December 1996

Root Page of Article: Computers for Technophobes, by Christopher Harper

Computers in the Modern Newsroom


Summer 1996
Room 103
Christopher Harper
10 Washington Place
Room 501
Office Hours: By Appointment Only
(O) 212-998-3846


This course will deal with computer-assisted reporting, or "CAR."CAR entails using electronic tools to research, report and produce the news.While CAR is grounded in traditional journalistic principles such as concise narrative, solid reporting and clear analysis, we also will explore journalism's new forms and structures.

This is a combination lecture and laboratory course. The lecture portion of the course will cover the use of the Internet, the World Wide Web and other means to gather information.

The laboratory portion of this course will use computers and other online techniquesto cover research, reporting and producing.

Requirements for Enrollment

You must have completed at least two news production courses in either writing or broadcasting. Experience with computers is useful, but this course will show you how to use a computer for more than word processing and reading e-mail. You must have an ACF account, and a modem. An Internet provider at home will be useful. If you do not meet these requirements, you may have trouble with the class.


The books for the course are available at the bookstore: "Computer-Assisted Reporting," by Brant Houston, and"The Online Student" by Randy Reddick and Elliot King. In addition, there are several articles that will be required reading:
" As We May Think," Vannevar Bush
"Computer-Assisted Journalism," by Nora Paul
"Tabloids,"by Ellen Hume
"A Tour of Our Uncertain Future," by Katherine Fulton
"Virtual Reality Check," by Todd Oppenheimer

Student Evaluation (Grades)

You will be graded on weekly journals, writing and a final examination. You will be required to keep a journal throughout the semester. Entries will be made once every week and be 500 words and e-mailed to me at The entries should include a description of work done over the previous week, impressions about the course, and impressions about other online journalism efforts. A final examination will be given on the various areas studied during the course.

Course Outline

Week 1 - Introduction to Computer-Assisted Reporting

A list of listservsfor journalists

Try the ScavengerHunt

Readings: Chapters 6 and 7, Houston; Chapters 1-3 and 7, Reddick

Week 2 - Research and Reporting Electronically

The Strategyof the Search and Tips

Search Engines like Lycos, Yahoo,and the meta-searchers

John Garcia's Tutorial

Readings: Chapters 4-6, 9 and 10, Reddick

Week 3 - Thinking, Researching and Reporting Electronically

News Services and Specialized News


Readings: Chapters 11-14, Reddick

Week 4 -- Excel and Database Managers

Read about Excel

Practice your skills on Excel exercises

Readings: Chapters 1-4, 9, 10 Houston

Week 5- HTML and Interface Design

Basic HTML Design

What Makes A Good Page

An Approach to Good

An interview with designer Elizabeth Osder.

Week 6 -- Final Examination

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