English CAJR. Journalism in the Age of Trump

Instructor: Jill Abramson
Terms: Spring Term

Wednesdays, 12-2:45 pm | Location: TBA

Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.

At its heart, journalism is a truth-seeking exercise based on reported facts, careful collection of evidence from witnesses, and reasoned, dispassionate analysis. The editing and presentation of stories should honor the intelligence of readers and the audience. The journalist is not a combatant in the story. But these time-honored traditions are under assault like never before. President Trump’s declared war on “fake news,” his attacks on the press as “enemies of the people” as well as secular changes in technology and the ways in which the news is produced and delivered have combined to undermine the very notion of truth. The class will closely study the role of social media in spreading information, including false stories. We will chart the rise of a more ideological press. We will spend the semester examining these developments, their effects on journalism, and their consequences for democracy.

Writing assignments will include weekly essays examining the core issues at stake in the battle for the truth, compilation of a narrative based on real documents in the Russia investigation and a major, written exercise where students will propose ways that truth can be preserved and protected in journalism.

Readings will include classics, such as Richard Hofstadter’s Paranoid Style in American Politics, George Orwell’s 1984 and Michiko Kakutani’s new book, The Death of Truth. In class, we will watch the documentary series “The Fourth Estate,” and examine nightly news clips from Fox News, MSNBC and CNN. We will examine the key legal documents in the federal investigation of Russian interference in the election and study how they were reported. There will be guest speakers, including the journalists who cover the Trump White House, the Mueller investigation and new projects promoting truth in the news.

Supplemental Application Information: Please include with your application a letter telling me how you consume news, through social media,Websites, video, podcasts or print publications. Please also address why you are interested in journalism and tell me whether you have had any reporting experience. (No experience is required). A writing sample is optional for this course application.

Apply via Submittable (by 11:59pm on 1/28, no exceptions)

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