Journalism 555A

Winter 2019/Spring 2020

6 credits

This course is for graduate students interested in exploring the unique challenges of reporting on global issues, with a focus on critical analysis of current norms, and experimentation with innovating the practice of global reporting. The course will examine the nature of international news, including a review of the issues and ethics of the genre across mediums. It brings graduate students around the world together to collaborate on a long-term research project, with participants draws from journalism and applied academic relevant fields. The course places particular emphasis on global reporting techniques through problem-based learning, with a student-led project on an under-reported issue.

This course incorporates the best practice methods of research, reporting, news writing and storytelling. It is an opportunity for students to practice high-level journalism and knowledge mobilization, under the direction of a team of professional practitioners and scholars.

In this course, you will experience the unique challenges of reporting on the world. The course takes a critical approach to “foreign parachute reporting” techniques, and offers students opportunities to experiment with new forms of global journalism. Students will examine real-world examples of ethical issues in international reporting.

The class will be structured around a two-term project, using information and material gathered during an international field trip. We will produce major works of journalism, with the goal of having it published and/or broadcast by media outlets.

Course Objectives:

  • To identify global stories; research and report on an under-covered global issue; familiarize oneself with the basic skill set needed for mediums
  • To inform students about the practices and behavior of global journalists in the reporting of global affairs
  • To inform students about how to report global stories and to allow them the opportunity to practice global reporting
  • To help students grasp the demands and constraints facing journalists around the world, which can influence the flow of information
  • To examine the changing role of international journalism in society
  • To explore the different ways stories are addressed for local, national and international audiences
  • To understand the challenges of mobilizing academic knowledge for broad global audiences

Course Topic:

This year’s course focuses on global education. Students will research this broad topic, and define areas worth further reporting and investigation. We have students from several universities and disciplines collaborating, which will enrich both the learning and journalism experience. Students will be expected to produce works of journalism for one or more media partners, and the work will be curated on a project website.

Course Structure:

Given the global collaborative nature of this class, we will be offering an online portal for partners to join class live or watch recorded discussions. Each class will be broken into two sections – one part for discussing broader global reporting techniques and ethics and one part for discussing the topic and project.

Course work will require collaboration. You will be working with fellow students and faculty members to create professional-quality journalism. You will be expected to incorporate the ideas of others into your projects. This course requires significant time commitment and energy, and a high level of research and rigor. You are working to create a publishable work of journalism that addresses a complex topic with nuance and sensitivity, which is grounded in research and empirical fieldwork.

Our goal in this course is to not only impart the intellectual framework for understanding global reporting, but to convey practical skills used by working journalists that each student will be able to employ in the field. Understanding how to work collaboratively is critical for journalists who plan to work in global reporting, and students will have a two-semester-long experience of working closely with their classmates and instructors to produce an exceptional piece of journalism.

This is not a technical course. If you require extra support, tutorials will be available on photography, video, audio and media acquisition skills outside of class hours.

As students in this class, you are fellows of the Global Reporting Program (GRP). The GRP has a twitter account, and each week students are expected to craft at least one tweet related to their reporting or more broadly related to the topic of the class project. (Grade for twitter participation will be determined by the amount of tweeting – 10 tweets = 100%)

Prior to the reporting trip, we will discuss many of the practical aspects of global reporting. Upon return, students will continue to work collaboratively with classmates and global partners on the group project, and each step of the project will be graded as explained below. While we devote half of each class towards completing the term project, we will devote the other half to discussing the broader implications of what we experienced in the field, in a historical, economic and philosophical context.

Please note that students are not required to travel to complete this course. Students who do intend to do fieldwork must be in good standing by the end of the first term (average of 72 or above).

University Policies:

UBC provides resources to support student learning and to maintain healthy lifestyles, but recognizes that sometimes crises arise, and therefore there are additional resources to access including those for survivors of sexual violence. UBC values respect for the person and ideas of all members of the academic community. Harassment and discrimination are not tolerated, nor is suppression of academic freedom. UBC provides appropriate accommodation for students with disabilities and for religious observances. UBC values academic honesty, and students are expected to acknowledge the ideas generated by others and to uphold the highest academic standards in all of their actions. Details of the policies and how to access support are available on the UBC Senate website.


