Policies

The following policies apply to all of the courses I teach at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Most of them are applicable to every class, though a few are targeted at just the upper level courses. All of my students are expected to read, understand and know these – not knowing these policies is not an acceptable excuse for violating them.

ATTENDANCE

Attendance is mandatory, for as in the real world, work is done by those who show up. Not showing up for class will greatly affect your ability to succeed in this course. Each unexcused absence will result in a five point (one half letter) grade reduction in your final grade.

As visual journalists, the latest you ever want to be is on time. While a reporter can ask about what they missed, we can’t. Being up to 15 minutes late will be counted as one half of an absence; beyond 15 minutes is considered a full absence. If the door is closed when you arrive, you’re late.

Attendance will be taken at the start of each class.

Any student who does not show up for the first class will be dropped. Photojournalism takes commitment – commitment of time, commitment of mind.

If you are ill, a note from the health center or other evidence can be brought to me to excuse the absence. Your health – as well as that of your classmates’ – is important, take care of yourself.

If you are struggling with this course or have something else going on, talk to me about it – there are lots of reasons for an excused absence but you must discuss them with me prior to the absence. Not all of them will be accepted, of course. Please note there is a difference between discussion and notification – emailing me you’re not coming to class doesn’t count, you must have an accepted response from me.

COMMUNICATION

We are in the business of communication, but one of the largest issues I have faced with students is communication. My office hours are posted on the syllabus and my door and I am one of those faculty members who is here almost all the time – if my door is open, come on in. There are some times where I may say I don’t have time to talk (usually in the 10-15 minutes prior to a class), but they are very rare.

I check email every morning and afternoon with a high level of regularity. (I do check it sporadically throughout the day, but I try to get everything cleared out in the morning and late afternoon.) It would be rare for me not to respond to an email within 24 hours – if you haven’t heard from me, it’s okay to resend the email, I won’t be offended.

While email is the officially accepted form of communication at the university, you are more than welcome to call my office or send me a message on Twitter or IM – let me know what I can do to help you learn.

CONVENTIONS & CAPTIONS

Due to the volume of work you’ll produce (and I’ll critique), there are specific naming conventions that need to be followed. These will be explained in class, in excruciating detail, and it is imperative that you use them – improperly named files will not be accepted and will be considered a missed deadline.

Every image must have a caption attached to it. Your assignments will be submitted electronically and those images need to have a full, Associated Press-style caption attached to it that includes contact information for you and your subjects.

DEADLINES

Deadlines are sacred in the news business. Therefore, any assignment not turned in by the assigned deadline will not be accepted and assigned a grade of zero. All assignments will be submitted via a dropbox on eLC. Each assignment will have both a date and a time deadline (the default time being 12 noon on the deadline day unless otherwise specified).

Note that if your upload to eLC is not completed before the deadline, eLC will not accept your submission and that will be considered a missed deadline. The system records when you have logged in and when you have submitted assignments. As you can submit from anywhere with an internet connection, make sure you are budgeting enough time to account for slow upload times. Details for how your work will be submitted will be explained in class and must be followed precisely – having the work done but not turned in properly is a missed deadline. Grady College is a professional school and professionalism is expected in this class.

ETHICS

I am a long-standing member of the National Press Photographers Association, the largest organization for visual journalists in the world. You should be aware of and follow their Code of Ethics – that is the standard that is expected in the industry and my courses. (This is, of course, in addition to the University of Georgia’s Culture of Honesty.)

You should note that, as journalists, we never cover people or organizations we are associated with – that is a clear conflict of interest. This means friends, family members or co-workers are off limits for subjects. It also means coverage of any organization or its members that you are involved in, including fraternities, sororities, club sports or student groups, are not allowed.

In the professional realm, ethical transgressions can get you fired. In this academic setting, ethical transgressions will result in a grade of zero on that assignment without the ability to resubmit it.

EQUIPMENT

The Department of Journalism has made a strong commitment to the Visual Journalism program and supplies some of the equipment you will need to complete your assignments. When you check out equipment, you will be fully responsible for it. If it is lost, stolen or damaged you will be required to reimburse the college for any expenses. Failure to do so may result in a financial hold being placed on your university accounts.

