Multimedia Master's Project Workshop 2019-2020


  • Jeremy Rue
  • Richard Koci Hernandez
  • Geeta Anand

Course Overview

This two-semester class is for students who want to do a multimedia master’s project and specialize in digital media or multimedia reporting after graduation. In this class students will:

Participate in critical discussions of best practices in multimedia storytelling and digital publishing so students are prepared to work in and take on leadership roles at digital news organizations.

Get detailed critiques of their master’s project work from instructors, other students, and outside experts during regularly scheduled progress reports. Students will also get regular one-on-one sessions about their master’s projects with their advisers in the class.

Gain some specialized skills relating specifically to the reporting and production of their master’s projects.

The topical discussions and presentations will be either group discussions of subjects presented by instructors or guest lectures by people working in digital media.

A Qualifying Master’s Projects can be:

  • A multimedia story, produced as a website, that has multiple segments or elements with an intuitive navigation scheme and compelling overall design;
  • A continuously published news site or blog featuring original and curated content;
  • A prototype for a new concept or innovative idea related to digital journalism, performed as a research project and submitted as a dissertation. (i.e. an app, or innovative concept)

Joint or Group Projects

Collaborative projects are allowed, but each student must independently submit their own abstract and source list based on their own contributions to the project. Each student must also select their own master’s project committee in the spring (second reader and third reader) who will evaluate the project based on each student’s contributions. If students jointly create a single project, they may independently submit the same project to the e-scholarship archive, but they must both do so under their own account.


  • Assignments 50%
  • Class participation/Attendance 50%

Aug. 28 — Introduction to the class

We will go over the syllabus, talks about expectations and timeline for completing your master’s project. We will go around the room to get early ideas from each student about what they are thinking about pursuing for their project, and if they already have ideas. We will use the last part of class to setup logistics for communication (listserv, Google Docs, Slack, etc.)

Assignment: FIVE IDEAS. You’ll have two weeks to generate a list of five ideas you might want to pursue for your master’s project. They can be blue-sky ideas, or more fleshed out versions if you have them. If you already have a solid idea for your master’s project coming into class, you need to still generate four alternative fallback ideas as part of this exercise.

Weekend barbecue at Koci’s house on Saturday Aug. 31 at 1pm


Sept. 4 — What Makes a Good Story?

In this class session, we will talk about how to find good stories/project ideas. Whether you plan to do a traditional journalistic story, or embark on a new innovative project, storytelling will be an important foundation of the process. A good story is interesting and important. While anything can be news, not everything is newsworthy. We will discuss what qualities make a story worthwhile. In this session, we will look at examples of past master’s projects, and talk about challenges those projects faced, and what we can learn from past experiences.

Assignment: FIVE IDEAS CONTINUED. You should still be working on your list of five ideas. You’ll verbally share the TOP idea with the joint-class next week, but still have the four others in planning.


Sep. 11 — Ingredients of a Memorable Story

(Geeta runs joint-class meeting in Upper Newsroom)

We will go around the room, and everyone will introduce their initial master’s project ideas in a short 2-minute pitch format. A guest speaker may be present to listen in and give feedback on the pitches.

Note: J-Rue and Koci are out of town at the ONA conference.

Assignment: FIVE IDEAS DUE. Turn in the five ideas assignment by the end of the day so the professors have time to read it for next week’s class.


Sept. 18 — The Memo

Discuss Five Interviews Assignment

Reporting memos are a hallmark of exploring the viability of a good story. In this week, we will talk about effective note taking, organizing your thoughts, and generating strong reporting memos. Even if you’re planning to pursue a non-traditional project, a memo will help to organize your thoughts. In this class, we’ll go over your five ideas, and select the top one for advancement.

Assignment: FIND THEM. Pick your favorite idea, and write a memo of your top idea. Then generate a list of five people that could be potential sources for your project. At least two of the people need to be big hats (experts) on the topic. Come to the next class with the names of those five people, and their contact info.

Sept. 25 — Art of the Interview

(Possible guest speaker.) We will talk about techniques for effective interviewing. Regardless if you’re doing a traditional journalistic story, or an innovative project, interviewing is central to the work you will do on your master’s project. We’ll discuss techniques for gaining trust with subjects, even adversarial ones, to gain insight into a story. We’ll review the five names you submitted in class, and approve them for the next part of the assignment.

Assignment: TALK TO PEOPLE. You got your five names. Now, you have two weeks to interview all five of the subjects you’ve identified. Each person should give you insight into your project, and help you learn more about the situation you’re trying to explore. Write a memo detailing the five people you spoke with, 300-500 words on each interview. Due in 2-weeks.


Oct. 2 — Preparation for The Pitch PART I (Guest Speaker)

Joint Class in Upper Newsroom

In this class, we will talk about how to pitch story ideas. We’ll talk about effective delivery techniques, getting buy-in on your ideas, and how to formulate your story clearly and succinctly. Using the sources you spoke to the previous week, you’ll compile all of your information into a pitch presentation. In the second half of class, we will go over the format of next week’s pitch session and get everyone started on their presentations.


Oct. 9 — Preparation for The Pitch PART II (Guest Speaker)

Guest speaker will hold private sessions with students who didn’t get time to work with him the previous week. Review the assignment.