You will be graded on your conceptualization, writing and producing skills, as well as on your ability to execute group work. Global journalism is often collaborative, and this is the time to practice your communication skills.

Attendance is mandatory, either in person (UBC), synchronously (for international partners) or asynchronously (watching class recording). If you must miss a class, please inform the instructors beforehand. It will be your responsibility to watch recorded class sessions and get filled in by classmates on the status of the group project.

Students who cannot attend in person will be required to submit a weekly reflection on the past week’s readings, research, and any other thoughts or developments. These reflections should be 100 – 200 words long, and all students in the class will be asked to read these comments prior to class. This will allow students who cannot attend live to have an active contribution to classroom discussions, and the instructions will make every effort to address key points in these reflections. The teaching assistant will also summarize and represent the weekly reflections during classroom discussions.

An important part of the first term grade is an annotated bibliography, which reviews and summarizes key literature related to the broad topic, as well as related to the specific topic/location on which the student is focused. It is due at the end of the first semester, before fieldwork begins – no exceptions, late bibliographies will not be graded.

A major part of the second term grade is the final project. The grading is broken into several drafts, which will be produced in teams, with the same grade shared by all team members. There are also several individual assignments.

Grades follow UBC’s grading scale below, and for students at partner universities. the final course grade will be translated into appropriate equivalent grades for the home institutions.

90-100 A+
85-89 A
80-84 A-
76-79 B+
72-75 B
68-71 B-
64-67 C+
60-63 C

0-59 F (Fail)

The following are criteria for each grade level:

A+ Excellent work that meets the standards of a respected major news organization. It is well researched and reported, accurate, fact checked, well produced, well written and shows initiative. It has a variety of multimedia content, and the mediums are used appropriately.
A to A- Publishable/professional-quality output that shows outstanding writing, initiative and skill, but requires minor revisions.
B+ Work that is does not yet meet professional/publishable standard, but can reach that standard with some work.
B Work that shows clear writing and careful research, but may lack enough research and may have structural and reporting problems.
B- to C Output that that lacks initiative, significant research and sufficient reporting.
D to F Factual errors, subpar research, reporting and/or writing.


Unless otherwise discussed in class, all assignments are due 24 hours before class time, to allow all students and faculty to review. Unless otherwise noted, assignments are individual and will be graded.


Story idea memo (P/F) 2.5%
Preliminary story proposal 5%
Annotated bibliography draft (P/F) 2.5%
Final story proposal (team) 10%
Story elements list 5%
Contact list 5%
Prepared interview questions 10%
Production schedule/budget (team) 10%
Annotated bibliography 20%
Twitter contribution 10%
Attendance/Reflections 10%
Participation 10%


Post-Production Teams

Organize media 5%
Preliminary story summary 5%
Story outline/selects 5%
Story summary 5%
First draft (team) 5%
Rough draft (team) 15%
Fine draft (team) 15%
Final draft (team) 30%
Twitter contribution 5%
Participation (including participating during exam period) 10%

Pre-Production Teams

Production schedule/budget (team)  
Interview Questions (team)  
Organize media 5%
Preliminary story summary 5%
Story outline/selects 5%
Story summary 5%
First draft (team) 5%
Rough draft (team) 15%
Fine draft (team) 15%
Final draft (team) 30%
Twitter contribution 5%
Participation (including participating during exam period) 10%

Course Schedule:

Term One





PART 1: Introduction to Global Reporting


This class will define “Global Reporting” and introduce students to a brief history of the genre, including different approaches to “foreign reporting,” “parachute reporting,” “empowerment reporting” and other methods of covering the world.

We will discuss how the class will work, especially with respect to collaborating with various partners. We will also review the GRP handbook of best practices, ethics and etiquette.

PART 2: Project Topic Discussion

We will discuss ideas for this year’s project.

Assignment for next week:  Students will begin working on research, as well as contact list. Submit story idea pitch (individual) to central portal for classmates to read before class, and be prepared to present one-minute story idea pitch during next class.

