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 am the author of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports," the second edition now available from Congressional Quarterly Press/SAGE, and "Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot" (U of Nebraska Press). Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition goes beyond general guidance about sports writing, offering readers practical advice on covering 20 specific sports. From auto racing to wrestling, author Joe Gisondi gives tips on the seemingly straightforward—like where to stand on the sideline and how to identify a key player—along with the more specialized—such as figuring out shot selection in lacrosse and understanding a coxswain’s call for a harder stroke in rowing. In the new Second Edition, readers also explore sports reporting across multimedia platforms, developing a foundational understanding for social media, mobile media, visual storytelling, writing for television and radio, and applying sabermetrics. Fully revised with new examples and updated information to give readers confidence in covering just about any game, match, meet, race, regatta or tournament, Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition is the ideal go-to resource to have on hand when mastering the beat. In "Monster Trek," Joe Gisondi brings to life the celebrities in bigfoot culture: people such as Matt Moneymaker, Jeff Meldrum, and Cliff Barackman, who explore remote wooded areas of the country for weeks at a time and spend thousands of dollars on infrared imagers, cameras, and high-end camping equipment. Pursuing the answer to why these seekers of bigfoot do what they do, Gisondi brings to the reader their most interesting—and in many cases, harrowing—expeditions. You can order both from Amazon.
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