CNS Annapolis Bureau
We are a professional, working newsroom and we create stories and visuals for a news wire service with many clients — mostly news organizations in Maryland. Students are covering the state government — this means the governor, state agencies, statewide political races, trends and stories that affect people statewide, and the General Assembly in the spring semester.
Students are reporting, researching and interviewing newsmakers on a daily basis, finding stories to cover and pitching story ideas to their editor. We usually meet at about 8:30 a.m. to plan our day, and then start working. You will file your story to your editor and then work together on making it great. Stories appear on the CNS website, www.cnsmaryland.org, and are distributed to and often picked up by news organizations across Maryland, including the Baltimore Sun. Stories may also be picked up by the Associated Press and then appear on dozens of news sites nationwide, including the Washington Post.
You will be assigned a desk in the newsroom, in an old opera house on a historic brick-paved street within walking distance to the State House dome.
The Annapolis bureau meets all day, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays. Undergraduates choose any two of these days (6 credits) or all four days (9 credits).
We do not meet on Mondays, and you should not have homework and you should not be working beyond your hours and days in the bureau.
During your work days, you may be in the bureau, or you may be out covering events, press conferences, enterprise stories or features. You’ll have orientation sessions at the beginning of the semester that will help give you more tools to cover the news.
Beats that students cover include transportation, health, environment, science and technology/cybersecurity, education, the governor, courts and public safety, weather, immigration, social services, business and the economy and more. We have written stories about struggling bats, millions of dollars in unclaimed property, covered a murder trial, interviewed the governor and many lawmakers. We’ve reported on the many ways the state stealthily tracks vehicles, its dirty air, and how Maryland’s crime numbers are probably wildly incorrectly reported to the FBI. We have written about a gore-focused tattoo artist and his hearse, hunting black bears, how an Amish school uses the Internet, and on how the governor has been quietly paroling felons who committed crimes as juveniles. If you propose it, we will do our best to cover it.
All students are expected to use Twitter and other social media to promote CNS stories and as a reporting source tool. You will use DataWrapper to make simple graphics and you will be taking basic photos. You can also do more in-depth visual projects, including drawings, photography, graphics and videos, if you would like.
You can see some past Annapolis students at work here, from about 00:30 to about 00:46: https://youtu.be/Y-eQvFtTQlI.
Here’s a profile of one recent student. He’s at the Baltimore Sun now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUNeQ0yP5eM.
And here are some of our stories from this semester, and before: https://cnsmaryland.org/category/annapolis/
Looking forward to seeing you in Annapolis!
CNS Washington D.C. Bureau
The Washington bureau of CNS meets Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Undergraduate students choose two of those days to work. Graduate students work in the bureau all four days. In general, the coursework is done within the hours of the bureau. However, in certain circumstances, students may be asked to volunteer to work a different day to cover a special news event, such as a state funeral, a presidential inauguration, an election night, etc.
Students will be asked to cover a wide variety of Washington-based stories. Some are focused on the activities of the Congress, others on the administration and federal agencies, others on general areas of public policy (i.e., the environment and climate change; income inequality; foreign policy, etc.)
Students based in the Washington bureau are asked to report on and write stories; in some cases, students in the bureau may take pictures or video, contribute to social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook), and even have the opportunity to produce podcasts. Applicants should have proven reporting and writing skills – including the ability to spot developing stories, to generate original ideas, to find appropriate sources, and to produce accurate and compelling journalism – often on deadline. Applicants should also have a good working knowledge of the American political system – how it works, its key figures and current issues. We also would like applicants to have familiarity with the elements of good government and political reporting.
CNS Audience Engagement and Social Media Bureau
Students in the CNS Audience Engagement bureau listen to conversations happening on the internet and use that research and reporting to tell stories and engage with users on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. On a daily basis, students use CNS social media platforms and the CNS website to share the work of other CNS bureaus, promoting their coverage by improving stories’ SEO and by creating social content, such as videos and graphics. Students will also collaborate with CNS and Howard Center for Investigative Journalism editors and reporters to develop and execute multi-step audience engagement plans for investigative or enterprise projects. Students also dive deep into web and social metrics to understand how users interact with CNS stories, and suggest promotion and publishing strategies based on that data. Some audience engagement and social media content creation experience is recommended, including but not limited to classes such as JOUR368D/668D.
