JOUR 6002.03 Audience & Content Strategies

Tuesdays & Thursdays: 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
June 6 – July 6, 2017
Seminar Room 2 (Link Basement, King's A&A)

Tim Currie


  1. Overview
  2. Learning Outcomes
  3. Assessment
  4. Protocol
  5. Schedule
  6. Rubrics
  7. Ethical Conduct
  8. Safety
  9. Inclusive Behaviour
  10. Contacting the Police
  11. Academic Integrity
  12. Accommodation
  13. Appeals

1. Overview

This course invites you to explore the changing relationship between providers and consumers of news.

We will examine the strategies that news organizations are using to strengthen the relationship with their audience — both online and offline. We'll look at how we can encourage more people to interact with our content — by sharing and commenting. And how we can listen to our audience members to serve them better. We'll look at how news organizations are using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat — and what their best practices look like.

The course will take the form of a seminar, during which we discover the changing media landscape together. The reading list is based on topical articles relating to the issues that news organizations are grappling with.

This outline is a map of the course with destinations and signposts. We might take some detours and we might exceed — or lag behind — the posted speed limit. Class topics might change. Readings might be added (with advance notice).

2. Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

3. Assessment


  1. ASSIGNMENT #1 (10%): Share 3 news stories using one of the 5 following strategies:
    1. Nugget of social
    2. Casual language
    3. Curiosity gap
    4. Call to action
    5. Asking questions

    • Must be a public post
    • Must be published this week
    • Use the hashtag: #j6002

  2. ASSIGNMENT #2 (30%): Social media assessment
    In-class presentation - approx. 20 mins: Students choose 1 of these 3 options:

    1. Assess the website comments of 2 major news organizations
      Read the comments on at least 10 stories on each site to get a sense of discussion. You may need to create a username and log in to see the full site functionality. Some questions you may want to investigate (add your own too):
      • What is the general level of conversation? Are people talking to each other?
      • How are people identified? Are commenters anonymous?
      • What kinds of stories are getting the most comments? Which stories had comments disabled?
      • What functionality (if any) does the site have for promoting comments or commenters?
      • What functionality (if any) does the site have for flagging inappropriate comments?
      • What evidence is there of policing for hate or uncivil behaviour? Have any comments been removed?
      • Are reporters or editors commenting?
      • Can you discern the attitude of commenters toward the news organization? Do they seem engaged or frustrated?
      • What can they improve?
      • How does it fit with what other sites are doing with their comments?

    2. Compare and contrast the Facebook presence of 2 major news organizations
      Examine a week or two of stories on their pages. Some questions you may want to investigate (add your own too):
      • What kinds of stories are they posting?
      • How often?
      • What time of day?
      • Which stories are getting the most comments? Why?
      • Are the stories with most comments the stories with the most Likes?
      • What does the presence of the Like button say about the kind of stories chosen?
      • What format are the stories in? (video?)
      • How are they using images?
      • How does their Facebook presence compare with their website presence?
      • How are they encouraging interaction?
      • How does it fit with what other organizations are doing on Facebook?
      • What can they improve?

    3. Compare and contrast how journalists at 2 major news organizations are using Twitter
      Some questions you may want to investigate (add your own too):
      • What are staff doing on their own accounts? Are they business-like? Are they showing personality?
      • When and what are they tweeting?
      • How much are staff interacting with each other?
      • How much interaction with the audience?
      • What is the organization's institutional account doing?
      • What can they improve?

    4. ** NOTE: A fourth option is to compare and contrast 2 news organizations' use of a visual platform such as Instagram, Snapchat or Pinterest. But the organization's efforts need to be meaty enough for analysis. Make a pitch to me first if you're interested.

  3. ASSIGNMENT #3 (30%): Case study assessment of a news organization's all-round social media use
    (Individual assignment): 2,000-word critical analysis of a major news organization's efforts at audience engagement. Place it in context of the course themes and discussions.

    Look at the whole bundle: The organization's Twitter/Facebook/other-social-media presence but also the efforts of individual reporters and editors. Critically analyze the sites you have chosen, in any way you can — perhaps bringing in other supporting research.

    • What are they doing well/not so well?
    • What kind of conversation is going on in their website comments? What level of engagement? What kind of social media tools are they using?
    • How are they using Twitter & Facebook? Other platforms?
    • Are they doing any live events online or offline? What is the response?
    • What is your opinion of the level of conversation/engagement/outreach happening in these social platforms?
  4. ASSIGNMENT #4 (30%): Community report
    This is an exercise in listening to the community. Pick an underserved community (geographic or interest-based). Interview 3 people. Write a 750-1,000-word report. What are their needs? What journalism would be useful to them? And how would you reconcile their needs with your role as a journalist? What would those stories look like? At a minimum, your report should answer:
    • Who are the three people you interviewed?
    • What are three challenges facing the community?
    • What are three original story ideas you can report on?

      Flesh it out with any of…
    • What are their opinions of existing media coverage of their community?
    • Where do they gather online? (Facebook group, hashtag)
    • How big is the community?

    • It may be useful to consider this assignment within the framework of solutions journalism:

Grade Scale:

Grade Grade Point Value % Definition
A+ 4.30 90-100
A 4.00 85-89
A- 3.70 80-84
B+ 3.30 77-79
B 3.00 73-76
B- 2.70 70-72
F 0.00 0-69
INC 0.00   Incomplete
ILL Neutral and
no credit obtained
Compassionate reasons, illness


Students must achieve a B- in all courses.

An assignment not submitted gets a grade of F unless an extension has been given. An extension will not ordinarily be given unless accompanied by a doctor’s note or granted due to serious family circumstances.

Students are expected to submit work that is free from spelling, grammatical or factual error. Repeated minor errors can result in loss of a letter grade. A significant error may result in a failing grade.

