J219 – Reporting On the Digital Revolution in Plain English

This is a 5 week course: 2/5, 2/12, 2/19, 2/26 and 3/5

Reporting On the Digital Revolution in Plain English (Course Description)

Every beat now has stories that touch on technological change. This course will help journalists cut through the marketing jargon and uncover the real stories about how technology is having an impact our society. We’ll look at the the core themes that run through all technology coverage — AI, big data robotics, social media, privacy, etc. and we’ll talk about the cultures and values of the major companies that are currently driving the change. We’ll read samples of journalism that has done an exceptional job in explaining the human and societal impacts of technology. Most importantly, through a series of short exercises and a final feature this course will help everyone find interesting ways to write about technology and engage the public in the important issues it raises. No matter what you plan to cover — business, economics, arts, politics, poverty, science, international relations — this course will help you find and report on the ways that technology is having an impact. Students can expect regular, but light reading assignments, and be prepared to do a deep dive into one story.

Course Objectives: Developing an approach to writing clearly and eloquently about technology. Building a list of sources. Gaining a better overall understanding of the major themes and issues of the technology revolution. Learning how to create strong narratives in technology stories.

Students will be encouraged and assisted in pitching their stories to outlets such as NPR, Wired, & The New York Times, KQED and NPR

One feature — audio or print
Short turnaround reporting exercises Assigned readings

Laura Sydell is currently the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR. Her beat focuses on the impact of technology on society and culture. She writes for NPR.org and her work has is heard regularly on NPR’s major news magazines “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” Previously, she was the Senior Technology Reporter for PRI’s

“Marketplace” and a culture reporter at WNYC in New York City. Ms. Sydell has contributed to “This American Life” and “Planet Money.” Her work has been honored by Investigative Reporters and Editors, The National Headliner Awards, The Gerald Loeb Awards, and many others. Her reporting on patent trolls appeared in the Best Business Writing of 2011 published by Columbia University.

Week 1
Discussion of the big themes in tech coverage: e.g.,Privacy. Social Media, Robotics, Big Data, media, entertainment
Homework: Find a topic for a final feature in which one of these big themes is central. Read selected sections of “Technopoloy” by Neil Postman and “In the Plex” by Steven Levy
Listen: The Father Of The Internet Sees His Invention Reflected Back Through A ‘Black Mirror’

Week 2
A Look at the big five and some history on Silicon Valley
Facebook, Apple, Alphabet/Google, Microsoft, Amazon
We’ll discuss the structure of the companies currently dominating the tech industry. We’ll look at their unique cultures and values, where they are putting their R&D dollars, where they compete, and how to approach them when you are looking for an answer to a question.
Discuss feature ideas and finalize

Assignment: Read selections from “Automating Inequality” by Virginia Eubanks and “It’s Complicated” by Danah Boyd. Bring in stories about technology that you got you really engaged.

Week 3
Diversity: How to get outside the bubble and find diverse voices and stories about tech’s impact on average people.
Strategies for interviewing tech experts.

Students will have opportunities to practice asking questions of tech expert who will make a visit to the class.
Assignment: continuing working on feature. Turn in a short story based on the interview with our guest. Read selected articles.

Week 4
Reporting on big Data & AI and hacking: We’ll discuss algorithm bias, privacy, social media and the coming war over data ownership.

Week 5
Reporting on the future: How to see where the puck is going and write about events that haven’t happened yet.

Tech journalists often find themselves in the position of looking at the potential future impact of technology. It can be a challenge to write about what you haven’t seen yet.




Time:  Tu 5:30 - 8:30

Location:  108 North Gate (Lower News)

Class Number:  17890

Section:  8

Units:  1

Length:  5 weeks

Course Material Fee:  None

Enroll Limit:  

Restrictions & Prerequisites