Rubrics help teachers, students focus on key elements of journalism

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Anybody who works as a journalist realizes there are essentially two kinds of stories – those that either pass or fail, that either inform and/or entertain readers fully or that lack depth, sources, context, skill. Anybody who teaches journalism realizes we can’t really grade in this manner. To that end, I typically create rubrics for courses that address advanced reporting, sports writing and feature writing in order to offer more specific instruction on how to improve. Rubrics can remind students on the elements included in good journalism.

I attached my new rubric below that blends several categories I used for many years and which allows me to grade a bit more holistically within the more prescriptive rubric. Why? Sometimes a student does a terrific job in one area that merits elevating the piece’s overall score, despite some weaknesses in other areas.

Grading is something many of us hate, but it is a course element that drives students to work harder – although I often ponder deeply about using a grading system where I don’t accept stories until they are fully completed, no matter how frequently they need to be returned to students for revision. Of course, students that dilly-dally wouldn’t complete all the assignments by the end of the semester, which means they would fail. That’s probably the best way to train student-journalists, but it is an approach that probably wouldn’t work well in academia. Still.

Ultimately, I comment on specific elements of the story on the submitted pages, offering general overview comments on the rubric. Afterward, students can then chat further about journalism and these stories – although that happens far less than it should.

Please, share your own rubrics below in the comments section to offer additional approaches to grading news stories. Good luck in the new semester.

You can download the newer rubric here and the older rubric here.

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About jgisondi

I covered sports and worked as a sports copy editor for more than 20 years at several newspapers in Florida, including the Fort Myers News-Press, Clearwater Sun, Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. I started writing for a weekly sports publication in Coral Springs, Fla., at age 15. I have been hooked on sports journalism ever since. I was fortunate to have worked with some amazing editors along the way, journalists who took the time to help me even when my copy was not top-notch. Now, I teach journalism at Eastern Illinois University and work as an editor for Landof10.com, a vertical that focuses on Big Ten athletics. A second edition of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports" will be available sometime in February 2017. The book is a practical guide to preparing, observing, interviewing and writing about 20 different sports, from auto racing to wrestling. Chapters also address ways to cover high school sports, fantasy sports, to develop sports blogs. You can also learn how to cover games, to write features and to interview better. Fans can also learn basic rules of these sports, along with ways to better observe the action. New chapters in the second edition will address social media, advanced analytics, fantasy sports coverage and revised, expanded chapters address game coverage, features and columns, among other new sections.
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