School of Journalism and Mass Communication
JOMC 560.1, Fall 2012
MW 10:00 a.m. - 11:15 a.m., Carroll Hall 340
Tom Linden, M.D.
328 Carroll Hall
|Wednesday, 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. or whenever office door is open|
|linden at unc dot edu|
Course Description & Goals
The purpose of this course is to teach an appreciation of medical journalism and provide you with skills to report on medical and health news for a variety of media, principally print and online, but also broadcast (radio/TV).
As a participant in this course, you'll learn the following:
How to find news value in medical research reports.
How to integrate medical statistics from source materials into news reports.
How to research and write medical and health news stories for popular media.
Readings for the course include a text about medical
statistics, a classic book on writing well, a case study by a
master of medical journalism, a best-selling book about the
science behind habits and an anthology and primer about medical
and health news writing. Please complete the reading
assignments before the appropriate
classroom discussions. In addition to the list below, I'll
supply additional source materials and articles from various
publications. The following books are all available at the
UNC student store (and on Amazon) and copies of all the books
(except A Field Guide for Science Writers will be on
reserve in the Park Library (second floor) in the School of
Journalism & Mass Communication. (Please note the reserve
books may not be available until the second or third week of
classes.) Students should also consult the AP Stylebook for
proper style and usage for all written assignments.
1) Blum, Deborah, Mary Knudson & Robin Marantz Henig, editors. A Field Guide for Science Writers (Second Edition), Oxford University Press (paperback), 2005, $19.95, ISBN: 0-19-5174992.
2) Cohn, Victor and Lewis Cope. News & Numbers: A Guide to Reporting Statistical Claims and Controversies in Health and Other Fields, Iowa State University Press (paperback), Second Edition, 2001, 211 pp., ISBN: 0-8138-14243.
3) Duhigg, Charles, The
Power of Habit, Random House, © 2012, 400 pp., ISBN:
4) Linden, Tom & the Writers of The New York Times, The New York Times Reader: Health & Medicine, © 2011, $24.95, 292 pp., ISBN: 978-1604264821.
5) Sacks, Oliver, Awakenings, Vintage, 1999, 464 pp., ISBN: 978-0375704055.
6) Zinsser, William. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (30th Anniversary Edition), Collins, © 2006, 336 pp., ISBN: 978-0-06-089154-1.
Also, starting with the class for Wednesday, September 12, students should begin reading the print version of the Tuesday Science Times section of the New York Times. On the assigned dates, students should bring the Science Times section to class. Please consult the course schedule below for the exact dates for which the section should be read. Please note that the online version of the New York Times is not an acceptable substitute since the online version lacks some graphics and other key layout features of the print edition. The New York Times is available in the UNC Student Store and is also available at a reduced rate by subscription. To subscribe, you can call 1-800-NYTIMES and ask for college subscriptions. Receiving the print edition by subscription also gives you unlimited online access.
A working medical journalist typically talks and discusses
relevant issues with colleagues and others before preparing his
or her report. This class will be no different. I'll
expect you to share your thoughts with your peers and with me.
Classroom discussion will help clarify your ideas and sharpen
your focus. You'll also be posting all written assignments on Sakai where your classmates
will critique your work.
Each student will be responsible for at least two 15- to 20-minute presentation on assigned reading. I'll assign the presentations at the beginning of the second class meeting. As critical thinking and discussion with peers are so integral to the work of journalism, I'll count your presentation(s) as 15% of your final grade, with an additional 10% of your final grade based on your classroom participation throughout the semester. I'll base your grades on the quality (not necessarily the quantity) of your discussion. I'll judge quality on principally the following two criteria:
1) Whether it's clear that you've read and thought about the readings.
2) Your ability to integrate ideas gleaned from both readings and from contributions of your classmates.
After one unexcused absence, each absence will result in a drop of one letter grade. This is a mostly graduate-level seminar, and your presence and contribution are essential. You cannot pass the course with more than two unexcused absences.
To succeed in medical journalism, you must write well. Good writing requires an understanding of the material and the ability to communicate ideas simply and clearly.
