Intro. to Journalism

ENG1151 Fall 2023

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Week 11: Enjoy your holiday break this week

Last month was Indigenous People’s Day and this week many Americans, of course, celebrate Thanksgiving. During the autumn of 1621, some 90 Wampanoag joined 52 English people at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts, to mark a successful harvest. Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday on October 3, 1863, to help unite a war-weary nation, then fighting in the Civil War (1861-1865).

Enjoy your holiday with your family and friends.

Thank you for your insightful replies to two classic films on Investigative Journalism. I will be reviewing them this week and will also start giving feedback on your OpEd drafts. Keep them coming in!

Upload your OpEd Assignment: HERE

Tips and Directions for the OpEd Assignment

Weeks 9-10: The History and Aims of Investigative Reporting

I’m recommending the above event for those interested in issues relating to New York and Brooklyn.


We’re heading into the final 6 weeks of the course, so be sure to check your mid-term grades (Pass, Needs Improvement) in this and all your classes.

As we continue with the topic of press freedom, I want to introduce to you the history and aims of investigative journalism in the US.

 Investigative Journalism (an essential component of the “fourth estate”) is vital to our democracy which can only happen in a society that values press freedom, open government (and access to its records), and respect for the media.

Its origins in the United States dates back to Ida B. Wells exposure of southern lynching in the 1890s and the “muckrakers” of the early 1900s, like Ida M. Tarbell who exposed the corruption and monopolization antics of the Standard Oil company in 1904. 

Here is an interesting timeline of important examples of investigative reporting.

On this list is the important investigative work of two journalists (Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein) who broke the Nixon Watergate scandal in the 1970s, leading to President Nixon’s impeachment.

More recent is the investigation of Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, brought down by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in 2017. These reporters exposed Weinstein for a long history of allegations of sexual assault and harassment of women in the industry.

Two extraordinary films capture the stories behind these two momentous investigations.

All the President’s Men (starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman) [1976] and She Said (starring Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan) directed by Maria Schrader, which takes aim at Weinstein and the #MeToo movement that followed.

Post Assignment (Due: Monday, Nov. 20). As you continue working on your own OpEd pieces, I ask that you watch ONE of these films and comment on what you learned and found most compelling about the film.

All the President’s Men

She Said

If you cannot watch one of these films for any reason, let me know and I can help you find a good free alternative.

Please also continue to email me your OpEd topics. I am available on zoom on Tuesdays (3-5 pm) to brainstorm your topic. The final version is due Wed., Nov. 22, but try to upload a draft before then (so I can review it).

Upload your OpEd Assignment: HERE

Tips and Directions for the OpEd Assignment

Week 8: “Objectivity” in the News and The OpEd

Journalism Students:

Last week, I introduced the topic of free speech and the First Amendment.  In times of war, this right gets fully tested as I’m sure you are all noticing by media coverage of the many protests across college campuses, the country, and the globe right now.  The danger to journalists is also at an all-time high (many are being targeted) and the challenges of properly and fairly reporting on events are many.

For this week, I ask you to read the views of two important journalists and review the OpDoc section of the NYTimes, in preparation for your own upcoming OpEd assignment.

The OpEd, which stands for “opposite the editorial page,” is a short piece of writing typically published by a newspaper, which expresses the opinion of an author not affiliated with the publication’s editorial board. This genre was invented by the New York Times in 1970 and has been a mainstay of most newspapers ever since.   Recently, the Times announced it would now call opinion pieces “Guest Essays” (largely due to the fact that papers are now mostly on-line – i.e. not “opposite” another piece of writing on paper).

The New York Times also now has an Video Op Section.

The separation of opinion from the news is also part of the “professionalization” of the news that the New York Times also helped develop.  Since the early 1900s, professional reporters have been asked to be “neutral” and “unbiased” when covering stories.  Today, many in the mainstream media (PBS, NBC News, CNN, etc.) prize neutrality over virtually all other values. Being “neutral” means giving equal credence, focus, and criticism for all sides of an argument, without passing judgment as to the validity of the argument. The “neutral” reporter simply reports what the different sides of a debate assert but does not take a position.  

In 2019, Lewis Raven Wallace (in his book The View From Somewhere ) was one of the first reporters to criticize what he calls “the myth of journalistic objectivity.”

To learn why, read his Op-Ed â€śObjectivity is Dead, and I’m Okay With It”

Also in 2019, Nikole Hannah-Jones created an innovative and important long-form journalism endeavor called The 1619 Project. The project, which appeared in the New York Times Magazine, focused on the long legacy of slavery and racism in this country starting at the founding of the US (the first enslaved people arrived to Virginia Colony in 1619).  The project offered a radical new way of learning about (and teaching) history but continues to face opposition from those on the right. Without a doubt, Hannah-Jones used great courage and talent to express her beliefs, making quite an impact on the study of history today.

Listen to her Podcast “The Fight for a True Democracy”: HERE

POST ASSIGNMENT: In a paragraph or two, briefly summarize and respond to Wallace’s essay, Hannah-Jones’ podcast, or a recent OpDoc from the NYTimes.   

Also start thinking about a topic you might want to discuss in your OpEd.  The topic does not have to be a political one but can be on an issue you find interesting and worth debating (should the New York Knicks trade for a big star, for example).  Please run your topic by me before you start on it, however. Send me an email ( or join me for zoom office hours.

Post (and OpEd topic) due: Wed., Nov. 1

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