2024 - Spring

Journalism Ethics and First Amendment Law

Course Number: JOUR-UA 502.001

Day & Time: Wed | 5:00 PM – 7:30 PM

Location: 20 Cooper Square, Room 700

Instructor: Diego Ibarguen

Prerequisites: None

The power to speak vs the power to stop speech! Presidents suing for defamation and being sued for defamation! Insurrection! Constitutionally protected protest! Social media as a bastion of the marketplace of free speech! Social media as a cesspool of hate, threats and lies! Lawsuits that bankrupt companies and individuals over a choice of words! And amid it all, an embattled press, constantly changing with the times and public appetite, balancing a noble dream of being fair and objective against the urge to express opinion! Balancing the importance of informing the public against privacy interests and the desire of people to move on! 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, tv news programs and radio!

This is not a law course, but a survey of the protections and restrictions the legal system places on journalists. We’ll talk about the foundational debate over what our First Amendment means, a debate that in many ways continues today. 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.