Prof. Sue Robinson

5148 Vilas

Office Hours: By Appointment (best way to reach me)

608-287-6746 (texting best; tell me who you are)

Twitter: @suerobinsonUW


J475: Socially Media & the News

Spring 2017

MW 2:30-4:10

Vilas 4020


This course will introduce students to the contexts, forms, and applications of social media within journalism. What are social media, who uses them, who gains from them, and how are they transforming the media landscape – particularly for news – and the way we inhabit the world? And, how might we use social platforms to engage with citizens to build relationships as well as brands? Students will become familiar with a range of social media tools, analyze and discuss their uses and implications for journalistic purposes, and develop what media scholar Trebor Scholz calls “participation literacy” within a “we the media” world as described by former journalist Dan Gillmor. Class participants will have the opportunity to explore both theory and practice of social media through writing assignments, applied tasks, and a major course project.




  • To be introduced to, critique and use a wide variety of social-media platforms;
  • To understand the role these platforms – and the ways in which we use them – play in mediated communication flows today, particularly journalism;
  • To become familiar with the readings and scholarship around social media;
  • To appreciate the standards and ethics of social media as an information-exchange platform;
  • To network with professionals in high-level positions who do social-media work via Skype connections;
  • To develop critical thinking skills for social-media content, understanding how to verify tweets, for example;
  • To learn how to create social-media strategies according to a set of goals for specific media and other clients.


** Graduate students would have the additional learning outcome of reading at a deeper level in the connection of practice to scholarship.


REQUIRED READINGS, URLS, APPS (as well as many more links and pdfs given in the syllabus). All of these are available either online or as an e-book through CloudReader.


Hermida, Alfred. (2014). Tell Everyone. Why We Share and Why It Matters. Anchor Canada. ($14 on kindle or $6 used)


Stratten, Scott. (2016). Unmarketing: Everything is changed. Nothing is Different. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ($7 on kindle)


Accounts in: Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn. And a couple others we will decide on together (ie either What’s App or Slack).


Class Hashtags/Groups: Twitter: #socialj (This is a class hashtag being used by a couple other journalism social media classes. Do network by following other students, professors on here.) Facebook Group: SJMC Social Media & News (please friend me and I can add you to the group)


Journalism-related sites:

American Press Institute Newsletter

( Interactive Narratives (

Mashable (

Nieman Lab (

On the Media (

Mediashift (

Poynter (  


Training sites:

Bento (

Codecademy (


Lynda (

W3Schools (

Webplatform (



You will be given a second-generation ipad for use during this semester. You will need to return it in good condition the last week of class. Our policy is basically “you break it, you buy it.” We will put a hold on your graduation or class registration if you fail to follow through with our contract. These are getting old and need extra time to charge so plan accordingly.




Social Media Packet (30): I have found that the best format for this tends to be a Word Document with tables of posts as well as links to the storify etc. But there are lots of way you could do this.


  • Your Twitter (10): Must have at least 100 tweets throughout the semester. Does not include Retweets. Must include TWO live tweeting of our speakers. You must also follow our class hashtag: #socialj (which we are sharing with several other schools across the country in the hopes of encouraging networking among all budding communication professionals and of expanding our own reach).
  • Half of these tweets should be recorded by mid-semester. I want a storify of tweets you have done so far, broken into: Participation in hashtags, engagement with individual tweeters (people you do not know!), participation in class speakers, and marketing of yourself (blog etc). (You should add to this storify for the final report).
  • Your Website (5): This can also be your “blog” (or your blog can be separate). Basically I am looking to see that you have established a professional space for potential employers. Must include “marketing” of your site in various realms. I am open to all kinds of platforms here such as WordPress, Pinterest, Medium, Tumblr, SoundCloud, Google Plus, a Facebook Group page, YouTube channel etc. (A blog will help you get more followers and a job more than any of these others, depending on your specialty.) I will be looking to see that you have: a photo associated with the profile, an About Me section that is not overly personal and describes your expertise and objective, a resume (without your address or cell, only your email, Twitter etc.), a search function, etc.  .
  • Social Media Strategy (15): 1-2-page single-spaced of your social-media strategy to date and going forward. This must include: 1) your social media goals, 2) analytics of your social media use, 3) a list of stakeholders/key influencers in your specialty area, including a social media role model with why they are a role model to you (I mean, socially. Need to include links and analytics); 4) what you have done to amplify your content this semester, and 5) specific plans going forward.
  • I want to see the list of goals, list of stakeholders/key influencers/hashtags  and where you are at so far on all of your platforms by mid-semester..
  • The rest, plus updated goals etc., should be done for the full report on May 1.

