Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Syllabus and schedule

JCOM. 4010 --Media Ethics
Spring 2009
AnSci 303, Tuesdays 5:30 - 8 p.m.

Professor Nancy Williams
Office: AnSci 306
Office hours: MWF 10:30-noon; also by appointment
Phone: 797-3299
E-mail: nancy.williams@usu.edu

About this class: JCOM 4010 is an upper division journalism class focused on both skills and theory, and a DSS (Depth, Social Science) class for the university. Students who enroll are expected to write and think critically, at the level expected of seniors in college. Our discussions and readings should challenge you to find theories, reasons and logical arguments that support your most deeply held beliefs, help you organize and express those thoughts persuasively, and help you learn the language of moral reasoning. You might change your mind here -- and you may help change the minds of others.

Patterson and Wilkins, Media Ethics: Issues & Cases, 6th edition (McGraw-Hill)

I expect you to keep up on current news stories with ethical dimensions by reading a major daily Utah newspaper. The Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, and Logan Herald Journal are available at the Merrill-Cazier Library and Taggart Student Center; the Trib and the News are available in full text online. The New York Times is also available free online, although you’ll need to register at the site, http://nytimes.com.

CLASS BLOG: http://mediaethics-usu.blogspot.com
If you don’t have a Blogger account, you’ll need to register at http://blogger.com

ASSIGNMENTS & GRADING: Expect to be thinking, writing, and defending your arguments on the class blog, presenting & discussing orally in class, and applying theories of ethical thought to the daily news coverage you find in the media.

Blog participation – 100 points (5 points possible for each post you make that raises a substantive question or responds substantively to a question raised by someone else. (Print out the 20 posts you want to have considered for this part of your grade and put them in your portfolio at the end of the semester.)
Group project ~OR~ independent research paper – 100 points
Midterm exam - 100 points
Class participation (includes attendance and discussion participation) – 100 points
Film commentaries (SIX films, 25 points each) – 150 points
Final portfolio and self-evaluation paper – 100 points

Final class grades are based on your percentage of the 500 possible points. 94-100 percent is an A, 90-93 percent an A-, 87- 89 is a B+, 84-86 a B, 80-83 a B-, 77-79 a C+, 74-76 a C, 70-73 a C-, 64-69 a D, 63 and below an F.
Late assignments will incur grade penalties of 5 percent per day. Written assignments are due at the beginning of class on the due date.

SCHEDULE (I reserve the right to make changes if needed in order to reflect current news controversies.)

You must have completed the required readings before class on the date noted so you're prepared to discuss them. When there are current stories about media ethics in the news, I expect you to be familiar with them, particularly with any discussions and links that have been posted on the class blog. Always bring your book to class, as we’ll be using the cases in it for small group work.

Jan. 6 Welcome & introduction to class expectations. Archeological digs: lists & trees.

Jan. 13 Values: Identifying personal and professional ethics
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapters 1-2.
Discussion: Values: Professional vs. personal. Introduction to ethical decision making & models.
Blog post: (by Jan. 16): Introduce yourself. What are the values that count in your life?. How do they fit (or not) with what you believe the media value? If there’s a clash, is it resolvable if you’re looking at a future in a media profession?

Jan. 20 Ethical Decision-making
Film: “Absence of Malice” (1981, Sally Field and Paul Newman)
Blog: (by Jan. 23) This film contains a laundry list of ethics problems. Did Megan ever get it right? Discuss the problem(s) you found most problematic.

