Category: MMC 4936 – Fall 2016

Aug. 31 — Notes & Assignments

MMC 4936 - Fall 2016

Good afternoon all. Here’s the class notes [PDF] and assignments for the coming week. Keep safe over the Labor Day weekend!

Field Work:

  • Attend a city council, city commission or school board meeting (muni of your choice). Write a detailed memo of what happened during the meeting and the most interesting items for potential follow-up. Due Sunday, Sept. 11 at 12 pm.
  • Complete the free Poynter “Math for Journalists” online course.  Due Sunday, Sept. 11 at 12 pm (Send me a note saying you completed it. No form or receipt required.)

Class Notes:

  • No class meeting Monday (Sept. 5 – Labor Day) or Wednesday  (Sept. 7 – Field Work)

Memo Explanation: 

Attend a city council, town council or school board meeting. Write a 300-500-word memo focusing on the most important issue addressed in the hearing. In addition, write two to three story ideas that came from the meeting that you think merit further investigation.

By “memo” I mean a summary of what you saw, how the meeting progressed, what you understood, what was confusing and the like. It is not a story. Instead, it is a more free-form report of your experiences. However, I want to know what meeting you attended and why you chose that one. In addition, I want you to speak to a minimum of two people (getting contact information as always) and find out why those people attended the meeting. These can be people in the audience, city staffers or elected officials. Find out what they care about. You may just get a good story out of it.

Be sure to do your research ahead of time. Don’t just show up to a random meeting. Have an idea of what will be discussed. Look at the agenda for the meeting. To find such agendas, Google the name of the city or school board that interests you and add in “meeting agenda.”

Here’s an example: “hollywood florida city commission agendas” brings up this search result: 

This, in turn, leads to this URL: 

And to the main calendar page:

And then to agenda [PDF] the next City Commission meeting, which is on Sept. 6 at 1 pm

Hollywood also provides backup material (sometimes called staff reports) as PDF links within the calendar. Not all cities do this, nor are all agendas as easy to find. However, dig around online for a bit and you’ll get what you need.

Questions? Just ask. I’m easy to find 🙂

Primary Assignment Notes, Tips & Deadlines

MMC 4936 - Fall 2016

Hello again… Below are some of the tips and information needed to complete the Primary Election assignment. Please note that I will need some of this information by 11:59 pm tonight.

This includes: 

  • Putting your name, email, Twitter handle and cell number on the MMC 4936 tab of this Google doc:
  • Let me know (also on the Google doc) what city or neighborhood you plan on going to.
  • What time of day you plan on going to the polls. **Joan Chrissos, who is helping to run coverage, has made a special request for early morning (i.e. 7-9 am) items. She’s a good friend to have.**
  • That’s it until tomorrow.

Your assignment on Primary Day is: 

  • To write between two and three voter vignettes (see example below). If you happen to interview, say, a mother and daughter at the same time, this still only counts as a single vignette. It is the number of vignettes, not the number of people interviewed.
  • We need to be continually filing these stories. As soon as you have completed an interview, write it up and file it to me! Please do not wait to complete all your interviews before you start writing.
  • If you have an iPhone, you can use it as a hotspot to email me. Have an Android? Follow this link.
  • If you have neither, choose a precinct location near a McDonalds or Starbucks. Both have free WiFi.
  • Once you have emailed me a vignette, email it AND send a text to (213) 321-3661 alerting me you’ve filed.
  • Deadline for all vignettes is 6 pm on Tuesday, Aug. 31. 

Other requirements and tips: 

  • Polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm. The busiest times are between 7-9 am, 11 am – 1 pm and 5-7 pm.
  • Put your name, their email address, and their cell phone number at the bottom of each vignette.
  • In addition to asking voters about whom they’re voting for and why, you should also be on the lookout for any irregularities at the polling places: Are there long lines? Any raised voices on the sidewalks between candidates’ camps? Any problems with electricity?
  • Photographs are welcomed. However, they must be COMPLETELY captioned. That is, the names of everyone in the photo as well as the context of the image.
  • Double and even triple-check spellings of names. It is often wise to have the person write their own name in your notebook.
  • It will rain tomorrow. It’s Florida in August. Remember that pens may not work in the rain. Bring a pencil as well.
  • If you record someone, be sure they see your device (e.g. iPhone) and state they understand they’re being recorded. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it needs to be on the record.
  • You need the phone number (preferably cell phone) of everyone you use in your vignettes. Email alone is not good enough, though it’s good to ask for that as well. If someone refuses to give you their phone number, or asks to go “off the record,” move on.

How do I find the polling place addresses? 

