CRITICAL ISSUES IN JOURNALISM
J310 (Unique No. 06315)
Spring 2005

 

Class: T&Th 8-9:15 a.m., Burdine 106
Professor: Bob Jensen
Office: CMA 5.134D; 471-1990
Office Hours: W 8:30-11:30 a.m. and by appointment
email: rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu or rjensen@mail.utexas.edu
web page: http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/home.htm
 

COURSE DESCRIPTION:

   This course is designed to (1) survey the various forms of contemporary journalism, with an eye toward helping students make career choices, and (2) critique those same forms, with an eye toward helping students become better journalists and more engaged citizens.
   I would subtitle this course "developing the tools needed for intellectual self-defense in the United States," an especially important task for journalists. The underlying goal of this course is to help us sharpen skills that our society tends to dull -- the ability to question assumptions, evaluate evidence, analyze systems and structures of power, and generate knowledge that can lead to a more just and sustainable world.
   We will use the book News: The Politics of Illusion to identify strengths and weaknesses in contemporary journalistic practices. From there, we will look specifically at how the politics of race play out in U.S. newsrooms by reading Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media. Finally, we will read a book-length journalistic effort, The New Rulers of the World, to ask questions about what kind of journalism is most needed by citizens in a democracy.
   In this course we will engage in critique, which is not a solely negative enterprise and is not synonymous with complaining, whining, or mean-spiritedness. To critique a practice or institution is to examine it to determine its nature so that we can understand its possibilities and limitations. Critique can result in criticism, which sometimes justifiably can be harsh. But critique also can reveal the strength of an argument or practice. Critique is a thoughtful enterprise, the goal of which is to deepen our understanding of an issue or problem.

TEXTBOOKS:

<>Bennett, W. Lance, News: The Politics of Illusion, 6th ed. (New York: Longman, 2005).
Newkirk, Pamela, Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media (New York: New York University Press, 2002).
Pilger, John, The New Rulers of the World (London: Verso, 2003).  <>

READING PACKET: At UT Duplicating Center, student union.

Ueland, Brenda, If You Want to Write, 2nd ed. (St. Paul: Schubert Club, 1983), Chapter 1, “Everybody is Talented, Original and Has Something Important to Say,” pp. 3-9.

Cleage, Pearl, Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot (New York: Ballantine, 1993), “Why I Write,” pp. 3-7.

Orwell, George, The Orwell Reader (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1956), “Why I Write,” pp. 390-396.

Abu-Jamal, Mumia, All Things Censored (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2000), “Lethal Censorship,” by Noelle Hanrahan, ed., pp. 21-30; “Live from Death Row,” pp. 202-204; and “Media Is the Mirage,” pp. 229-230.

Damer, T. Edward, Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments, 5th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2005), Introduction and Chapters 1-4, pp. 1-51.

Croteau, David, and William Hoynes, Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences, 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002), Chapter 5, “Media and Ideology,” pp. 159-168.

Herman, Edward S., The Myth of the Liberal Media (New York: Peter Lang, 1999), Chapter 2, “The Propaganda Model,” pp. 23-29.

Baker, Brent H., How to Identify, Expose, and Correct Liberal Media Bias (Alexandria, VA: Media Research Center, 1994), Introduction, pp. 1-7; and Chapter 1, “Identify,” pp. 9-51.

Webb, Gary, “The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays On,” in Kristina Borjesson, ed., Into the Buzzsaw (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2002), pp. 295-310.

Kornbluh, Peter, “The Storm over ‘Dark Alliance,’” Columbia Journalism Review, January/February 1997, pp. 33-39.


SCHEDULE

J310/Spring 2005

<>WEEK 1: January 18 and 20
introductions

<>WEEK 2: January 25 and 27
topic: journalists: who, what, why?
reading: Ueland, Cleage, Orwell, Abu-Jamal   <>  

<>WEEK 3: February 1 and 3
topic: news

reading: Bennett, Chapters 1-3
  <> 

<>WEEK 4: February 8 and 10
topic: more about news

reading: Bennett, Chapters 4-6

*exam #1 on Thursday*
 <>  <>

WEEK 5: February 15 and 17
topic: just a bit more about news

reading: Bennett, Chapters 7-8

*writing assignment #1 due on Thursday*
<>

WEEK 6: February 22 and 24
topic: arguing and ideology

reading: Damer, Croteau/Hoynes
<>

WEEK 7: March 1 and 3

topic: competing critiques

reading: Herman, Baker
 <>  <>

WEEK 8: March 8 and 10

*exam #2 on Tuesday*
topic: media race

reading: Newkirk, Chapter 1

Spring break: March 14-18

WEEK 9: March 22 and 24
topic: margins and mainstream
reading: Newkirk, Chapters 2 and 3
*writing assignment #2 due on Thursday*

