The course is designed to expose students to many of the best known and classic American films about journalism, and to examine how American (U.S.) film has depicted the practice and societal impact of journalism. The course aims to deeply immerse students in a broad range of challenging and critical questions about journalistic practice in the United States, as represented in American film. Among the goals of the course is to have students consider whether popular, filmic depictions of American journalists are accurate and have bases in fact. Similarly, students consider whether the image, or the reality of journalistic practice, keeps changing in the United States, or whether, perhaps, there has been very little if any change in either, or at all, over the 75 years of film the course covers. And if there is change, or there is not change in reality or in film, how might we understand the forces behind change or stability.
Learning goals of this course:
To develop, through the analytic viewing of films, a deep and historically informed, understanding of the pressures on and the challenges facing U.S. journalists over the last 75 years.
To understand why many of these challenges and pressures have not changed over this time period.
To consider the best and worst of journalism practice as depicted in the films, i.e., for each students to develop a historically informed personal appraisal of the most noble and heroic acts of journalism, as well as the most corrupt and morally reprehensible.
To understand how the film image of journalism practice in the United States has changed over the past 75 years and how, in many respects, it has remained the same. Each student will personally assess whether they believe the image has improved or depreciated. Students will also learn how the filmic depictions track societal attitudes and levels of public trust in journalists.
Students will learn about the accuracy of the depiction of journalistic practice in each historical period. Are there current misconceptions about journalism in the public mind? If so, are they fostered by actual journalistic practice, or by distorted representation in other media, including filmic, televised, or web entertainment.
To understand that certain films have had direct impact, either on society, or on the practice of journalism itself.
Knowledge of and exposure to the best known and classic American films about journalism.
To gain increased knowledge of the relevant political, economic, and historical issues in the United States in each period in which each film was made.
To develop personal and historical understanding of the role of the news media in a democracy, and as depicted in film.
To understand the constant tension between journalistic ideals and commercial pressures.
To understanding how and why commercial and career pressures can affect the ethical conduct and judgment of journalists.
In examining the ethical dilemmas faced by reporters in the films, students are asked to weigh what they would do in a similar situation and how they might conduct themselves when working as a journalist.
For each student to consider the appropriate “position” of the journalist, i.e., what are each student’s thoughts and opinions about the reporters in the films who work to remain neutral and objective vs. those who bend the rules for personal gain or for what they believe is a good or necessary cause vs. those who actively and openly engage in "advocacy journalism."
To understand how economics, power, ideology, and news intersect, and how these intersections play out in the films viewed analyzed, discussed, and written about in assignments.
To gain an understanding of the motives of news media owners.
To understand the problems of news bias and slant as they are evinced in the films.
To gain increased understanding of civics and the U.S. political system.
To understand the problems and challenges of sexism in newsrooms. Has the often assumed improvement from the 1930s and 1940s to the 1970s to 2000 actually occurred, at least as depicted in these films, or in reality?