Journalism and Society (COM 445) (Spring 2015)

Monday / Wednesday, 4:40 –6:20 1P/ Room 202

Dr. Christopher Anderson (Office: 1P / Room 232A)

Office Hours:            Monday / Wednesday, 12:30- 2:00

Required Texts

  • Online course reader

Course Description

Learning to “read” and write the news. Analysis of the ways in which news stories define our understanding of society. The course will consider both the effect of print and broadcast journalism on politics, values, and social standards and the pressures on the press, which define its values. Topics vary from term to term. For English majors and minors, this is designated as a writing course.

What is the relationship between journalism and culture? How does the news both inform citizens and bind them together in a community? What does it mean to say the job of the reporter was “invented?” What is the history of news?

This course, designed as a capstone class for journalism majors at CSI, will answer these questions and much more. After three years of focusing primarily skill-building classes, COM 445 will take a step back and encourage students to look at the big picture.  Why are journalists essential for society? Or are they? And even more importantly: how does journalism relate to democracy? That is the big question this class will to attempt to answer.

Course Learning Objectives

  • Students will consider both the effect of print and broadcast journalism on politics, values, and social standards and the pressures on the press that define its values.
  • Students will begin an analysis of the ways in which news stories define our understanding of society.

General Class Structure

If you look ahead to your schedule of classes, you’ll see that this class consists of four basic elements: readings, lectures, drills, and discussion, and class screenings:

Readings: You will be expected to complete a number of readings over the course of the semester, and your knowledge of these readings will be tested on the midterm paper and on the final. Many of the readings will be found on the internet as part of your online course packet. You many want to print these readings out, so make sure you have access to a good printer when you download them.

Lectures: At least the early part of each class will consist of a lecture and some general discussion of the topic at hand.  These lectures are not a substitute for the readings, but rather compliment and expand upon them.

Drills and Discussion: On some weeks, you will be given an in-class work assignment that you will complete, and then discuss in small groups. Usually, these discussions will occur during a week immediately preceded by lecture. In other words, many weeks will consist of a lecture one day and group work another.  Sometimes, the entire assignment will be completed in class; other times, there will some limited homework given the week before class in

Class Screenings: Occasionally, on other weeks, lectures will be followed by an in-class film screening. These screenings will directly relate to the subject mater at hand, and will often be followed by class discussion and conversation. It’s important to treat these media screenings as seriously as you would any other lecture or reading. They will be rigorously tested, as well.

Post-Screening Assignment

After each screening, you will have an assignment due the next class: a two page paper both summarizing the movie and explaining what messages you think the film contains about the larger relationship between journalism and society.


Your midterm will be given on March 11


Instead of a final exam, your final grade will be determined by an in-class “debate day.” Your grade will be assigned on the basis of three aspects of debate day: (1) a transcript of the preparation meeting for your “debate group”  (2) a three-page paper outlining the arguments of your debate group, and (3) The in-class debates on the final day. More information about debate day will be provided in class. This will count for 25% of your final grade.


Students are expected to attend every session of “”Journalism and Society.” According to college policy, unexcused absences exceeding 15% of course hours can result in a WU grade. 15% of the classes in this class would be two sessions or more. Bottom line: don’t miss class.

In the event that a student must miss a class due to religious observance or family emergency, students must provide advance notice, in writing, of days missed. In the event of class missed due to illness, students must provide the instructor with a doctors’ note. No exceptions.


Plagiarism is a major—perhaps the major—academic offense a student can commit as an undergraduate, graduate student, or as a scholar. Plagiarism is defined as either (1) failure to acknowledge the source of ideas not one’s own or (2) failure to indicate verbatim expressions not one’s own through quotation marks and footnotes. Plagiarism is a growing problem on college campuses across the nation, largely due to growing technological ease in accessing already composed papers and sources of information. For this reason, I personally will be relentlessly unforgiving regarding any suspected cases of plagiarism this semester—and I will check. There will probably not be a second chance in this regard, and I will recommend the strict enforce university policy for all cases of plagiarism. Bottom line: don’t do it. If you have any questions, please talk to me before you write rather than afterward. For more information, see the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity: For a guide on how to cite your sources well, see

In order to ensure a respectful and attentive classroom environment, electronic devices (mobile phones, PDAs, digital music players, etc.) must be turned off and stored during class. Use of such devices during class time is prohibited without permission granted by the professor, in cases of real emergency. Unapproved use of such devices (web-surfing, text-messaging, etc.) in class will count as unexcused lateness.

