WWS 334/SOC 319

Media and Public Policy

Professor Paul Starr

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:

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

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?

February 20. How can newspapers and other "legacy" news media adapt to the online world and social media--and will they?

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?

March 6. Why have journalists and the media lost public trust? Did the media fail the public in the 2016 election?

March 13. What do the freedoms of communication (free speech, a free press, freedom of information) require of a democratic government?

Second Half

March 27. Entertainment and news: Has the culture of entertainment compromised the news media? Or can entertainment do the work of news?

April 10. Some powerful figures want tougher libel and privacy laws to limit the media. Are they right?

April 17. How have the media changed the presidency?

April 24. Are online and social media more susceptible to lies and fake news than traditional media?

May 1.Lost in the turn against liberal democracy? The international crisis in journalism.

May 8. Lost in the news deserts? The local crisis in journalism.