To sharpen your writing skills, you'll write a series of stories in various journalistic genres. The writing assignments will count for 75% of your final grade.
All assignments are due at the start of class on the dates indicated. Late papers will not be accepted without prior permission. Even with prior permission, submission of late papers will result in a 10-point deduction per day. Not turning in a paper within two days of the due date will result in a zero grade. Misspelling of proper names will result in a 10-point deduction per misspelling. Misspelling of other words will result in a two-point deduction for each word misspelled. We'll follow the print style guidelines of the AP Stylebook. If you intend to pursue journalism as a career, I strongly encourage you to purchase a copy of the stylebook. As per the usual practice in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, a major factual error will result in a failing grade for that particular assignment. Fabricating sources or quotations or engaging in plagiarism will constitute a violation of the Honor Code (for more information about the UNC Honor Code, go to http://instrument.unc.edu).
There will be no midterm or final exam.
Grading Scale (for undergraduates)
98 - 100 A+
94 - 97 A
91 - 93 A-
88 - 90 B+
84 - 87 B
81 - 83 B-
78 - 80 C+
74 - 77 C
71 - 73 C-
68 - 70 D+
64 - 67 D
61 - 63 D-
60 and below F
Grading Scale (for graduate students)
93 - 100 Honors
74 - 92 Pass
61 - 73 Low Pass
60 and below F
How To Succeed in This Course
Attend classes consistently.
Complete readings before the appropriate classroom discussions.
Participate actively in class.
Ask the Professor questions either during class or during office hours if you're unclear about any aspect of the course.
Turn in stories on time.
Check online syllabus frequently
throughout the semester (preferably before each class) as
assignments and topics may change without e-mail notice.
AUG. 22: INTRODUCTION TO MEDICAL JOURNALISM
Linden, Thomas, "Learning To Be a Medical Journalist," Nieman Reports, Vol. 57, No. 2, Summer 2003, pp.66-67.
Linden, Tom, "The New York Times Reader: Health & Medicine," foreword, preface and introduction.
WEEK 2:Aug. 27: A GUIDE TO WRITING NON-FICTION; also, for first 30 minutes of class, guest speaker Karl Bates, director of research communications, Duke University News Service, will talk about the New Horizons in Science 2012 Program in Raleigh, Oct. 28-29
* Learn the basics of writing non-fiction.
Zinsser, William, On Writing Well, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
of New Horizons in Science 2012 Program to be held in Raleigh,
Oct. 28-29 (held in conjunction with the National Association of
Science Writers annual conference)
Aug. 29: ETHICS OF MEDICAL JOURNALISM (Kelly)
Fink, Sheri, "Investigations -- The Deadly Choices at Memorial," http://www.propublica.org/article/the-deadly-choices-at-memorial-826, published Aug. 27, 2009.
Kirby, Kathleen, RTNDA'S Guide to Health Coverage Under HIPAA: http://www.rtnda.org/pages/media_items/rtndas-guide-to-health-coverage-under-hipaa427.php.
Mar, Andrew M. & Alison Page Howard, "Freedom of the Press: HIPAA & Newsgathering,"http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org//press/topic.aspx?topic=hipaa_news&SearchString=hipaa.
Scanlan, Chip, "The First Peril: Fabrication," Poynteronline, (Adapted from Reporting and Writing: Basics for the 21st Century, Oxford University Press, 2000).
SPJ Code of Ethics: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp?
Statement of Principles of the Association of Health Care Journalists: http://healthjournalism.org/secondarypage-details.php?id=56
"Aiding Those in Distress," Association of Health Care Journalists, http://www.healthjournalism.org/secondarypage-details.php?id=898
Zinsser, William, On Writing Well, Chapters 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
SEPT. 3: No class (Labor Day)
SEPT. 5: INTERPRETATION OF MEDICAL STATISTICS (Courtni)
Cohn, & Cope, News & Numbers: A Guide to Reporting Statistical Claims and Controversies in Health and Other Fields, pp. 3-106.
Oransky, Ivan, "How to avoid 'he said-she said' science journalism," Not Exactly Rocket Science guest blog, February 18, 2010.