Grading Breakdown

This is the grading breakdown for the course. To receive a passing grade for the class, students must meet all requirements. Missed assignments will automatically result in a failing grade.

Because this is an upper-level college class, you will have a fairly significant amount of “original” (that is, non-textbook) reading and correspondingly fewer “daily” assignments.  If you are confused by any of the readings, or are having trouble keeping up, please be certain to come see me in my office hours right away.

Participation (20%)

In Class Drill Assignments (15%)

Take-Home Screening Review (15%)

Midterm (25%)

Debates (25%)

Schedule of Classes

January 28


Self-assessment: journalism classes so far.

February 2

READING: “How They Brought the Good News From Ghent to Aix,” Robert Browning; “A Cultural Approach to Communication,” James Carey

LECTURE: Thinking About What Journalism Does

February 4

IN-CLASS ASSIGNMENT: Hot topics in “the future and present of journalism” and class conversation

February 9            READING: “Imagined Communities,” (excerpts), Benedict Anderson


Journalism and Print

February 11            SCREENING: “His Girl Friday.”


February 18

The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century,” (excerpts) Wolfgang Schivelbusch; “Technology and Ideology: The Case of the Telegraph,” James Carey.

LECTURE: Technology, Journalism, and Communication

February 23

READING: The Strange Disappearance of Civic America,” Robert Putnam; “What if Civic Life Didn’t Die?” Michael Schudson; “What’s Really Killing Newspapers?” Jack Schafer

LECTURE: The public sphere debate

February 25

GROUP WORK: The Public Sphere Debate

March 2

READING: Reporting for Duty: The Bohemian Brigade, the Civil War, and the Social Construction of the Reporter,”Andie Tucher

LECTURE: The Early History of Journalism

March 4

READING: “Radical Chic.” (Tom Wolfe), “”Writing News and Telling Stories,” Robert Darnton.

LECTURE: What Are Tabloids Good For? Journalism and Stories

March 6

SCREENING: Tabloid Wars

March 9

GROUP WORK: Are tabloids trash?

March 11


March 16

READINGS TBA: current news in the media business

LECTURE AND DISCUSSION: Journalism in the news now (1)

March 18

READINGS TBA: current news in the media business

LECTURE AND DISCUSSION: Journalism in the news now (2)

March 23

READING: “Journalistic Use of Collective Memory,” Jill Eddy

LECTURE: Journalism and Memory

March 25

SCREENING: “All the President’s Men.”

March 30

READING: “Insider Baseball,” Joan Didion. “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail,” Hunter S. Thompson

LECTURE: Journalism and Politics

April 1

SCREENING: “The Perfect Candidate,” or “Streetfight.”


April  13

READING: Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America,” John McMillan (excerpts); Indymedia Readings, TBA (found at

LECTURE: The Alternative Press: Then and Now

April 15

SCREENING: “The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords.”

April 20

Jimmy’s World,” by Janet Cooke. “Janet Cooke’s Life,”   “Glass Houses,” by Jack Shafer. Slate, May 15, 1998; “Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception,” by Dan Barry The New York Times, May 11, 2003.

LECTURE: Journalism ethnics and the folks who it screwed up

April 22

SCREENING: “Shattered Glass.”

April 27

READING: “Post-Industrial Journalism.” Anderson, Bell, and Shirky.

LECTURE: Journalism and the Digital Age: Current Issues

April 29            SCREENING: “Page One.”

May 4

GROUP WORK: Debate Preparation

May 6

GROUP WORK: Debate Preparation (2)

May 11                        *** FINAL DEBATES ***


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