Readings for Next Week:

Fixing the Journalist-Fixer Relationship, Harvard’s Nieman Reports

Collaborating with NGOs: A Strategic Alliance Approach for Journalists, Global Investigative Journalism Network

What Data Journalists Need to Do Differently, Harvard Business Review

How reader engagement helped unearth the Shell tape, The Correspondent

Global Guide to Freedom of Information: FOI Tips and Tricks (read all three sections)





PART 1: Global Journalism Practices


Explore different global reporting norms and practices around the world, and discuss best practices. Issues addressed will include: key primary and secondary sources of information abroad, the use of translators and fixers, and vetting sources abroad.

Non-governmental organizations do some good work in foreign locations, and they are often anxious to work with journalists. We will discuss the benefits and hazards of working with NGOs, and will look at how the involvement of these groups can influence the objectivity and perspective of reporting.

We will also discuss a variety of research methods, including:

  • Accessing information in various countries
  • Freedom of information
  • Boolean searches
  • Sources of data
  • Using crowdsourcing
  • Using social media
  • Investigative mindset
  • SecureDrop

PART 2: Project Topic

We will discuss the challenges of reporting on the topic selected. Students will present their pitches (one minute per pitch), and we will have brief discussions about each idea, addressing these key questions: Why is this story important? Why should it be told now? What is compelling about this story? Where would we go? Who could be the characters? How might this story be told?

Students will also contribute ideas about content, form and collaboration. How do we pitch this series to media partners? To whom should we pitch this project? What kind of partnerships would we like to create?

Readings for Next Week:

UN Sustainable Development Goals

The origins of the millennium development goals, SAIS Review of International Affairs, 34(2), 5-24.

The millennium development goals: A critique from the south, Monthly Review, 57(10), 1.

Postcolonialism and globalization in education, Cultural Studies, Critical Methodologies, 7(3), 256-263.

How the millennium development goals are unfair to Africa, World Development, 37(1), 26-35.

The 11 Best School Systems in the World, Independent.





PART 1: Global Education Issues
We will discuss what some of the leading issues in global education, that include theoretical and practical approaches to journalism.PART 2: What Makes a Good Story
We will discuss what elements typically make a “good story,” and what we can learn from other exemplary works of journalism.PART 3: Editorial Discussion
We will start honing down the topic and reporting locations. In particular, we will focus on specific global trends and connections between locations. We will also review preliminary story proposals and will highlight areas and techniques of further research.
Assignment for next week: Submit preliminary story proposal (individual)


Readings for Next Week:

Introduction to Framing Theory, Mass Communications Theory

Us vs them: the sinister techniques of ‘Othering’ – and how to avoid them, by john a. powell (sic). Guardian. 11/8/17

The Difficulty of Imagining Other People, Elaine Scarry

How western journalists actually write about Africa: Re-assessing the myth of representations of Africa, Journalism Studies,19(8), 1138-1159

How to write about Africa, Granta 92, 92–95

Danger of a single story, TED Talk





PART 1: Casting, Framing and Representation


We will discuss how “foreigners” are often represented in the media, and will examine some of the common problems with representation and framing in international reporting. We will also discuss some of the history of Orientalism, neo-colonial practices in journalism, and the risks of “othering” story subjects.

PART 2: Casting for Project

We will have an editorial discussion, focused on characters and sources, with an eye towards the issues discussed in part 1 of class.

Assignment for next week: Conduct collaborative research on the chosen team proposals. Come prepared to discuss research findings to date. Submit preliminary annotated bibliography (draft) (P/F for participation).





PART 1: Research Findings


Students will summarize research findings to date. We will have a guest in class to contribute to discussion about story ideas.

PART 2: Project Workshop

We will discuss some of the specific challenges of reporting on this topic, including safety concerns, challenges of accessing information and complexity of storytelling. We will formally pair up in teams based on interest, abilities and geographical location.

