Media and Democracy, Communications 197
Syllabus (Spring, 2007)
Professor Rob Frieden
102 Carnegie Building
863-7996; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Class Hours: Tues./Thur. 113 Carnegie
Office Hours: Monday ; Wed. and by appointment
In most nations citizens support the view that the media qualifies for special rights and protection from most forms of government censorship and regulation. Press freedom results from the longstanding view that the media help us find the truth often by holding government representatives and others accountable for crimes, corruption and ineptitude, etc.
Media institutions have come under close scrutiny with some critics questioning whether the media deserve special status particularly in light of allegations of bias and the proliferation of new media options. An increasingly loud call for limitations on media autonomy and freedoms has arisen based on heightened concerns about national security and skepticism whether incumbent media outlets enhance democratic governance and civic participation. World Wide Web sites, blogs, webcasts and other outlets vie for attention and impact in a marketplace of ideas that consolidates or diversifies depending on your perspective.
This course will provide students an opportunity to develop a better sense of the media’s role in democracies and other governance systems. We will strive to achieve greater understanding about the media’s multifaceted role as an integral part of democratic society, but also as a profit seeking business. The course will examine the traditional literature with an eye toward assessing what fundamental freedoms and roles persist based on current philosophical and policy challenges.
The course will seek to answer several key questions:
1) What is the media’s role in democracy both theoretically and practically in light of current technological and marketplace developments?
2) Do the media have a different and perhaps diminished role when operating across borders, in light of national sovereignty and different concerns and sensitivities?
3) Should the media qualify for special treatment in terms of access to, and dissemination of information?
4) What economic or political characteristics of the media make its output different from the production of generic “widgets”?
5) What role, if any, should the government have in terms of the composition, operations and output of the media?
6) How does the emergence of the Internet change responses to the above questions?
SUGGESTED COURSE LEARNING OUTCOMES
In this course, students will learn to:
· examine the role of established and new media in a representative democracy;
· demonstrate an understanding of the history and role of media professionals and institutions in helping to frame public policies;
· think critically, creatively and independently;
· express complex thoughts in the spoken and written word; and
· assess how and when the media works independently of, or cooperatively with, public policy stakeholders.
Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly
and creative activity in an open, honest and responsible manner, free from
fraud and deception, and is an educational objective of the
NOTE TO STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
All reading assignments have a free World Wide Web link, or have been placed on electronic reserve. I expect you to take advantage of the free access to The New York Times and USA Today.
The course will have five written assignments due on a specific date by without exception. The course also will have three tests scheduled well in advance without a makeup date. Each written assignment constitutes 10% of your grade. Your best performance on two of the three exams each will constitute 25% of your grade. The course also requires interaction between instructor and student. I place a premium on class participation and dialog.
I do not offer extra credit opportunities. Additionally any student receiving a D or lower on any test must schedule an appointment with me.
After the completion of the course I will determine whether a curve should apply. Absent a curve the following scale shall apply:
93 to 100 percent = A
90 to 92 percent = A-
87 to 89 percent = B+
83 to 86 percent = B
80 to 82 percent = B-
77 to 79 percent = C+
70 to 76 percent = C
60 to 69 percent = D
Below 59 percent = F
Week One: Introduction and Review of the Traditional Literature Examination of Course Questions
John Milton, Areopagitica (1644): http://www.stlawrenceinstitute.org/vol14mit.html
The liberty of self discovery is a “self-righting” principle—more information reaffirms the truth and exposes falsity. Government licensing is prone to corruption and self-perpetuating judgments.
This view evolved into the marketplace of ideas theory/model articulated by Justice Holmes’ dissent in Abrams v. United States and elsewhere.
John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, Chapter 3 (1861)
Mill expanded on
Suppression of opinion is bad, because it blots out the truth; no harm in subjecting false opinions to public scrutiny. No opinion, no matter how outrageous is completely true or false.
“Not the violent conflict between the parts of the truth, but the quiet suppression of half of it, is the formidable evil; there is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides; it is when they attend to only one that errors harden into prejudices, and truth itself ceases to have the effect of truth by being exaggerated into falsehood.” Accordingly, government cannot and should not control freedom of thought and opinion.
Zechariah Chafee, Freedom of Speech (1920): http://www.answers.com/topic/zechariah-chafee
Professor Chafee proposed a balancing test between societal and individual interests.
“One of the most important purposes of society and government is the discovery and spread of truth on subjects of general concern. This is possible only through absolutely unlimited discussion, because once force is thrown into the argument, it becomes a matter of chance whether it is thrown on the false side or the true, and truth loses all its natural advantage in the contest. Professor Chaffee placed the boundary line of permissible speech close to the point where words give rise to unlawful acts.
