Law and Ethics in American Journalism

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History, ethics, law–navigating murky waters.

Books on a shelf

The ethical and legal rigors of journalism set professionals apart in a crowded market and help protect the public from the spread of misinformation. In this course, you’ll survey many of journalism’s core ethical issues—what it has gotten right, and, equally important, what it has gotten wrong—questions of sensationalism, bias, diversity, major scandals, effects on the public’s perceptions, and an exploration of the current digital upheaval. To better understand what journalism has been and what it might be, students consume a selection of media and delve into the specifics of radio, TV news, and the Internet, as well as exploring “fake news.” We consider watershed legal cases, including the First Amendment, landmark legal cases such as Branzburg v. Hayes, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, and the Pentagon Papers, as well as a look at shield laws, the use and misuse of anonymous sources, and more.