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  1. 1. JOUR 39002-01 Independent Media – Issues and Challenges<br />Fall 2010 Prof. Jeff Cohen<br />Department of Journalism 607-274-1330<br />Office Hours: Tues 3-5pm, Wed. 1-3pm Park 257<br />My course blog: <br />The topic of this practicum is independent media, an increasingly vital sector that operates outside traditional corporate structures. Students will be required to study the content and business practices of successful independent outlets, and to discuss the topic in papers, blogs and presentations. Prerequisite: Junior standing. 3 credits<br />COURSE OUTCOMES: <br />This course focuses on the practice of journalism in independent outlets – and also on the business of independent media. Upon completion, the student will be able to:<br />Discuss the history, relevance and social/political/journalistic impact of independent, non-conglomerate media in the U.S. and the world – measured by class participation, blogging, assigned papers and presentation. <br />Assess strengths and weaknesses, ethical issues, problems and potentials of independent media – measured by class participation, papers and presentation. <br />Research and develop a plan for a new media outlet, assessing community/market needs, costs, revenue streams, platforms for outreach – measured by a short oral presentation and written mini-prospectus.<br /> <br />REQUIRED READING<br />Rodger Streitmatter, Voices of Revolution: The Dissident Press in America, (Columbia University Press, 2001 – Amazon has it new or used) <br /><br />ASSIGNMENTS AND GRADING SCHEME: <br />12% Class participation<br />20% Report: Profile of a current independent media outlet and context <br />20% Report: Profile of an historic independent media outlet and context <br />20% Blogging (5-week period) <br />20% Presentation/mini-prospectus on indy media outlet of your creation <br />8 % Extra blog posts (including analysis of end-of-year presentations)<br />CLASS PARTICIPATION: This class emphasizes participation. You’re expected to come to class ready to discuss the topics of the day – ALL assigned readings must be read BEFORE class. No use of computers or smart phones in class. My course blog (link above) helps you follow up on class videos, discussions. <br />Course Policies<br />Attendance: You are expected to attend all classes and are responsible for work missed during any absence. In a small class, excessive absenteeism (3 or more per semester) is obvious. Due to the importance of class participation, unexcused absences will negatively affect your grade. Students should notify me as soon as possible of any anticipated absences, documenting the reason. The following guidelines apply to excused absences:<br />1.  In accordance with New York State law, students who miss class due to their religious beliefs shall be excused from class on that day. Such students must notify their course instructors at least one week before any anticipated absence so that proper arrangements may be made to make up any missed work or assignments without penalty. <br />2.  Any student who misses class due to a verifiable family or individual health emergency or to a required appearance in a court of law shall be excused. The student or a family member/legal guardian may report the absence to the Office of Student Affairs and Campus Life, which will notify the student’s dean’s office, as well as residential life if the student lives on campus. The dean’s office will disseminate the information to the appropriate faculty. Follow-up by the student with his or her professors is imperative. Students may need to consider a leave of absence, medical leave of absence, selected course withdrawals, etc., if they have missed a significant portion of class work.<br />A student may be excused for participation in College-authorized co-curricular and extracurricular activities, such as athletic events, ROTC, musical and theatrical performances, and professional conferences if, in the instructor's judgment, this does not impair the specific student's or the other students' ability to succeed in the course.