Principles of Journalism (JMC 2300)

Spring 2019

This course is designed to acquaint you with the concepts and functions of journalism in American society, including the underlying principles of journalism. The course will highlight the values of journalism, its distinctive public service mission and its adaptation to the digital age.

Through readings, discussions, activities, lectures and case studies you will learn the ART of our peculiar tribe: acting, reading and thinking like a journalist.

You will:

  • ACT
  • READ

Together those also contribute to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication Learning Goals.

Course structure

Journalism’s values are both universal, enshrined in places like Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and peculiar to the history of the evolving profession.

For that reason, we will trace the evolution of journalism and at each stage explore further the important journalistic norms and values that emerged at that point in our history.

In addition, this class will regularly feature in-person and remote guest speakers. The material they discuss is relevant to the class and will be reflected in test questions.

The textbook

The main textbook for this course is Principles of American Journalism by Stephanie Craft and Charles Davis. It is the standard for textbooks for this type of course, a position earned for good reason.

By enrolling in this course you’ve been given automatic access to it as an ebook through ICON Direct. Through this program, you receive a 40 percent discount on the book (billed directly to U-BILL).

Online acccess: Principles of American Journalism

IF you dislike e-books, you can opt-out of ICON Direct and order a hardcopy of the textbook from or elsewhere.

Copies are also available in the SJMC Resource Center in the Adler Journalism Building and via the University Libraries. 


The class is graded on the following basis:

Segment Percent of grade
Exams 60 percent
Weekly response 20 percent
News quizzes 10 percent
Personal statement 10 percent

This class is graded on a +/- scale without A+’s.


Attendance is not specifically included in your grade.

That said you are still responsible for all material discussed in class during your absence. The exams will include a lot information delivered only in the classroom. In general there is an exceptionally strong correlation between attendance and your overall grade.

If you will miss a class, you should inform me in advance. If it is for a legitimate school-related function (class trips, away games), a recognized holiday or unplanned hospitalization, that’s helpful to know. You have up to five free “PTO” days, as long as you tell me in advance for things like illness, personal crises, etc. If you miss a news quiz and have not let me know in advance of class or have already used more than five “PTO” days, you will not have the opportunity to make it up.

In addition, as other issues inevitably arise, students who attend class regularly will be the ones who get the benefit of the doubt.

Reading/viewing expectations

There are four expectations for reading and viewing outside class:

  • Textbook assignments
  • Additional assigned readings on ICON
  • Daily news consumption 
  • Five journalism movies

Together this still provides what I consider a modest and reasonable workload.

A complete list of reading assignments can be found in the course schedule below.

Reading the news

For most of you this is the first step on a path towards becoming a journalist, so it is time to begin what should be a lifelong habit of consuming a healthy and balanced news diet. 

While your mileage may vary, must good newspapers attempt to create such a diet in their pages every day.

For this class, you are expected to be familiar with all the top stories of the day as reflected by the front page of The Wall Street Journal, one of the world’s most important news outlets.

That list of top stories is available each day at Since the WSJ has a paywall, I strongly encourage you to buy a one semester subscription. I have arranged for one to be available at $1 per week for the semester through a discount code:

And yes, the exams will include questions from the current news.

Issues of gender, race, harassment and violence

This class will address – fairly often – issues of social justice that include race, gender, discrimination and violence. That includes discussion of sexual and racial violence and sexual and racial harassment.

If at any time you have concerns about the way I or a fellow student have talked about these issues, I hope you will feel free to say so in class or discuss your concerns with me later.

If it is a problem for you to be present for in-class discussion of one of more of these issues, please let me know early in the semester. That way I can give you a heads up when such themses are expected to come up. You do not need to explain yourself, unless you want to.

I am also happy to connect you with on campus resources who can help you with strategies for coping with these issues when they arise in this or other courses.

