Robert S. Boynton


Portfolio - Spring 2006

Thursday, 3-6, 407 Carter Hall
Robert S. Boynton, Room #605
Office hours ? Wednesday and Thursday 1-3

The Portfolio Program is designed to educate journalists in a way that is both conservative and revolutionary. Conservative in that it emphasizes knowledge of various journalistic traditions, basic literary skills, and practical outcomes (aka getting published); revolutionary in that we pursue these goals without primary emphasis on the "boot-camp" model that has dominated journalism education for the last half century.

We want to encourage journalists to work with a scholar?s intent (although not on a scholar?s schedule), by which we mean the kind of in-depth research and reporting that distinguishes workaday journalism from long-form, serious projects. Another goal is to help students fashion individualized ?beats? to bring distinction to their work. One way to do this is to design reading lists of the texts one must master in order to attain ?journalistic literacy? in a particular area. Another is to show students how to develop a cohesive body of work (as opposed to writing lots of small pieces on disparate topics) in the form of essays, reports, reviews, and other journalistic genres.

Purpose and Expectations

Given the wide range of proposed projects, individual goals will differ from case to case. However, the portfolio group has some common goals. First, creating the beginnings of a cohesive body of work, whether it consists of a series of articles, a book proposal, or a documentary. Second, creating an archive of methods and resources, an active body of knowledge that future students, as well as those outside the program, can consult.

Developing the beat In the course of individual research, each student will establish a beat or subject area. Each of these will have a reading list of fundamental texts. These should be the books and articles one simply must have read in order to be an informed participant in the debate. We will initiate the reading list together. Each student must then develop his or her own reading list individually. By the end of the semester, each student must have a fully annotated (synopsis, relevant criticisms and links) list of at least six canonical texts relevant to one?s beat. This list will then be posted on the Portfolio website. See sample annotations in the Master Reading List folder in your Course Documents.

Students will make at least one presentation on one of the books on her list. The idea is to share the fruit of your project-specific learning with the group. The presentation should include a synopsis (not a summary) of its arguments. The presenter will explain how the book informed her research, and speculate on its potential usefulness for other projects.

Towards producing a cohesive body of work

In order to maneuver successfully through the journalistic world?developing an area of expertise, a characteristic style of thinking and writing, an identity as a thoughtful and responsible reporter?a writer should always be thinking about the part an individual assignment plays in his overall project. Most writers don?t have an overall project, and therefore will never generate anything resembling a cohesive body of work. The fundamental goal of this program is to help students conceptualize such an approach, and then figure out how to pursue it.

The Portfolio Process
1. Passion for a subject and the intent to pursue it wherever it takes you.
2. Base knowledge. Basic and advanced book, archival, and periodical research, including of all manner of sources, experts, mentors and local guides.
3. Idea formation. Proposals for stories, based on what we have learned and amassed.
4. Writerly acumen. Knowing the appropriate length and style for a given piece.
6. Pitches, queries, proposals.
7. Target venues and products: Stories, 'zines, proposals, et al.
8. Publication.

link to full pdf syllabus

back to top

back to class list