JOUR 319
Fall 2009
Computer-Assisted Reporting


Students develop advanced skills in computer-assisted reporting, working with a variety of software and data storage systems to research, analyse and publish their work. The goal is to equip students with the skills necessary to be successful journalists in the information age.

It is almost impossible to be a journalist in the 21st century without knowledge of information technology. Governments and organizations no longer store paper records in rows of file drawers. The use of digital media has become just about exclusive, and to analyze information, modern journalists need to know their way around electronic data. Journalists who are familiar with their computers and software can do more than just look at files, they can manipulate data and investigate potential stories hidden within them.

This class is designed to introduce you to the fundamentals of computer-assisted reporting (CAR): how to use software and networks to research and analyze (and maybe publish) your work. The goal is to equip you with some of the skills necessary to be successful journalists in the information age. As you gain skills, you will gain self-sufficiency - important in an age in which journalists often have to fend for themselves without the resources of a magazine or big-city newspaper to back them up.

The class assumes that the student has some basic core competency in math, such as percentages and basic graph terminology. We will spend a bit of time on simple statistics, such as the difference between a mean and a median, but we will approach most of that material in a non-mathematical way. If you think you need more than that, you're wise - and you could start with Statistics Every Writer Should Know. Knowledge of more advanced statistics is not required for this course, but it couldn't hurt....


1. Students must hand in all assignments within the first five minutes of class time on the due date. Late papers will be awarded half the marks they earn unless you have made specific arrangements with me at least 24 hours in advance. I may allow exceptions for serious illness, bereavement, or other comparable emergency, in which case the student may be asked to present a note from a doctor or other official. All missed assignments must be handed in by a new deadline agreed upon with me.

2. Do not copy, paraphrase, or translate anything from anywhere without saying from where you obtained it. Duh!

3. In all Journalism Department courses, professors may deduct up to 10% from the final grade for poor attendance, chronic lateness, or unsatisfactory behaviour. It's not my job to keep you from IMing or checking e-mail during class - you need to police yourself.

4. Class attendance is mandatory. Any student missing four or more classes for any reason may be asked to repeat the course. That can really suck.

5. The iMacs we use have drives that you can use to write CDs or DVDs. They also have USB ports for flash-memory sticks or the equivalent.

6. Some assignments may be due in digital format, some in hard copy (i.e. printed out), and others in both hard-copy and digital formats. All digital assignments should be e-mailed to me or handed in on a CD before deadline. The unreliability of an e-mail provider such as (and especially) Hotmail is not a valid excuse for late assignments. Every Concordia student can learn how to get an Alcor e-mail account here.

7. No food or drink is allowed in the computer lab. Really.


I strongly recommend that students buy a box of disks, a plug-in USB memory stick, or a portable hard drive (such as an iPod) on which they can store back-ups of their assignments, but I do not require that. You need not buy any textbooks for this course.

Note on Computers

Computers are not infallible, and they sometimes fail. Back up your work elsewhere! If you discover a computer is malfunctioning, e-mail me with the nature of the problem and the offending computer's identification.