Hi. Just a reminder that you are scheduled to attend a Focus Group for W-course instructors on Thursday, May 7th, from 4-6 p.m. in room 409B in the Thomas Hunter Building. You will receive a stipend of $75.54 (two hours on a Non-teaching Adjunct line) for participating. Notes will be taken, but all comments will be kept anonymous.

The Writing Across the Curriculum Program appreciates your help in exploring the issues involved in teaching Significant Writing courses. We hope to use what we learn at these sessions to better serve Hunter’s faculty, and we hope the sessions are useful to you in preparing to teach future W-designated courses.

See you tomorrow,

Dennis Paoli
Writing across the Curriculum Program

So, I went. And I participated. And I didn’t do what I had said in an email to the co-coordinator about what I was thinking about doing at the focus group: Outing my colleagues whom I feel undermine students’ writing efforts, especially those colleagues who don’t make rewriting an essential part of their Significant Writing classes.

Let’s get real. Writing is about rewriting. Don’t teach rewriting? Then it ain’t writing they’re teaching.

So, I sent the following to Dennis Paoli after I completed the focus group:

I would like “this” to be included with focus group record if possible. Sent it as an attachment. Sorry for the length.

My department’s introductory news writing class is called Basic Reporting, MEDP 292, but I teach it as an introductory nonfiction writing class with a publishing imperative.

I long ago stripped away a lot of the journalism instruction found in most undergraduate introductory news writing classes. It’s extremely difficult to deal with grammar and syntax and sentence structure and spelling and punctuation (as well as ESL students) at the same time that students are also suppose to learn, in the course of a semester, about direct quotes and indirect quotes and copyediting and news style (AP, for example, instead of MLA and APA) and sourcing and libel and slander and ethics and on and on and on. The Big 10 Schools and a number of other state universities have these gargantuan Journalism Schools and are serious about journalism instruction so it might make some sense for their introductory news writing classes to be so inclusive.

However, it doesn’t make sense here. Yet, almost all of my colleagues, full-time and part-time, believe that’s the way an introductory news writing course should be taught here.

When I started requiring students in my Hunter classes to publish and using the WORD eventually as a teaching tool, I witnessed this demarcation for students in my classes: It was clear who was engaging the assignments and who wasn’t. I eventually dropped the Gentleman’s C because I had been giving C’s to students who really deserved F’s. And they deserved the F’s because they were blowing off assignments not because they couldn’t follow the class guidelines and goals but because they didn’t want to. But I tried not to fail them anyway. Now, I do because I believe the students flunking my introductory classes flunk for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to do the work.

I’ve also learned that ESL students who take writing classes back-to-back with me improve. So, I don’t get upset with big loads of ELS students in my classes.

I also publish C articles.

So, I teach barebones for the introductory class with the focus on writing and interviewing for content, and I include a measure of journalistic style, especially ethics. The publishing imperative allows greater latitude for working with struggling students as well as those ready to excel and need portfolios for internships and jobs. Seventy percent of the final grade is based on assignments that have to be published. Another 20 percent involves research assignments and quizzes and then there’s 10 percent for class participation. But I’ve been using the research assignments to deal with grammar and spelling and sentence structure, etcetera. So, I would say 80 percent of the final grade is based on writing.

I experiment with ways to engaged students who don’t want to do the work. Because of the way the class is structured, the adamant ones are encouraged to drop the course so that they don’t contaminate the other students. I strongly believe that class morale is important. That makes it easier to deal with the passive-aggressive types. Good semesters are those when I succeed in reducing the recidivist rate 30-50 percent. This semester was not good for my Basic Reporting class but really good for my Feature Writing class which I teach as an introduction to in-depth reporting (though several in the class could have benefitted from a second introductory news writing class).

I now have six students remaining in my Basic Reporting class. I started with 15. I have 12 in the advanced class. I started with 14.

I also learned, for this kind of writing, to keep a focused eye out for students who don’t know how to take decent notes for their interviews.

And last but not least, I’ve suggested to my department that there should be two basic writing classes, that is, that the Basic Reporting class be taught over two semesters instead of one. Since all students need to improve their writing, teaching BR over two semesters actually can make it easier to accommodate students who are serious about journalism and writing as well as the ones who struggle along and the ones who don’t want to do anything.

I include more journalism in the advanced writing classes but find that many students really need another basic writing class.

I could say more but I think I’ve said enough.





Gregg Morris


I sent a follow-up email to say that my comments didn’t have to be cloaked in anonymity.

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