In an attempted refutation of the Holmes’ “clear and present danger” test, Meiklejohn created a dichotomy between absolutely protected speech and conditionally protected speech. He emphasized 5th Amendment due process rights particularly in light of the possibility that government may overstate the potential for harm to abridge dissent, e.g., sedition laws.
While private harms may warrant conditional protection, speech related to public policy deserves absolute protection: “To be afraid of ideas, any idea, is to be unfit for self-government. Any such suppression of ideas about the common good, the First Amendment condemns with its absolute disapproval. The freedom of ideas should not be abridged.”
Week Two Examination of Traditional Media Models—Are They Still Viable?
In the Social Contract Model government and the governed execute an implicit contract for mutual benefit. We pay taxes, vote, comply with laws in exchange for stability and the largely unfettered opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Perhaps human nature threatens this deal, because players on both sides may cheat and anti-cheating institutions may not detect the breach,or may participate in it. An independent media provides an effective check against cheating, provided it does not become part of the problem.
Alexander Hamilton et al, The Federalist Papers, No. 84 (1787-88): http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed.htm
Quotations of Thomas Jefferson on Freedom of the Press: http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff1600.htm
Walter Lippman, Public Opinion (1922) Chapter One, “The World Outside and the Picture on Our Heads,” http://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/CDFinal/Lippman/CH01.html
Week Three--Marketplace of Ideas—Robust Debate Among an Informed Electorate
vs. Media Concentration—Does a Robust First Amendment Guarantee a Free Press, or Does the Media Manufacture Consent and Manipulate the News?
Democracies thrive when governments can achieve collective goals without unnecessarily burdening any faction of the governed. A fundamental safety value in what should be a constantly recalibrating process is the ability of the governed to petition the government, to redress grievances and freely to express even controversial views. Open access by citizens and a free press contribute to an effective and legitimate government. Presumably the “court of public opinion” evaluates political expression and rewards/legitimizes the most compelling views. This endorsement process functions in much the same way as the marketplace determines winners and losers based on the dollar votes of consumers.
The First Amendment and conceptualizing political discourse in terms of a marketplace draw a parallel between transactions involving widgets and mediated messages. In other words for some the same type marketplace function can occur for widgets or for news and public affairs. Others disagree based on the view that an increasingly commercialized and concentrated, mainstream media has more concerns about selling advertising and copies of publications than lofty notions of contributing to public discourse on important issues.
Alexander M. Bickel, The Morality of Consent, Chapter 3 Domesticated Civil Disobedience: The First Amendment from Sullivan to the Pentagon Papers, pp. 55-88 (1975) (on electronic reserve).
Robert W. McChesney, The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the Twenty-First Century (2004); Chapter 4, The Age of Hyper-Commercialism (on electronic reserve).
James Fallows, Breaking the News/How the Media Undermine American Democracy, Chapter 6, News and Democracy, pp. 235-270 (2004) (on electronic reserve).
C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite, The Mass Society (1956); http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Book_Excerpts/MassSociety_PE.html
Week Four: Market Failure and Responding to Negative Externalities
The marketplace of ideas, just like the marketplace for widgets, depends on the ability of transactions to occur without friction, i.e., high transaction costs and without bad consequences that the cost of the transaction does not reflect, i.e., negative externalities. We will consider whether the media marketplace warrants special considerations and concerns in light of the potential for market failure and negative externalities.
C. Edwin Baker, Media Markets, and Democracy, Chapters, 1, Not Toasters: The Special Nature of Media Products, pp. 7-19; Chapter 3, The Problem of Externalities, pp. 41-62 (on electronic reserve).
Written Assignment One:
Review the content available at one of the following “media watchdog” web sites, or from your own search. Prepare a 2-3 page summary of the site’s content and your perception of the site’s agenda and bias, if any. Why do you think this site exists? Does the site identify its financial backers?
