OLD_2011 Syllabus

Here’s the basic syllabus. However, the most up to date version of the syllabus is in google docs. That one is gospel.

CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
Jour72311 Video Storytelling for the Web, 3 credits
Spring 2011 Syllabus
Thursday, 9.30-12.30, room 436

Instructor: Bob Sachabio and examples of work , best contact= bob.sacha@journalism.cuny.edu
Office hours: Thursday, 1.00-5.00, in the cubicle farm near West 40th ( or by appointment or Skype.) If you’re completely desperate, my mobile is 1.917.969.0201 but email is best.

Please view this syllabus as a work in progress. Some things might change but the assignments and the deadlines will not change.
Course Objectives

This is a class firmly rooted in journalism. Students will learn to research, report, shoot, and edit short, focused video stories designed specifically for the web. This class will build on the basic video concepts and skills taught in first semester interactive and broadcast craft classes — using video cameras and editing in Final Cut Pro, shooting, transcribing and editing video for compelling visual journalism, telling successful stories through strong characters, and basic interview skills — and move on to more advanced techniques in these areas.

Because web viewers demand highly engaging material, with a fast start, sharp focus, short narrative, and natural voices, students will focus on capturing stories with strong visuals and ambient audio of people personally affected by issues. We will focus on the concept of subjects telling their stories in their own voices, without heavy narration or a reporter on camera.

Students will work in pairs at the beginning but solo by the end, to prepare them for the major shift in journalism requiring one reporter to be highly skilled in many jobs. They will also learn how to freelance pieces to meet the growing demand for professional-quality video for a growing number of websites. We’ll be using new Canon DSLR cameras to shoot HD video, staying ahead of the industry trend.

Course Outcomes:

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify current and future trends in web video
  • Report and research topic to strengthen the video capture, edit and presentation
  • Finding the voice of the story and understanding structure
  • Produce tightly focused video pieces with compelling narratives arcs
  • Write short summaries of their stories for and provide web links to additional info
  • Write effective headlines and subheads following the 60/160 length of SEO
  • Effectively edit video stories using several forms of media
  • Create strong video stories of several styles
  • Write title cards that are concise and clear to help move a story forward without narration
  • Develop editorial judgment to critique their own work and the work of others in the industry for video storytelling
  • Instruct and supervise fellow journalists in choosing stories that can become effective video stories and guide them in the production of those stories for the web.
  • Freelance refined video pieces for the web.


This is a class that values good research and smart reporting.
You will have three assignments in the class.
Each will consist of a short video (1-3 minutes) for the web.
The subjects will be, in order:

  1. A person (team of two, each cuts own version)
  2. A place
  3. An issue

One of your three projects must use some still photography.

There will be milestones due almost every week for these projects.
These include:

  • – a 2 minute in class pitch based on your reporting and research plus a shot list
  • – a radio cut,
  • – a rough cut
  • – the final story

These milestones will help you produce outstanding work for the final pieces.

Do not be deceived into thinking that short visual journalism is easy. Think of how difficult it is to write a brilliant headline or the ideal tweet, or condense a 90 minute documentary perfectly into 2 minutes. That’s because these short messages are designed to stand out above the crowd, to cut though hundreds of visual messages each day and to say to someone ”click here and be wowed.”

Simple is hard. It takes time and effort to make it good. That’s our goal.


Requirements for Written Journalism and Delivery of each project:

Each project will be posted on Vimeo on or before the deadline. Remember it takes time to upload and for Vimeo to process you video, depending on the time of day, the traffic at Vimeo and the speed of your connection. This process might take several hours. If I log on at the deadline and I can’t watch your video, for whatever reason, I’ll consider it a missed deadline and you’ll be automatically dropped a grade to start.

Each piece must be accompanied by the following five written journalistic elements:

  1. – a 240 character description of the story. (For use in TubeMogel, etc.)
  2. – a longer 250 word description of the story
  3. – a compelling headline and subhead that are SEO optimized plus at least 5 tags
  4. – a word for word accurate transcript of the final piece
  5. – at least three suitable links to the subject, story or theme from other sources
  6. – a short behind-the-scenes story about how you found the character, something interesting that happened that’s not in the final piece, why you created this story, etc (great for blogging)



Required Equipment
You will need your own portable hardrive that is at least 500 gb, 7200 rpm and at least firewire 400 or even better, firewire 800.