Part I of the Social Media Packet is due just before Spring Break on March 15 (in Part I you need all the parts to date);

Part II, the full report, will be due Wed. April 26 with everything updated


Blogged Reaction Pieces to Readings (20): There is going to be quite a bit of reading throughout the semester and to help you be successful in keeping up with it, you need to write FIVE blog entries based on the reading. Your entries should be 350-500 words in length, incorporate links, and make a point. These should not be summaries of the readings, so much as analytical commentary. To make a good blog entry, you should try to apply the readings to some current situation. You should also follow our guidelines for SEO with an appropriate headline, keywords, etc. I will try to suggest topics and questions you can also use to apply the readings (but you may go rogue as well, as long as you incorporate readings). Remember that these will be public posts that potential employers will be looking at, so make them smart and significant. Each one is worth 4 points of your final grade. I will grade you on how well you apply the readings (a majority of them). You will need to share a link to your blog post on our Facebook page. The five posts will be due:

Blog Post 1, Jan. 30: – Social Media and the News Revolution OR Your Choice (but must incorporate readings from first two weeks)

Blog Post 2, Feb 8: – The Superbowl in a Networked World OR How to not be snowed in social-media worlds

Blog Post 3, Feb. 20: – Analysis of a Viral News Story/Message

Blog Post 4, Feb. 27: Engage with the question: is curation journalism?

Blog Post 5, April 17: What kind of social tools might we expect for journalism in the future? (MUST BE A VLOG)

*The lowest grade for Blog Post 1-5 will be dropped.


Presentations (10): This is 30-40-minute, team-based presentation according to various topics with 1 other person. You will be leading a class discussion based on what you and your partner research and find about specific apps and platforms we might use as professional communicators to be social. Can use everything from academic journal articles, Poynter/mashable/etc. pieces, incorporate a short interview with an influencer, can assign readings, analyze case studies, etc. The class is yours. You can be practical or theoretical, but the perfect discussion will include elements of both. ***Extra points for creativity. For each app/platform etc. you need to tell us the background, ownership details, audience demographics, examples for best practices, and what we might use it for in professional communicative worlds.


  • Feb. 22 – Presentation I: Twitter and the News
  • Feb. 22 – Presentation II: Podcasts and Social News
  • March 1 – Presentation III: Live Video and Journalism (Not Facebook)
  • March 1 – Presentation IV: Visual Journalism on Social (Not Snapchat)
  • March 27 – Presentation V: GeoLocation and the News
  • March 27- Presentation VI: Reporting/Production Tools
  • March 29 – Presentation VII: Other Social Media Platforms That Might Be Helpful
  • March 29 – Presentation VIII: Newsroom Social Media Policies
  • April 17: Presentation IX: Future of Social Tools & News


TEAM (2-5 people) Final Project (40): We will work with one of several local media clients. There will be a final report you hand in to them. Each client will have different needs; some will want a full social media evaluation and strategy work up and others will want you to focus only on Snapchat or Instagram, for example. This project might include implementing parts of that strategy. This year I have set up collaborations with WORT, Isthmus, Capital Times, Madison Magazine, and The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Maximum of five people per group for these. We will hear from each client on the first day of class and you will sign up for a team in the first week.


Due May5 (but an exhaustive outline is due April 10 and a major working draft is due me April 29; you will also give the class a “dry run” presentation before you give one to them.)


Class Attendance/Participation/Professionalism (10): This is where my absentee policy comes into play, but also participation in assignments and class discussions, as well as the professionalism of your behavior throughout the semester in all the platforms in which we will be performing. ** I loathe giving quizzes because students aren’t reading. Alas, I will if I sense you are not keeping up with the homework. But I want you to know I don’t wanna do it. I do send around an attendance sheet every class. Absences start affecting your grade after two, and after three these 10 points automatically goes to 0 (which also moves you down a letter grade). If something is going on with you, please do come talk to me sooner rather than later. My door is always open to you. Also I worry.




