned as preparation for that class, reactions both intellectual and emotional. Students should write from their experience and to be open with their thoughts.

Papers will be evaluated on the quality of each student's engagement with the material. Does the paper deal with class discussion? Does it have a point of view, agreeing, disagreeing or elaborating on the material? Does it defend that point of view articulately? Does it compare/contrast the writer's experience with that presented by the instructor, a speaker or other students?

For example, an early class session will deal with the notion that we're all prejudiced and present the idea that to cover an ethnic or religious community it's necessary to set aside those prejudices and learn to view the world through the eyes of the community. A student might write whether he or she agrees or disagrees with those contentions and explain why. They might talk about their own experiences using such terms or being talked about in such terms.

Reaction papers should refer both to class readings and class lectures. Reaction papers will be graded and returned with comments the week after they are turned in.

Note: Links to readings on the class web site open with lists of questions. These questions are intended only to spark your thoughts. *Do not feel compelled to answer them or to answer them all; feel free to come up with your own.*



It's the final scene of the classic film "Casablanca."

The gendarmes rush to the airport runway where they see Captain Renault (Claude Raines), the corpse of German Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) and Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who is holding a gun. "Major Strasser has been shot," Renault said, pausing before somberly advising his men to "round up the usual suspects."

Rounding up the usual suspects is all many journalists do when they report a story.

They talk to local officials, community leaders (who may lead only themselves) a couple of folks passing by on the sidewalk and write or broadcast what they hear. Is it real? Does it represent anything like what people really think? Who knows? The "Listening Post" aims to help journalists do better by helping them learn how to listen to people they wouldn't ordinarily encounter or contact. These skills will be invaluable when you need to get to know new beats or cover new communities.

You will each choose a community with which you are entirely unfamiliar and within which you will likely be uncomfortable or even scared. You’ll research that community and then go hang out. The goal will be to get to know folks, find out what moves them, what they care about, how they live.

You will visit your Listening Post location at least three times and turn in diaries of your experience after each visit. At the end of the project, you’ll write a summary of your experience.

For more on the project check out the “Listening Post” link on the class web page.

Be prepared to submit three Listening Post ideas when class meets on Sept. 13.

The first two Listening Post diaries are due on Oct. 4 and Oct. 18. The final diary and the summary are due on Oct. 27.


Grades will be based on:

·        Attendance/Participation: 10 percent

·        Reaction Papers: 40 percent

·        Listening Post: 50 percent


You will earn an

·        A if you attend class, participate in class discussions and engage with speakers. "A" students will submit reaction papers and a Listening Post that are insightful and show deep understanding of the material.

·        B if you attend class, but submit reaction papers and a Listening Post that are cover the bases but don’t show particular insight or understanding.

·        C if you meet minimal class requirements and little more.

·        D if you fail to attend class or their papers show that they were done in haste or absent thoughtfulness.

·        F if you fail to attend class and/or fulfill class requirements.

All letter grades will be converted to numbers; final grades will be based on a point system, though I reserve the right to adjust grades up or down if that is merited in my judgment. Here is how letter grades are converted to points:


Home Work

























Final Grade



95 and above























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