2021 – Spring

Journalism Seminar: Undercover Reporting

Course Number: JOUR-UA 401, section 001

Day & Time: Mon | 11:00 AM – 1:30 PM

Location: Meyer Hall, room 122

Instructor: Ted Conover

Prerequisite: Journalistic Inquiry: The Written Word (JOUR-UA 101)


Undercover reporting is one of the most potent practices in journalism, and one of the most controversial. A core issue is deception: isn’t that unethical? We’ll look at the history and current practice of undercover reporting, with an emphasis on its frequent use in service to social justice. We’ll also consider its evolution from newspaper exposé to the basis of longform articles, books, movies, and most recently, hidden-camera videos produced not by traditional journalists but by activists who publish on YouTube, including those promoting animal rights and those critical of liberal politics and media.

Kroeger’s Undercover Reporting: The Truth About Deception, and its accompanying database, undercoverreporting.org, will be useful guides as we consider key works of the past 125 years of (mainly American but also foreign) undercover and participatory reporting in their practical, ethical and literary dimensions.

My interest in this topic is personal: I’ve done undercover and immersion journalism and am endlessly fascinated by the creativity of others who try it and the questions surrounding what’s possible, what’s effective, and what’s okay.

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