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Class Website:
Class Mopad:

Amanda Hickman
Office: 419i
Phone: 917/655-2579

Course objectives
This ten week module will introduce you to a variety of interactive storytelling forms and will combine storytelling skills, especially creating content appropriate to the form, with fundamental technical skills that will serve as the foundation for your interactive work at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Course outcomes

We’re going to cover four story forms that we think touch on a range of skills you can use throughout your career. Sometimes this class will feel like a whirlwind, and you won’t have a chance to perfect every story you produce. That’s okay! If you want to build on what you learn this semester, take newsgames or data visualization or take advantage of coaching to incorporate these into your stories in other classes. Students will leave this module with experience:

  • Writing a basic HTML page
  • Using an FTP client to publish content online
  • Incorporating external javascript libraries to create basic interactions
  • Crafting good questions to ensure they get useful technical assistance when they need it
  • Creating basic maps and charts that convey information clearly
  • Reporting and producing stories with data and interactivity

Students will also have experience telling meaningful and complete stories in interactive formats where space is at a premium.

Syllabus in Brief

Form Pitch Due Revision
Slideshow Week 7 Week 8 Week 12
Map Week 8 Week 9,10 Week 13
Quiz Week 9 Week 11 Week 14
Chart Week 10 Week 12 Week 15

Story Guidelines

Your work for this class should be your own original reporting. However, if you’ve done reporting for another class that you’d like to expand on in an interactive project, we encourage you to return to stories you know well.

Every story you produce for our class should include clear source information for any data or images that you did not produce yourself.

Specific Story Requirements

  • Slideshow: your slideshow should include six to ten different images with captions. Each caption should be 20 to 100 words.
  • Map: your map can be a map of points or shapes, but should include a clear, thoughtful title and a caption that tells us why we’re looking at this map. Your caption should be between 50 and 150 words.
  • Quiz: your quiz should include four to six questions with two to four possible answers each.
  • Chart: your chart assignment should use data with news interest and inlude a title and caption that direct readers to a clear takeaway (which is to say, they should know why they are looking at this chart)

Remember: titles and captions are part of your story. Work is not complete without them.

About the Faculty

Amanda Hickman works at the intersection of journalism and civic engagement, and values reporting that makes it easier for individuals to participate in democratic processes. As program director at DocumentCloud, she helped reporters around the world analyze, annotate, and publish primary source documents. Amanda managed development of a series of games about public policy issues as Gotham Gazette‘s director of technology. She has spent more than a decade reporting on local and international events and working directly with community based organizations to understand, and draw their membership into, the political process. Amanda has taught at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, NYU’s Gallatin School and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

It is a serious ethical violation to take any material created by another person and represent it as your own original work. Any such plagiarism will result in serious disciplinary action, possibly including dismissal from the CUNY J-School. Plagiarism may involve copying text from a book or magazine without attributing the source, or lifting words, code, photographs, videos, or other materials from the Internet and attempting to pass them off as your own. Please ask the instructor if you have any questions about how to distinguish between acceptable research and plagiarism.

In addition to being a serious academic issue, copyright is a serious legal issue.

Never “lift” or “borrow” or “appropriate” or “repurpose” graphics, audio, or code without both permission and attribution. This guidance applies to scripts, audio, video clips, programs, photos, drawings, and other images, and it includes images found online and in books.

Create your own graphics, seek out images that are in the public domain or shared via a creative commons license that allows derivative works, or use images from the AP Photo Bank or which the school has obtained licensing.

If you’re repurposing code, be sure to keep the original licensing intact. If you’re not sure how to credit code, ask.

The exception to this rule is fair use: if your story is about the image itself, it is often acceptable to reproduce the image. If you want to better understand fair use, the Citizen Media Law Project is an excellent resource. </a>

When in doubt: ask.