The class meets Monday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for part-time undergraduate students and Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for graduate students and full-time undergraduate students. Please do not schedule other classes during these times. All work for this course will be done during class hours.
CNS Broadcast Bureau
The CNS broadcast bureau is a rigorous, hands-on, broadcast newsroom that reinforces what you have learned and prepares you to enter the professional industry at the end of your semester. Please note that on day one when you arrive to the CNS broadcast bureau you are expected to have solid news judgment and be able to come up with two strong, doable story ideas every day, and one enterprise story per week. You should be comfortable and proficient with executing the basics of journalism, how to research stories and how to set up interviews. You should have a working knowledge of legal and ethical issues. You should be comfortable interviewing people and selecting strong sound bites for the stories you report. You are expected to be proficient in all aspects of electronic newsgathering and editing. You are expected to arrive at the bureau with an easy ability to pitch stories, report, write, edit and air them that day. In other words, you are expected to turn around a story in eight hours or less. If you have concerns about meeting these requirements, you should give serious thought as to whether this capstone is right for you.
In this class the focus is reporting. Please do not sign up for this class if your primary interest is anchoring. Anchoring is NOT the focus of the capstone. The CNS broadcast bureau meets Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., and every other Friday from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
If you are part-time, you will not meet on Wednesdays. If you are full-time, you meet on Wednesdays and work on special project reports that will be marketed to local newsrooms nationally with the expectation that your highly-produced story will run in one or more markets in the country. You will produce one or two of these thoughtful, unique and well-produced pieces during the semester. These pieces are designed to stand out and make news directors want to hire you into prominent reporting positions.
Most of the work you do in the broadcast bureau is done within the scheduled meeting times. Occasionally, you will be asked to cover stories outside these times. If you are asked to do so, then your time during the following week will be adjusted to compensate. In this class, you will produce thoughtful pieces that reflect salient issues that affect people in the state of Maryland. This means your coverage area will be Maryland, Annapolis and Washington, D.C. You will produce reporter packages that are day-turn deadline pieces as well as enterprise packages. You will do live shots in real time for the evening broadcast which goes out at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. By the end of the semester, you should have mastered coming up with enterprise story ideas, researching, reporting, writing and editing on deadline. All students will get on-camera performance training and feedback. If you have an interest in sports, you will be allowed to anchor and report some sportscasts. By the end of the semester, you will have created your professional resume reel for your job search. You will have mastered the following learning outcomes:
- Simulate a working newsroom environment through the production of a live newscast.
- Learn to enterprise stories and come up with stories beyond daybook announcements and press releases.
- Focus on reporting and newsgathering skills for a local television news format using state-of-the industry technology in the studio, newsroom and in the field.
- Pay critical attention and apply critical thinking to newsgathering techniques and on-air performance issues. Learn to exercise solid journalistic judgment under deadline pressure.
- Learn the difference between basic reporting and storytelling.
- Learn how to do live reporting on location.
- Write clear and compelling copy under renewing and unpredictable deadlines.
- Learn how critically important it is to work as a team.
- Learn management skills that will help develop leadership skills and a solid teamwork.
- Learn instinctively to be sensitive to issues of ethics as they relate to viewers and colleagues.
- Learn instinctively to be sensitive to issues of diversity as they relate to viewers and colleagues.
- Learn excellence through practice and critical analysis of the industry.
- Learn to conduct research and evaluate information using journalism skills that are appropriate and professional and that reflect high standards and codes of ethics as set forth by RTDNA, SPJ and NPPA.
- Learn to think critically, creatively, and independently.
- Learn to critically evaluate your own work and that of others for accuracy and fairness, clarity, appropriate broadcast news writing and reporting styles and grammatical correctness.
CNS Data and Graphics Bureau
The CNS Data and Graphics Bureau focuses on data visualization, design, graphics and computational journalism in a professional newsroom setting. Students analyze data, do reporting, build data visualizations and information graphics, design and code websites and build automated storytelling tools. Students fill different roles based on their experience and career goals. Some students do a mix of things, and others focus on one area. Students will pitch and execute their own stories and ideas as well as working alongside journalists in other capstones and The Howard Center on larger investigative and enterprise journalism projects. Some experience with coding, design or data is recommended, including but not limited to classes such as JOUR352/652, JOUR472/772, INST126 or CMSC122. The class will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is requested that students do not schedule other classes during these times. All work for this course will be done during class hours.
