Scope: While this course will touch on a number of areas in the communications field, such as advertising and public relations, it is primarily a journalism course and the central focus remains journalism, not entertainment.

Ethical Inquiries: Beginning on Monday, Oct. 12, a 500-word critique of a single story from the previous week's New York Times will be due the first class meeting of each week. In each critique, which I call an ethical inquiry, you will assess how well or how poorly the Times writers and editors did the job they are supposed to do, according to your emerging sense of journalistic morality. You will turn in the inquiry in a manila folder. I'll grade it and return it by the end of the week. There is a separate handout on how to do the inquiries. Only the top five grades will count, so as soon as you get five grades you are satisfied with, you are free to quit writing them.

Grades: Here's the weighting:
Midterm			15 %
Ethical Inquiries	20 %
Participation		40 %
The participation grade will be a combination of how much you contribute to the class and how much you contribute to the online discussions, which will be ongoing simultaneously through moderated email.
Final exam		25 %

Attendance: Most of this class is discussion, which means attendance is important. The first two unexcused absences are without direct penalty. The third and each subsequent unexcused absence will lower your final course grade by a full letter. In order to have an absence excused, several criteria must be met.

  • First, to have an absence excused, you must notify me by phone or by e-mail before the class. Since I have answering machines at both my campus and home numbers, that should not present a problem. I have never encountered a student emergency that made it impossible to let me know before class that you could not make it.
  • Second, you must provide a written explanation no later than your second class period back after the absence. Keep a copy of your explanation as a final check against loss. If your records and mine disagree, you may need your copy.
  • Third, verifiable medical excuses are usually acceptable, as are trips to university-sponsored activities, such as athletic competitions. Vacation plans and social events, including weddings and family gatherings, are not. In all cases, the instructor is the sole judge of whether an absence is to be excused.
  • Fourth, you are responsible for making up any missed work, including ethical inquiries, within a week of your return from any absence, excused or not.
  • Fifth in the name of fairness to all, I follow this policy without exception.

An attendance sheet will be passed around at the beginning of each class period. It is your responsibility to sign it. Coming in late is not merely rude and disruptive, but tardiness will hurt the class participation part of your grade. If you are chronically tardy, you'll lose the right to sign the roll at all and you'll be counted as absent for the day.

Participation: Please note that participation is the largest component of your final grade. That means speaking up in class, carrying your end of a debate with me or with another student. I will do what I can to draw the shy into conversation and to restrain the exuberant, but the ultimate responsibility for your participation in class is yours. Ethics, as we shall soon see, is, by definition, concerned with people interacting with one another.

This course is largely class discussion, and if you prepare for class regularly, you will have very little written work beyond the midterm and final exams. However, if you come to class unprepared, you cannot contribute to the classroom discussions, nor get much out of them. You will, therefore, have to do more of the work on your own by writing a term paper of about 5,000 words (15-20 pages), analyzing several of the readings. Anyone who, through unpreparedness, chooses the term paper option will need to meet with me within a week of opting for the term paper and settle on a topic, a due date and other details. This isn't punitive. This is another way to try to get you to have a sufficient understanding of the material.

Here's how to put yourself into term-paper mode, and how to stay out of it:

Before each class period, beginning immediately, you are to prepare two written comments and two written questions based on the assigned reading for that day. I will call on several students each class period and ask for either a comment or a question, which will lead to class discussion. If you have not done the reading and prepared the questions, you will receive a zero for participation for that day. If at any time in the semester you receive a third such zero, you will have to write the term paper. Excused absences do not count against your total; unexcused absences do. Inane, thoughtless and superficial questions or comments will count as no questions or comments at all. If I rule that your question or comment is not adequate but you wish to avoid a zero, you must meet with me in my office that day and convince me that you did, indeed, read the material. Note: Excuses that the reading was in any way too difficult will not be accepted. If you run across an unfamiliar word, and you probably will, look it up in a dictionary. If, through unpreparedness, you choose to write a term paper, the grade on that paper will count as half of your class participation grade. If you do not write a satisfactory term paper, that is, earn a C- or better, you will not pass the course.

The Schedule: Somewhat tentative. Real life events almost always intrude. I'll provide you with as much notice as possible of any deviation from the schedule. Late changes will be made on the online version of the syllabus, so you will need to check that schedule regularly.
Aug. 31  Introduction
Sept. 4 Rachels, Ch.1-3
Sept. 7 No classes. Labor Day
Sept. 11 Rachels, Ch. 4-6
Sept. 14  Rachels, Ch. 7-9
Sept. 18   Rachels, Ch. 10-12
Sept. 21. No classes. Rosh Hashana
Sept. 25  Rachels, Ch. 13, Cases, Ch. 1
Sept. 28  Cases, Ch. 2; Compass, Ch. 1-3
Oct. 2  Compass, Ch. 4-7
Oct. 5  Cases, Ch. 3; Compass, Ch. 9-10
Oct. 9  Compass, Ch. 11-13
Oct. 12 First ethical inquiry due. Compass, Ch. 14-15
Oct. 1 6  Cases, Ch. 4; Compass, Ch. 16-18
Oct. 19 Compass, Ch. 19-21
Oct. 23 Midterm examination in class 
Oct. 26 Compass, Ch. 22-24, Conclusion
Oct. 30 Cases, Ch. 5-6; Compass, Ch. 8
Nov. 2 Cases, Ch. 7-8
Nov. 6  Cases, Ch. 9-11
Nov. 9  Cases, Ch. 12-14
Nov. 13  Cases, Ch. 15-17
Nov. 16  Cases, Ch. 18-20
Nov. 20 Cases, Ch. 21-23
Nov. 23  Cases, Ch. 24-26
No Class Friday, November 27. Thanksgiving holiday
Nov. 30  Cases, Ch. 27-29
Dec. 4   Cases, Ch. 30-32
Dec. 7   Cases, Ch. 33-36
The final exam will be given at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 16