Browse the web sites of the World Health Organization's International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) and the National Institutes of Health's clinicaltrials.gov.
SEPT. 10: INTERPRETATION OF MEDICAL STATISTICS (cont.) (Jaya)
Cohn & Cope, News & Numbers: A Guide to Reporting Statistical Claims and Controversies in Health and Other Fields, pp. 107-181.
Kolata, Gina, online at "Forty Years' War -- Advances Elusive in the Drive to Cure Cancer," also in New York Times Reader, pp. 156-162.
de Lorgeril, Michel et al., "Cholesterol Lowering,
Cardiovascular Diseases and the Rosuvastatin-JUPITER
Controversy," Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(12):1032-1036 (June 28,
Meier, Bary, "A
Clash Over a Spine Treatment," New York Times, September
Ridker, Paul et al., "Rosuvastatin to Prevent Vascular Events in Men and Women with Elevated C-Reactive Protein," N Engl J Med 2008;359:2195-2207 (Nov. 20, 2008).
SEPT. 12: NEWS STORIES (Patrick); Guest speaker at 10:45 a.m.:
Brown, Director, Park Library
resources from the JOMC Park Library.
"Science Times" section from Tuesday, Sept. 11 New York Times.
Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapter 1, pp. 7-24.
Blum et al., editors. A Field Guide for Science Writers, Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5, 6.
Assignment #1: News story due Wednesday, Sept. 19.
SEPT. 17: NEWS STORIES (cont.) (Dan)
Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapters 2 & 3.
SEPT. 19: CRITIQUE OF ASSIGNMENT #1
Assignment #1 due today.
SEPT. 24: MEDICAL CASE HISTORY AS NARRATIVE
Sacks, Awakenings, pp. 3-115.
Assignment #2: Rewrite of Assignment #1 due Wednesday, Oct. 3.
SEPT. 26: INVESTIGATIVE & PERSPECTIVE STORIES
View "Awakenings" documentary.
Lesser, Wendy, "Television/Radio:
Seeing 'Awakenings' With Its Real-Life," New York
Times, January 21, 2001. Click on "Single-Page" icon to see
Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapter 4 & Chapter 8, pp. 162-182.
OCT. 1: EXPLANATORY STORIES
Blum, Deborah & Mary Knudson, editors. A Field Guide for Science Writers, Ch. 17 (pp. 111-117), Ch. 20 (pp. 132-137).
Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapter 7, pp. 120-155.
OCT. 3: PROFILES - REPORTING FROM THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT -
Medical Journalism Program Guest Lecturer: Judith E. Tintinalli,
MD, MS, Professor, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, UNC-CH.
Please meet at Starbucks Cafe located in the lobby of the UNC
Assignment #2 (Rewrite of Assignment #1) due today.
Linden, New York Times Reader,
Chapters 5 & 6, pp. 92-119.
Assignment #3: 900-word profile from the UNC Emergency Department due Wednesday, Oct. 24.
OCT. 8: CRITIQUE OF ASSIGNMENT #2
OCT. 10: OBITUARIES, PROFILES, HISTORICAL STORIES &
Butler, Katy,"What Broke My Father's Heart," New York Times, June 18, 2010.
Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapters 9 & 11, pp. 183-197, 222-243.
Also, review Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapters 5 & 6, pp. 92-119.WEEK 9:
OCT. 15: COMMENTARY: COLUMNS & ESSAYS
Linden, New York Times Reader,
Chapters 12 & 13.
Thomas, Lewis, The Medusa and
the Snail, chapters entitled "The Medusa and the Snail,"
"The Wonderful Mistake," "Ponds," "To Err Is Human" and "On
Cloning A Human Being" (all chapters found in electronic link
in Resources folder in Sakai)
Berger, Marilyn, "Lewis Thomas, Whose Essays Clarified the Mysteries of Biology, Is Dead at 80," New York Times, Dec. 4, 1993.
OCT. 17: NARRATIVE NON-FICTION (Karen)
Duhigg, The Power of Habit, pp. 1-126.
"Science Times" section from Tuesday, Oct. 16, New York Times
OCT. 22: BLOGS - guest speaker: Bora Zivkovic, blog editor, Scientific
Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapter 14.