<br />Academic honesty: The use of work other than your own without proper citation or credit is a serious offense. Penalties for plagiarism include: failure on the assignment and/or failure in the course and/or College academic discipline, which could mean suspension or dismissal from the College. Plagiarism can involve not only written work but computer programs, photographs, artwork, films, videos, and audios. If unsure about what constitutes plagiarism, see your instructor and consult the Student Handbook (see "plagiarism" in the index). In a collaborative project, all involved students may be held responsible for academic misconduct if they are either knowing participants in plagiarism or complicit. Our recommended style manual is published by the American Psychological Association and is available in the bookstore. <br />Students with disabilities: In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, reasonable accommodation will be provided to students with documented disabilities on a case-by-case basis. Students must register with the Office of Academic Support Services and provide appropriate documentation to the College before any academic adjustment will be provided.<br />Safety: You must respond to and report conditions and actions that may jeopardize your safety, or that of other people and/or equipment. Report to the responsible College employee. During class sessions that would be your instructor. You must be aware that misuse of equipment or use of damaged equipment can create the risk of serious injury, infectious contamination, and expensive damage. You may be liable for damage or injury resulting from such use. Unsupervised use of facilities puts you at risk. Failure to be alert to safety problems, or to report them, may have serious consequences for you or others. <br />“What is important for the journalist is not how close you are to power, but how close you are to reality.” – Bill Moyers<br />Weeks 1-4<br /> Overview: What are independent media? How have they succeeded? <br />1) Thurs. Aug 26 Welcome. Overview of course. Expectations for class.<br />Required readings: You’re encouraged to get a jump on Aug 31 readings.<br />2) Tues. Aug 31 Mainstream/corporate vs. indy/participatory media <br /> Impact of Internet and blogs<br />Assignment: Spend at least 15 mins. total on HuffingtonPost and Talking Points Memo<br />Other required readings: <br />Newspapers vs. HuffingtonPost, Walter Lippmann vs. John Dewey <br />Eric Alterman, “Out of Print: The death and life of the American newspaper” (New Yorker, 3/21/08)<br />The rise of political/journalistic blogs and Talking Points Memo <br />Terry McDermott, “Blogs can top the presses” (L.A. Times, 3/17/07)<br /><br />Historic moment: Conservative blogs expose forged documents at CBS (2004 election) <br />Read just first 16 paragraphs of this piece on bloggers vs. CBS: <br />Howard Kurtz, “After Blogs Got Hits, CBS Got a Black Eye” (Washington Post, 9/20/04)<br />3) Thurs. Sep 2 Maverick, independent values: Stickin’ it to the Man<br /> In-class screening: Independent Media in a Time of War <br />Assignment: Spend at least 15 minutes total with Democracy Now! (TV, radio, web) and Glenn Greenwald’s blog <br />Other required readings:<br />Glenn Greenwald, “Longtime reporter: ‘Bloggers have taught me a lesson’ about dependency on sources” (Salon, 6/12/08)<br /><br />Challenging corporate media dominance<br />Dan Kennedy, “Is Internet populism destined for corporate ruin?” (Boston Phoenix, 10/4/07) <br />Independent blogger sparks controversy over U-Conn coach’s salary<br />Chris Lisee, “Strong Personalities, Big Questions” (IC student blog, 2/27/09)<br /><br />4) Tues. Sep 7 How Internet changes marketing of movies, books, news<br />Assignment: Spend at least 15 minutes on Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films <br /> and<br />Other required readings: <br />Grassroots Internet marketing puts small documentary in orbit <br />Louise Witt, “Outfoxed: A Unique Sleeper Hit” (Wired, 7/23/04)<br /><br />From blogger to best-selling author, #1 on Amazon, in 6 months<br />Jennifer Nix, “How To Create a Liberal Bestseller” (The Nation, 6/29/06)<br /><br />Richard Siklos, “The Drudge Report: Kickin’ it old school” (Toronto Globe, 6/6/08 – will be handed out in previous class) <br />Further reading: Check out the campus-based in-depth reporting site News 21 <br />(Blog about it for extra points.)