I threw my Business Reporting class into the fire, assigning them today as their first writing assignment of the semester to write 10 paragraphs on the earnings of a large publicly traded company. I gave them the press release and we spent the bulk of the class time talking about how to read an income statement for a company.
If teaching this class for the past five years is any indication, here is what I expect:
1. First off, a lot of e-mails and office visits between now and Friday, when the story is due;
2. A few students writing millions with an M when they should have been writing billions with a B;
3. At least one student will not understand the difference between revenue and net income, even though a lot of time was spent on this in class;
4. More than half of the students will write impressive stories that show they understood what I was talking about;
5. A handful of students will go beyond the basic requirements I laid out and look up how the company’s stock performed on the day the earnings were announced and how the earnings were compared to projections;
6. Nobody will work on this tonight. It’s a home basketball game vs. Boston College.
Starting off the class with an earnings story is part of immersing the class into what business reporters face every day. I started the immersion process on Monday by giving them an annual report and 10-K to read. Some of the students admitted that they only got through about 10 pages of the 10-K.
NOTE: It only took until 4:46 p.m. for a student in the class to e-mail me about this posting. Hey, at least it’s one student who will know what to do for the story.