AP WRIT 3008 3.0 Fall 2019
Journalism Ethics: A Practical and Theoretical Approach

Mondays, 11:30-2:30 PM @ ACE 011

Course Instructor: Dr. Rich Shivener
Office: S Ross 355
Office Hours: After class or email for an appointment; I’m generally on campus before and after class.

Course Description
This course considers the social/cultural role of journalism and of the journalist. What duties and responsibilities has the journalist to subjects, sources, stories, editors, employers, readers? What potential conflicts are there among these interests and how ought these to be considered? How do we approach ethical decisions in this digital era?

Course credit exclusion: AP/EN 4701 3.00 (prior to Fall 2017); AS/EN 4703 3.00 (prior to Fall 2009).

Course Learning Objectives
Students will gain a critical perspective on the theories and practices of journalism in the 21st century, including model approaches, different means of assessing ethical issues, and the stakeholders involved. Special emphasis is given to issues of our digital era.
Students will learn to:
• Develop a critical understanding of “ethics” in journalism and a variety of approaches to it
• Critically assess and analyze a range of social and cultural issues in case studies and in “current” news
• Critically assess and analyze different media and the specific issues they raise
• Practice a range of approaches in assessing these issues and media

Textbooks and Required Texts

Required Textbooks
• Gene Foreman. The Ethical Journalist: Making Responsible Decisions in the Digital Age. (2nd edition). ISBN 978-1119031734 – AVAILABLE ONLINE at Amazon via Kindle; also available at VitalSource. Also available on reserve in the library.
• Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel. New Ethics of Journalism, ISBN: 978-1-604265-61-3

Other readings: As listed. Readings may be subject to change over the term in response to specific issues and/or current events.

Nicholas Russell. Morals and the Media, 2nd edition: Ethics in Canadian Journalism [Paperback] ISBN: 978-0774810890
Denis Muller. Journalism Ethics for the Digital Age. ISBN: 978-1922070951. Also available on Kindle.

Required Reading, Listening, Watching: One News Organization
You must follow at least one reputable news organization about national events and one reputable source about international events daily throughout the term. You may do so in any medium, but you will need to go beyond headlines and Twitter to read in-depth stories. You must also ensure that you are up-to-date about national and world events to get the most from this course. Many means are available for you to do so; for instance, you may choose to have specific news agencies email headlines to you, you may go to specific news agencies online daily, you may listen to podcasts or broadcasts, or you may read an online or print newspaper.

If you choose a news organization that leans towards a specific political perspective, then you must also choose a second news organization that leans in the other direction so that you obtain more than one perspective. For instance, if you choose a conservative-leaning news org, then you must also choose a liberal-leaning news org, and vice-versa.

You can find a host of suggestions on our course website (following first week).

Course Structure
This is a seminar-style course, so your participation is essential. Each week, expect an active, participatory discussion of specific case studies and the ethical alternatives for resolving them. Each week, we will also discuss current issues, some of them brought in by students. Come prepared with the readings on hand. Attendance and active participation are mandatory.

Assignments and Grading
All assignments are due via Dropbox at the start of each class.

Assignment 1: Set case study. Total worth: 25%.
• Draft: 5%. Due September 23th.
• Final paper: 20%. Due October 7th
• For more details, refer to the assignment description.

Assignment 2: Direct from the news case study. Total worth: 60%
• Proposal. 15%. Due October 28th.
Case study presentation: 15%. Performed in class Nov 25th, or Dec 2rd. Submit your slides via Dropbox. Please speak to Rich about alternatives well ahead of time if you cannot present in class.
• Case study paper: 30%. Due December 3rd.
• For more details, refer to the assignment description.

Class participation: 15%. Note that your presence is not sufficient; you must actively contribute to class discussions each week to obtain a passing grade.

Grading Standards
All final written assignments must:
• Explore and develop a critical analysis in a coherent, interesting way;
• Have a thoughtful beginning, middle, and end;
• Be grammatically correct; and
• Have a tone appropriate for the intended audience and context.

Assignments will be graded according to York’s grading system, but for clarity:
• A+ to A work gives the reader a positive impression of excellence in all listed standards.
• B+ to B work gives the reader a positive impression of general superiority in all listed standards.
• C+ to C work is average in each standard.
• D+ to F work is seriously deficient in one or more of the listed standards.

York’s grading system by percentage

GradeGrade PointPer Cent RangeDescription
B+775-79Very Good
C460-64Fairly Competent
D250-54Marginally Passing
E1(marginally below 50%)Marginally Failing
F0(below 50%)Failing

Course Policies

Assignment formatting: Each assignment should be double-spaced in Times Roman or New Roman in 12-point font and contain one-inch margins. Name, course, and assignment number at the top of the first page; title centred on first page. Please use APA style. In-text citations REQUIRED. References section REQUIRED. All references given in the References section must include author or (if no byline) corporation name, article title, publication information, page number (if pages are numbered), URL if from an online source. References that consist only of a URL with no other information are not acceptable.

Academic Honesty: You are responsible for knowing and abiding by York’s policy on Academic Honesty. Academic honesty is central to both academic and journalistic integrity. Do not go the way of Janet Cooke and Jayson Blair: cite all sources of words, thoughts, ideas, images, and statistics, in print, online, or in any other medium. Use quotations marks. Paraphrase in your own words, not by making small changes to another writer’s work. Live by the principles of journalism ethics: verify your facts and name your sources; don’t lie; don’t steal someone else’s work; don’t make things up; don’t repeat your own work when you’ve promised original work.


Respectful and Inclusive Practices for You and Me
According with York’s mission, let’s be “a community of faculty, students, staff, alumni and volunteers committed to academic freedom, social justice, accessible education, and collegial self-governance.”

Be open, kind, and fair with one another and with me. I’ll read your writing projects with enthusiasm and return papers in a timely manner. Holding office hours and appointments, I invite you to talk about your writing and about the class. I promise to listen and respect you.

Finally, know that you have the right to take reasoned exception to views offered in the classroom; however, please be respectful and courteous in class discussion and in writing, including email messages and posts. It is the right thing to do—and respecting one’s audience goes a long way when one hopes to be persuasive!

Absence from Class
If you know you are going to be absent for a class, be responsible; email me ahead of time and ask about opportunities to contribute to class. (Depending on the activity, it may or may not be possible.) If you cannot let me know ahead of time, then email me as soon as possible. Legitimate reasons for absences include religious holidays, documented illness, and family emergencies. You must make arrangements to complete work that you have missed.

Late Penalty
You lose a grade per day for late final assignments.

And, finally, a product disclaimer …
The class is flexible and subject to change because I ask for your input and gauge our progress as we go. If you want information about future assignments for planning, just ask. I truly love writing, teaching writing, and learning, so I absolutely welcome your ideas for making the class a better experience for all of us!

Campus Resources

Student Accessibility Services:
If you have a disability and require assistance of any kind, please provide me with the appropriate form from the Disability Services office.

Writing Centre:
If you would like a trained writing tutor to help you get started on your writing assignment or review your writing, make an appointment or stop in during the centre’s drop-in hours.

Computers for Days:
York has a score of computer labs & printers across campus.

Student Counselling & Development:
As noted on the office’s site, “Student Counselling & Development (SCD), through its professional staff, strives to provide a range of essential psychological services to the York University Community in order to optimize the quality of the scholarly and communal life of the university.


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