Assignment: PREP THE PITCH. The following week you’ll do Ignite-style presentations for a panel of editors. For this format, you’ll need exactly 20 slides, which will autoplay at 15 seconds each. You’ll formulate a five minute presentation.

Assignment: TALK TO PEOPLE DUE. Turn in the Talk To People assignment for professors to review.


Oct. 16 — The Pitch


Twenty slides. Five minutes. Each of you will pitch their project idea to a panel of editors using the popular ignite-style pitching process. You’ll have exactly five minutes to present, and 20 slides will auto advance. We’re not going to sugarcoat it. You’ll hate this constrictive format initially. But the discipline required to narrow your focus to a few key concepts will reveal what your story is really about. You’ll get some valuable initial feedback on what makes a story interesting or worth pursuing.

Assignment: MEMO. Whew, you made it. Take the feedback the reviewers provided you, and begin to formulate a longer, more traditional story memo and submit it by next week.

Assignment: TRAVEL GRANTS DUE OCT. 18. For those submitting travel grants, submit your pitch to your professor by end of Oct. 16 for approval. All travel grants must be approved by your adviser, so don’t delay. Your professor will also give feedback, and you can adjust your pitch for the travel grant committee.

Reminder: Travel grants due Oct. 18

Oct. 23 — The Debrief

In this session, we will debrief from last week’s pitch session. How did it go? What did you learn? We will open it up to a group discussion and peer feedback about how we all did. We’ll go over the reporting memos to figure out if we should change anything, or pursue alternative ideas.

Assignment: DATA MINE. As we get into the reporting and research phase of your story, you should take some time to identify the potential data portions of your project. What quantitative elements exist? What would you want to know about your project? Data answers questions… what questions do you have? Come next week with a list of potential data questions you want to explore about your stories.


Oct. 30 — Diving into Data (JOINT CLASS)

We will use data journalism tools for exploring some publicly available datasets to go over the process for exploring your stories. We’ll cover how to organize data, how to keep citations handy, and if needed, set up some scraping utilities. We’ll also cover how to get mapping information if it pertains to any of the stories.

Assignment: PROTOTYPING YOUR PROJECT. This assignment will be an early project mock-up, just to get a sense of what you’re thinking about pursuing. These early ideas can help shape your reporting process. Details to come.


Nov. 6 — Documents, Records, and Spreadsheets, Oh My!

Potential guest speaker and/or joint class.

In this class session, we will explore the art of the public records act request, and go around the room to explore how it might pertain to each of your projects. We will touch on data organization, spreadsheets, and initial analysis. We will go over the databases available to you (Nexis, TLO, Bloomberg, and others) and see what we can find.


Nov. 13 — Story Development Part I

We want a concrete plan on your reporting plans for your project as we move toward winter break. Who are your subjects? When do you plan to interview them? Where are you traveling and when? Write up your plans in a 600 word memo detailing your reporting plans (you can use language from your previous memo.) Due after Thanksgiving break.

Assignment: STORY DEVELOPMENT. Write a 600 word memo, due the week after Thanksgiving.


Nov. 20 — Story Development Part II

Continue the lesson from the previous week with the other half of class.



Dec. 4 — Discuss Reporting Plans

Discuss the reporting plans people turned in.


Dec. 11 — Safety in the field

This will be the start of planning the winter break reporting. We’ll go over logistics on how to stay safe when traveling, and some of the resources offered to you by the university.

Classroom Decorum, Inclusivity Policy

This class will involve candid discussions on potentially sensitive subject matter. Students at the master’s project level regularly delve into stories about race, inequity, poverty, violence, or the carceral system. In this class we will discuss the complexities of these issues in a manner that aims to be respectful and inclusive, but also honest and candid. More importantly, we want to foster an open environment where we can provide each other critical feedback that is constructive and thoughtful, at the same time be receptive to feedback in a non-defensive way. Be considerate and professional when addressing opposing opinions.

Students in this course, and at the Journalism School in general, come from all over the world. Different regions and cultures use language differently. Often, what one person might find offensive is commonplace by another. To reconcile these differences, we want to create an environment where we can talk about these differences in a constructive way. Sometimes, we will learn that the intention wasn’t to offend, but may have been unconscious, implicit, habitual, or misconstrued. We also want to foster an environment we can all feel comfortable speaking freely and openly about issues of the day, challenge our own preconceptions or worldviews, and think critically about how the stories we pursue best describe the world we all inhabit.

Helpful guidelines on use of language:

GLAAD Media reference guide on LGBTQ terms:

Underground Scholars media reference guide on carceral system terms:

National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Style guide:

Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Diversity Style guide:

Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism

Students will abide by the Student Code of Conduct:

There is a zero-tolerance policy for work that is submitted without proper attribution or that constitutes plagiarism. If students are unsure about the expectations regarding the Student Code of Conduct, please seek advice from the instructors.

Restrictions and Prerequisites

This class is only for students who are doing multimedia master's projects. (No auditors will be allowed.) This class must be taken in both the Fall and Spring semesters of your second year.

Students must have taken the Online News Packages class and the Advanced Visual Journalism Class for multimedia students in the Spring of your first year. If a student did not take these courses, they will need to make them up in the spring. Students should be taking many of the elective multimedia classes such as Coding for Journalists, Programming Workshop, After Effects MINI, Data Visualization and Data Journalism during the Fall and Spring semesters of your second year.

Consult with your master’s project adviser about whether you have the requisite skills needed to take this class.