Assignment for next week: Story Proposal (team)

Readings for Next Week:

Ethics of reporting on vulnerable subjects, Ethical Journalism Network

Global journalism needs global ethics, Stephen Ward, The Conversation

Assignment for next week: Refine story proposal (grade revision possible)





PART 1: Global Journalism Ethics


We will discuss some of the unique ethical challenges of reporting on global issues, and of doing cross-border reporting.

PART 2: Reporting from Locations

We will begin discussing specific dates and locations for travel, and will explore the specific challenges of reporting from each of the chosen locations. We may have guests in class to help the class understand the unique aspects of reporting in each of the chosen locations. Flights must be booked this week.

Assignment for next week: Contact list due. Fill out draft story elements.





Editorial Meeting


This class will be dedicated to a detailed editorial discussion, in which we will start planning specifics of field reporting.

Readings for Next Week:

When the Camera Was a Weapon of Imperialism. (And When It Still Is.), New York Times

There’s Less to Portraits Than Meets the Eye, and More, New York Times

What Would Photography Look Like If It Was Actually Inclusive, Medium

In a world of words, pictures still matter, The Guardian

Education for Transformation: Improving the lives of girls and women, CBC Radio
An audio piece about the role of education in improving the lives of girls and women.

Assignment for next week: Submit annotated bibliography (late assignments will not be accepted)

Assignment for next week: Story elements due.





PART 1: Global Reporting with Sound


We will discuss specific approaches to acquiring and presenting sound in global reporting, and explore ideas for audio treatments of this chosen stories.

PART 2: Global Reporting with Images

We will discuss specific approaches to acquiring and presenting images in global reporting, and explore ideas for photographic treatments of this chosen stories.

Readings for Next Week:

The Art of the Interview,” by María Emilia Martin – Chapter 22 in Reporter’s Guide to the Millennium Development Goals: Covering Development Commitments for 2015 and Beyond





PART 1: Interviewing for Project


We will discuss how we want to approach specific interviews, what we want to get out of them and how each team should approach interview questions.

PART 2: Global Journalism Budget

We will review the production schedules and production budgets, and review logistics for travel and field reporting. Time permitting, we will also discuss the economic issues related to global reporting, how reporting budgets and priorities have changed over the years, and different approaches to funding global journalism in various parts of the world. We will also discuss alternative funding models for global reporting, and will discuss sources of funding for entry-level journalists around the world to take on ambitious global reporting projects.

Assignment for next week: Each team create a preliminary budget (not for grade – for review and feedback)

Readings for Next Week: TBA





PART 1: Global Journalism Safety 


We will discuss the risks and dangers of global reporting, and will look at how global reporting hazards have changed over the past century. We will also discuss the risks of harassment (in the field and online).

PART 2: Staying Safe in the Field

We will discuss specific techniques for staying safe and healthy while reporting around the world. UBC students will also receive a mandatory briefing from Go Global. We will also complete a vicarious trauma assessment. We will conclude class with an editorial meeting about the project.

Assignment for next week: Budget/Production schedule





PART 1: Minimizing Harm


We will discuss the ethical implications of working with vulnerable populations. Part of this class will include a discussion about the risks of putting sources in harm’s way while reporting, and dealing with the expectations of interview subjects.

PART 2: Minimizing Harm with Class Project

We will discuss specific challenges within our class project and planned locations, and will brainstorm on how to minimize harm to communities on which we will be reporting.

Assignment for next week: Each student is expected to turn in three sets of prepared interview questions for intended interviews.



Week 12


Trip Preparation


The entire class period will be focused on reviewing final details in preparation for travel, including a discussion around team dynamics, who takes the lead on what part of the project (from logistics to subjects), how to manage emotions in the field, and what happens when things don’t go according to plan.

Term Two

Date Class Description Post-Production Students Pre-Production Students
Week 1
Trip Postmortem


We will spend time in class discussing the editorial elements captured in the field, and how to structure the final project. 

Teams share field experiences (what worked, what did not work, how and why etc) and offer suggestions to the next teams as they prepare for their field work

Team Kenya and Norway to share revised/updated project plans perhaps and get feedback??

We will also spend time organizing media and discussing the post-production schedule, and will begin sketching out the structure of the project. 

What are the lessons learned from groups 1 and 2?

