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Gender, Race, Syllabi

Syllabus: Reporting race, gender and diversity in America

Tags: , , , , | Last updated: February 7, 2014

Last updated: February 7, 2014

Immigration reform protest, Washington, DC (Wikimedia)Immigration reform protest, Washington, DC (Wikimedia)Immigration reform protest, Washington, DC (Wikimedia)
Immigration reform protest (Wikimedia)

The United States has always been a story of diversity and evolving identity — from the roots planted many generations ago by Native Americans, immigrants and enslaved peoples to the fresh traditions brought by those arriving from all over the world.

Journalists must have a solid understanding of the communities that make up America today, including awareness about our enmeshed histories. Together these provide a vision of how to report fairly and fully within any beat. This course examines the media’s role in shaping perceptions about social groups and the inequities that trouble our nation, their root causes, and potential solutions. During the semester, students will go out into the neighborhoods to report on issues across differences of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

Course objectives

  • Evaluate news values in the context of diverse human experiences, identities and cultures.
  • Develop research skills to enhance interviews and community awareness, using resources such as ethnic media and the U.S. Census.
  • Improve interviewing skills with careful listening and sources from a range of perspectives.
  • Recognize power relationships, including the relative privilege or marginalization of social groups, including one’s own.
  • Recognize, report on, analyze and discuss structures that lead to inequity and injustice.
  • Identify media practices, frames and other effects that shape perceptions about difference, inequity and appropriate policies in areas such as health, education, crime and government.
  • Appreciate the importance of journalism in a democratic society, especially as related to representations of race, gender, generation, geography, religion and physical ability.
  • Appreciate and engage with the ethical issues and personal challenges posed by reporting across social difference.

Course design

This course will acquaint students with covering diversity across multiple aspects of identity and their intersections, with example application areas in health, education, criminal justice and government. Students will develop their knowledge of theoretical frameworks, gain skills and practices, and learn how to apply all three in reporting and writing in core beat areas.

Course materials

Suggested class materials include general texts that supply a theoretical framework, book chapters, and print or online readings that apply to class topics, and films. We recommend that students follow news coverage of their communities of interest and comment on it depending on the class topic. Instructors can guide students to relevant articles or ask students to do their own research. Readings can be selected from those suggested based on the emphasis of the course designed. Separately, several books are proposed for the instructor’s use and selected chapters may lend themselves to student use as well.

Readings

Suggested chapters from the following books are listed with the relevant class.

  • Clint C. Wilson, Felix Gutierrez and Lena M. Chao, Racism, Sexism and the Media: Multicultural Issues Into the New Communications Age, 2012.
  • Sally Lehrman, News in a New America, Knight Foundation, 2006. To request copies, contact publications@knightfdn.org.
  • Sue Ellen Christian, Overcoming Bias: A Journalist’s Guide to Culture and Context, 2011.
  • Herbert Gans, Democracy and the News, 2003.
  • Maurianne Adams, et al. Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, 2013.
  • Patrick Lee Plaisance, Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice, 2009.
  • Coverage of community issues, NewsTrust website.

Films

For the professor

  • Kim Case (editor), Deconstructing Privilege: Teaching and Learning as Allies in the Classroom, 2013.
  • William C. Cockerham, Social Causes of Health and Disease, 2013.
  • Shaun L. Gabbidon and Helen Taylor Greene, Race and Crime, 2013.
  • Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald, Blindspot: The Hidden Biases of Good People, 2013.

Note: One effective method of organizing this course is to assign students to particular ethnic or racial groups or neighborhoods for the entire semester, adding intersections with gender, class, sexual orientation or other identities for specific assignments. In this way they are able to develop sophisticated knowledge about a particular group, including its local experience and issues, and also develop complexity in their understanding.

Assignments

  • Analysis of online news, NewsTrust website.
  • Community event, observation or event podcast.
  • Literature review.
  • Blog posts (300 words).
  • Beat story (800 words).
  • Profile of a community leader (800 words).
  • Final enterprise feature or podcast (1,200 words or three-minute podcast).
  • Reporter’s journal blog, including reflection on ethical dilemmas encountered.