CNS Data Investigations Team, Howard Center for Investigative Journalism
The Data Investigations Team works inside the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, an investigative reporting unit based at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. The Howard Center produces deeply-reported investigative stories in partnership with national news organizations like NPR, the Associated Press and USA Today. Data journalism is fundamental to the practice of modern investigative reporting. Students will use data journalism techniques to identify newsworthy patterns and evidence that serve as the foundation for investigative stories produced by the Howard Center. Some prior experience with — or coursework in — data journalism, data analysis or computer programming is recommended, but there are meaningful roles on the team for a mix of students with extremely limited experience and for students with extensive experience. The class will meet on Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. If it can be avoided, students should not schedule other classes during these times. All work for this course will be done during class hours.
CNS Investigative Reporting Bureau
You will learn investigative reporting by doing it. The Investigative Bureau produces projects on national issues with local consequences on people’s lives. We’ve done recent projects on homelessness, prison suicide and plea bargain abuse that went out on the AP national wire. They were picked up by news organizations across the country, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.
Although we have not finalized the project for next semester, we have tentative plans to investigate worker safety during the pandemic. Students will work in the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism to report and write a package of bylined stories in collaboration with the Howard fellows. You will learn and do investigative interviewing, source development, public records requests, web mining and long-form writing. Working with data journalism students, you will get first-hand experience in combining numbers and people into powerful narratives, a highly sought after skill in professional newsrooms. Most important, you’ll turn out stories that matter.
Whether we meet virtually or in person next spring, you must be able to commit 14 hours a week, to be completed sometime between 9 and 6 on Mondays and Wednesdays. If necessary, you may take one other course on those days. (There is no additional homework in this capstone outside the 14 hours.) We also offer a three-credit independent study that requires a seven-hour weekly commitment. But you must be available to work those seven hours between the hours of 9 and 6 on Mondays and/or Wednesdays.
CNS Studio Production
The CNS Studio Production capstone will focus on learning all aspects that make studio productions happen. This will be hands-on training with lighting, cameras, technical directing, floor directing and audio. The class will also introduce concepts of studio production design, graphical creation, editing and streaming. At the end of the semester, students will put together a designed show of their own as a final project. In addition to lectures, the capstone class will feature a lab component where students will be the driving production force for Professor Mel Coffee’s CNS live newscast. The lecture portion of the class will meet on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The lab will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in UMTV Studio A.
International Reporting on Imprisoned Journalists
On the first day of class, each student is assigned a journalist who is currently imprisoned overseas. Students will then learn to conduct international reporting from College Park. They will learn how to find and contact the reporter’s colleagues, friends and family as well as U.S. and foreign diplomatic agencies that might be involved with the reporter’s case.
Students will find and interview experts and reports on their prisoner’s country, its current press laws and practices and its bilateral relations with the United States. They will also become familiar with diaspora communities in the United States and elsewhere that can be helpful in collecting information for their final article.
In the past, CNS has published students’ articles and some have been picked up by the Associated Press and have appeared in other U.S. newspapers. Their stories also were published on www.PressUncuffed.org, an organization started by Merrill students. Once, some students’ work was included in a front-page series of articles in The Washington Post titled “Controlling the Narrative.” Another time some students’ work was included in an article in the Columbia Journalism Review.
Our past prisoner journalists have come from a dozen countries including, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Russia, Ukraine, China, Ethiopia, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Morocco.
Professionalization, Commercialization, Youth Sports & the Media
In this course, we will explore the monetization of youth sports, including high school sports, on media platforms from ESPN to regional streaming platforms to community access channels. Students will report on the increasing demand from media companies for youth games. Reporting in the course also will focus on the impact of media on children and their experience in sports. By the end of the semester, students will produce enterprise stories that draw on academic research, Nielson ratings, interviews with youth players, parents, media executives and others. The class will meet twice each week, Monday and Wednesday from Noon to 2:45.
Business and Economic Reporting
Business and economic reporting (BER) is one of the strongest sectors of journalism with lucrative employment opportunities. That’s partly because BER involves some of the most consequential matters of the day and spans dozens of important topics including income inequality, the growth and influence of technology companies and the health of the American economy. (How many times have you heard ‘It’s the economy stupid.’)
