Alternative Media (jour435)

Instructor: Matt Forsythe

Viewable online at:

Download the Course Outline here (PDF)

Download a current version of this Syllabus here (PDF)

All readings are online.

September 7

WEEK 1: Getting Started

* Introductions

* How do you use the web?

* Informal discussion. What are your passions? What is your niche?

* Present concept map of course

* Course Outline / Overview

*Online News Magazine

Learning outcomes: Students will be given a formal survey of concepts and grading system of the course.

September 14

WEEK 2: The Past / The end of mainstream media?

READ: Newspapers and thinking the unthinkable

Clay Shirky, 2009

READ: “The Propaganda Model: An Overview

David Cromwell, Excerpted from Private Planet, 2002

READ: “Why I quit my job

Kai Nagata

Objectives: What are some of the critiques of mainstream media? What are the challenges facing journalists today?

* WATCH: Video – Chomsky: Manufacturing Consent

* Journalism and War

Learning outcomes: Students are able to discuss critically the transitional nature of contemporary journalism.

September 21

WEEK 3: The Future / Google and the Long Tail / Writing for the Web introduction

READ: The Long Tail, Chris Anderson, WIRED Magazine

READ: Computer-generated articles are gaining traction, New York Times

READ: Is Google Making Us Stupid?, Nicholas Carr,  The Atlantic

Objectives: Discuss, Search and Google, the Long Tail, and the future of news.

Learning outcomes: Students will understand the economic variation within the Long Tail and critically discuss what that means for the present and future of journalism.

September 28

WEEK 4: Writing for the web (Part I)

7pm GUEST: Carly Wilkie Steven, SEO Consultant (The Daily Mail, The Gazette)

READ: How Search Engines Operate, by SEOMoz

Objectives: Though new media require a new way of reading and writing, the basics of style, concision, and grammar are more important than ever. But writers on the web are writing for a new audience… Google. We will discuss the basics of formatting HTML and RSS for the web and best practices for linking and image-use.

Learning outcomes: Students will apply the following with respect to writing on the web:

* Concision

* “Publish then select” philosophy

* Understand fundamental differences between Web and Print

* Basic HTML mark-up

* Basic RSS tools (FlipBoard, Feedly, etc)

October 5

WEEK 5: Writing for the web – Part II: Practical Guide 

READ: “Truth and the Net“, by Cory Doctorow

READ: “Ten Tips for writing a blog post“, by Darren Rowse, Problogger

Using images on blogs

Use your blog to land paid writing gigs; 9 Practical Tips

Kick Your RSS: Jumping on the Syndication Bandwagon


* Does the inverted pyramid still apply?

* Daily Blog Tips articles

* Importance of Links

* Keyword Research

* Article idea generation

* Citation on the web

* Creative Commons licensing

* Anchor Text

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to link appropriately, use Creative Commons images with their posts respectfully, and write subjects that are Google and RSS-readable.

October 12

WEEK 6: Video for the Web; NFB Case Study

GUEST: Joel Pomerleau, Manager,

READ: “A Canadian Broadcasting Policy for a world of Abundance,” by Michael Geist

READ: “NFB Unreels Smash Hits” by Michael Geist

READ: “Canada’s NFB Archive: a success story”

by Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

* NFB Case study and discussion

* Mistakes and Successes

Learning Outcome: Students will learn best practices for embedding video online

Understand the challenges of moving from traditional to digital distribution

October 19

WEEK 7: Huffington Post Canada: Pros and Cons of a

READ: About that Lawsuit… by Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post, Feb 2011

READ: Pay Me for My Content, by Jaron Lanier (Free registration required)

7pm SKYPE GUEST: Ron Nuriwasah, News Editor, Huffington Post Canada (confirmed)


Why is the HuffPo so sucessful?

Is it the future of news or a healthy alternative?

Major differences between traditional news and online news.

October 26
WEEK 8: Generatives / Audio & Video for the Web II

READ: Better Than Free by Kevin Kelly

READ: Better Than Owning by Kevin Kelly

READ:The Economics of Abundance” by Chris Anderson

Objectives: For discussion…

* What are generatives?
* What are people willing to pay for?

* HTML Mark-up workshop
* Embedding Audio and Video on the web workshop

Learning outcomes: Students will be able to discuss Kelly’s 8 generatives with respect to current media. Students will be comfortable writing in HTML and embedding multimedia content in their posts.

November 2

WEEK 9: Alternative Media, Citizen Journalism, and The Wisdom of Crowds

GUEST: Tim McSorley, Montreal Media Coop – to discuss Alternative Media (confirmed)

READ: “Spin Cycles for Social Change,” by Joanne Penhale, Dominion Magazine

READ: “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”, by Jeff Howe, Wired Magazine

READ: The Wealth of Librivox, Michael Erard, Reason Magazine

READ: Citizen Journalism Wants You!, Jay Rosen, Wired Magazine

* Wiki culture

*Activism and Alternative Media

November 9

WEEK 10: Open data, Open Journalism

7pm GUEST LECTURE: Michael Lenczner, OpenMTL (confirmed)

READ: Free Culture, chapters 1, 4 & 5 (PDF)

READ: About Michael Lenczner

READ: About OpenMTL

Objectives: How does unlimited choice affect the news? Does it create greater accountability or just engender a race to the bottom?

* Links between open source software and Open data movement

* Access to information / transparency

* The Free Culture movement

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to list reasons for curated and edited content in a world of unlimited choice.

November 16

WEEK 12: Branding / Marketing yourself / Social Networking


* Branding yourself and your work on the web

Discussion: Revenue streams for the online journalist

November 23

WEEK 13: Checking your Facts in a Networked World

GUEST: Craig Silverman, (confirmed), Journalist (Globe & Mail, NY Times) and author of Regret the Error

READ: We Stand Corrected: When Good Journalists Make Stupid Mistakes

by Christopher Scanlan

Poynter Online



* Regret The Error

* Fact Checking – How to do distributed fact-checking, the rise of external fact-checking groups, and the potential for using CJ to achieve better accuracy in the press.

November 30

WEEK 14: Future of the Web

READ: What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly

In class:

*Watch: The next 5000 hours of the internet
* What is the future of the web?
* Data journalism?
* How does this affect the news industry / our careers?


We The Media, Dan Gillmor

The Search, John Batelle

The Long Tail, Chris Anderson

The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki


On Writing Well, Zissner

Elements of Style, Strunk & White


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