Weekly schedule and exercises (13-week course)

The assumption of this syllabus is that the course will meet twice a week. It is also assumed that students will have completed at least one basic reporting class before taking this course.

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7
Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13

Week 1: The power of news

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Class 1: Historical, ethical and demographic frameworks for covering diversity

This class will involve the discussion of the ethical underpinnings for inclusion in the news and the mainstream media’s bumpy history in attempting to achieve this.

Readings

Class 2: Patterns of coverage

The news media have been criticized for overlooking some ethnic and racial groups in a given community and demonizing others. In this class students can discuss patterns in coverage and develop general principles for effective reporting.

Readings.

Assignment

Select a story in the news, then compare ethnic media to mainstream outlets’ coverage. What differences do you notice? Can you categorize those differences into areas such as news values, source selection, level of context and background? Write a 300-word blog post on your findings.

Week 2: Who lives here?

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Class 1: A portrait of your community

The U.S. Census provides a rich portrait of communities across America. It is a helpful starting point for coverage ideas. Census categories have changed dramatically over time, and continue to do so. How does this reflect thinking about U.S. social groups over the years, and considering the role of the Census in shaping policy, how does it affect our thinking?

Readings

Assignment

Spend 60 minutes learning about and exploring the American Community Survey on Census.gov. Start with lessons 1, 3 and 4 in the e-tutorial and view videos 1, 3 and 5, plus any others of interest. Come up with three questions about your community. Research them using the “population profiles” feature, and write three story ideas based on your findings. Based on the readings, write a 300-word blog post about the U.S. Census category that applies to you now, compared to the categories that would have applied to your ancestors in 1930 or 1950. How might the categorization of their race have affected your ancestors’ life experience?

Class 2: Who has a stake? Who has a story?

Break into groups to share what you have learned about your community. What types of stories and beats most commonly include your community? What issues seem to be important? What voices (either specifically or collectively) should a reporter consult in order to achieve a representative sampling of your community? Consider what you learned from the American Community Survey and additional online research.

Assignment

Spend at least 60 minutes online and identify five interesting things about the community you will be covering. Look for leaders; political, social and cultural groups; and recent news events and issues affecting the community. Write a 300-word blog post about your findings. Search calendars to identify a community event that you can attend by the end of Week 3.

Week 3: News, critically

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Class 1: Identity and perspective

Reporters always have, because of their personal history and biography, a position relative to any topic, even if they don’t have one on the topic. It’s important that we understand ourselves, our backgrounds and our roles within a larger sociological context, in order to best reduce bias and recognize areas of potential challenge.

Readings

Assignment

Using the Diversity Wheel, write down what you feel is your identity in each section, how others see you and if it’s different from your self-perception. In pairs, discuss one part of your identity that may help you understand non-majority perspectives, and another that might make these harder to see.

Class 2: Stereotypes and stigmatization

Reporters can inadvertently rely on stereotypes when deciding what constitutes a story and what sources to use. Even when they don’t, they may stigmatize groups and activate stereotypes on the part of the audience.

Readings

Assignment

Answer questions as part of the Maynard Institute’s “Diversity Game.” Write a blog post about what you learned and the challenges you faced.

Week 4: Power and privilege

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Class 1: Categories, intersections, fault lines

The fault lines framework of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education helps journalists understand how they see the news through the prism of their own experience, and also provides a tool to widen the lens. Pick an issue in the news or an event and discuss its impact or significance to people seen from each fault-line perspective. Now find two fault lines that intersect in interesting ways with the issue area or news event. Finally, what is the best way to apply this tool without slipping into stereotypes?

Readings

Assignment due

Write an essay or create a podcast on a community event.

Class 2: Implicit bias and other phenomena

We all carry biases — sometimes conscious, sometimes not — shaped by our upbringing and the society in which we live. The news environment powerfully influences these attitudes, but journalists can break out of the cycle by understanding how implicit bias works. Discuss the results of your own Implicit Association Test and pick one of the “perception trap” techniques from the Sally Lehrman article that you would like to try this week.

Readings

Assignment

Read the Psychological Science study “Economic Inequality Is Linked to Biased Self-Perception” at Journalist’s Resource. Citing some of the general insights in that study, write a blog post about issues of privilege and class on your college campus and the surrounding community. As best you can, try to find some data — from state and Census Bureau sources — that help put your observations in socioeconomic and demographic context.

