WWS 334/SOC 319
Media and Public Policy
Spring 2018. Tuesdays, 1:30-4:20 p.m..
Note: This course has been redesigned since last year and now cross-listed with Sociology. Each week will focus on a central controversy about the media, with selected background readings. Requirements: weekly response memos, active participation in discussions, and a choice between a term paper and final exam.
Where to find the readings:
= Click on the link.
= Electronic Reserve or Blackboard course documents
= recommended for purchase.
February 6. Should the law allow media to publish classified documents, hacked emails, or other
information that may have been illegally disclosed? And when should journalists publish, or not publish, that information? From the Pentagon Papers to Wikileaks and the Panama Papers
Randall Bezanson, How Free Can the Press Be?
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 5-57 (Pentagon Papers case) and 163-208 (Bartnicki v. Vopper).
"The symbiotic relationship between WikiLeaks and the press," Columbia Journalism Review, Nov. 18 2016,
Helen Lewis, "When Is It Ethical to Publish Stolen Data?" Nieman Reports, June 1, 2015.
February 13. Have the tech giants (Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft) become too powerful in the marketplace and public sphere and, if so, what should be done?
Jonathan Taplin, Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy (Little, Brown, 2017), Introduction, Ch. 1.
Josh Marshall, "Yep, Platform Monopolies Are a Thing" and "A Serf on Google's Farm," talkingpointsmemo.com, May 9 and September 1, 2017.
Yochai Benkler, "Degrees of Freedom, Dimensions of Power," Daedalus (2016), 145: 18-32.
Roger McNamee, "How to Fix Facebook--Before It Fixes Us," Washington Monthly (January-February-March 2018).
Greg Ip, "The Antitrust Case against Facebook, Google, and Amazon," Wall Street Journal January 16, 2018.
Aja Romano, Facebook Wants to Show You More News from Your Friends - and Less News from Journalists," Vox, January 12, 2018.
February 20. How can newspapers and other "legacy" news media adapt to the online world and social media--and will they?
Michael Barthel, "Despite subscription surges for largest U.S. newspapers, circulation and revenue fall for industry overall," Pew Research Center, June 1, 2017.
Paul Starr, "Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to a New Era of Corruption)," The New Republic (March 4, 2009), 28-35.
Gabriel Snyder, "Keeping up with The Times: The New York Times Claws Its Way into the Future," Wired, February 12, 2017,
Jeff Bezos, "The Future of Newspapers," July 13, 2017.
February 27. Was the Federal Communications Commission correct or mistaken in two decisions 30 years apart: a) rescinding the "fairness doctrine" in 1987; b) ending "net neutrality" in 2017?
Kent Middleton et al.,"Regulation of Public Issue Programming: The Fairness Doctrine," in The Law of Public Communication (Boston: Pearson, 2012),323-326.
Bezanson,How Free Can the Press Be? "Freedom to Decide What to Publish," 58-82 (Miami Herald v. Tornillo).
"The Internet is Dying. Repealing Net Neutrality Hastens that Death," New York Times, Nov. 29, 2017.
"Net Neutrality, For and Against: Two former FCC commissioners--one Democrat, one Republican--weigh in," Wall Street Journal, Dec. 14, 2017.
Tim Wu, "Why the Courts Will Have to Save Net Neutrality," New York Times, Nov. 22, 2017.
March 6. Why have journalists and the media lost public trust? Did the media fail the public in the 2016 election?
Amy Mitchell et al., "The Modern News Consumer: News Attitudes and Practices in the Digital Era," Pew Research Center, July 16, 2016.
Andrew Guess, Brendan Nyhan, and Jason Reifler,
"'You're Fake News!' Findings from the Poynter Media Trust Survey," 1-13.
Mustafa M. El-Bermawy,
"Your Filter Bubble is Destroying Democracy," Wired, Nov. 18, 2016,
Duncan J. Watts and David M. Rothschild, "Don't blame the election on fake news; blame the media," Columbia Journalism Review Dec. 5, 2017.
