Journalism and American Democracy
American Studies / Political Science
Professor: Josh Roiland

“No substantial famine has ever occurred in a country with a democratic form of government and a relatively free press.” —Amartya Sen

Course Description
This course will explore the relationship between American journalism and American democracy. Historically, the press has been understood as a key source of inspiring political interest through the dissemination of timely and relevant information. But the relationship between the press and the citizenry is complex. In this class we will examine that complexity by investigating the many styles and roles of the press in American democracy, and exploring the relationship between the press and citizens. We will examine philosophies of democracy and philosophies of journalism and interrogate their intersections. And we will explore these questions: What are the obligations of citizens in a democracy? How do citizens use the press? Do certain styles of journalism improve public discourse? What influence does journalism have on social organization? How does the press affect voting? How does the press account for marginalized publics? What is the relationship between individual rights and the public’s right to know?

Required Texts
• Michael Schudson, The Sociology of News
• Bill Kovach & Tom Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect
• Robert Entman, Democracy Without Citizens: Media and the Decay of American Politics

These texts will be supplemented with photocopied handouts and materials on Electronic Reserve. Password: roiland Also, because our class focuses on journalism, please read newspapers (esp. the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the New York Times) daily in order to stay informed for class discussion. Lastly, please visit the websites,, and the Romenesko blog at on a weekly basis in order to follow current debates in the profession of journalism.

Class Requirements & Policies
• Mandatory daily attendance and participation
• Completion of all reading & writing assignments
• Nine Reading Responses (No late papers accepted).
• Two practice assignments (No late papers accepted).
• Research Paper (No late papers accepted).

• Class Participation—20%
• Two Practice Assignments—15% total
• Nine Reading Responses—35% total
• Research Paper—30%
Reading and Writing Schedule

Week 1: Introduction
1-21—No Class, Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
1-23—Introduction, Syllabus
1-25—Michael Schudson “News as Public Knowledge”
—Robert Dahl, “What is Democracy?”

Week 2: Individualism, Associations & the Press
1-28—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, v1, p2, ch3-4
1-30—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, v2, p2, ch1-7
2-1—Reading Response 1 DUE

Week 3: Phantom Public or Great Community?
2-4—Walter Lippmann, “The Nature of News,” “News, Truth, and a Conclusion,” “The Appeal to the Public”
2-6 —John Dewey, “Search for the Great Community”
2-8—Reading Response 2 DUE

Week 4: The Public Sphere
2-11—Craig Calhoun, “Habermas and the Public Sphere”
2-13—Michael Schudson, “Was There Ever a Public Sphere?”
2-15—Reading Response 3 DUE

Week 5: History of Journalism
2-18—Michael Schudson, The Sociology of News, Ch. 4
2-20—Gerald Baldasty, “The Rise of News as a Commodity: Business Imperatives and the Press of the 19th Century”
2-22—Richard Kaplan, Conclusion from Politics and the American Press: The Rise of Objectivity, 1865-1920

Week 6: The Press in Practice
2-25—Kovach & Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism, “Intro” & Ch. 1-4
2-27—Kovach & Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism, Ch. 5-6
2-29—Reading Response 4 DUE

Week 7: Problems with the Press in Practice
3-3—Kovach & Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism, Ch. 7-10
3-5—James Carey, “The Dark Continent of American Journalism”
3-7—Practice Assignment 1 DUE

Week 8: News as Culture
3-10—Michael Schudson, The Sociology of News, “Intro” & Ch.1-2
3-12—Michael Schudson, The Sociology of News, Ch. 3
3-14—Michael Schudson, The Sociology of News, Ch. 5

Week 9: Spring Break
3-17—No Class, Spring Break

Week 10: News as Culture, cont.
3-24—No Class, Easter Monday
3-26—Michael Schudson, The Sociology of News, Ch. 6-8
—Reading Response 5 DUE
3-28—Michael Schudson, The Sociology of News, Ch. 9-10

Week 11: Imperiled Democracy?
3-31—Robert Entman, Democracy Without Citizens, “Intro” & Ch.1-2
4-2—Robert Entman, Democracy Without Citizens, Ch.4
4-4—Robert Entman, Democracy Without Citizens, Ch.5, 7

Week 12: Local News
4-7—Reading Response 6 DUE
4-9—Post-Dispatch articles
4-11—Guest Speakers

Week 13: Public Journalism
4-14—Antony J. Eksterowicz, “The History and Development of Public Journalism”
4-16—William F. Woo, “Public Journalism: A Critique”
4-18—Reading Response 7 DUE

Week 14: Online Advances
4-21—Rachel Smolkin, “The Expanding Blogosphere”
—Matt Welch, “Blogworld and Its Gravity”
—Barb Palser, “Online Advances”
—Gail Beckerman, “Beware the Bloggers”
—Jay Rosen, “Terms of Authority”
4-23—Nicholas Lemann, “Amateur Hour: Journalism Without Journalists”
4-25—Reading Response 8 DUE

Week 15: Conclusions
4-28—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, v2, p4, ch1-6
4-30—James Carey, “The Press, Public Opinion, and Public Discourse: On the Edge of the Postmodern”
5-2—Michael Schudson, “The News Media and the Democratic Process”

Week 16: Wrap-Up
5-5—Last Class
—Reading Response 9 DUE
—Practice Assignment 2 DUE

Monday, May 12—Final Paper DUE

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