Global Challenges to Public-Interest Journalism

Academic Program

Instructor: Dean Starkman

Course description:

The course will explore obstacles to journalism’s function of providing information to the public sphere and holding power to account. In the first segment, we will define terms — what do we mean by “journalism,” “journalist,” the “public interest,” the “public sphere” — and explore journalism’s relationship to civil society in various contexts. We will promote spirited argument, I hope, by exploring the gap between journalism in its idealized form — and that of its own self-image — in relation to both its well- documented shortcomings. We will also explore its less-well-documented successes in practice, both in the West and the Global South. The course will provide an overview of public-interest journalism and its development across time and various social contexts. And it will explore in depth the challenges to public interest journalism across contexts. We will explore those particular to the Global South and the impact of digital disruption on public interest journalism and news-gathering generally.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Define public -interest journalism, explain its evolution across time and national various national contexts, its current place in the journalism field, its limitations, its potential, its relationship to the public sphere, and its vital role in promoting and sustaining civil society.
  • Critically discuss a range of critiques of the profession from a range of perspectives. Analyze competing ideas and practices within the profession.
  • Analyze and critique legal and regulatory barriers to public-interest reporting in various national contexts.
  • Analyze and explain the role of violence and other extra-legal means in suppressing journalism.
  • Design policy solutions for protecting public-interest journalism from regulatory, legal, and extra-legal private threats.
  • Design a rudimentary business model for a news organization.