Week 5: The pictures and words we choose

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Class 1: Framing and language

After the Associated Press recommended against using the term “illegal immigrant,” many newsrooms dropped its use, but the New York Times did not. Split into teams that defend each position from a journalism-ethics standpoint. What other terms might be considered “loaded” and deserve careful reflection before use? Consider the articles on the negative framing of Islam and the links between media coverage and perceptions about Muslims. How should journalists act on the findings?

Readings

Class 2: Institutional barriers

Digital newsrooms are generally less diverse than print or broadcast ones. What should news organizations do to ensure that their coverage is inclusive of diverse peoples and ideas? Some sites, like the Root, VivirLatino and AsianWeek, target audiences often overlooked by mainstream sites.

Readings

Assignment due

Profile of a community leader (800 words).

Week 6: Religion

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Class 1: Religion and language

How well do journalists cover the changing landscape of religion in American life? In news stories that involve religious groups, “fundamentalist” is a common term. What does it mean? What uses are appropriate? Discuss other terms and frames often applied in coverage of religious groups.

Readings

Class 2: Religion and social issues

Religious differences can become a focal point for discrimination and conflict over policy. Changing U.S. demographics and immigration bring these issues to the forefront in many institutions.

Readings

Assignment

Choose a study from the “religion” category at Journalist’s Resource. Write a blog post about the study’s findings and suggest ways that it could help inform deeper media coverage of religious issues. Discuss the role of stereotypes in the relevant area of religious life.

Week 7: Race and ethnicity

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Class 1: When is race relevant?

The Associated Press Stylebook says “race is pertinent … for suspects sought by the police or missing person cases using police or other credible, detailed descriptions.” Based on your readings up to now on identity, media effects and journalism ethics, what should reporters consider when deciding whether or not to identify a person’s race in stories?

Readings

Assignment

Based on your reading of Matt Apuzzo’s article above and the U.S. Census history from week 2, what categories of “race” should be used? Are crime stories a special case? Brainstorm ideas, both pro- and con-, with a partner. You and your partner should then write opposing blog posts on the topic of using race in crime reports, from a journalism ethics standpoint.

Class 2: Color-blind and color-conscious

In an article for Poynter.org (below) journalist Eric Deggans asserts that news coverage of George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin over-emphasized racial conflict or racial profiling while attempting to discern Zimmerman’s individual attitudes. Analysts in a special issue of the journal Theory & Event argue that in fact, the news media missed a valuable opportunity to examine important social questions related to racial suspicion and violence in American society. Have the class split into teams that defend each position: Should the Zimmerman coverage have been color-blind or color-conscious? Also to be considered: Was gender properly or improperly overlooked?

Readings

Assignment

Talk to a variety of sources on your campus and the surrounding community about the way racial issues are discussed and ask them how they believe race should be covered. Write a news article or blog post about perceptions of race and media in your community. If possible, tie the discussion to an event, anniversary or other news “peg.”

Week 8: Gender

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Class 1: Interpreting gender identity

Coverage choices by journalists influence the use and meaning of social categories, while research can become a foundation for ideologies both within and outside of the newsroom. How can journalists avoid becoming the “infomercial for cherished beliefs” that Diane Halpern references below?

Readings

Class 2: Reporting sociological trends

Journalists are often responsible for reporting on sociological trends in society, such as women’s involvement in earning power and leadership, or attitudes about social relations and stigma. Sociological research can offer a solid foundation for this type of reporting, but journalists must offer context such as previous research and comments from experts who can offer insight on the report’s strengths and weaknesses.

Readings

Assignment

Read the article “Female Victims of Sexual Violence” at Journalist’s Resource. Using the information there as background, write a campus-based story about issues of safety and gender on campus. Be sure to mention wider trends in terms of policy changes and data on these issues.

Week 9: Broadening the view

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Class 1: 360-degree interviewing

To report accurately and fully on an event or issue, journalists must consider a variety of perspectives. Take your story idea and map out how you would achieve a 360-degree perspective on your topic. Based on your readings and discussions so far, how would you build trust with the sources you have identified?

