J283: Advanced Visual Journalism 2017

Course Overview

This fall semester class meets twice a week as a required course for all first-year students. The course is structured around 3 simultaneous modules:

  • Proficiency in several technical production skills that are critical to the editorial process of video storytelling.
  • Pitching, reporting, producing, writing and structuring the 2-minute video or audio slide show.
  • Production, on deadline, of short video stories throughout the course of the semester culminating in a longer piece in the second half of the semester.

Modules at a glance:

Module 1
Technical Sessions: Adv. proficiency in Adobe Premiere editing software and camera/sound/lighting skills
Module 2
Storytelling skills: Pitching, field producing, story structure
Module 3
Story production based on approved pitches and with faculty guidance as senior producers. There will be an all J-School screening of selected stories the last week of classes.

Course Objective

There is no question that the modern journalist requires a platform-agnostic mindset, along with a broad set of multi-platform news-gathering skills and fluency in the current tools while also upholding the timeless journalistic standards of news judgment, accuracy, fairness and truth.

In this course, you will learn the Intermediate skills of producing compelling visual stories and walk away with a solid proficiency in what it takes to create high-quality, video and photo stories that utilize core journalistic values that, even in a changing media landscape, remain the industry’s bedrock professional standards.

Learning Outcomes

Students will explore the topic of visual journalism both critically and practically through readings, critical thought, and practical, hands-on exercises with tools and technologies of video and photo making. Students will conclude the course with a focused base of visual journalism knowledge that they can use as a foundation for other courses at the J-School, as well as the basis for effective and informed ‘newsroom’ discourse.


  • Explain the value of telling stories with video.
  • Identify style differences in storytelling for video.
  • Recognize industry standard story structures.
  • Produce 2-3 compelling, portfolio worthy short video narratives.


Readings will be assigned each week for individual class sessions. All readings will be available online via the Bcourses website.


Two absences are allowed in this class. Unexcused absence will drop you 2 percent of your final grade. Consistent tardiness also will lower a grade. Excused absences will only be permitted in extraordinary circumstances. Regardless of the reasons for absence or tardiness, students will be responsible for any assignments due and for learning material covered in class. According to UC Berkeley guidelines on absences:

Students are responsible for material covered during missed classes whether or not they have been formally excused; therefore it is the student’s responsibility to inform themselves about the material missed....it is not the instructor’s or the Fellow’s responsibility to tutor students in missed material. For this reason it is recommended that students absent from class for any reason make timely contact with several other students in the class to arrange for thorough briefing on the material they missed.


class attendance & participation50%
pitching/producing and meeting first semester deadlines20%
pitching/producing and meeting final longer piece20%
Final Project10%

Instructors Contact Info & Office Hours

Richard Koci Hernandez


Office hours: Wednesday and Friday before and after each class session and by appt.

Betsy Rate


Office hours: Wednesday and Friday before and after each class session and by appt.

Production Lab Manager: Chris O’Dea

Classroom Decorum Policy

Students must turn off the ringers on their cell phones before class begins. Students may not check e-mail, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or other websites during the lecture portions of the class. In the words of David Carr:

“If you text or email during class, I will ignore you as you ignore me. It won’t go well. I expect you to behave as an adult and will treat you like one. I don’t want to parent you—I want to teach you. Excuses: Don’t make them — they won’t work. Stories are supposed to be on the page, and while a spoken-word performance might explain everything, it will excuse nothing.


Students can checkout the multimedia equipment using the normal procedure.


Software provided by the school, includes Adobe Creative Cloud (2016).

Absence Policy

  1. Students should study syllabi for all of their classes at the start of the semester to determine if they anticipate any absences, or if they expect conflicts to keep them from satisfactorily completing the required work. It is the responsibility of students to bring any such conflicts to the attention of their instructors as soon as possible. Teachers are not at fault if their insistence that their course requirements be met interferes with student obligations in other courses. Students should discuss any conflicts they anticipate with their instructors by the second week of the semester so that mutually workable solutions can be reached. Unexcused absences will incur extra work (including reading assignments or other in class assignment which were missed. Additionally, a full letter lowering the student’s grade for that particular assignment if missed, will also be incurred.
  2. Reporting projects that unexpectedly require students to miss class should be reported to instructors in advance, when possible, so that make-up work can be assigned. Campus Guidelines Concerning Scheduling Conflicts with Academic Requirements are posted on the Intranet and worth reading before the start of semester. Absences related to extracurricular activities, or personal leaves unrelated to reporting assignments or J-School classes should be reported to instructors as soon as the student knows about them. Consistent absences without mutually acceptable solutions can lead to students being dropped from a class.
  3. Students traveling outside the Bay Area on class assignments during term and over semester breaks—including travel for summer internships—should access our Travel Kit Checklist on the Intranet and sign travel waivers, and should comply with other requirements to travel. The kit is available on the Intranet and the checklist with supporting documents should be given to a Student Affairs officer.

Excused Absence Policy

Legitimate excused absences per California Education Code (CEC) include: Accommodation of Religious Creed, approved extracurricular activities (only will be considered if announced on the first day of class since the entire schedule is listed), accommodation for disability, pregnancy and parenting, approved CEC situations like funeral services or jury duty, and lastly due to minor illness with approved note from the UHS or other medical professional.

Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism

The high academic standard at the University of California, Berkeley, is reflected in each degree that is awarded. As a result, it is up to every student to maintain this high standard by ensuring that all academic work reflects his/her own ideas or properly attributes the ideas to the original sources. These are some basic expectations of students with regards to academic integrity:

Any text submitted should be composed of your own words, and should not have been submitted for credit in another course unless you have permission to re-use it in this course from this instructor as part of an ongoing process of improving previous drafts.

All assignments must use "proper attribution," meaning that you have identified the sources of original words or original ideas that you reproduce in your assignments. This includes drafts and homework assignments!

Students will abide by the Student Code of Conduct http://students.berkeley.edu/uga/conduct.asp. There is a zero-tolerance policy for work that is submitted without proper attribution and that constitutes plagiarism. If students are unsure about the expectations regarding the Student Code of Conduct, please seek advice from the instructors.

Disability Accommodations

If you need disability-related accommodations in this class, if you have emergency medical information you wish to share with the instructor, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please inform the instructor as soon as possible by seeing him/her after class or making an appointment to visit office hours.

If you are not currently listed with DSP (Disabled Students’ Program) but believe that you could benefit from their support, you may apply online at dsp.berkeley.edu.

Restrictions and Prerequisites:

This class is the required second semester class for first year Video/Doc students intending to go into Documentary Film or Longform Video for their second year. This class is the required second semester class for first year New Media students intending to complete a Master's Project in New Media with an emphasis on video. The Course Material fee for this class is $200. The fee is charged to the student account the fifth week of classes. Fees are used to maintain equipment used in the course.