<br />5) Thurs. Sep 9 Nonprofit investigative reporting and whistle-blowing outlets<br />In-class screening: 2008 Izzy Award-winners Glenn Greenwald & Amy Goodman on Bill Moyers Journal<br />Assignment: Spend 15 at least 15 mins total with ProPublica and WikiLeaks<br />WikiLeaks: <br />Raphael Satter, “WikiLeaks: Group vows to put more documents online” (AP 7/26/10)<br /> <br />“WikiLeaks Julian Assange on the ‘War Logs’: ‘I Enjoy Crushing Bastards’” (Spiegel interview, 7/26/10),1518,708518,00.html ???<br />ProPublica: <br />Richard Perez-Pena, “Group Plans to Provide Investigative Journalism” (NY Times, 10/15/07) HYPERLINK ""<br />David Westphal, “New grassroots life for investigative reporting?” (OnlineJournalism<br />Review, 4/9/09)<br />Further reading –“Click and Dagger: Inside WikiLeaks Leak Factory” (Mother Jones, 6/2/10) <br /><br />6) Tues. Sep14 Breadth of indy media: ethnic media, citizen journalism<br /> In-class screening: KPFA on the Air <br />Assignment: Spend at least 12 minutes at “Voices that must be heard: the best of New York’s ethnic and immigrant press”<br />Hamsa Ramesha, “A New Frontier for Ethnic Media” (, 7/31/09)<br />Jeff Cohen, “Big Election Winner: Indy Media” (, 11/5/08)<br /><br />Citizen Journalism<br />Katharine Seelye, “Off the Bus, But Growing Thousands Strong” (NY Times, 7/23/08) <br /><br />Further reading: Upstarts in fashion journalism “Bloggers Crash Fashion’s Front Row” (NYT 12/24/09)<br />Week 4-5 International Independent Media & Blogs <br />Guest Speaker Thurs. Sep 16 evening: Tom Tomorrow -- independent U.S. political cartoonist (blog about it) Recent work here:<br />7) Thurs. Sep 16 Global Voices/ Human Rights <br />Spend 12 minutes on website of Global Voices, a project of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, which tracks global events via online monitoring<br />Patrick Butler, “New Technology, New Voices” (Int’l Center for Journalists, 2007) <br /> <br />“Beaten to Death for Using the Internet” (Human Rights First, 6/11/10)<br /><br />Arianna Huffington, “Bearing Witness 2.0: You Can’t Spin 10,000 Tweets and Camera Phone Uploads” (HuffingtonPost, 7/13/09)<br />Further reading: France’s political elite vs. Internet “As Web Challenges French Leaders, They Push Back (NYT 12/12/09)<br />8) Tues. Sep 21 Special Focus: Iran and South Korea<br />Dan Amira, “Twitter Shows Its Value as Iran Explodes” (New York magazine blog, 6/15/09)<br />Brian Stelter “Journalism Rules Bent on Iran Coverage” (NY Times, 6/28/09) <br /><br />Howard French, “Online Newspaper Shakes Up Korean Politics” (NY Times, 3/6/03) <br /><br />“OhmyTV Beef Protest Coverage Opens Readers’ Hearts, Pocketbooks,” (OhmyNews, 6/6/08)<br />1st PAPER DUE Thurs Sep 23 (by noon via email): Report on a current indy media outlet, in context (approx 1500 words)<br />Weeks 5-8 Independent media in U.S. history<br />9) Thurs. Sep 23 Impact of social upheaval, new technologies, regulatory changes<br />Boston University journalism professor on earliest American indy journalists<br />Christopher B. Daly, “Are Bloggers Journalists? Let’s Ask Thomas Jefferson” (April ’05)<br />Jeff Cohen, “What Indy Media Heroes Can Teach Us” (, 11/14/08)<br /><br />10) Tues. Sep 28 19th Century <br />Part 1 of Streitmatter book <br />Page 1 and your choice of two of these three chapters -- American labor press; The Liberator/slavery; The Revolution/women’s rights – plus summary pages 54-57<br />(You can read all three chapters and blog about your extra reading for extra points.)<br />11 and 12) Thurs. Sep 30/Tues Oct 5 Turn of the Century/Early 20th Century<br />Streitmatter book. Read three of these four chapters (your choice).<br />Ida B. Wells/anti-lynching pp. 80-96<br />Appeal to Reason/socialism pp. 97-114<br />Chicago Defender/black migration pp. 141-158<br />Margaret Sanger/birth control pp.159-175<br />(You can read all four chapters and blog about your extra reading for extra points.)