Mass Media & American Society – Week of 9/15 & 9/22


For the next two weeks, we will be looking at journalism’s role in a democracy. To understand the role the press plays today and how its influence has eroded, we need to understand the past. I am loaning you Journalism, Who, What, When,Where Why and How by James Glen Stovall for this week’s reading.

Read Chapter 1 & 2, News & Society, and The Culture of Journalism.

Read Section 4, Chapters 20-23, which tell the history of journalism.

AS YOU READ, please do the following:

WEEK of 9/15 ASSIGNMENT: Take notes on when you read about the press’ role as a “watchdog” and “an agenda setter.” Note when the press took on these roles and how, note any references to whether these roles declining. Can you create a timeline? Look for the words “Fourth Estate” and be able to define it. You may need to do additional Internet research on these words in relation to the press to round out your understanding. Type up your notes and submit them to me. They do not have to be in essay form.

WATERGATE: Watch the Watergate video from the Newseum and use the viewing guide as reference. You will need to sign in:

Username – SNCJournalism

Password – SNCENGL346

Then you will be directed to the Newseum’s Video Classroom, go to the Video Lesson tab and find Watergate (it’s at the bottom row, center video.)

A break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at Washington’s Watergate hotel and office complex in 1972 leads to congressional hearings that result in the historic resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. Original news footage from reporters George Herman, Garrick Utley, Walter Cronkite, Roger Mudd, John Chancellor, Harry Reasoner and Tom Brokaw retells the story that brought down a presidency.

Week of 9/15 ASSIGNMENT: Before you watch the video, answer these questions (to be submitted):

  1. What do you know about the Watergate scandal and President Richard Nixon?
  2. Can the press play a role in politics?

This video tells the story of the Watergate scandal entirely through primary source news footage, without added narration.

As you watch the video, keep these questions in mind (you don’t have to submit them):

  1. What was Watergate? What event first attracted the news media’s attention?
  2. Who were some of the players in these events?
  3. What allegations against the president and his staff did news reports bring to light?
  4. How did the president and his staff fight back against these allegations?
  5. What was the fallout (the consequences) of the reporting on the scandal?

As you watch the video, listen for these quotations and consider their importance:

Carl Bernstein: “We thought it would perhaps take longer to establish the truth of a lot of what we had written. But it’s come now very rapidly, and I think the record is pretty clear about the accuracy of what we wrote.”

Sen. Sam Ervin: “The questions that have been raised in the wake of the June 17th break-in strike at the very undergird- ing of our democracy.”

Week of 9/15 ASSIGNMENT: Afterward, answer these short essay questions (in one to two paragraphs):

  1. The press is sometimes referred to as a “watchdog” in our society. How is the press a watchdog? Whom is it watching, and why? Why is this role important in a democracy?
  2. Why is coverage of the Watergate scandal a significant part of journalism history?



    Week of 9/22 ASSIGNMENT: What is Citizen Journalism? Write a definition of a citizen journalist. Here’s some help, although note the blog post was written in 2006. How would you update his definition?

    Here are some examples of it:

    CNN’s citizen journalists – watch the video

    Citizen journalists set the record straight in UC Davis pepper spraying incident

    Read about a citizen journalist in Ferguson.


    Week of 9/22 ASSIGNMENT: Google Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

    Write a reflection paper on the following questions: Who are they? What significant event did they do? What were the consequences to them personally and to the U.S. Government? Did they have the right under Freedom of Press to release the documents they did? Or, as the U.S. Government says, did they threaten national security?They are “watchdogs” of our times; how are their methods different than Woodward & Bernstein? Different than the regular citizen journalists of Ferguson?


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