COJR 3002: Special Topics

Social Media in Journalism

and Public Relations

Seton Hall University, Spring 2014, Mondays, 6:30 – 9 p.m., Fahy 321

pdf version of syllabus and schedule

This tentative schedule is likely to be modified and updated during the semester. Changes will be announced in class or posted on the course blog or Blackboard site. Please let me know if you encounter any dead web links. Readings must be read by the date on which they are listed.

 Jan. 13, 2014 – Introduction to the course

 Assigned: Challenge #1 (Setting up and posting to a blog)

Jan. 20 – NO CLASS (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)

Jan. 27 – Social media and the future of news and PR


  • What are the “old rules” and “new rules” of marketing? Of PR? Under the new rules, to whom are organizations or companies talking?
  • How have social media changed the ways in which news is produced and consumed?
  • According to Briggs, why does journalism have a bright future?
  • What causes for concern about the growth of the Internet and social media are raised in the readings by Ashley and Kristof?
  • Terminology: one-way interruption, the “long tail,” “the people formerly known as the audience,” gatekeepers, “The Daily Me”

DUE: Challenge #1

Assigned: Challenge #2 (Tweet week)

Feb. 3 – Collaboration, conversation, crowdsourcing


  • Briggs, Chapters 3 (Crowd-Powered Collaboration) and 10 (Managing News as a Conversation).
  • Scott, Chapter 10 (Marketing and PR in Real Time)
  • What are some strategies news organizations can use to tap the wisdom of the crowd?
  • What is meant by “news as a conversation,” and how does it differ from the way news traditionally has been presented?
  • What steps can a news organization take to keep conversations civil, ethical, and accurate?
  • What is meant by operating in “real time”? What are some strategies that advertisers and public relations professionals can use to develop a real-time mindset?
  • Terminology: crowdsourcing, open-source reporting, pro-am journalism, beatblogging, the 1-10-100 rule for participatory online communities, real time

DUE: Challenge #2

Assigned: Challenge #3 (Twitter scavenger hunt)

Feb. 10 – Blogging


  • Briggs, pp. 12-18 (on RSS feeds) and Chapter 2 (Blogging for Better Journalism)
  • Scott, Chapters 5 (Blogs: Tapping Millions of Evangelists to Tell Your Story) and 17 (Blogging to Reach Your Buyers)
  • What are the characteristics that define a blog?
  • How can you build an audience for your blog?
  • Why is it unfair to compare bloggers to mainstream journalists? Why is it unfair to compare blogs to newspapers or magazines? What is a better analogy?
  • What are the four main uses of blogs for public relations and marketing?
  • What should you blog about? How do you find a topic?
  • Terminology: RSS feeds, blog post, permalink, trackback, blogroll, tags

DUE: Challenge #3

Assigned: Challenge #4 (Blogging and RSS feeds)

Feb. 17 – Microblogging


  • What is meant by “ambient awareness” or “ambient intimacy,” and how does it relate to microblogging sites such as Twitter?
  • What factors have contributed to Twitter’s popularity?
  • What are some of the main ways that Twitter can be used by journalists?
  • Why does Lewis say Twitter has become a “dark place”? Do you agree or disagree?
  • Terminology: microblogging, the 80-20 rule of microblogging, tweet, retweet, direct message, hashtag

DUE: Challenge #4

Assigned: Challenge #5 (Twitter lists and chats)

Case study presentation (Ryan and Elicia)

Feb. 24 – Microblogging (cont.)


  • What is newsjacking, and what is its goal?
  • What are some strategies for newsjacking?
  • How can you find news stories that are suitable for newsjacking?
  • Besides newsjacking, what are some of the other ways Twitter can be used by PR professionals?
  • Terminology: newsjacking

Case study presentations (Brecken and Regan; Rich and Elisa)

March 3 – Live blogging and mobile reporting


  • What types of news stories lend themselves well to mobile reporting?
  • What format should a live blog follow — a single post for all your updates, or a separate entry for each update?
  • When live tweeting an event, what preparation should be done in advance? What sort of information belongs in the first few tweets? How should hashtags be used? What are some other tips for live tweeting?
  • How can businesses benefit by using live event coverage?

DUE: Challenge #5

Assigned: Challenge #6 (Social media project proposal)

Assigned: Challenge #7 (Live tweeting an event)

Case study presentation (Jacqueline and Amanda)

March 10 – NO CLASS (Spring break)

March 17 – Social networking sites


  • What are the four most useful ways to deliver information and ideas on Facebook for marketing purposes?
  • Why is Google+ an essential component of personal branding? How does Google+ differ from Facebook?
  • In the Peters article, what does he mean when he says Facebook “succeeds by disempowering its users”? What does he mean when he says Facebook is leading to the “Walmartization of the web”?
  • Terminology: liking and tagging, Facebook Groups, Facebook Pages, Google Hangouts, the open web

March 24 – Media pitching and social media releases


  • How does Scott differentiate between press releases and news releases?
  • What are some of the “new rules” of news releases?
  • What are keywords, and why are they important in crafting news releases?
  • What are some effective strategies for reaching and pitching journalists?
  • How does the social media release differ from a traditional news release?
  • Terminology: disintermediation, social media release

DUE: Challenge #6 (due by noon Monday, March 24 – The proposal must be submitted to the Google+ community.)

Assigned: Challenge #8 (Social media release)

March 31 – Photo and video sharing


  • What makes Instagram unique? What makes Pinterest unique?
  • What benefits does Instagram offer photojournalists and professional photographers?
  • What are the main fears or concerns that some photographers have about Instagram?
  • What are some ways that Instagram can be used in public relations?
  • How can Vine be used in journalism? How can it be used by brands?

DUE: Challenge #7 (due by noon Friday, April 4 – send a Direct Message on Twitter after you have live tweeted an event)

Assigned: Challenge #9 (Vine video) 

Case study presentation (Glo and Ashley)

April 7 – Linking, aggregation, and curation


  • In the Jarvis reading, what does he mean when he says, “Cover what you do best. Link to the rest”? Why has this been a struggle for news organizations?
  • What is the difference between content curation and content aggregation?
  • How can a curator add value to content that has been collected?
  • What is Storify, and how can it be used by brands and PR professionals?
  • Terminology: aggregation, curation

DUE: Challenge #8

Assigned: Challenge #10 (Using Storify as a curation tool)

Case study presentation (Katherine, Brittany, and Chris) 

April 14 – Numbers and maps: Data, geolocation, Web analytics


  • How can map mashups be used in journalism?
  • What are the leading web traffic measurements that should be tracked?
  • What are some keys to writing effective, search engine-friendly news headlines?
  • What are some strategies for effective search engine marketing?
  • Why are landing pages important?
  • How can geolocation services such as Foursquare be used in journalism and PR?
  • Terminology: pageviews, visits, unique visitors, engagement, referrers, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, search engine advertising, landing pages

DUE: Challenge #9

Case study presentation (John and Kelsey)

April 21 – NO CLASS (Easter Monday)

April 28 – Whom can you trust? Rumors, lies, and hoaxes


  • In the O’Neil reading, what does the author mean when he says, “We broke the Internet”?
  • In the Ingram reading, what does he mean when he says, “This is just the way the news works now”?
  • Who or what do the authors blame for the spread of false information via social media? Do they offer any solutions?
  • What are some practices that can be used to verify information on social media?

DUE: Challenge #10

Case study presentation (Christine and Marinna)

May 5 – Using social media to promote your personal brand


May 12 (Exam week)

Social media projects due; presentation of projects

NOTE: There is no final exam, but we will meet for presentation of your projects.


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