Thursday, Feb 03
Conversation Syllabus, web video, what makes a good web video, story structure
Hands On Video with the DSLR, controls, tripods, BBC Five shot rule
Student work POV: word assigned, shoot simple sequence all CU, working pairs
Thursday, Feb 10
Conversation Reporting, 7 Basic Plots, Story Arc, Audio Basics, interviews, dual audio
Hands On 2 minute audio interviews of classmate
Student Work play interviews, discuss story arc of interviews

Thursday, Feb 17
Conversation Reporting Video stories, Shooting and Lighting interviews
Hands On Shoot “True Lies”, partners will be assigned by random draw.
Student Work Cut “True Lies”, talk about watching docs

Thursday, Feb 24
Conversation Power of Characters/ the Shot list, Review basic FCP,
Student Work Show True Lies Cuts
Hands On Cut 1 of 4 docs to a complete 2 minute story

Thursday, March 03
Hands On Show 2 minute story cuts of docs
Conversation Shooting in Sequences, Paper edits
Student Work 2 min. pitch in class, shot list Assignment #1:

Thursday, March 10
Conversation Journalism ethics of the edit, Advanced FCP,
Hands On Present & Play Radio Cuts Assignment #1
Student Work Critique Radio Cuts Assignment #1:

Thursday, March 17
Conversation Written journalism, web video as part of a package
Hands On Present and Play Rough Cut Assignment #1
Student Work Critique Rough Cut Assignment #1:

Thursday, March 24
Conversation Guest/ Advanced Storytelling
Hands On Present Final Cuts, Hand in written material
Student Work Critique Final Cuts of Assignment #1

Thursday, March 31
Conversation Better Visual Journalism, Powerful stills in web video,
Hands On Film Festival presentations: best stories from the web
Student Work 2 minute in class pitch of assignment #2, shot list

Thursday, April 07
Text and Context, Tags and SEO, Storytelling
Hands On Better Visual Journalism, Powerful stills in web video,
Student Work Present and Critique Radio Cuts of assignment #2

Thursday, April 14
Conversation Advanced Audio: radio mics and the boom.
Hands On Present Rough Cuts, assignment #2
Student Work Critique Rough Cuts, assignment #2

[Spring Break, April 17-26]

Thursday, April 28
Conversation Web context/ Graphics
Hands On Present Final Cut Assignment #2
Student Work 2 min in class Pitch assignment #3

Thursday, May 05
Conversation Web delivery services/ advanced Exports
Hands On Present Radio Cut Assignment #3
Student Work Critique Radio Cut Assignment #3

Thursday, May 12
Conversation Budget, how to freelance stories,
Hands On Guest who buys work (could be Skype)
Student Work Present Rough Cut Assignment #3

Thursday, May 19 final class
Conversation Guest who buys work (could be Skype)
Hands On Future of Web Video
Student Work Present Rough Cut Assignment #3

final projects due May 21



In the fast paced world of online journalism, deadlines seem to come constantly and repeatedly. They are also very serious business (check the first citation in Merriam Webster) So please regard them with awe and don’t even think of missing them.

Plan ahead. It almost always takes more time than you think to complete these assignments, so please don’t leave this to the last minute. If you’re encountering difficulties reaching a source or finding information or shooting or editing come see me. I can help guide you. I want you to succeed.



Attendance is mandatory and unexcused absences will be reflected in your final grade. Job interviews, work obligations, computer problems, routine medical appointments, meetings with advisers, transportation issues, and even scheduled source interviews are not valid reasons for missing class. Only a severe personal illness or family emergencies are valid reasons—and you’ll need to provide a written excuse and documentation before I’ll consider them.



We’re all adults here so I feel silly saying this:
Please be on time. If you’re more than 5 minutes late to class, you’ll be marked absent.
Please don’t take phone calls during class. It’s insulting to me and your fellow students and will not be tolerated.

Also, I suggest you don’t post to Facebook or twitter or answer your email during class because those will be the first things I remember when you ask me for a job recommendation or when your employer asks me about your work habits.



I will grade each assignment on the 100-point scale:

A+ 97.1-99.9 A future Online Journalism Award winner perhaps?
A 93.0-97.0 Publishable quality, with minor edits or questions.
A- 90.0-92.9 Nearly publishable, with just a few minor issues.
B+ 87.1-89.9 Better than just good…w/ more work, it could possibly be published.
B 83.0-87.0 Good, solid work with several minor issues or a single major problem.
B- 80.0-82.9 Decent work with several bigger issues.
C+ 77.1-79.9 Gaping holes in reporting and severe issues with the product
C 73.0-77 Poor
C- 70.0-72.9
F 0.0-69.9

Final grade will be 70% assignments, 30% in class participation and in class exercises



All work in this class must be your own. Using other people’s work, video, audio, music, text or ideas without attribution and their written permission will result in an F for the assignment or potential dismissal from the course depending on the severity of the infraction.

Plagiarism is the use of another’s ideas or words, video or recordings or ideas without properly and clearly acknowledging the source of the information.

Other forms of academic dishonesty include:

  • Unauthorized collaboration.
  • Fabrication of information, quotes or sources.
  • And impeding the work of others.

If you are still unsure whether you’re about to cross over to the dark side, PLEASE COME SEE ME. Again, I want you to succeed and academic dishonesty is the worst kind of failure.

If you have any other questions, please check the student handbook or ask me.

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