The course explores how the news media have figured in constituting a public sphere in American history. Readings juxtapose classics of political philosophy with historical or sociological works describing democracy in practice in the United States.
By the end of the course, students will be able to explore ways the news media have figured into American conceptions of democracy and in constituting a public realm.
The course seeks to teach students to appreciate the theories behind a free press in a democracy and to understand both the role of the press (taken to mean the news media in general) in forming a public, and the role of the public in constituting a democracy. Students will come away with a sense that ideas about the media’s role in democracy have not been static over time, and that there have sometimes been divergences between how the media’s role is theorized and how it plays out in practice. Students should gain a deeper knowledge of the role of the media in American history and develop skills to think critically about the media in society in all eras, including today. Improving students’ writing, thinking, and speaking skills is also a course goal.