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Media History: Watergate's Legacy: The Press and the Presidency

Media History

Watergate's Legacy: The Press and the Presidency

This course allows students to understand the current turmoil in political reporting – White House attacks on reporters, the spread of misinformation through social media, the pressures of the 24/7 news cycle, increasingly partisan media perspectives, and more – in the context of the significant changes in journalism that began with the Watergate scandal and President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The course will guide students through doing original research using primary sources such as media archives, material in presidential libraries, and the speeches, letters, and oral history collections of leading politicians and journalists. Students will dive deeply into journalism history and make connections between the past and present. Potential themes to be explored include:

  • Influence of media ownership on how news is framed
  • Power of the White House to pressure and threaten journalists
  • Impact of changing technology on the dissemination of information
  • The ethics and practicality of using anonymous sources
  • Responses of journalists to increasing political polarization and declining power of political parties
  • Weakening of the watchdog role of a free press in democracies
  • Growing sophistication of presidential marketing strategies to set media agenda
  • Shifting norms of objectivity in journalism
  • Changing public opinion towards presidents and the media
  • Roles played by individual journalists, political leaders and media outlets