<>WEEK 10: March 29 and 31
topic: challenging power

reading: Newkirk, Chapters 4 and 5


<>WEEK 11: April 5 and 7
topic: dilemmas and double standards

reading: Newkirk, Chapters 6 and 7

*exam #3 on Thursday*
<>

WEEK 12: April 12 and 14
topic: cocaine press: power, ideology, race?

reading: Webb, Kornbluh


<>WEEK 13: April 19 and 21
*writing assignment #3 due on Tuesday*
topic: a sense of history and identity

reading: Pilger, Introduction, “The Model Pupil,” and “The Chosen One
<>

WEEK 14: April 26 and 28
topic: a critique of power

reading: Pilger, “Paying the Price” and “The Great Game”


<>WEEK 15: May 3 and 5
*exam #4 on Tuesday*
big finish

*Final Exam (exam #5)*: Tuesday, May 17, 2 p.m.


GRADES:

   Your final grade will be based on:

   1. 4 exams (10 points each)                                   40 points

   2. 3 writing assignments (20 points each)             60 points

 

   A = 93-100  points

   B = 85-92.5 points

   C = 77-84.5 points

   D = 69-76.5 points

 

1. EXAMS:

   There will be five exams during the semester. We will count your four best grades. This means you may take all five exams and drop your lowest grade or miss one exam without penalty.

   Each of the exams will be 20 multiple-choice questions. Each of the first four exams will cover material from the lectures and readings for that segment of the course. The fifth exam, during the final-exam period, will be comprehensive, covering the entire semester.

   Because you can skip one of the exams, no make-up exams will be given except in special circumstances. So, if you blow off the first exam and then are sick for the fifth one, you're out of luck. Common sense suggests you should take all the exams.

 

2. WRITING ASSIGNMENTS:

   Your assignments must be typewritten and double-spaced on two pages (600-800 words). Do not write more than that; we will not read beyond the second page. Use 1-inch margins and 11- or 12-point type. Put your name and the assignment number at the top of each page. Do not use a title page. Staple the pages; no paper clips, no plastic binders, no folders.

   Answer the question in your own words. In formulating your answer, you may talk with others. But the final answer and writing must be your own. Plagiarism -- of published material or another student's work -- will be punished according to university regulations. For more on academic integrity and plagiarism, see http://www.utexas.edu/depts/dos/sjs/academicintegrity.html.

   Your assignments will be graded on form and content. The quality of thinking and writing counts. Sloppy work will be penalized.

   Keep copies of all assignments you turn in and keep your graded assignments until the end of the semester. A lot of papers will change hands in this class, and sometimes papers get lost. If there are discrepancies between our records and yours, you need to have your graded assignments to help us resolve the problem.

   Papers are due on the class period marked on the schedule. Late papers will not be accepted without prior approval. If an emergency arises, contact me as soon as possible. Papers cannot be rewritten for a higher grade.


 

SOME ADVICE ON WRITING J310 ASSIGNMENTS

 

1. ANSWER THE QUESTIONS YOU ARE ASKED. This seems obvious enough, but this is where students typically lose the most points. Don't begin writing until you are sure you understand what you are being asked to write about. If you are unclear about the intent of the assignment ask the professor.

 

2. DON'T ANSWER QUESTIONS THAT AREN'T ASKED. Students sometimes have a tendency to ramble on about things that aren't directly related to the assignment. Don't pad your answer with unrelated information.

 

3. DON'T TURN IN MORE THAN TWO PAGES. If you think you need more space to answer the question, you probably don't understand the question. Read #1 and #2 again.

 

4. DON'T ASSUME THE TA KNOWS WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. Explain things clearly in your answer. Otherwise, we'll assume you don't know what you are talking about. Make sure your argument or assessment proceeds in a clear, logical fashion.

 

5. DON'T TURN IN FEWER THAN TWO PAGES. If you think you have answered the question in one page, you probably have not fully explained yourself. Read #4 again.

 

6. WRITE IN COMPLETE SENTENCES. Don't just list elements of your answer or jot down sentence fragments. Quality of writing counts.

 

7. REMEMBER THE RULES. Use 11- or 12-point type. Double space your answer. Use normal margins (about 1 inch). Don't squeeze more on one page by using tiny type or eliminating the margins. That makes us cranky.

 

8. IF YOU DON'T THINK YOUR GRADE ON AN ASSIGNMENT IS FAIR, don't be afraid to ask for an explanation. The first step is to talk with the TA who graded your paper. If you want a formal re-evaluation of your grade, write a short (one paragraph to one page) explanation of why you think a higher grade is warranted. Be specific. If you can't work it out with the TA, ask the professor to resolve the dispute.

 

 

Important Note for Students with Disabilities: The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259, 471-4641 TTY.