This course provides a hands-on experience on what it is like to be a real-world journalist. It's intended to give students a broad understanding of how the mass media operates while also sharing tips on how they can participate in the mass media — either as full-time journalists or contributors to public dialogue.
The class is packed with practical tips that will help students to significantly improve both their written and verbal communication skills. The focus is on reporting and writing about the environment and public health. Students will learn how to digest and comprehend complex material, translating it in a way that is interesting and easy for the mainstream public to understand. This class has consistently won high praise from students for providing personalized, extensive training from the instructors. The instructors have also served as mentors, assisting students in their job search through their vast network of contacts in the professional world. Emilia Askari and Julie Halpert are prize-winning journalists who have more than 40 years combined experience covering the environment and public health for media outlets such as The New York Times, Newsweek, The Detroit Free Press, Scientific American and National Public Radio. Each week, the course focuses on a different topic in the news related to the environment and public health, such as urban sprawl, climate change, environmental justice, energy efficiency, garbage and cancer. Students learn not only about the subject itself but also about the process of journalism. Featured guest speakers, leaders in their field who represent many points of view, serve as sources of news as students interview them and write articles about them. Speakers range from corporate executives to environmental activists, scientists, government officials and journalists. Past speakers have included former SNRE Dean Rosina Bierbaum; Donele Wilkins, Executive Director of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice; James Clift of The Michigan Environmental Council; Mike Johnston of the Michigan Manufacturers’ Association; Neal Boudette with The Wall Street Journal; Keith Naughton, Newsweek’s Detroit Bureau Chief at the time; Rebecca Williams, producer of Michigan's Radio's Environment Report; 60 Minutes producer Alden Bourne and Sarah Mayberry, health producer for WDIV, among many others. Along the way, instructors lecture and steer discussions about media ethics, interviewing skills, freedom-of-information laws, government databases, the journalistic uses of social media and many other media-related topics. The course includes field trips that allow students to get an up-close and personal look at pertinent environmental topics while learning how to hunt for news.
Students benefit from detailed feedback that instructors provide on their writing, through a series of drafts that evolve to a final polished product. Many students have had their articles published in widely read newspapers and magazines.
By the end of this course, students will become adept at communicating complex environmental, scientific and public health issues in an engaging manner that will draw the public's attention. They will learn what constitutes news, and how they can sell their ideas to editors, consequently reaching a large segment of readers and viewers. The course will advance the student's knowledge of social media, including Twitter, and help them master the use of video to present their point of view. A final project includes producing a video that argues why an editor should publish the student's story, and why readers should care about it. This enhances skills of persuasion, as well as public speaking.
Course Requirements include:
- in-class participation
- a 700-word profile of person in environmental/public health field
- short assignments, including writing a short story from a public meeting on a local government issue and tweeting from the meeting; writing a blog critiquing a news article; developing an idea for an entrepreneurial news venture and producing a video pitching a news story.
- a 1,000-word news feature on environmental/public health issue.
Concentrators in any field of study are welcome, especially those who are interested in environmental and/or public health issues and seek to improve their writing and communication skills.
Class meets once a week for 3 hours.
The class is limited to 22 students to facilitate discussion among students.