Equipment checkout comes in two basic forms – semester-long and short-term. In upper level shooting courses, every student will be able to check out a camera kit that will allow them to complete every assignment. That kit will be due back on the same day that final portfolios are due. Failure to return the complete kit will result in a $50 per day fine.

Short-term equipment will generally be due back in 48 hours (you will be given a return date when you check it out). Failure to return equipment on time will, again, result in a $50 per day, per item fine. Repeated violations will result in a revocation of your checkout privileges.

Almost all of our camera lenses have filters to protect the front elements. Those filters must be kept on the lenses – if they are removed, checkout privileges will be revoked and semester-long kits will be recalled.

If you run into any problems with any equipment, please let me know immediately. There are many things that I can fix but there are also some things that we can repair inexpensively if we know about them right away. Particularly on the short-term checkouts, if something isn’t working, please don’t return it without letting me know there is a problem. That could send another student out on an assignment with malfunctioning equipment.

Failure to notify me of problems may result in revocation of checkout privileges.

GENERAL CLASS DECORUM

The class you are enrolled in is a small community – my expectation is that you will be fully involved in the class at all times.

You have chosen to come to the University of Georgia, to apply to the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and to enroll in this particularly course. Unless you can show me a court order stating you must take this class, you are here of your own free will. This is not, in any way, shape or form, a required class.

If you are being disruptive in class or not attentive, I will ask you to leave the class. If you fall asleep in class (I know, I can’t believe I’m putting this in here, either), you will be woken and dismissed from class and marked as absent. I take your education (and this course’s material) very seriously, I expect you to, as well.

Laptops and smartphones are not to be used during class unless you are given directives to use them. (You will be told in advance that you will need your laptop.) If your laptop or smartphone is out during class without permission, you will be counted as absent for the day. No warnings will be given.

GRADING

The intent of an education is to learn, not to just earn a grade. Because of that, any assignment that is turned in on-time can be redone for a different grade. Redos are due two weeks after the graded work is returned to the class. (The final portfolios are excepted from this policy.)

And because I believe that your time here should be spent learning, I put far more emphasis on critiques than I do grades. To accomplish that you will get video critiques of your work on some assignments. These are narrated screen captures where I talk about what is working in your images, what needs help and offer demonstrations of any technical things that could help you out. I expect you to watch these (you’ll be emailed an unlisted video link) and if you have questions to ask them. You will also get a graded rubric in those emails, but pay much more attention to the video. We will discuss the rubric in class, along with the death clause in it.

Images that fit the following general guidelines will fall into these grade ranges:

A – Professional quality work. Excellent technical execution – sharp, properly exposed and toned. Excellent composition – visual hierarchy is well established, a reader will be able to differentiate the primary subject from foreground and background items. Content is of value to the target audience and hits on the ideals of historical, sociological, psychological and aesthetic standards discussed in class. Well controlled with excellent moments. Flawless captions.

B – Journeyman photojournalism. Strong technical execution – sharp, well exposed and toned. Good composition that allows the reader to understand the given subject. Competent storytelling image that is clean and controlled. Good moments that advance the story reported. Adequate captions.

C – Entry level photojournalism. Adequate technical execution – sharp, some exposure issues. Problematic composition that struggles to communicate. A “record shot” that accompanies a story but does not offer any insight into the issue or event documented. Problematic captions.

D – Not publishable. Poor technical execution – not sharp, improperly exposed or poor toning. Unclear or unorganized composition. Content is not relevant to the target audience. Incomplete captions.

F – Not acceptable, not publishable. Major technical issues. Unclear subject matter. Content of no journalistic value. Misspellings or inaccurate captions. Missed deadline.

CONTENT

I give you a great deal of freedom in choosing your story topics, but there are some limits. Students in the upper-level classes (Advanced Photojournalism and Documentary Photojournalism) cannot use any campus-related topics for their assignments – the expectation is you are out in the larger community.

There is one other area that is critical to me – you are absolutely not allowed to photograph anything or anyone on or near train tracks. Yes, I know they make great leading lines. But they are also deadly – there have been multiple instances of photographers and subjects being killed on train tracks. You will not be safe.

If you submit an image made on train tracks, it will be an automatic zero and will be sent to the police – all of the tracks around Athens are private property, you will have been trespassing.