March 13. What do the freedoms of communication (free speech, a free press, freedom of information) require of a democratic government?
Paul Starr, The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications (New York: Basic Books, 2004), 1-19, 71-111, 327-346, 382-384. [83pages]
Michael Schudson, "Origins of the Freedom of Information Act," in The Rise of the Right to Know: Politics and the Culture of Transparency, 1945-1975 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,2015), 28-36.
"Government and Corporations Hinder Journalists with 'Media Capture,'" Columbia Journalism Review, Aug. 29, 2017.
March 27. Entertainment and news: Has the culture of entertainment compromised the news media? Or can entertainment do the work of news?
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (New York: Viking, 1985), vii-viii, 99-113.
James Hamilton, All the News That's Fit to Sell(Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 1-36.
Matthew A. Baum and Angela S. Jamison, "The Oprah Effect: How Soft News Helps Inattentive Citizens Vote Consistently," Journal of Politics (2006), 68: 946-959.
Oliver Morrison,"Waiting for the Conservative Jon Stewart," The Atlantic, February 14, 2015.
April 10. Some powerful figures want tougher libel and privacy laws to limit the media. Are they right?
Anthony Lewis,Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment(New York: Vintage, 1992), 1-45, 103-199.
Bezanson, How Free Can the Press Be?, 209-29 (Howard v. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. 283 N.W.2d 289 ).
"Billionaires vs. the Press in the Age of Trump," New York Times Magazine, November 22, 2016.
Background: James Whitman, "The Two Western Cultures of Privacy: Dignity Versus Liberty," Yale Law Journal 113 (2004), 1151-1171 (first twenty pages only).
April 17. How have the media changed the presidency?
David Greenberg, Republic of Spin (New York: W.W Norton, 2016), Introduction (1-10), Ch. 1 (13-23), Ch 7 (67-77), Chs 20-21 (189-205), Ch. 39 (340-46), Ch. 43 (374-383), Ch. 46 (408-415).
"There's a Logic to Trump's War on the Media," The American Prospect, April 28, 2017.
Andrew Marantz, "Trump and the Truth: The Viral Candidate," The New Yorker, Nov. 4, 2016.
April 24. Are online and social media more susceptible to lies and fake news than traditional media?
Adrian Chen, "The Fake News Fallacy," The New Yorker, September 4, 2017.
Richard Gunther, Paul A. Beck and Erik C. Nisbet, "Fake News May Have Contributed to Trump's 2016 Victory," March 8, 2016.
Alexander Marantz, "Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet," The New Yorker, March 19, 2018.
Zeynep Tufekci, "YouTube, the Great Radicalizer,," New York Times, March 10, 2018.
"How Lies Spread Online," New York Times, March 8, 2018.
May 1.Lost in the turn against liberal democracy? The international crisis in journalism.
Joel Simon, The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom (Columbia University Press, 2014), Introduction, Chs. 1, 2, 8.
Jennifer Dunham, "Press Freedom's Dark Horizon," Freedom of the Press 2017 (Freedom House).
Russian Reporter Borodin Dead After Mystery Fall," BBC, April 16, 2018.
May 8. Lost in the news deserts? The local crisis in journalism.
Marjorie Heins and Mark N. Cooper, "The Legal and Social Bases of Localism are Stronger than Ever," in Mark N. Cooper, ed., The Case Against Media Consolidation, 31-38.
Shawn Musgrave and Matthew Nussbaum, "Trump Thrives in Areas that Lack Traditional News Outlets," Politico, April 8, 2018.
Michael Massing, "How Not to Cover America," American Prospect, Spring 2018.
Robert Kuttner, "Saving the Free Press from Private Equity," American Prospect, Winter 2018.
David Uberti, "Gannett and the Last Great Local Hope," Columbia Journalism Review, Spring 2017.
Zach Wichter, "Sinclair Videos Renew Debate over Media Ownership," New York Times, April 2, 2018.
Last modified, April 17, 2018.