<br />13) Thurs. Oct 7 Post World War II<br />Jeff Cohen, “Izzy Stone: Patron Saint of Bloggers,” (, 6/16/08)<br /><br />I.F. Stone, “A Word About Myself” (introduction to the book, The Haunted Fifties, July ’63)<br />Further Reading: Cohen/Solomon, “George Seldes Leaves a Legacy of Courage” (syndicated column, 7/12/95) <br />14) Tues. Oct 12 1960s and After<br />Streitmatter, pages 200-219 Government harassment of 1960s counter-culture press <br />Further reading: Gene Hyde, “Breaking Through the Information Blockade: Independent Media Centers revolutionize the online alternative press,” (Creative Loafing, 12/15/01)<br /> Global home for IMC:<br />2ND PAPER DUE Wed. Oct 13 (6pm by email): <br />Report on an historic indy outlet in context of today’s independent media and other historic indies (approx 1200 words)<br />FALL MINI-BREAK <br />Weeks 9-10 Independent media: Current problems, obstacles<br />Funding, corporatization, censorship<br />15) Tues. Oct 19 Blogs, growing a readership, revenue <br />ASSIGNMENT BEGINS: Start 5 weeks of blogging<br />Guest speaker: Mark Finkelstein, conservative blogger for<br />Read at least 4 of his blog posts at<br />Josh Marshall, "The Growth of Talking Points Memo” (Ithaca College talk, Sept. ‘08) <br /><br />John Tozzi, “Bloggers Bring in Big Bucks” (Business Week 7/13/07- WATCH 14-PAGE SLIDESHOW on pioneering bloggers)<br />16) Thurs. Oct 21 More on revenue: 3 streams – big donors (foundations/ investors) or little donors (readers/viewers/listeners) or advertising<br />An Internet pioneer on how independent producers/artists can survive<br />Kevin Kelly, “1,000 True Fans” (, March, ’08)<br /><br />William Booth, “His Fans Greenlight the Project – Robert Greenwald Tapped a New Funding Source: The Audience” (Washington Post, 8/20/06)<br />Concerns about nonprofit journalism funded by big donors & foundations<br />Jack Shafer, “Nonprofit Journalism Comes at a Cost” (Slate, 9/30/09)<br />17) Tues. Oct 26 Obstacles to indy outlets/corporatization of alternative weeklies<br />Yuxing Zheng, “Bloggers might be excluded from Oregon’s executive sessions,” (Oregonian,10/4/08)<br />Indy magazines across spectrum challenge postal rate hike designed by Time/Warner<br />“Don’t stamp out brainy mags” (Boston Globe editorial, 4/27/07)<br /><br />Historic moment: Mainstream daily company acquires alternative weeklies<br />Mike Allen, “Hartford Courant Buys 5 Weeklies, Tabloid Offspring Of 60's Voices” (NY Times, 4/15/99)<br />Further reading: Chain ownership weakens local weeklies Jon Wiener, “End of an Era at the LA Weekly” (The Nation, 6/27/07)<br />18) Thurs. Oct 28 Web censorship <br />(Note timing: First four articles below appeared within a few weeks in 2008)<br />“Big Brother is Blocking” (St. Louis Post Dispatch editorial, 1/23/08)<br /><br />Liptak/Stone, “Judge Shuts Down Web Site Specializing in Leaks” (NY Times, 2/19/08) <br />Note: Judge removed his shut down order 10 days later, after journalists protested <br /><br />Michael Y. Park, “Journalist Who Exposes U.N. Corruption Disappears from Google” (Fox, 2/18/08),2933,331106,00.html<br />Jane Macartney, “Dissident Chinese professor to sue Yahoo And Google for erasing his name” (Times Online, 2/6/08)<br />“Google bows to China’s censorship demands” (AP/Sydney Morning Herald, 7/21/10)<br /><br />Week 11: New Technologies/Journalism/Distribution <br />19) Tues. Nov 2 How Internet is changing journalism<br />Will Bunch, “A Landmark for Bloggers – and the Future of Journalism” (Alternet, 2/20/08)<br />“Arianna Huffington: Obsessiveness is the greatest strength of online news” (Guardian, 7/1/09)<br />Huffington/New Media recruits fired Old Media staffer<br />Glenn Greenwald, “Dan Froomkin hired by The Huffington Post” (Salon, 7/709)<br /><br />20) Thurs. Nov 4 Content producers in arts & journalism cut out middlemen<br />Brian Stelter, “YouTube Videos Pull in Real Money” (NY Times, 12/10/08)<br /><br />Jon Pareles, “Radiohead: Shaking up the recording industry, with success” (NY Times, 10/11/07)<br />Movie straight to ITunes<br />David Sarno, “Want to share ear buds?” (L.A. Times, 11/20/07)<br />,0,1658276.story<br />Week 