Uwe Siemon-Netto, Ph.D. (
uwesiemon@hotmail.com )

Consultants to COM 492:

Quy V. Ly, DDS, MBA (
Quyhurry@aol.com )
Chau H. Le, DDS (
Jollyhurry@aol.com )
Di Ton That

Reporters and students:

Ruth De Nault, MBA (
rdenault@denaults.com )
Emily Watson (
emily.watson@eagles.cui.edu )
Christine Gilbert (
christine.gilbert@eagles.cui.edu )
Olen Kittelsen (
backwardsdrummer5@gmail.com )
Kellie Kotraba (
kellie.kotraba@eagles.cui.edu )
Erik Olsen (
erik.olsen@eagles.cui.edu )

Duy Anh (duyanhvq@aol.com)

Introduction to COM 492 - 1


Semester Credit Hours: 3 Spring Semester, Academic Year 2010
Instructor: Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto Class Meeting Thursdays, 6:30 pm - 9:20 pm, Location Grimm Hall 218
Office Location, 312A Old Admin Building. Dr. Siemon-Netto will be available upon appointment.
Phone Numbers: (office) 949-705-6550, (home) 314-862-1099, (cell) 202-957-3044
E-mail Address: uwesiemon@hotmail.com

Program Targets and Intended Student Learning Outcomes

Program Target: Students will hone their sense of curiosity, their research and writing skills in journalism
Intended learning outcome
: Students will be able to discern interesting topics for press coverage, research them well by means of interviews and other tools, analyze the resulting body of information, and then craft the research materials into different types of press articles adhering to generally accepted standards of fairness.

Course Description

This 14-week pilot course is designed to help reverse a dangerous aberration in contemporary journalism:  its decline from a responsible profession to manufacturers of a precarious blend of superficial information, ideology and entertainment. Intended for college and possibly high school students contemplating a career in different kinds of news media, this course will re-introduce the traditional concept of journalism as a craft whose principal duty it is to (a) ask questions on behalf of readers and listeners; (b) provide information rather than opine; (c) thus empower the citizens of a free society, and in so doing make democracy possible. Presented by a 53-year veteran of international journalism, this seminar will be based on the idea that in a democracy the voter is the sovereign, and it is the journalist’s duty to the sovereign with the most essential tool for completing his or her task - information.

This course will also take into account the probability that the traditional quality press might disappear altogether, which could necessitate their replacement with internet-based publications differing from current websites and blog sites in some major respects: they would be written and edited strictly according to established journalistic norms by well-trained amateurs fulfilling what they might consider a civic duty. The best of students’ the articles will be published in a web-based newspaper titled, The Beat, that has been created especially for COM 492. The Beat will be updated regularly.

For at least the first four of five weeks, COM 492 will concentrate on the Vietnam War as a watershed in Western journalism.  Students will be taught how the press coverage of this war has affected its outcome. They will learn about its aftermath: The mass exodus from Vietnam chiefly by sea (boat people); the torture and other forms of humiliation suffered by South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians in Communist reeducation camps, and their resulting physiological and psychological problems even today; the suffering of U.S. Vietnam Veterans rejected by segments of their own society; the existence of one of the world’s largest Vietnamese communities in Orange County, which includes many torture victims; the economic success and flourishing culture of this community. Students will visit this community and encounter some of its most prominent members off campus and on campus, and spend Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, with them.

Students will learn that a journalist’s mission is one of service as opposed to one of self-promotion; neither is it the journalist’s charge to change society or “make this a better world,” as a majority of graduates of one of America’s most famous journalism schools said in a survey. Taught seminar-style, this course endeavors to cultivate young people’s curiosity, the most significant prerequisite for aspiring reporters or editors. This seminar will be hands-on, emulating newsroom realities, including weekly assignments to cover a wide variety of topics on and off campus. It will not compete with or substitute for existing CUI courses, such as “News Writing,” or “Theory and Practice of Journalism,” or “Mass Communication” but in fact dovetail and complement them.

This seminar will coach young people to recognize interesting topics in different fields, research and develop them into news or feature stories, background articles, series and new forms of “specials” for any kind of media, including web-based publications. Students will be taught to consider their topics’ local, regional, national, international and historic dimensions. The best of these stories will be published in an internet-based publication especially created for this course.

Course COM 492 is meant to attract young people to journalism at the earliest possible age with the aim of training them to keep their minds open for the rest of their professional lives. For this reason, both high school and college students will be encouraged to enroll. Students not planning fulltime careers in the media or volunteer work but interested in journalism within the context of other professions will also be welcome. Current or future teachers planning to develop journalism classes at primary and secondary schools will be invited to attend or audit this course, and possibly participate as teaching assistants.

This seminar will include journalism theory, but only to the extent required for its particular purposes; beyond that, students will be directed to the “Writing, Theory and Practice of Journalism” classes offered elsewhere at CUI. On the other hand, practical research and writing assignments will be the major feature of this course.  A class-by-class course description will be handed out later.

Course Objectives

i.Students will be made aware of journalism’s vital role in preserving and serving a free and democratic society.
ii.Students will find out that preserving and cultivating their innate sense of wonderment is a prerequisite for the exercise of good journalism; students will be encouraged to sharpen their curiosity to the point that it will remain part of their nature for the rest of their lives.
iii.Students will discover that a journalist’s most noble task is asking questions and reporting the answers as accurately as humanly possible, but not from the journalist’s personal perspective; they will learn that propagating their own or other people’s opinions is not the vocation of a journalist; students will also be introduced to responsible interview and research techniques.
iv.Students will be learn the iron rule that arrogance and journalism are mutually exclusive categories, and that journalists owe their fellow human beings respect and empathy rather than cynicism and hubris; students will be made familiar with the appropriate attitude of responsible reporters and editors toward their readers, listeners, and the subjects of their reports; students will be made to understand that news sources and recipients are more important than the journalists themselves.
v.Students will be acquainted with the concept that journalism is not simply a “job” or a “career” but a vocation in the actual sense of the word -- a calling to discover, research and report stories for the benefit of the reader and listener, rather than to opine, speculate, spread ideology, or interview each other. Students will thus be coached to distinguish between responsible journalism on the one hand, and agitation, propaganda, advocacy and punditry on the other.
vi.Students will learn how to discern the news value of every minute detail; they will be trained in workshops to develop such news items into fully fletched stories or even series of feature articles.
vii.Students will have their inquisitiveness broadened to the point that they routinely explore the global, historical and, where applicable, religious and philosophical contexts of their assignments.
viii.Students will discover that religious beliefs are a basic feature of the human enterprise; they will learn that faith issues must be covered as competently, and respectfully as political, economic or legal matters.
ix.Students will be encouraged to explore alternative possibilities for international coverage when the American no longer have correspondents stationed abroad; students will be directed to reliable sources of foreign news on the Internet and elsewhere.
x.Students will participate in the creation of web-based forums as a substitute for the traditional feature and backgrounder pages of daily newspapers, which are on the way to oblivion.

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