Students in past classes have written about the gig economy, income disparities, exploitation of immigrant workers, Wall Street money pouring into affordable housing, underwater homeowners and residential evictions. In the spring, students will likely be reporting and writing stories about the economic impact of the Coronavirus crisis on businesses in Maryland, the impact of climate change on residential development and/or the business of sports.
Like all reporting capstone classes, the BER capstone typically operates as a real newsroom. However, due to the unusual circumstances brought about by the pandemic, students will meet weekly and spend an hour discussing the progress they’ve made on their stories and sharing information about research. Then students will work independently for the remainder of the class. Students should expect to spend about 4 hours a week outside of the class doing research and conducting interviews. Students will be required to submit weekly memos that chart their progress. By the end of the semester, every student should have at least one story ready for publication on Capital News Service.
Students signing up for this capstone should have some interest in business or the economy, but no prior business journalism experience is required.
Broadcast News Producing
In this course, you will learn and practice the basics of broadcast newscast producing. While the focus will be on television news, much of what you learn and practice will be applicable to all digital platforms. You will practice and refine producer skills and combine them with the complex and creative techniques necessary for broadcast news production. You will spend a great deal of time and energy in the lab portion of class producing—or helping to produce—actual television news programs. You will learn first hand the energy consuming challenges of designing, writing, editing and implementing a broadcast news program. Each student will produce a minimum of three newscasts and be an associate or field producer for every other newscast produced on their lab day. You will each experience the challenge and the thrill of creating television news!
Advanced Audio and Podcast Reporting
The class requires a lot of reporting and sound-gathering outside of class. The class sessions are basically an hour of instruction about a specific element of podcasting (recording, interviewing, longform storytelling, creating tiles and visuals, naming and promotions, marketing, scoring, mixing) and the rest is essentially a group edit where everyone talks about what we have and how we should tell the story. Students do at least as much out-of-class work as in-class, and probably a lot more. A basic understanding of audio reporting and storytelling is preferred. This class is an opportunity for students to be ambitious and creative with a rich storytelling form.
By the end of the semester, we will produce a professional-quality long-form podcast. It must be produced storytelling that makes creative use of sound, as opposed to an interview or talk-show format. Some semesters everyone works together on the same project and some semesters students create their own podcast.
At the start of the term, students gain experience being audio reporters/storytellers. Each student is given a slice of the larger project to report out and for which to gather interviews, ambient and archival sound, etc. Students outline their reporting and imagine a storytelling arc. Then, they are assigned specific roles for the end product – hosts, mixing producer, creative producer (scoring and artwork), editor, executive producer.
Video Innovation – CNS NewsBIN
NewsBIN focuses on the future of video journalism, from documentary to 360 videos. In the class, students can experiment with cinematic techniques, motion graphics, choose-your-own-adventure style videos and more. The class is heavily influenced by independent documentary filmmaking and video storytelling from the New York Times, Vox and Frontline digital. Students will be required to contribute to a weekly behind-the-scenes vlog of our class documenting the work we do. In the past, the class has also partnered with investigative classes to produce videos that complement their work. JOUR262/JOUR603 is required as a prerequisite, and an intermediate video class (like JOUR361/JOUR661 or JOUR368X/JOUR668X) is recommended. The class will meet Tuesday afternoons and will require a substantial amount of out-of-class work (shooting and editing).
See examples of students’ prior work at: https://www.youtube.com/
Reporting the Election of ’22 – Daily Journalism Under Pressure
We will study the daily coverage of the ’22 election, analyzing the differences in reporting by three networks. This emphasizes reporting, critical thinking, and journalistic judgements. It studies competitive television news coverage but is not a television course. The reporting will center on politics but will not overlook other major stories . Who controls the Senate and House will determine the course of the Biden presidency. JOUR320/620 (multiplatform reporting) or JOUR360/660 (broadcast reporting) is the prerequisite. Others are free to ask permission from the instructor.
a) This course requires 10-12 hours of outside work each week. We watch all three networks each weekday night and blog daily. The semester concludes with a major summary of findings.
b) Classes are seminars in which all share their judgements about the reporting.
c) Much of the learning comes from sharing different viewpoints on the coverage. Emphasis is on passion for the subject and willingness to share differing viewpoints openly.