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Context Courses

Below is a sample of context courses that have been offered for graduate journalism students:

The Permanent Campaign: Politics and Social Policy; How 21st Century Media Work

In what is emerging as one of the most complicated and intriguing periods in modern U.S. political history, the stakes are high, the personalities intense, the issues significant and the outcome unknown. This seminar is designed for you to develop valuable skills in political journalism and to produce portfolio-worthy coverage. Expect to explore reporting strategies and political issues alike, going into the field to cover the election and issues important to voters. Along the way, we’ll study policies, personalities and messaging, going far beyond the horserace coverage that too often dominates headlines and substitutes for meaningful and thoughtful work that matters to voters and the republic. For your final project, expect to choose an issue that matters to you and go deep.

Framed: The Media and the Marginalized

Stereotypes.  Coded language.  Unconscious bias.  How do these concepts factor into the media search for truth?  How might they stand in the way of public understanding of social difference?  Clearly, the media affect the way we see one another across social boundaries established by such characteristics as race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.  How do the perspectives formed by this “mediated reality” ultimately affect our decisions on public policy in such areas as political participation, equal rights and criminal justice?  These and other considerations are central to professional journalism responsibility and enlightened public choice making.  Without question, the media are vital to the effective operation of our democratic system by providing information that should be free of the kind of bias that can distort the public participation process. 

Through discussion of principles of media professionalism and ethics, and an examination of some of the hot topics featured in today’s headlines, this course will set a framework for recognizing and analyzing media narrative framing, as well as the representation of traditionally marginalized groups within that narrative frame.  Ultimately, we will develop a deeper appreciation of media responsibility.  Just as important, we will expand our sense of media literacy in considering a path forward—whether as professional journalists, or engaged citizens—as we navigate the challenging terrain of an increasingly diverse society, one in which we all can appreciate the value of social difference and multiple perspectives.

The Journalist Abroad: Legal Risks and Dilemmas

A VICE News team covering a protest group in Turkey is arrested for aiding a terrorist organization. A BBC reporter in Thailand is accused of criminal defamation for a story on a property scam. Whether you are a foreign correspondent reporting on hate speech in France, a backpack journalist covering war in Iraq, a sportswriter on the FIFA World Cup beat in Russia, or part of a Panama Papers-style global reporting consortium, journalists abroad confront unique legal risks and dilemmas.

This seminar will take students around the world to examine major laws and cases involving freedom of expression and of the press that shape the practice of journalism within and across borders, especially those in its trouble spots where journalists abroad frequently go. It will examine international legal trends in topics journalists need to know to avoid themselves becoming the story, including defamation, privacy, national security, anti-terrorism, and more, and build on foundations laid in the Ethics and Law course).

The seminar will also address global regulatory controversies arising from the internet's impact on journalism, such as the manipulation of social media to spread "fake news." Readings and other class materials will be provided. A final project examining an issue or event can be an article (such as profile of a jailed journalist), op-ed, case-study, audio, video or graphic.  

Audience Insight

 An introductory course in qualitative and quantitative audience research for journalists, Audience Insight blends background material from the behavioral sciences with techniques used in practice and focuses in three general areas:

  1. The logic, implementation and analysis of primary research
  2. The ability to evaluate the quality, usefulness and appropriateness of research and results from other sources
  3. The applicability of research to the practice of journalism.

The virtuous relationship between community and news media use is well established in the literature and commonly accepted in the journalism business. This class examines methods journalists can use to research consumer behavior and understand audiences, particularly in terms of media behavior and preferences. Students learn a framework for analyzing audience behavior, focusing on developing audience insight.

Topics include the cognitive, affective and behavioral processes underlying the choices audiences make (needs, perceptions, attitudes); descriptive audience characteristics (demographics, psychographics, VALS); and environmental influences on behavior (culture, family, economic situation). Students learn how to develop successful ideas for editorial products (publications, broadcasts, digital formats) by analyzing the audience needs and desires.

Frameworks for Modern Journalism

This class is based on the fundamental theories of human behavior and media consumption as a means to help understand new technologies, content opportunities, and relationship building with audiences. While the goal is to provide a framework that will be applicable throughout a person’s career regardless of the state of innovation in the field, the class will be framed around the practice of interactive design.

Students will present content-innovation strategies based on evidence from the course and in a team-based environment continually edit those ideas based on the accruing wisdom from the readings and discussions. Introductory principles of audience understanding, multicultural understanding, and 21st century media issues will permeate the course so that they gain a sophisticated analytical framework for the rapidly changing industry in which they are entering as well as the intellectual tools to adjust to and lead as that industry changes the future. 

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