School of Journalism and Mass Communication Learning Goals

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication is committed to your academic and professional success. In line with this commitment, we have identified particular learning outcomes that every student should obtain by the time they earn their degree. You can find more information about these learning outcomes here at

We regularly assess the curriculum to determine whether students are achieving these outcomes. This course contributes to these learning outcomes by introducing elements of the law & ethics, media literacy and media history goals. Achieving these outcomes for this class means students will:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the history of the First Amendment and awareness of the rights protected by the First Amendment in different media contexts. (Law & Ethics Learning Objective No. 1)
  • learn how to create and disseminate media messages in various forms. (Law & Ethics Learning Objective No. 2)
  • demonstrate critical thinking skills to analyze and interpret media messages through an understanding of media practices and institutions. (Media Literacy Learning Objective No. 2)
  • demonstrate knowledge of technological innovations in print and electronic communication and their impact on media publishing industries for mass audiences, showing an awareness of their distinct political, social, and economic contexts and uses. (Media History Learning Objective No. 1)

Schedule and Readings

Week 1: Welcome

Jan. 15 | The big picture
Jan. 17 | Opportunities knock

Week 2: The Birth of Journalism

Jan. 22 | What is journalism? Jan. 24 | Speaker: Zack Kucharski/The Gazette

Week 3: Journalism’s role in Democracy

Jan. 29 | Metaphors for journalism’s role, the First Network Revolution
Jan. 31 | Speaker: Kylah Hedding/University of Iowa

Week 4: Journalism’s role in Democracy (cont’d)

Feb. 5 | Speaker: Jeani Murray/Political consultant
Feb. 7 | Fairness and the Second Network Revolution

Week 5: What is news?

Feb. 12 | How the news became the news that becomes the news
Feb. 14 | Speaker: Scott Dochterman

  • Principles Ch. 3
  • Principles Appendix (Codes of Ethics)
  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (movie) available in SJMC Resource Center and Main Library
Week 6: Exam I

Feb. 19 | Exam I review session
Feb. 21 | Exam I

Week 7: The Profession

Feb. 26 | The Republic of the Airwaves
Feb. 28 | Ethics

  • Good Night, and Good Luck (movie) available in SJMC Resource Center and Main Library
  • Principles Ch. 6
  • ONA’s Build your own ethics code (You won’t need to turn it in, but there are readings and videos throughout.)
Week 8: Journalism and Civil Rights

March 5 | Journalism and Social Justice
March 7 | Speaker: Frye Galliard

Week 9

March 12 | Speaker: Ryan Ford/The Cashmere Agency
March 14 | Speaker: Hannah Harris Green/The Pulitzer Center

  • The Death and Life of American Journalism Ch. 1
  • Page One: Inside the New York Times (movie) available in SJMC Resource Center and Main Library
Spring Break
Week 10: The Business of News

March 26 | The birth of broadcast, TV and radio news, more on fairness
March 28 | Digital Disruption

Reading / Viewing
Week 11: Media Law

April 2 | Libel and FOIA
April 4 | Speaker: Ron Nixon

Reading and viewing
  • Principles Ch. 7
  • AP Stylebook 2018: “Briefing on media law” (all subsections)
  • Absence of Malice (movie) available in SJMC Resource Center and Main Library
Week 12: Exam

April 9 | Exam 2 review
April 11 | Exam 2

Week 13: Investigative Reporting

April 16 | The Investigtaive Mindset
April 18 | Speaker: Paula Lavigne

Week 14: Gender, Race and Human Rights

April 23 | Gender and Race in the Newsroom
April 25 | Human Rights and Journalists

Week 15: Wrap-up

April 30 | Career Planning
May 2 | Final exam review session

  • Principles Ch. 8

TBD | Final exam

Reading response

Each Monday you will write and turn in a 200-or-more-word reflection on the week’s readings. Some weeks there will be a fairly specific question. Other weeks the question wil call on you to respond in broader terms.

These will be graded on a “check”, “check plus”, “check minus” system. Submissions which address the question asked, are of the required length, accurately reference the readings and are free from spelling and grammar errors receive a check. Those that are exceptionally well-written or insightgul are a “check plus.” Those which generally meet the requirements but fall short in some way are a “check minus.”

