2020 - Spring: Journalism Ethics and First Amendment Law

Course Number: JOUR-UA 502, section 1

Day & Time: Mon | 6:20 PM – 8:50 PM

Location: 20 Cooper Square, room 655

Instructor: David A. Kaplan

Syllabus: Download

Prerequisites: None

Presidential threats! Presidential lies! Gawker goes bankrupt after losing in court! Online revenge porn and other social-media intimidation! Praise for terrorists, leaks from government, making fun of “The Cat In the Hat”! What are journalists allowed to say? What shouldn’t they say? That’s what “Journalism Ethics and First Amendment Law” is about. Welcome.

This course is an introduction to how constitutional law affects journalists and why that matters all the more in the Time of Trump, and in the digital age. It’s also a course about journalistic ethics and how professional notions like fairness, objectivity, responsibility, and credibility intersect with law. Other courses cover how journalists do things — report, write, edit; this course will often be about how they avoid problems. I aim for the material to be intellectual and practical and historical; I aim to raise more questions than we wind up answering; and I aim for us to work hard and enjoy class, and even watch some film clips!

This is not a law course, but a survey of the protections and restrictions the legal system places on journalists. And we’ll be mindful that legal constraints alone do not govern how good journalists behave. Careful and honorable journalism comes not only from mere compliance with civil and criminal requirements, but attention to ethical principles that transcend law or are outside its boundaries.

Notes: Counts as an elective for the journalism major and both journalism minors.