AND just because this post isn’t long enough, here’s a pasted version of the Herald’s primary guide:

August 30 primary election – field reporters’ guide

Questions to ask:

  • How did voting go today?
  • Did you have any problems? What were they?
  • Who did you vote for in the U.S. Senate race? (Republicans: Marco Rubio, Carlos Beruff. Democrats: Alan Grayson, Patrick Murphy, Pam Keith.)
  • Why did you pick that candidate? (Get a deeper response than “because I like them.” Why do they like them? Is it a particular policy? Something they said? An ad they saw? Something they don’t like about the other person? Don’t be afraid to ask follow ups. This is the key interview question about every candidate: the why.)
  • Who did you vote for for Congress? (The candidates will vary depending on the district.) Again, ask why.
  • Who did you vote for for Miami-Dade County mayor? (Top candidates: Carlos Gimenez, Raquel Regalado). Again, ask why. ALL VOTERS will have this question on the ballot because it is nonpartisan.
  • Are you a registered Democrat, Republican or NPA (no party affiliation)?
  • What is your name, age, occupation? What neighborhood do you live in?
  • Could I get your cell phone number in case we need to follow up?

How to send a feed:

  • Do NOT send a long story. We prefer short feeds in paragraph form. Include your name and phone number. For example:

Jane Doe was the only person at the Miami Beach City Hall polling place when she arrived at 8 a.m. Doe, a 45-year-old accountant, said she wanted to get voting out of the way before going into work. She was done in less than five minutes, she said.

“I vote in every election,” said Doe, a registered Democrat. “And I voted for Candidate X because Candidate Y is a flip-flopper.”

She said she couldn’t remember who she voted for in judicial races except for one.

“I voted against Candidate Z because I was tired of all his robocalls this weekend,” Doe said.

Jane Doe: 305-123-4567

Reporter’s cell phone: 786-987-6543


  • You’re interviewing voters. We rarely quote campaign volunteers, unless there’s a fight or some other problem. If we’re desperate, we could use one quote (but only one!) from a volunteer or poll worker saying, “We’ve seen less than 20 voters” or something like that.
  • You cannot interview people too close to the entrance of the polling place. Most places will have a line saying “no campaigning beyond this point.” That applies to reporters, too.

Aug. 29 Notes, Reading & Assignment

MMC 4936 - Fall 2016

Good afternoon all. Here are the notes from today’s class [PDF] as well as a copy of the Miami Herald field guide for poll reporting [PDF].


Field Work:

  • You will be talking to voters during the Florida Primary on Tues., Aug. 30. (Detailed instructions in next post)
  • In addition you will need to create (and pay for) a set of business cards from the template provided in class. Business cards are vital for introductions.

Aug. 24: Notes, Reading & Assignments

MMC 4936 - Fall 2016

Good afternoon all. As the Miami heat dips to a chilly 85, keep a close eye on the gathering storm southeast of us. Like most of America, it has forgotten its center, and its destructive power is yet unknown. Stay safe out there.

Here are the notes from today’s class. [PDF]

And your reading and assignments:


Field Work:

  • You will be talking to voters during the Florida Primary next Tues., Aug. 30. I’ll give you detailed instructions during our next class meeting.
  • In addition you will need to create (and pay for) a set of business cards from a template I will provide during the next class. Business cards are vital for introductions and will run you no more than $20.

MMC 4936 – Aug. 22: Syllabus, Class Notes & Assignment Info

MMC 4936 - Fall 2016

Hello all and welcome to MMC 4936 – Covering the 2016 Election. As I mentioned in class, this website and the posts in this category will be your one-stop-shop for announcements, slides from our class meetings, tips and deadline reminders. In addition, readings for upcoming classes will be posted on the site.

Here’s an updated copy of the syllabus I handed out. [PDF] I corrected the room number of my office as well as our meeting times. Our class meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 am to 12:50 pm. My office is AC2 303, which is also the newsroom of the South Florida News Service.

In addition, here’s a copy of the slides from today’s class. [PDF]

And finally, a copy of the upcoming assignments and due dates:


• Jack Shafer, “Presidential Campaigns, Sports Writing and the Fine Art of Pretending,” Reuters, 2012.

• Jay Rosen, “Why Political Coverage is Broken,” Jay Rosen’s Press Think, August 26, 2011.

• Jodi Enda, “Campaign Coverage in the Time of Twitter,” American Journalism Review, 2011.

• Jeremy W. Peters, “Latest Word on the Trail? I Take It Back,” New York Times, 2012.

• Paul Farhi, “Off the Bus,” American Journalism Review, 2009.

• John Harris, “Shifting Influence From Institution to Individual,” Nieman Reports, 2008.


  • Read the articles listed above. Provide your assessment of your own consumption of political journalism; 300 to 350 words, due at the start of the next class. You should list the average amount of time per week you spend consuming political news, the sources (i.e., Wall Street Journal,, CNN, etc.), medium (print, on-line, broadcast), and possible biases (does the source have inherent political, ethical, gender, race religious, economic, or other biases). What did you like/dislike about the political journalism you consume?
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