North Central College - Naperville, IL

Journalism Emphasis

English 480: Senior Portfolio Journalism Emphasis  
1 credit hour   offered FA, WI, SP 

This course provides structure and peer support as you complete the journalism senior portfolio. While class will be held only three times during the term, you are encouraged to meet informally with peers as you select and revise materials. During our class meetings, we will discuss and clarify portfolio requirements, discuss strategies for writing and revising and, where appropriate, discuss publishing outlets.

Many of you cannot anticipate what your job description as a journalist will be. What kind of writer, then, do you want to be? What do you value? What strengths do you bring to the field? How might you demonstrate and articulate your strengths and remedy your weaknesses? The portfolio, particularly the introduction, will help you clarify your vocational goals and objectives as well as articulate your influences and understand contemporary debates in the field.

 Include all of the contents listed below.

1.   Table of Contents
2.   Introduction (1200-1500 words)
3.   Prefaces providing context for each piece (1 page)
4.   Four pieces as outlined in the NCC catalog:
       •  One piece from ENG220 News Writing: an unrevised copy of a major story (this assignment will be used as a baseline for departmental assessment and will not be considered in grading the portfolio).
       •  One piece from ENG325 News Reporting OR ENG335 Magazine Writing: Choice of best major story.
       •  One piece from another English writing or literature course: an essay informed by research or, alternately, a literary analysis.
       •  One piece from writing practica or professional publication: best published piece (either in student or professional outlets). Students may include a best published piece from both the NCC Chronicle and an outside publication, if both are available. If a piece published in a professional outlet is not available, students are required to include a query letter as the last required piece in the portfolio.
5.   Query letter seeking publication
      Students are not required to submit the query letter if they include a best published piece from a professional outlet, as explained above.


Table of contents
The portfolio will have continuous pagination and the table of contents should list the order and beginning page number for each portfolio selection.

The introduction will consist of a 1200-1500- word (4-5 double-spaced pages) reflective essay commenting on and analyzing your experience as a journalistic writer during your academic career. You should reflect on your growth as a reporter and writer, discussing specific experiences, classes, pieces of writing, etc. that you believe helped you develop as a journalist or helped you gain insight into the craft of nonfiction writing. This should be an analytical introduction rather than a merely personal one. Do not simply summarize your years at NCC in a chronological narrative. Instead, make yours an essay with a unique angle, an incisive argument, and an informative backbone. Certainly, it would behoove you to paraphrase and/or quote some touchstones in the field and show your familiarity with ongoing professional debates as played out in publications like the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) and the American Journalism Review (AJR).

Each individual selection must be preceded by a discussion of the assignment and the motivation that led to the writing (the origin of the piece) and a discussion of the purpose of the piece and challenges encountered during reporting and writing—in other words, a discussion of what you wrote, how, and why. Your preface may also discuss efforts made to find a publication outlet for the piece. Each preface should be approximately one page long.

Individual pieces
The Senior Portfolio in Journalism requires four pieces, two of which are from specific classes. The first, baseline piece represents an early effort in the journalism program and the other three make up the core of the portfolio. The first piece (a selection from ENG 220) will be used as a baseline in the process of evaluating the other three selections in the portfolio. This baseline selection will not be evaluated when determining a grade for the portfolio.

Publication and/ or query letter
Journalism emphasis students are asked to make an effort toward publishing their work in outlets outside of campus publications. If students do not have a professionally published piece available to include in their portfolios, they are required to research possible publication outlets and prepare a query letter to pitch an article to an appropriate market. The query letter should be included as the last piece of the portfolio.

The three pieces forming the core of the portfolio, the introductory essay, prefaces, and query letter will be evaluated with special attention to:
• Writing that is developed, clear, focused, purposeful and, where applicable, stylish
• Quality and thoroughness of  reporting
• Grammar and attention to conventions of standard written English
• Skill in handling the conventions for research and analysis (in the essay or literary analysis)
• Skill in handling the conventions of  print journalism, including adherence to AP style

Remember that your portfolio director has the right, indeed the moral obligation, to fail a portfolio not written to standard. In this regard, the Week 6 meeting is crucial, as it serves as a workshop for substantively bettering your portfolio in concrete ways.

Students may find the following titles useful in the preparation of journalism portfolios:

Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual
Callahan, Christopher. A Journalist’s Guide to the Internet: The Net as a Reporting Tool
Clark, Roy Peter and Christopher Scanlon. America’s Best Newspaper Writing: A Collection of ASNE Prizewinners
Darnton, John. Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from the New York Times
Hale, Constance. Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose
Kessler, Lauren and Duncan McDonald. The Search: Information Gathering for the Mass Media
Root, Robert R. The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Non-fiction
Writer’s Market
Zinsser, William K. On Writing Well: the Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
Weinberg, Steve. The Reporter’s Handbook: An Investigator’s Guide to Documents and Techniques