Mass Media & American Society – Week of 8/18


During this course, you will be learning about the freedoms, responsibilities and roles of the American mass media. You will consider the time-honored rights in the Bill of Rights such as Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press, as well as the current challenges of the press with credibility, media ownership, and ethics in online publishing.

To begin our understanding of our freedoms in the First Amendment, the conflicts when they must be balanced by public security, and the role of the free press in a democracy, you only have to look to the current events in Ferguson, Missouri.

John Nichols of The Nation wrote: What has evolved since the death of Michael Brown, however, illustrates the challenges that arise when law-enforcement officials fail to fully recognize and embrace their dual responsibility: to maintain public safety while at the same time guaranteeing the rights of Americans to speak, to practice journalism, to assemble for the purpose of making demands on those in power.

Your first assignment is to examine the constitutional issues at play in Ferguson, and then write a one-page reflection about those First Amendment rights, whether they were violated, and whether the public’s safety justifies the police actions. You can email the paper to me by Wednesday, Aug. 27.

You can update yourself on the events in Ferguson with this PBS timeline.

Listen to the constitutional issues that have arisen with this NPR story and then read a blog post about the arrests of journalists in Ferguson. CNN also offers a story about the balance between rights and the public’s good. Also, here’s what President Obama has to say about Ferguson – start watching at the 4:40 mark.


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