In this graduate class, an “A” represents outstanding or exceptional work that fulfils the assignment with excellence in content and execution. A “B” indicates competent work that nevertheless is not a full or well-executed completion of the assignment. A “C” means that the work is within the parameters of the assignment but is significantly lacking in content and execution. A “D” generally means the piece is barely within the parameters of the assignment, some key part is missing, or it is just generally bad. A failing grade of “F” means that assignments were not turned in or were very poorly executed, or that the student has been academically dishonest (see below).


In my classes, A=93 or above, AB=92-88, B=87-83, BC=82-78, C=77-73, CD=72-68, D=67-60.


All students are expected to demonstrate a good command of English grammar and spelling, and writing quality will be a factor in grades. The quality and quantity of your participation in this semester also is a significant factor in your grade, as is your attendance (see below).




Academic honesty and dishonesty: Plagiarism and other forms of cheating


The following statement is from the online University of Wisconsin-Madison policy on academic dishonesty:


Academic honesty requires that the coursework (drafts, reports, examinations, papers) a student presents to an instructor honestly and accurately indicates the student’s own academic efforts. UWS 14 is the chapter of the University of Wisconsin System Administrative code that regulates academic misconduct. UW-Madison implements the rules defined in UWS 14 through our own “Student Academic Misconduct Campus Procedures.” UWS 14.03 defines academic misconduct as follows:


Academic misconduct is an act in which a student:


   * seeks to claim credit for the work or efforts of another without authorization or citation;

   * uses unauthorized materials or fabricated data in any academic exercise;

   * forges or falsifies academic documents or records;

   * intentionally impedes or damages the academic work of others;

   * engages in conduct aimed at making false representation of a student’s academic performance;

   * assists other students in any of these acts.


Examples include but are not limited to: cutting and pasting text without quotation marks (even if you have cited the material); paraphrasing without crediting the source; using notes or a programmable calculator in an exam when such use is not allowed; using another person’s ideas, words, or research and presenting it as one’s own by not properly crediting the originator; stealing examinations or course materials; changing or creating data in a lab experiment; altering a transcript; signing another person’s name to an attendance sheet; hiding a book knowing that another student needs it to prepare an assignment; collaboration that is contrary to the stated rules of the course, or tampering with a lab experiment or computer program of another student.

In this class, the penalty for academic dishonesty is failure of the class—not just the assignment, but also the entire course. Any incident may also seriously jeopardize your standing in this program.




A significant amount of material will be covered every week. I realize that sometimes absences are unpredictable and unavoidable. That’s why you may be absent from two classes (in the entire semester) without penalty. For each additional unexcused absence, your seminar-participation grade will drop by half a letter grade (A goes down to AB, etc.). Regarding the material covered during the class(es) you miss, you must get notes from another student, and you are responsible for knowing that material. You also are responsible for turning in notes for any week you miss (unless I have excused them due to serious circumstances).




I expect you to approach this class in a professional manner. I expect you to be on time, to come prepared and to participate fully. I also expect that cell phones are turned off prior to class. While this class is all about social media and we will be actively using our iPads and laptops throughout, I expect that you will give me and your fellow classmates the respect of your attention during these two hours; that means no non-class related Facebook, email or other online surfing. Should I need to talk to you repeatedly about distraction, I will dock your final grade.


Media issues and content cannot be thoughtfully and rigorously discussed without an occasional reference to unpopular ideas or to offensive material. Students and instructors alike are expected to remain sensitive to individual differences. The diversity of a multicultural society requires that we discuss differences with no anger, arrogance, or personal attacks, and without perpetuating stereotypes about gender, age, race, religious affiliation, sexual preference, national origin, dialect, or disability. This also goes for political affiliations.




This is a social media class, and thus, you will need to be on social media. In this class you will need accounts for: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SnapChat and Instagram as well as some blogging platform such as WordPress, Medium or Wix. Your accounts will all be public. Which means all your friends, professors, parents, and potential employers will be able to see what you post for this class. You can create social media accounts just for class if you don’t want to mix your personal social media usage with class work but the accounts must be public. If this bothers you, drop the class. Please think carefully before you press submit or post, re-read, verify. Be smart. Don’t be snarky or mean. Do not shame. Be positive. Contribute to the conversation. Build relationships.



Besides in our social media platforms, I am available to see students by appointment, and you may reach me by phone (text) or e-mail, listed above.


*** Just like with all good projects, this course and syllabus have benefited greatly from the ideas given to me by a boatload of people, especially DON STANLEY, MINDY MCADAMS, CARRIE BROWN, AND ROBERT HERNANDEZ.



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