12: Ethical Issues – partisanship, bias, accuracy<br />21) Tues. Nov 9 Ethics: The Case of Mayhill Fowler, HuffPost citizen journalist<br />Issue 1: Fowler gets into a “closed” fundraiser; her blog post nearly derails Obama <br />James Rainey, “Barack Obama can thank ‘citizen journalist’ for ‘bitter’ tempest” (L.A. Times, 4/15/08)<br />Issue 2: Fowler taped angry quotes from Bill Clinton after not IDing herself as a reporter<br />James Rainey, “How Mayhill Fowler got online scoops on Obama and Bill Clinton”<br />(L.A. Times, 6/7/08) <br />,0,7613904,full.story<br />Listen to surviving audio of the Bill Clinton diatribe taped by Fowler:<br />Mayhill Fowler, “Bill Clinton: Purdum a ‘Sleazy’ ‘Slimy’ ‘Scumbag’” (HuffPost, 6/2/08) <br />Jouvenal/Koppelman, “Vanity Fair piece about Bill Clinton sparks controversy” (Salon, 6/3/08 – Read just last 6 graphs of piece where Alex Koppelman questions Fowler’s tactics)<br />22) Thurs. Nov 11 Objectivity/Accuracy: The Cases of Matt Drudge & Andrew Breitbart <br />Blogger David Weinberger, “Transparency is the new objectivity” (7/17/09)<br /><br />DRUDGE<br />Matt Drudge, “World Exclusive: Woman Names Bill Clinton Father of Son in Shocking <br />Video Confession” (DrudgeReport, 1/6/99) <br />{B5E2DC5F-DCB0-4A4A-AD05-95EF060CBA36} (May have to copy & paste link)<br />J.D. Lasica, “A Cybersleaze Timeline: Anatomy of a Smear” (Online Journalism Review, 1/11/99)<br />Drudge victim Blumenthal urges candidate Kerry to fight back<br />Sidney Blumenthal, “Why Kerry should sue the Sun”(Guardian, 2/19/04)<br /><br />BREITBART<br />George Curry, “Anatomy of a smear campaign: Shirley Sherrod” (St. Louis American, 8/4/10)<br />I.C. student Zack Tomanelli, “Sherrod Hoax Exposed, but Breitbart’s ACORN Fraud Lives On” (FAIR blog, 7/23/20)<br />Week 13: Regulatory Reforms/ Prepare for Pitch Presentations<br />23) Tues. Nov 16 Fast access to a non-discriminatory Internet/ begin prep for oral pitches <br />Sam Gustin, “American broadband infrastructure: A national embarrassment” ( 8/26/09)<br />Conservative group denounces web censorship, supports Net Neutrality <br />Congressional testimony from Christian Coalition (3/11/08)<br /> <br />“After Google-Verizon fizzle, FCC should force Net Neutrality” (Boston Globe, 8/17/10)<br /><br />“The Price of Broadband Politics” (New York Times editorial, 6/29/10)<br />PREPARING YOUR PITCH<br />Jeff Jarvis, “Lessons” from entrepreneurial journalism course (, 12/10/07)<br />24) Thurs. Nov 18 Independent public broadcasting/ more prep for oral pitches<br />Jerold Starr, “It's Time for PBS to Get Its Trust Fund” (, Nov. ‘01)<br />PBS nightly news favors hawks over doves, Repubs over Dems<br />“Study Finds Lack of Balance, Diversity, Public at PBS NewsHour” (FAIR action alert, 10/4/06)<br />PREPARING YOUR PITCH<br />Adam Westbrook, “Thinking of a journalism start-up? Here’s a checklist” (blog, 11/5/09)<br />ASSIGNMENT ENDS: Cease your 5 weeks of blogging by Sat., Nov 20.<br /> * * *<br />Your oral pitch presentation should explain why your project is needed, the hole in the market your project fills, how it will launch & sustain financially, on what platforms it will reach its market or community, who your competitors are, how your project is different than competitors, etc.<br />With both the oral pitch and written prospectus, I’m looking for some creative, entrepreneurial thinking about journalism/independent media/revenue streams. Focus on your own journalistic interests, passions, subjects you know. I’m not expecting a long, thorough business plan. <br />Weeks 14-15 Pitching your own indy media project<br />25) Tues. Nov 30 First pitch presentations<br />26) Thurs. Dec 2 More pitch presentations <br />27) Tues. Dec 7 Still more pitch presentations<br />28) Thurs. Dec 9 Last of pitch presentations <br /> <br /> <br />FINAL) Wed. Dec 15 at 4:30pm We DO meet on “final” day. Prior to class, submit by email a short written prospectus based on your oral pitch and feedback <br />Between Dec 9 and Dec 15: Write your final blog post (approx 250 words) analyzing which proposed project or two pitched in class you found most promising or exciting, and why.<br />