History, Public Information, Manipulation, Propaganda

Note: A complete outline and reference page need to be submitted to your tutor in Week 14.
Length: 12 pages (approximately 3200–3500 words)
Format: Present your research in the form of an academic research paper with a clear thesis statement, research questions or objectives, review of related literature and other evidence, and an analytical conclusion that supports your evidence in answering the research question(s).
Criteria: Cite all sources used within the paper and provide a complete reference list at the end of the paper, using a standard academic style such as MLA, APA, or Chicago. Please consult the Course Information’s guide to writing essays for more information.
Use both primary and secondary sources in your research. Primary sources are works produced by government departments, such as policy statements, acts, discussion documents, annual reports, and departmental website information. Newspapers and magazines as well as websites of news organizations, such as the CBC and BBC, are also good sources. You should also use at least six secondary sources: critical peer-reviewed academic papers and texts. You may include course readings, but use at least four outside sources as well.
Topic: Choose one of the following topics (either A or B) for your research paper.

Topic A: History, Public Information, Manipulation, Propaganda

The late Washington Post publisher Phil Graham referred to journalism as a “first rough draft of history.” Many journalists like to think they are producing public information of vital importance for citizens. But journalists and their media organizations sometimes use the ideal of public information as a rhetorical justification for manipulation and propaganda (whether commercial or political).

Write a research paper describing the interplay of freedom and responsibility in news production (providing examples). Your paper should:

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  • Consider the circumstances under which reporters may agree or disagree on facts
  • Consider the circumstances that make it acceptable (or not) for governments or media organizations themselves to place limits on freedom of speech
  • Discuss the distinctions between truth and truthfulness
  • Consider whether it is normal/abnormal that journalists report from a particular “point of view”

As well, based on the readings in this course, differentiate between journalism, public information, manipulative discourse (with your own definitions), and propaganda and suggest solutions for journalists who want to work free of propaganda and censorship.

Topic B: The Theory and Practice of Codes and Standards

Choose three journalistic codes of ethics from Canada, the United States, Europe, and/or the Middle East. Ensure at least one of your choices is from a newspaper code and at least one is from broadcasting, so that you can highlight similarities and differences. Critique several examples of reporting by media organizations that have stated their support for these codes of ethics. Critically examine two different media (newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, or the Internet) to distinguish between their specific cultures, technological constraints, and possibilities. Examine the specific ethical challenges posed by each medium. Critically examine how news organizations are regulated by external organizations and how they regulate themselves. If you write about new media such as the Internet (online editions of news media, blogs, etc.), consider whether they are opening the way for a more interactive kind of journalism, and whether such innovative practices could make journalism more accountable, responsible, and ethical, or whether they could have the opposite effect.

Consider these questions when writing your research paper:

  • What are the key ethical issues raised by journalism as public information, as manipulative discourse, and as propaganda?
  • Is there a gap between the theory and the practice of codes and standards? If so, do you consider the gap normal or abnormal?
  • How has the broader social, political, and economic environment shaped professional standards for journalists and their media organizations?
  • What are the outstanding or future issues for ethical journalism that still need to be addressed by individual journalists and their media organizations?

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