Assignment for next week:


Organize media
Listen to all audio
Detailed transcripts with notes

Assignment for next week:


Production Schedule & Budget

Week 2
Ethics After the Field


During this class we will discuss any ethical concerns that arose in the field, and how possible ethical issues that could arise in producing the project. 
 We will also spend time discussing your selected items and your stories.
Ethics of editing: How do we make editorial choices that accurately reflect the experiences we shared?

Example: New York Times Catherine Porter, Canadian Bureau Chief

Assignment for next week:


Compile selects/clips/images. 

Write team story proposal. We will be discussing story FOCUS. You must begin to let go of your material now. This is the time that editing begins…long before the act of digital editing! You are selecting for moments *action, emotion, anecdote. This is very challenging, time consuming work. 

Please do not leave this to the last minute!!!!

Audio Training Workshop – 12 pm – 1:00 pm

Assignment for next week:


Interview Questions

Week 3
Advanced Structure


We will discuss the structure of the project, including detailed structure outlines for each of the individual pieces. We also plan to connect with producers at CBC Ideas, our media partner and begin planning details of the final project. We will analyze best practices examples for content, characters, elements, structure.

Assignment for next week:


Finalize selects. Write story outline.

Photography Training Workshop – 12 pm – 1:00 pm
Week 4
Workshop: Story Boarding


We will work in small teams workshopping your outlines and project structure. We will also review additional reporting and fieldwork that may be needed.

Assignment for next week: 


Draft Storyboard

Week 5
Advanced Storytelling & Artful Editing


We will discuss the specific challenges of reporting on global issues, including how to capture the audience’s attention and how to convey the historical, political and economic context of complex foreign stories. We will analyze best practices in writing (for print and audio) and photography.

Assignment for next week: 


Buildings scenes, begin to compile draft stories (images and audio)

Week 6
First Draft Presentations


We will spend this class period going over first drafts.

Assignment for next week: 


First draft

Assignment for next week: 


Norway and Kenya field preparations

  READING WEEK FEBRUARY 18-21. NO CLASS.   Travel for Teams in Norway and Kenya
Week 7
Representation & Reciprocity


We will discuss representation and reciprocity, both in general and as it relates to our project. We will discuss specific stereotypes related to our story location and topic. Check in on individual story status.

Assignment for next week:


Continue working on first draft. To be distributed to students and faculty in advance of next class (after Reading Week), and will be presented in class.

Assignment for next week:


Organize media
Preliminary story summary

Week 8
Rough Draft Presentation


We will spend this class period going over rough drafts.

Assignment for next week:


Begin work on fine draft.

Assignment for next week:

Story outline/selects
Draft | Storyboard (team)

Week 9
The Future of Global Reporting


We will discuss the market for global reporting, both as a staffer at a news organization and opportunities for free-lancers. Part of this class will also be spent on workshopping fine drafts.

Assignment for next week:


Finalize fine draft. Fine drafts will be distributed to students and faculty in advance of next class, and will be presented in class.

Assignment for next week:


First draft (team)

Week 10
Fine Draft Presentation


We will spend this class period going over fine drafts.

Assignment for next week: 


Begin working on final draft

Assignment for next week:
Fine draft (team)
Week 11


We will touch base in class, but plan to use out-of-class time with each of the teams this week to help advance projects.

International students visit/reporting in BC

Assignment for next week: 


Continue working on final draft.

Assignment for next week:

Begin working on final draft

Week 12


We will spend this class time working on the project and putting pieces of individual stories together in a cohesive multimedia project.

Assignment for next week: 


Work with media partner to finalize details of project. Finalize final draft. Final drafts will be distributed to students and faculty in advance of next class, and will be presented in class.

Assignment for next week:

Work with media partner to finalize details of project. Finalize final draft. Final drafts will be distributed to students and faculty in advance of next class, and will be presented in class.

Week 13
Final Draft Presentation


We will work in class finalizing the final drafts of the project for the media partner(s). Mandatory attendance.

Week 14
Finalize project over exam period    
5/2/2020 Project Launch – World Press Freedom Day