Accuracy in Media: http://www.aim.org/
Center for Media and Democracy: http://www.prwatch.org/
Center for Media & Public Affairs: www.cmpa.com
Center for Public Integrity: http://www.publicintegrity.org/default.aspx
Committee to Protect Journalists: http://www.cpj.org/
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=100
Free Press: http://www.freepress.net/
Freedom Forum: http://www.freedomforum.org/
International Freedom of Expression eXchange: http://www.ifex.org/
Media Channel.Org: http://www.mediachannel.org/
Media Matters for
Media Monitors Network: http://usa.mediamonitors.net/
Media Transparency: http://www.mediatransparency.org/
Media Watch: http://www.mediawatch.com/welcome.html
Media Wise: http://www.mediafamily.org/
Morality in Media: http://www.moralityinmedia.org/
National Coalition Against Censorship: http://www.ncac.org/
Reporters Without Borders: http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=20
Truth in Media: http://www.truthinmedia.org/truthinmedia/index.html
Week Five: Test 1 and Review
Week Six: Case Studies that Test Traditional Media Models
Case Study: Protecting Sources vs. Fair Trials and National Security
For the media to promote the pursuit of truth and to contribute to public discourse, it must disclose embarrassing facts about our government and private actors. Few would object to the widespread dissemination about crimes, and news of government failing to do its job, or doing its job poorly. However, one person’s news might be another person’s invasion of privacy. In this age of heightened concern for national security government officials can characterize the function of the press as helping enemies and risking homeland security. We will examine whether the press may have gone too far in its pursuit of the truth, or whether stakeholders invoke “red herrings” with an eye toward thwarting disclosure of newsworthy facts.
Washington Post, Peter Baker, Surveillance Disclosure Denounced;
Disgraceful Say Bush of Reports, A 01 (
New York Times, Patriotism and the Press (
Wall Street Journal, Review and Outlook, Fit and Unfit to Print, A12 (
Disclosing Valarie Plame’s Employment
New York Times, Judith Miller Goes to
Case Study: Political Cartoons
Written Assignment Two
Review the news media coverage of protests over editorial cartoon use of Mohammed’s image. Select a press journalism model and apply its principles to this issue. Determine whether this model would support editorial cartoons or not.
Week Seven: Market Failure in Media Concentration: Assessing the Impact
Two countervailing trends currently affect media and society. On one hand technological innovations, entrepreneurialism and innovation combine to provide us with an unprecedented array of information, communications and entertainment (“ICE”) options. On the other hand incumbent mainstream media continues to concentrate and consolidate. Do we benefit from an embarrassment of riches provided by Internet web sites, blogs, podcasts and proliferating media outlets? Do we similarly suffer when mainstream media becomes so concentrated and so captive to particular constituencies that their ICE products become biased, inferior in quality and limited in scope?
Ben H. Bagdikian, The New Media Monopoly, Chapter 1, Common Media for an Uncommon Nation (2004), (on reserve);
Adam D Thierer, Media Myths: Making Sense of the Debate Over Media Ownership, Chapter 1, Introduction, pp. 1-22 (2005);
Robert B. Horwitz, On Media Concentration and the Diversity Question; draft manuscript (Oct. 2004); available at: http://communication.ucsd.edu/people/HORWITZ/onmedia.pdf
Bruce M. Owen, Confusing Success with Access: Correctly Measuring Concentration of Ownership and Control in Mass Media and Online Services, Progress on Point, Release 12.11, Progress & Freedom Foundation (July 2005).
available at: http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/pops/pop12.11owen.pdf
Public Broadcasting Service, Moyers on America, Bigger and Bigger Media, watch the video clip and click on Who Owns the Media at: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/moyersonamerica/net/bigger.html
Having a few huge corporations control our outlets of expression could lead to less aggressive news coverage and a more muted marketplace of ideas. Rifka Rosenwein, Why Media Mergers Matter, Brill's Content (December 1999)
“There are no limits to the growth of ideas.”
Ithiel de Sola Pool, Technologies without Boundaries (1984)
Week Eight Case Study-- Video News Releases
Written Assignment Three:
Use the Internet to
find out everything you can about video news releases. Prepare a 3-5 page summary that answers the
following questions: What are video news releases? How can they be abused? Are they misrepresenting the truth, or simply
saving journalists time and effort? How
are video news releases different from other attempts by stakeholders to “spin”
media coverage? What, if anything, has
To start you off, see http://www.prwatch.org/fakenews/execsummary and http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-05-84A1.doc.
Week Nine: Exam 2 and Review
Weeks Ten-Thirteen Testing Media Models in an Internet Age
For the remainder of the course we will examine the impact of new ICE technologies and expression outlets on society and on our individual lives. These assessments may help us determine the ongoing viability of media in democracies and other forms of government.
Blogging and Democracy
Do blogs provide individuals with new and powerful opportunities to participate in governance, or do blogs provide a new type of “vanity press”?
Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis, We Media (2003-2006); available at: http://www.hypergene.net/wemedia/download/we_media.pdf
Daniel W. Drezner and Henry Farrel, The Power and Politics of Blogs (Aug. 2004); available at: http://queensu.ca/politics/pols313/blogs.pdf
Cass R. Sunstein, Democracy and Filtering, 47 Communications of the ACM, No. 12, pp. 57-59 (Dec. 2004); available at: http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=1035134.1035166
Reporters Without Border, Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents; available at: http://www.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/handbook_bloggers_cyberdissidents-GB.pdf
If Blogs provide average citizens a “soap box” to redress grievances with more than local reach, then web-based video sites provide average citizens the opportunity to “scoop” Big Media on possibly major stories. The combination of small, lightweight digital video recorders and free access to Web sites, such as YouTube, provide citizens new and enhanced ways to root out and expose private and governmental corruption, etc. We will assess the impact of citizen-based, grass-routes media.
Siebert, Citizen Media Beats Big Media, YouTube Blows The Whistle (
Jo Twist, The year of the digital citizen (
Public Broadcasting Service, MediaShift, Mark Glasser, Your Guide to Citizen Journalism; available at: http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2006/09/digging_deeperyour_guide_to_ci.html
Scan two or more of the following web sites:
The Internet provides a compelling case for government incubation and anchor tenancy of a promising technology followed by a timely departure from management and investment roles. On the other hand the Internet may become such a major medium for both political and commercial transactions that governments must step in to guard against violations of privacy, unfair trade practices, and attempts to tilt the competitive playing field in favor of one venture over others. Proponents of Network Neutrality worry that without government imposed safeguards the ventures providing Internet transmission links can favor affiliates, stifle political expression and raise competitors’ cost of doing business. Opponents argue that ventures need to recoup infrastructure investment, the Internet no longer has to be a one size fits all, “best efforts” network and network neutrality solves a problem that does not exist.
Jeff Chester, The End of the
Kyle Dixon et al, A Skeptic’s Primer on Net Neutrality Regulation, The Progress and Freedom Foundation, Progress on Point, Release 13.14 (June 2006);
Testimony of Professor Lawrence Lessig, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Hearing on “Network Neutrality,” (Feb. 7, 2006); available at: http://commerce.senate.gov/pdf/lessig-020706.pdf;
Testimony of Vinton G. Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google, Inc., Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Hearing on “Network Neutrality,” (Feb. 7, 2006); available at: http://commerce.senate.gov/pdf/cerf-020706.pdf
Testimony of Gregory Sidak, Visiting Professor of Law Georgetown University Law Center, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Hearing on “Network Neutrality,” (Feb. 7, 2006); available at: http://commerce.senate.gov/pdf/sidak-020706.pdf;
Testimony of Kyle D. Dixon, Senior Fellow for Regulatory Law and Economics, The Progress and Freedom Foundation, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Hearing on “Network Neutrality,” (Feb. 7, 2006); available at: http://commerce.senate.gov/pdf/dixon-020706.pdf.
Public Broadcasting Service, Moyers on
Week Fourteen Media Operations Across Borders: Cultural Imperialism vs. Market Protectionism?
Technological and marketplace innovations in ICE have expanded the reach of both mainstream and new media. Globalization may not have eliminated indigenous tastes, but well funded, multinational media enterprises readily exploit market opportunities anywhere. We will consider whether market access by foreign media ruins native culture, or promotes access to well funded, high quality content. Additionally we will examine the strategies used by nations to counteract the potential negative externalities and political consequences of market penetration by outside media.
Euichul Jung and Eunsung Kim, More Democracy or More Restriction: Global Internet Information Flows and Censorship in the Public Sphere on Cyberspace in China, paper presented at Cultural Space and Public Sphere in Asia 2006 (2006); available at: http://asiafuture.org/csps2006/50pdf/csps2006_7a.pdf
Jack L. Qiu, The Internet in China: Data and Issues, Working Paper Prepared for
Annenberg Research Seminar on International Communication (
Randolph Kluver and Chen Yang, The Internet in China: A Meta-Review of Research, 21 The Information Society, pp. 301-308 (2005)(on electronic reserve).
Conduct an Internet search on Google’s agreement to modify and limit
search results originated in its
Written Assignment Four:
Find, cite and
summarize in 2-3 pages an academic or general circulation magazine article (of
8 pages or more) on the impact of the Internet on
Exam Three and Review
Written Assignment Five:
Download and read:
Jeffrey Chester and Gary O. Larson, A
12-Step Program for Media Democracy, The Nation, (
In pages identify the strengths and weaknesses of the authors’ proposals. In what ways do the proposals support or conflict with the media models discussed in class? Are their First Amendment and other Constitutional limitations on what the authors propose?