Deadlines are real: we plan lessons around the assumption that you will have pitches to workshop when pitches are due. If you don’t, it disrupts the whole class. So deadlines should not be missed without exceptionally good reason, and your instructor should always be notified in advance.

If you’re stumped or stuck or worried that you are falling behind, talk to me. I can help get you caught up and unstuck.

Absences and Tardiness

Participation and attendance required and are important to your success in the class.

Please be on time for class and back to class from breaks. Repeated tardiness will result in a reduction of grade in participation.

Software Requirements

Online Accounts

  • CartoDB (make sure you are getting a discounted academic account. The regular free account IS NOT ADEQUATE.)
  • JSFiddle
  • GitHub

Week by Week

We will begin meeting on Week 6 of the semester. Please come to class Week 6 with Filezilla, TextWrangler and Mou installed on your computer. All three are available free of charge.

Week 6 | Thu Oct 9 / Mon Oct 20

Discussion: Welcome. Slideshows and what makes them work. Pre-pitch possible slideshows.

Hands-on: make a basic HTML page in bootstrap and upload it to Digital Storage.

Homework: make a new page called “week6.html”. On that page, describe your slideshow pitch. Use 2-3 paragraphs and at least one anchor tag. Your first draft will be due Week 8!

Week 7 | Thu Oct 16 / Mon Oct 27

Due: Slideshow pitches, URL for HTML excercise.

Discussion: Who has ideas for stories down the line? Are they interesting? What would make them interesting. You should be looking ahead!

Maps and mapping – how to make a map that tells a story.

Hands on: Pivot tables to summarize data, HTML and FTP Review

Homework: Post the first draft of your slidshow on Digital Storage (name it “slideshow_draft.html”); Post a map pitch on Digital Storage (name it “map_pitch.html”); Use pivot tables to summarize data.

Week 8 | Thu Oct 23 / Mon Nov 3

Due: Draft of slideshow, Map pitches, 311 pivot table exercise

Discussion: Ideas for stories down the line? Keep looking ahead! What makes a quiz work as a story? Making games fun.

Hands on: Making a map in CartoDB

Homework: Post the first draft of your map (map_draft.html) and a pitch for a quiz based story (quiz_pitch.html) on digital storage.

Week 9 | Thu Oct 30 / Mon Nov 10

Due: Map draft on CartoDB, Quiz pitches

Homework: Post the first draft of your quiz (quiz_draft.html) and a pitch for a chart based story (chart_pitch.html)

Week 10 | Thu Nov 6 / Mon Nov 17

Due: Draft map, Revised quiz pitch, rough chart pitches

Hands on: Making our first quiz using the Mother Jones framework.

Discussion: Storytelling through charts; what makes a chart-based story complete?

Homework: Post the first draft of your quiz (quiz_draft.html) and a pitch for your chart (chart_pitch.html)

Week 11 | Thu Nov 13 / Mon Nov 24

Due: Draft Quiz, Chart pitch

Discussion: Reviewing chart based stories.

Hands on: Digging into highcharts: Starting a chart in JS Fiddle; Using Mr Data Converter

Discussion: Back to the beginning – what stands out in the slideshows we filed Week 8?

Hands on: Troubleshooting slideshows; using Excel formulas

Homework: Post the first draft of your chart (chart_draft.html) and your quiz pitch (quiz_pitch.html). Come in with a well thought out idea for a chart-based story.

Week 12 | Thu Nov 20 / Mon Dec 1

Due: Draft Chart, Slideshow revision

Discussion: What stands out in the maps we filed week 9?

Week 13 | Thu Dec 4 / Mon Dec 8

Due: Map revision

Discussion: Maps from week 5, what would make those stronger?

Hands on: Troubleshooting map problems.

Week 14 | Thu Dec 11 / Mon Dec 15


Hands on: Troubleshooting chart problems; getting more out of excel

Week 15 | Thu Dec 18 / Mon no class

Due: Optional: Quiz revision

CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

© Fall 2014 Amanda Hickman