This course is an introduction to how American law affects journalism and why that matters. It’s also a course about ethics and how such notions as fairness, bias, decency and credibility affect journalists. Among the subjects we’ll cover: libel, privacy, obscenity, state secrets, confidential sources, theft, trespassing, and copyright. A new Supreme Court, “fake news,” presidential intimidation, hate speech, campus protests, “revenge porn” — we’ll discuss it all. What can you post online and what can’t you? What are you not allowed to say on TV? Can you criticize the government, make fun of others, advocate flag-burning, defend violence? Just what are the limits on the First Amendment? Do the ends ever justify the means? And what does it mean to be an ethical journalist today? In the age of the Internet, in the age of Trump, these are vital questions about law and ethics. The course involves weekly reading, as well as in-class film clips. Two papers, a midterm, and a take-home final.
This course is open to all students. No background in law or journalism is required.