Readings

  • Overcoming Bias, chapters 5-6.
  • Media Ethics, chapters 7-8.
  • Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, chapter 59.

Class 2: Listening and cross-checking perceptions and facts.

The interview itself, and the material generated, have many complexities that can introduce issues of cultural bias and misunderstanding. Getting at the “truth” of what an individual is saying is no easy task. Part of success as a journalist is proper preparation, but it is also a matter of finely calibrated technique and practice — and awareness of our own tendencies to simplify.

Readings

Assignment

Read Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker essay “The Naked Face” and Daniel Kahneman’s four-part Bloomberg series “Bias, Blindness and How We Truly Think.” Blog about the science of human intuition and judgment in assessing situations, and highlight some ideas that might be useful for journalists to keep in mind as they conduct interviews and reporting.

Week 10: Public health

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Class 1: Disparities in longevity and health outcomes

Public health experts use the social determinants of health framework to illuminate the social conditions that can lead to unequal opportunity in society. By understanding the uneven distribution of resources in a community and resulting disparities in living and working conditions, the policies underpinning these can be addressed. Discuss the Health Disparities and Inequalities Report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looking especially for intersections between gender and race, ethnicity, age or geographic location. In your community, what neighborhood and social conditions may lie behind some of the unequal outcomes described?

Readings

Class 2: Policy intersections in health

In the New York Times and Environmental Health News readings below, reporters dig into the policies and practices that lead to unequal living conditions and in turn, poor health outcomes for particular groups of people. Pick one, identify the sources the reporter used, and write a paragraph about the reporting strategies that supported the story. Alternately, consider the social and living conditions that shape opportunity for your focus community. What policies and institutional practices might contribute to these conditions? Develop three questions or one story idea based on your hunch.

Readings

Assignment due

Perform a scholarly literature review around a particular issue in this general area of public health and diverse communities. Use Journalist’s Resource, Google Scholar, PubMed and the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). Compile a bibliography and write out a one-page pitch for a health or education story that is informed by the scholarly literature.

Week 11: Education

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Class 1: Disparities in education outcomes

The readings present several policies, practices and perceptions that may underlie disparities in educational outcomes. What story ideas and reporting strategies do they suggest?

Readings

Class 2: Race, education and public policy

In American post-World War II political debate, few issues have been more central than race in schools. The legal and policy dimensions of the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision continue to play out, and to be modified and revisited.

Readings

Assignments

Week 12: Criminal justice

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Class 1: Crime, community and policing

According to Jeremy Travis, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, “the journey toward racial justice in our criminal justice system has been made immensely more difficult by our high rates of incarceration, the growth of community supervision and intrusive policing strategies.” Consider Travis’s 2008 speech in the context of the findings of the 2013 study by Thomas J. Miles in American Law and Economics Review. Discuss story ideas or projects that would help audiences understand the debates over community justice and the underlying trends.

Readings

Class 2: Policy intersections in criminal justice

Select an idea suggested for exploration by the Delgado and Stefancic reading, and spend 60 minutes researching the topic. Write a reporting plan and nut graf for a story based on your findings.

Readings

Assignment due

Health or education story (800 words).

Week 13: Government

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Class 1: National immigration policy

Each year the prospects for immigration reform in the United States seem to rise, only to fall short in Congress for a variety of political reasons. The issue of how many millions of people might be more fully integrated into American society, or “brought out of the shadows,” as some advocates put it, remains perhaps America’s most complicated new diversity issue.

Readings

Assignment

Familiarize yourself with the work of the Pew Hispanic Center and the National Journal’s “The Next America” project. Write a blog about a finding or story from each site that you think deserves wider attention and might help inform more intelligent public discourse about immigration reform.

Class 2: Residential segregation

The ways in which race, class and ethnicity are reflected in communities is frequently a function of regional and local government policies — from zoning to tax policy, from transportation to infrastructure — as well as national demographic trends that are always shifting.

Readings

Assignment due

Final 1,200-word story.

——————-

A special thanks to Sally Lehrman, Senior Fellow in Journalism Ethics at Santa Clara University, for help in writing this syllabus.


    Writer: | February 7, 2014

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    Reporting race, gender and diversity in America (Syllabus) | Feb 18, 2014 18:29

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