JMC 480 News Parody syllabus

Spring 2016
Class meets in person 5-6:50 p.m. Mondays in Gist 215
And (as a hybrid course) meets online with Wednesday and Friday deadlines for posts, comments and Padlet contributions


Instructor: Deidre Pike
Email: (best way to reach me)
Phone, office location and hours are listed on Moodle syllabus

Twitter: @deidrepike

Humboldt State University will be the campus of choice for individuals who seek above all else to improve the human condition and our environment… We will be renowned for social and environmental responsibility and action.                          —HSU Vision Statement


News Parody: Theory and Practice explores the traditions and contemporary practice of using the satirical device of “parody” to deliver news media in ways that inform people and that provoke critical thinking. Says Aaron McGruder, creator of “The Boondocks” cartoon: “Good satire goes beyond the specific point it’s trying to make and teaches you how to think critically. Even after your favorite cartoonist retires or [Stephen] Colbert wraps it up, you’re not left believing everything they’re telling you.”

With this in mind, we will look at historic examples of satire and parody, from Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal” to episodes of “South Park,” The Onion, “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” and John Oliver’s comic investigative journalism.

We will put theory into practice to craft our own parody news in print and multimedia products for Humboldt County. This experimental class might be a bit of a bumpy ride. So climb in and hang on. It’s going to be demanding, possibly nerve-wracking, occasionally offensive … and fun. I hope.

Student learning outcomes

As a course that explores using parody as a means of communicating “truthiness” about current events, issues, and people, this class meets the HSU learning outcomes, which are as follows:

  • Effective communication through written and oral modes. (The course requires weekly written analyses of parody news. We will create our own written and multimedia news parody for Humboldt County.)
  • Critical and creative thinking skills in acquiring a broad base of knowledge and applying it to complex issues. (Exactly!)
  • Competence in a major area of study. (We are going to build on professional journalistic skills to do parody news.)
  • Appreciation for and understanding of an expanded world perspective by engaging respectfully with a diverse range of individuals, communities and viewpoints. (The challenge of doing this in our class – of key importance — will be memorable, I promise.)

Required materials:

Readings will be distributed in class, via Moodle or posted to our class website, You will need high-speed Internet and access to HSU computer labs with the Adobe Creative Suite, iMovie and Audacity, an audio editor.


Attendance in Gist 215 (200 points)
This hybrid class meets in person 13 times. You need to be there for every class. If you have to miss one class with an excuse, that’s understandable. If you plan on missing two classes, see me asap. If you think you will miss more than two classes, drop News Parody today. Points will be awarded for attendance and for our in-class discussions, critiques, brainstorming and awkward social experiments. This class will demand much of your time and attention. We’re moving fast. If you miss class, it will be difficult to keep up, not to mention problematic for your comedy team.

Hybrid portion (200 points):
Most of our online work will transpire on our class blog, You will all have a chance to find and post parody content and kick off a discussion of what makes it work. (See list for your assigned week.)
Each week you will look at the two posts by your classmates and participate in reverse engineering, joining an online class conversation about this particular example and why it works or how it fails. Second, you will post links to three local stories with parody potential to each week’s Padlet, which will be linked from the HSU Parody website.

Projects and assignments (1,100 points combined):

  • Humboldt Public Officials as South Park Characters Trading Cards (100 points) (group):
  • Onion-style print story with compelling headline (100 points) (individual)
  • Short comic audio podcast. (100 points) (individual)
  • Comic audio slideshow or video (100 points) (individual)
  • Parody brochure for issue, group or event in the news (100 points) (group)
  • Three parody videos, animations or audio slideshows (Total: 300 points) (group)
  • Final parody project (200 points) (group)
  • April Fool’s Day newspaper (100 points) (class)

Total: 1,500 points


Moodle gradebook is used in this class to communicate grades to you but not to make final calculations.

To calculate your grade at any point:

  • Add the number of points you’ve earned to date.
  • Add the number of points possible for those assignments.
  • Divide the first number by the second number.
  • Look below for the letter grade equivalent.

Grade scale: A+ (97-100), A (94-96.9), A- (90-93.9), B+ (87-89.9), B (84-86.9), B- (80-83.9), C+ (77-79.9), C (74-76.9), C- (70-73.9), D+ (67-69.9), D (60-66.9), F (59.9 or below).


Many in-class and online projects will be graded as credit/no-credit. If you turn in work on time to specifications, you get full credit. If not, points reductions will ensue. Creative work will be gauged for its creativity, its attention to detail, and professionalism. I value experimentation so playing it safe is not going to ensure a good grade. Taking chances and obliterating boxes will be rewarded. (If this does not happen, please remind me that I established this practice at the start of this wild ride.) Some pieces will fail – no matter how hard you try. Some will fail spectacularly. These failures have to happen so we get better. And that’s how you will earn an A.

Yes, in news parody, you can fail and get an A. Crazy. I know.


In a commencement speech, author Neil Gaiman discusses three keys to success for today’s media makers. One, be competent in crafting a tasty media product. Two, be likeable. Three, make deadlines reliably. Gaiman suggests that success doesn’t necessarily require all three. Two out of three will do. Bottom line: If you plan to be late with something, 1) the work must be amazing and 2) you’re confident that I like you. Even so, I won’t give you full credit for late work. Because journalism.



At Humboldt State, we take comic news seriously

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