Jan. 27 Foundations of Ethical Thought: Virtue, Duty and Consequences and Justice theories
Reading: Using the text only as a starting point, go online and/or to the library and research on Aristotle, Mill, Kant and Rawls. Bring your notes to class.
Discussion: “Absence of Malice” and case studies, chapter 2
Blog: (By Jan. 30) Starting points: Write about your own ethical philosophy. Would you call your ethical values primarily virtued-based, utilitarian, duty-based, care-based, or communitarian – and why?
Film Commentary, Absence of Malice, due today,

Feb. 3 Loyalties: How do you choose between competing allegiances?
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, Chapter 4
Film: “Good Night and Good Luck” (Edward R. Murrow & the McCarthy era)
Blog: (by Feb. 6): Starting points: Is objectivity an appropriate standard for journalism? Would you allow a friend to be maligned (as Murrow does when his colleague Hollenbeck is tarred by McCarthy – to achive a greater moral goal? To whom do journalists owe loyalty? Where does loyalty rank on your scale of professional values?

Feb. 10 Information Ethics & the Search for Truth
Reading: Review Patterson & Wilkins, chapter 2; Google for background on Jason Blair and Stephen Glass cases.
Discussion: Truth & case studies from chaps. 2 and 4
Film Commentary, Good Night and Good Luck, due today
Blog: (By Feb. 13) Comment on any current local, state or national journalism ethics issue.

Feb. 17 Media and Deception
Film: “Shattered Glass” (2003)
Blog: (by Feb. 20) Starting points: Is deception by the news media ever justified? What about undercover reporting? What is the price for deception in the service of a good cause?

Feb. 24 Persuasion Ethics: What’s fair in advertising and public relations
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapters 3 and 5
Film commentary, Shattered Glass due today
Film: “Wag the Dog”
Blog: (by Feb. 27) Do a Top 10 list of your ethics. Which of your ethics might be for sale? At what price?.

March 3 Media Economics: Should profit drive journalism?
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapter 8
Discussion: :readings, Shattered Glass, Wag the Dog, Cases from chapter 8
Film Commentary, Wag the Dog, due today
Blog: (by March 7) Starting points: Why is the relationship between journalism and public relations both symbiotic and strained? Or, using Case VIII-A (advertising in Ms. Magazine), discuss your thoughts about any of the macro issues listed at the end of it.

March 10 NO CLASS -- spring break

March 17 MIDTERM exam
Blog: (by March 20) Starting points: Can journalism be saved? How would you do it?

March 24 Media and Social Justice
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapter 7
Blog: (by March 27) Starting points: How important is empathy as a journalistic value? What do you think of the US media coverage of slaughter on foreign shores (e.g., Sarajevo, Rwanda)? What kind of grade would you give Western media for their coverage of international conflicts?

March 31 Privacy in the Global Village
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapter 6
Film: “The Year of Living Dangerously”
Blog: (by April 3) Starting points: Utah keeps a database of convicted sex offenders on the Internet at http://corrections.utah.gov/asp-bin/sonar.asp Do you see any potential ethical problems here?

April 7 Ethics in New Media
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapter 9
Film commentary, The Year of Living Dangerously, due today.
Discussion: readings, The Year of Living Dangerously, Cases, chapters 6 & 9
Blog: (by April 10) Starting points: Conflict is usually listed as a traditional news value. How can media adhere to that value without sacrificing the ethical news values of accuracy, tenacity and equity? Objectivity: Is it an anachronism in an era of 24/7 news coverage and blog commentaries?

April 14 Empathy for human suffering
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapters 10 & 11
Film: “Welcome to Sarajevo”
Blog: ( by April 17) Starting points: Is it more important for journalists to be objective or empathetic? What are the ethical implications for journalism and democracy as media ownership becomes concentrated in fewer, wealthier corporations? Should the media be concerned about social justice? Do people who can’t do anything to alleviate human suffering have a right to look at images of it?

April 21 Moral adulthood: Into the great wide open
Film commentary: Welcome to Sarajevo,, due today
Group project presentations
Blog:(by April 24) “An important part of moral development is the recognition that motive, not consequence, is the critical factor in deciding whether an act is ethical.” What does that sentence mean to you?

April 28 by 4 p.m.: Final paper and portfolio due. You may turn these in at the JCOM office, AnSci 310.

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