I’m excited to announce that I’ll be teaching an online course for the University of Southern Maine this spring: “Investigative Journalism and Social Change: Reporting on Animal and Environmental Issues.” (Perfect fit, huh?) When I posted about the course on Facebook there was a considerable amount of interest, so I wanted to share it here as well. Anyone can enroll, including non-matriculated students. (Here’s more information on how). And a description of the course is below:
ENG 310: Investigative Journalism and Social Change:
Reporting on Animal and Environmental Issues (class #13807)
This course explores the role and responsibility of journalists in shaping the national dialogue on social issues, and the qualities and techniques of investigative reporting. Animal rights and environmental issues have entered mainstream public consciousness like never before, but how these issues are discussed will be our focus; these issues will offer the framework for an in-depth case study of investigative journalistic practices, and their social impact. What are the often unspoken value assumptions behind journalists’ decisions within a story? What is the role of investigative journalists in providing checks and balances on power? How do both political activists and their opponents seek to use the press to shift public opinion? Is it possible for journalists to be unbiased? We will discuss these questions and many more by examining a wide range of materials including investigative journalism, “citizen journalism,” communiqués from underground groups, activist campaign materials, FBI files and internal corporate strategy documents. The course will be divided into three broad areas: understanding journalistic conventions, investigating activist campaigns, and examining the public relations strategies used to sway journalists.
Within the three broad areas mentioned above, we’ll be using activist campaigns as case-studies, including Earth First!, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, PETA, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, and undercover investigations by Mercy For Animals and others.
I hope students will enjoy the readings, which include magazine articles (from The New Yorker, Outside, Rolling Stone and more), a few books, FBI documents, industry publications, and anti-activist public relations guides.
I can’t wait. If you’re interested, or know someone who might be, would you mind sharing this? This is my first time teaching a course like this, and a strong enrollment would help show the university that there’s interest in the topic. Thanks!