Buttry, Steve, "What's the difference between a columnist and a
18, 2012, The Buttry Diary.
Zivkovic, Bora, "Blogs: face the conversation," Blog Around the Clock, July 29, 2011: Scientific American.
Zivkovic, Bora, "Science Blogs: definition, and a history," Blog Around the Clock, July 10, 2012: Scientific American.
Zivkovic, Bora, "The line between science and journalism is
getting blurry... again," Observations, Dec.
20,2010: Scientific American.
OCT. 24: IN-CLASS CRITIQUE OF ASSIGNMENT #3
Assignment #3 due today.
Assignment #4: Rewrite of assignment #3 due Monday, Nov. 12.
OCT. 29: No class -- Students are encouraged to attend
meeting of the Council for the Advancement of Science
Writing at the Raleigh Convention Center. (Registration is
required and closes on Oct. 10.)
OCT. 31: NARRATIVE NON-FICTION (cont.) (Elizabeth)
Duhigg, The Power of Habit, pp. 127-274.
NOV. 5: CRITIQUE OF ASSIGNMENT #4 - guest critique: Dr.
Judith Tintinalli, professor and chair emeritus,
Department of Emergency Medicine, U. of North Carolina School of
Take 15-20 minutes to browse http://news.medicine.duke.edu/, the site that Anton has developed to reflect the activities of the Duke Department of Medicine. Think about the opportunities and challenges faced by a department with 700 faculty physicians and 1000 staff members.
Read two of Anton's blog posts:
Read Atul Gawande's commencement speech:
NOV. 12: REPORTING FOR THE ELECTRONIC MEDIA
Assignment #4 (rewrite of assignment #3) due today.
Linden, Tom, "Medical Reporting for the Electronic Media," in Barbara Gastel's Health Writer's Handbook (Second Edition), chapter in Sakai's "Resources" folder.
Assignment #5: Next story assignment due Wednesday, Nov. 28.
NOV. 14: WRITING THE TELEVISION SCRIPT
"Science Times" section from Tuesday, Nov.
13 New York Times.
Handout on television script writing tips (in Resources folder of Sakai)
Blum, Deborah & Mary Knudson, editors, A Field Guide for Science Writers, pp. 35-38, 39-44, 73-78.
NOV. 19: MIDEAST MEDICINE & JOURNALISM, POST-ARAB SPRING,
Guest speakers: Dr. Randall Williams & Professor Ahmed
Fadaam, Elon University.
Reading:Junger, Sebastian, "Sebastian Junger Remembers Tim Hetherington," Vanity Fair, April 21, 2011.
NOV. 21: No Class (Happy Thanksgiving)
NOV. 26: RADIO DOCUMENTARY
Listen to "My Lobotomy," "Mastodons in Manhattan,"and "Loophole Lets Toxic Oil Water Flow Over Indian Land."
NOV. 28: IN-CLASS CRITIQUE OF ASSIGNMENT #5
Assignment #5 due today.
Dec. 3: CAREER OPPORTUNITIES IN SCIENCE COMMUNICATION -- guest
Kroll, Ph.D., director of science communications, Nature
Research Center, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Browse David Kroll's Terra Sigillata blog.
Browse David Kroll's other blog, Take As Directed on Forbes website.
Kroll, David, "Well,
how did I get here?" Oct. 24, 2012, post from "Terra
Kroll, David, "iAroma synthetic marijuana and the loss of Max Dobner," July 16, 2011, post from "Terra Sigillata."
Kroll, David, "Trine Tsouderos on This Week in Virology: When do you fact-check article content with sources?" post on Take As Directed, Sept. 19, 2011, PLoS blogs.
Dec. 5: Class wrap-up and evaluation
The Honor Code
The Honor Code is in effect in this class and all others at the University. I am committed to treating Honor Code violations seriously and urge all students to become familiar with its terms set out at http://instrument.unc.edu. If you have questions, it's your responsibility to ask me about the Code’s application. All work for this class must be submitted with a statement that you have complied with the requirements of the Honor Code.
--syllabus revised Dec. 2, 2012