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Winter Medill courses with seats for non-majors

JOUR 372-0 International Journalism: South Africa
Taught by Prof. Doug Foster
MW 10am-11:50am, Fisk 309

January 2020 marks three decades since the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. His release, and the negotiations that followed, ushered in an effort to flesh out the vision of establishing a “nonracial,” egalitarian, anti-sexist, and non-homophobic society on the southern tip of Africa. Those were ambitions clearly articulated in the Constitution promulgated in 1996 and which are, quite visibly, undergoing an extreme stress test in the context of a contracting global economy and corruption. This course covers the contemporary history of South Africa with a special focus on the role of media in one of the world’s newest constitutional democracies. Speaking directly with journalists, publishers, executive producers and media executives we’ll explore the state of independent journalism. The course is required for journalism students who have applied for the Residency Program in South Africa, but it is not limited to them. Global public health students and engineering students headed for internships and study in the country often find it useful. It’s open, as well, to any student interested in considering the steps a journalist might take in preparing herself for an international assignment. The course is also a workshop, in effect, for discussion of ethical considerations in doing journalism across lines of nationality, class, culture, language, ethnicity, race, and other considerations. 

Required Materials:
After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa, Douglas Foster [Liveright: 2020]- $20
What If There Were No Whites in South Africa, Ferial Haffajee [Picador Africa:2015] $20 



JOUR 383-0 Health and Science Reporting
Taught by Prof. Patti Wolter
W 9am-11:50am, Fisk 206

Health and Science Reporting teaches students both how to think about science writing and how to write about science and medicine. In this combination writing workshop and seminar we will read some of the best of the best science and health journalism; meet with expert scientists on campus; and meet the editors and writers from leading scientific journals and publications. Students will learn what makes good science writing, how to find sources, how to evaluate information and how to sort out science from pseudo-science. Assignments will include critiques of science coverage in newspapers, magazines, television, radio and the Web, science/health/medicine journal rewrites, news briefs, an in-depth narrative story on a science topic of students’ own choosing, and an opportunity to write live copy for a science magazine or website.   

Required Materials:
Access to laptop or other word processing equipment  



JOUR 390-0 section 24: The Vote
Taught by Prof. Jack Doppelt
Th 12pm-2:50pm

The discussion seminar course will explore the calculated efforts to ensure that political power in the U.S. stays in the hands of those in power against all demographic odds and projections. It is often said, particularly now, that the right to vote is what keeps the United States from descending into autocracy or one-party rule. Yet, the right to vote is not protected directly in the Constitution, and American history is filled with examples of successful ways for those in power, at both national and local levels, to keep and entrench their power by manipulating THE VOTE. A core purpose of the course is to brief students on how this has been done in the U.S. and to prepare them to know it when they see it and to report on it or otherwise address it. 

 Among the topics we will cover are: 

  • The Vote, the Constitution and its Amendments, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the end of the Voting Rights Act: Origins and traditions throughout the U.S. that have limited the vote to property-owning white men until the 15th Amendment in 1870; denied generations of women the right to vote until the 19th Amendment 50 years later in 1920; and ended in 2013 the Voting Rights Act protections against racial discrimination in voting that were enacted 48 years earlier in 1965. 
  • Immigration and demographics: Selective limits and bans on lawful migration into the U.S. and on naturalizations have reduced the numbers and types of people allowed to enter and stay in the country and become citizens who can vote.  
  • Voter suppression: Techniques used by states, ostensibly to address potential vote fraud, such as disqualifying felons and ex-felons from voting, poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses and other Jim Crow laws; requiring photo IDs; purging voter rolls when registered voters don’t vote in consecutive elections; using unverified crosscheck lists to create the impression of illegal duplicate voting; limiting early voting;  closing targeted polling places, all of which tend to disproportionately impact minorities, African-American communities, lower-income residents, majority-Hispanic districts, and senior citizens; and the Supreme Court decisions in Bush v. Gore (2000) and Rucho v. Common Cause (2019). 
  • Voter registration, turnout and non-voters: The predictable limits that have produced a nation in which voting tends to include only about 60% of the voting eligible population for presidential elections, about 40% for midterm elections, and about 25% in municipal elections. 
  • Census: Every ten years, the census bureau does its most intensive count of the U.S. population. The data is used to draw district boundaries for the purposes of determining Congressional and state legislative maps. One issue for this coming 2020 census is the citizenship question, which the Supreme Court recently addressed in U.S. Commerce Dept. v. New York (2019) and which we will dissect to understand the relationship between the census, demographic reality and elections to come. 
  • Redistricting, gerrymandering and the Electoral College: It is legal for politicians to draw district boundaries for partisan political purposes, but not for racial reasons. That distinction was recently reinforced in Rucho v. Common Cause (2019), with the Supreme Court deciding 5-4 that intended political fixes should continue to be legal. One consequence of political gerrymandering is it allows for those in power who draw and approve the redistricting maps to further entrench their political ideologies and parties. 
  • The Russians are coming: They came, they saw and they corrupted. Why stop now and have others, from other countries to domestic disrupters, learned the art and tricks of social media saturation? 

Each week, we will approach these recurring phenomena through four lenses:  

  • Historical: We will revisit the roots and recurrences in the evolution of voting trends and strategies. 
  • Legal: We will extract and examine the prevailing legislation, legal cases, and principles that guide or dictate election laws and results. 
  • Global: We will be mindful of how the U.S. is similar to and different from other countries. 
  • Happenin’: We will bring it all together by scoping out and analyzing current controversies to be better positioned to anticipate and fight back against brazen efforts to perpetuate power and thwart democratic representation and values. 

JOUR 390-0 section 26 Framed: Media and the Marginalized

Taught by Prof. Chris Benson
MW 11am-12:20pm, Fisk 311

Stereotypes.  Coded language.  Unconscious bias.  How do these concepts factor into the media search for truth?  How might they stand in the way of public understanding of social difference?  Clearly, the media affect the way we see one another across social boundaries established by such characteristics as race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.  How do the perspectives formed by this “mediated reality” ultimately affect our decisions on public policy in such areas as political participation, equal rights and criminal justice?  These and other considerations are central to professional journalism responsibility and enlightened public choice making.  Without question, the media are vital to the effective operation of our democratic system by providing information that should be free of the kind of bias that can distort the public participation process.   


Through discussion of principles of media professionalism and ethics, and an examination of some of the hot topics featured in today’s headlines, this course will set a framework for recognizing and analyzing media narrative framing, as well as the representation of traditionally marginalized groups within that narrative frame.  Ultimately, we will develop a deeper appreciation of media responsibility.  Just as important, we will expand our sense of media literacy in considering a path forward—whether as professional journalists, or engaged citizens—as we navigate the challenging terrain of an increasingly diverse society, one in which we all can appreciate the value of social difference and multiple perspectives.