As well as you did on your website project (shown below), we're expecting great things out of your final project, in which you identify an engaging and relevant topic and produce all material for a single-topic news-feature package that in print includes highly informative visual elements and digitally includes equally informative interactive elements. Deadline is 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19 —
Together, the two parts of the final project are worth 35 percent of your course grade. Examples from previous semesters are shown at right. Because of a switch in hosting services, many of the digital versions are not available. Standards for the print version were similar, but thanks to additional time devoted to interactives in recent semesters, standards for the digital version are likely to be higher and call for more robust interactive storytelling than you will see in some of the examples.
The final should be considered a capstone experience not only for this course but also for your entire journalism education. Although use of WordPress was required for the previous assignment, it is optional (and not specifically recommended) for the final. BootStrap, which you can learn on your own, might be the best digital authoring tool, but nothing about the project should be considered an exercise in the practice of any particular technology or technique but rather a creative, entrepreneurial effort combining all that you know and requiring that you locate and master whatever new technologies and techniques are best advised to produce a journalistically competitive project.
We are past the point at which merely showing that you can do something cool or minimally acceptable with a technology, regardless of its journalistic marketability or value, is sufficient. These must be solidly curated or created journalistic products, competitive not just against other student work but against the highest of professional standards. Procrastinating until the last minute, then trying to figure out the technological minimums previous students employed just to get by, is perhaps the worst strategy you can follow. You need to look at these projects as examples of showing how much you have learned, particularly about telling engaging and important stories that rely on something other than just the quality of your writing.
In print, it's vital that dominant images and secondary charts are strong storytelling components, not mind-candy accoutrements. Digitally, interactives shouldn't be cutesy, fluffy animations, very linear in nature, or Easter egg hunts that make you click for the sake of clicking but rather immersive, non-narrative techniques for telling significant stories.
Yes, visitor, this will be a lot of work. But the good news is that the final project can provide extremely valuable samples of your work that will impress potential employers. All in all, the assignment represents perhaps your best opportunity as a student to prove your abilities as something other than a refugee English major who likes to write but prefers fact to fiction. Think about standing out, not fitting in. Properly done, these projects can demonstrate your abilities to tell stories without having to rely on linear, narrative text and to exploit visual and interactive techniques as needed while also identifying unique, imaginative ways to relate to and serve a mass audience. These are the skills that will set you apart professionally, in both journalism and in other fields.
The final project can and should be something that you seek to have published, either in student media or professionally. You're on your own in that regard, though the instructor will attempt to help you identify marketable elements of your plans. The important thing is not to simply show up at some editor's desk with a completed project and expect the editor to run it. Now is the time to begin feeling out potential publishers for your work and obtain from the editors feedback on how to make your project more interesting to them, so that at least some portion of what you produce for class can also become a professional or student media clipping you can show to potential employers.
Each of you has the ability to blow the socks off both the instructor and potential employers with what you can do. Our challenge for the remainder of the semester is to help you do just that. An additional one-on-one appointment after your initial session may help. And don't forget, if you haven't already, to complete our departmental outcome assessment questionnaire.