Late submissions are penalized a letter grade a day, unless an accommodation is made with the instructor.

Detailed grading rubrics are below.

In-class presentations: Email me your slides before you present.

4. Protocol

I won't be taking attendance, but it will be difficult to succeed if you miss classes. Be sure to silence your mobile devices, read the course materials in advance and bring your full attention. This course works best when we have robust discussions.

5. Class Schedule

  1. June 6 : Introduction & Overview
  2. June 8 : Why & What We Share
  3. June 13 : Making Content Social (1)
  4. June 15 : Making Content Social (2)
  5. June 20 : In-class Presentations
    • Due: Social media assessment: Presentation #1-4
    • Drew, John, Lu, Gaby

  6. June 22 : In-class Presentations
    • Due: Social media assessment: Presentation #5-8
    • Sofia, Margaret, Matt, Alex

  7. June 27 : In-class Presentations / Building Trust
  8. June 29: Defining Your Audience Online & IRL
  9. July 4 : Games / Measuring Engagement
  10. July 6 : Images, Curation, Corrections & Wrapup


6. Grading Rubrics

The following criteria will be used to grade the social media assessment presentations, the major case study assignment and the community report

(A+, A, A-)
(B+, B , B-)
(C+ and below)
Level of research: 40% Subject matter chosen for analysis exhibits a wide range of course themes. Research is extensive and includes all relevant sources along with some original or uncommon ones. It displays evidence of deep inquiry into the topic being studied. Subject material chosen for analysis demonstrates some course themes. Research includes a broad range of relevant sources but may exclude an important one. Some material may be predictable or unoriginal, but over all it is evidence of significant inquiry into the topic. Subject material chosen for analysis doesn't show evidence of course themes. Research is shallow and omits key sources. Over all, it displays minimal evidence of investigation.
Depth of analysis: 40% Assignment identifies complex challenges faced by the news organization or community, and uses the research to make a clear and compelling case. Deep study of the challenge results in the proposal of an original and nuanced course of action, presented in the context of the course materials. Assignment identifies challenges faced by the news organization or community, and uses the research to make a well-reasoned case. Study of the challenge results in the proposal of a logical course of action, presented in the context of the course materials. Assignment doesn't fully explain the challenge faced by the news organization or community. A proposed course of action is poorly reasoned with little relevance to the course themes. Research material is weakly integrated.
Quality of presentation: 20% Written work is elegant. It is clear, concise, well structured, of the appropriate length and free from grammatical errors. In-class presentations are of the appropriate length. Slides and other presentation materials are clear, original and well designed. Oral presentations emphasize key points. If class discussion is involved, the presenter has prepared material to lead the discussion. Written work is clear, concise, well structured, and free from most spelling and grammatical errors. Presentation length may be exceeded. Slides and other presentation materials are clear and original, but may have a couple of spelling or grammatical errors and lack some structure. Oral presentations may stray from key points and be weakly argued in places. Written work is unclear, too long, too short or has major grammatical errors. In-class presentations run far beyond the scheduled time and presentation materials are unclear, poorly organized or cluttered. Oral presentation is disorganized and does not emphasize key points.

7. Ethical Conduct

All students are expected to familiarize themselves with the School’s Handbook of Professional Practice and abide by its ethical standards.

8. Safety

To do journalism well, you must sometimes be uncomfortable. You should never be unsafe. All students are expected to read the School’s safety guidelines. If you run into trouble or if you feel a situation might put your or others’ personal safety at risk, bail out and call your instructor right away.

9. Inclusive Behaviour

King’s prides itself on inclusiveness and respect for others. Our classrooms and newsrooms are public spaces in which racist, sexist, homophobic or intolerant comments or humour will not be tolerated. Do not screen such videos, images or web pages on school equipment or in school facilities. Offensive behaviour is not just disrespectful to your colleagues and to your profession; it may constitute harassment under the King’s Code of Conduct. For more information, find the Yellow Book at King's Rules and Policies.

10. Contacting the Police

Students must talk to their instructor before they contact Halifax Regional Police or RCMP. On approval of their request, they must send the police an email from their official school account that is cc’d to their instructor.

11. Academic Integrity

Violations of academic integrity at the graduate level are taken seriously. The punishment for plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity can range from receiving a zero on the assignment, to failing the course, being suspended or expelled from the university. If you have any doubt about proper citation for an academic paper or proper attribution in a piece of journalism, contact your instructor or the Writing Centre at Dalhousie University. For more information, consult the section on Intellectual Honesty on p. 23 of Dalhousie’s Graduate Studies Calendar (Find “PDF Versions” at the top of that page.)

12. Accommodation

Students may request accommodation as a result of barriers related to disability, religious obligation, or any characteristic under Students may request accommodation as a result of barriers experienced related to disability, religious obligation, or any characteristic protected under Canadian human rights legislation.

Students who require academic accommodation for either classroom participation or the writing of tests and exams should make their request to the Advising and Access Services Center (AASC) prior to or at the outset of the regular academic year. Please visit the Advising and Access Centre for more information and to obtain the Request for Accommodation form.

A note taker may be required as part of a student’s accommodation. There is an honorarium of $75/course/term (with some exceptions). If you are interested, please contact AASC at 494-2836 for more information or send an email to

13. Appeals

Disputes over academic performance and assessment will be dealt with according to the Academic Regulations of the School of Journalism. Students may appeal decisions of the Journalism Studies Committee to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. For more information, see the University of King’s College Calendar and the Dalhousie University Graduate Calendar.



Course outline borrows some readings & assignment ideas from @smussenden, @sree. Thanks for sharing.
Banner image: Sebastiaan ter Burg / Flickr