Science & Environmental Journalism
Critical Thinking in Environmental Studies
JOUR-4872 -- ENVS 4800-002
Instructor: Prof. Tom Yulsman
Office: Armory 21A Phone: 303-492-3009
Online syllabus: http://stripe.colorado.edu/~yulsman/scisyllabus.html
Online schedule: http://stripe.colorado.edu/~yulsman/scischedule.html
Office Hours: TBA
The theme for this class will be human domination of the global environment. And we will look at this issue through the lenses of science, policy and journalism.
The course is designed to help you:
Over the course of the semester, we will use science journalism as a tool to examine several global environmental issues in detail. We will also think critically about science and environmental issues, and how they are covered in the media.
The class is built around several journalistic writing assignments. Two of these will probably be based on in-class presentations by scientists. You will find a topic for a third story (approved by me in advance), or write it based on an optional Friday field trip. You will get to write two drafts of the first two stories. I will critique the first drafts of these stories, and you will have an opportunity to revise them based on my comments and additional research and reporting. The grade for each of these stories will reflect the final version. (With a few exceptions, which we will discuss in class.) Using the knowledge, experience and skills you’ve developed on the first two stories, you will write just one draft of the third story. I will grade all of them on a standard A-F scale. I will assume that you know how to write clearly and accurately but have little or no journalism experience.
You will also complete several smaller assignments, including papers summarizing the readings we will be doing to prepare for the bigger assignments. I’ll grade these assignments pass/fail; they will affect your attendance and participation score, which is worth 20 percent of the final grade in this class.
For a final project, Environmental Studies students will write a traditional term paper; journalism students will write an enterprise story of about 1,500 words in length. If you are assigned to write a paper but would prefer to try your hand at a story, or visa versa, let me know. We’ll talk about it.
Generally, the news stories will be about 500 words long, typed double-spaced. (I'll announce the specific lengths for each story ahead of time.) You will submit each story as an attachment to an email message to me. All attachments must be written in Microsoft Word, or must be capable of being read using Word. At the top of each assignment, please make sure to include your name and a "slug" that I will specify. (A slug is a one or two-word label for the story, such as “climate.”) Also, please make sure each page is numbered — and don’t forget to put your name on your assignment.
Persistent errors in your stories will reduce your grade. Journalism students: please follow the Associated Press Stylebook. Errors in style will reduce your grade.
You are responsible for making sure that your stories are factually accurate. This includes everything from the spelling of names to the technical details of what we’ll be writing about. At my discretion, errors on first drafts could result in a reduction in the ultimate grade for the assignment. Errors on second drafts definitely will result in a reduced grade.
You will receive an automatic F on a second draft if you misspell a name. You also run the risk of an automatic F for getting a simple fact wrong — one that could easily be checked online. This will be a judgment call on my part, and given the technical nature of what we will be writing about, I will try to give you the benefit of the doubt. But I want to emphasize that accuracy is crucially important. It is your responsibility to ensure that your writing is error free.
Meeting deadlines is also critical. Missing a deadline will result in a substantial grade reduction. If you consistently miss deadlines, you could fail the class.
I grade stories and other submissions on a standard A-F scale.
Plagiarism, defined as copying the words or ideas from another person and claiming them as your own, is a serious breach of journalistic and academic ethics and will not be tolerated in this class. I will check for plagiarism in your stories, and if I find that you've plagiarized information, you could very well fail the course. The same sanction applies to fabricating information and other serious breaches of journalistic and academic ethics.
Please be aware that in the age of the Internet, it is very easy to plagiarize material without even intending to do so. As a result, you need to be proactive and assiduous in keeping track of the sources of the information you gather, which information you've copied verbatim into your notes, and which you've paraphrased. To avoid plagiarism, you need to provide clear and appropriate attribution for information AND use quotation marks for information you are using verbatim. (Providing a source for copied information without using quotation marks is still plagiarism.)
This is not intended as a complete discussion of plagiarism. So if you have any questions concerning what it is, how to avoid it, and the consequences for committing it, please do not hesitate to speak to me. Also, a student honor code has been adopted in all academic units of the university, including the journalism school. For more information about the honor code, please go to: http://www.colorado.edu/academics/honorcode/
No text is required. I will hand out some reading assignments in class, and others will be linked from the class schedule page online.
It is tentative and certainly will change. Changes will be announced in class. This syllabus with the schedule attached is posted at the URL listed at the top of the syllabus. Please note that scheduling announcements I make in class supersede the information in the paper and online schedules. You are responsible for staying up to date, so if you miss a class, make sure to ask a fellow student about any changes to the schedule that I may have announced in class.
It is essential that you keep up with what's happening in science and environmental affairs by reading newspapers, magazines and online news sources. Be prepared to discuss articles you feel are particularly noteworthy. Here are a few publications to monitor:
• The New York Times on the Web: The New York Times publishes Science Times, an excellent science section appearing every Tuesday.
• Science and Nature, two leading scientific journals, provide weekly coverage of science, including environmental science. Both are available online.
• Science News: A weekly science newsmagazine.
• New Scientist: More pizzazz than Science News.
• Scientific American: A popular monthly with a news section written by science writers and main articles written by scientists.
You are expected to attend all classes, to arrive on time, and to offer insights during class discussions. Unexcused absences will lead to a lowering of your final grade. Excessive absence may result in a failing grade for the class, at my discretion. In addition, your careful reading of the assignments and knowledge of news events are essential for meaningful discussion. Finally, this is a seminar, so its success will depend on you, not just me. Come to each class prepared to participate in discussion, which means completing the readings and thinking about the issues at hand before class. Participating in discussions could easily mean the difference between a B+ and an A-, or an A- and an A, as a final grade in the class. The same holds true with attendance.
In accordance with university policy, I will make every effort to accommodate students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with required attendance and assignments. But you must notify me at least two weeks in advance of the conflict to request special accommodation.
If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit a letter to me from Disability Services early in the semester so that your needs may be addressed. This office determines accommodations based on documented disabilities. You can reach Disability Services at 303-492-8671. The office is located in Willard Hall, Room 322. For more information, see www.colorado.edu/sacs/disabilityservices.
Class attendance & participation