An entire semester of “check” essays would amount to a “B” in the category.


There are three exams: two during the semester and one during finals.

All three are in the form of multiple choice and true/false questions. The final is cumulative and held during the finals period. There will be review sessions ahead of each exam.

News quizzes

During the semester there will be at least three news quizzes (if you appear not to be following the news). They will be given at random. They will test that you can answer basic questions about any recent stories from the front page of the WSJ.

Personal statement

At the end of the semester, you will complete a short (800-word) personal essay answering the question: What kind of journalist will you become?

In this piece, you will outline your personal journalistic values and how you hope to apply them in your career. (Those not considering a career in journalism can write this for a hypothetical journalist of a specialty of their choice.)

This should include:

  • A description of types of work (e.g. sportswriter, photojournalist) you plan to practice
  • A description of the types of stories you intend to tell – and why
  • Your evaluation of the relative importance of journalism’s competing roles and values based on readings, lectures and outside materials
  • An explanation of why at least three specific pieces of journalism represent aspects of the journalism you hope to undertake

Beyond that, grading will be done on the clarity of writing, demonstration of understanding of the material from class, and spelling, style and grammar of the writing.

It’s due the last day of classes, but I am happy to go over drafts with you at any time during office hours.

Extra credit

There will be opportunities for extra credit announced through the semester. That will include small extra credit bonuses active participants in outside journalism/communications organizations (Online News Association @ Iowa, ED on Campus, PRSSA, NABJ, etc.), members of the staff of on-campus news organizations (Daily Iowan, DITV, KRUI, IowaWatch, etc.) and participation in selected SJMC and other events.

Technology policy

There is ample evidence that the use of laptops, phones and other devices in class leads to poorer learning outcomes and poorer grades for students. That’s true even when devices are used for notetaking or other in-class purposes.

Technology should only be used in class for notetaking, referring to the readings and other class-related activities. Other use of technology will be considered unprofessional.

Email policy

Any email you send to me should be considered a professional communication. That means it should be:

  • addressed Dear Professor Lathrop:
  • written in complete sentences
  • written in a work-appropriate tone
  • signed with your full name

(These are good guidelines to follow with your other professors.)

In addition, university policy dictates that all email communication with instructors must come from your email address to be official.

Changes in grades

If you believe a specific grade has been given in error or otherwise should be changed, you need to notify me by email within 48 hours of the grade being posted and schedule a meeting within the following week to discuss it in person. Those meetings should happen during office hours unless you have class or other academic obligations during those times. 

No changes or discussions of changes will be handled in email. (I will check to make sure there has not been data entry or similar error immediately.)

If you believe your semester grade has been given in error or otherwise should be changed, you need to notify me within one week of grades being published and schedule a time to meet with me in person before the beginning of the next semester. 

No changes or discussions of changes will be handled in email. (I will check to make sure there has not been data entry or similar error immediately.)

Grading scale

Grade Range
A 93 - 100%
A- 90 - 92%
B+ 87 - 89%
B 83 - 86%
B- 80 - 82%
C+ 77 - 79%
C 73 - 76%
C- 70 - 72%
D+ 67 - 69%
D 63 - 66%
D- 60 - 62%
F Less than 60%

CLAS Teaching Policies & Resources

Administrative Home

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) is the administrative home of this course and governs its add/drop deadlines, the second-grade-only option, and other policies. These policies vary by college (

Electronic Communication

Students are responsible for official correspondences sent to their UI email address ( and must use this address for all communication within UI (Operations Manual, III.15.2).

Accommodations for Disabilities

UI is committed to an educational experience that is accessible to all students. A student may request academic accommodations for a disability (such as mental health, attention, learning, vision, and physical or health-related condition) by registering with Student Disability Services (SDS). The student should then discuss accommodations with the course instructor (

Nondiscrimination in the Classroom

UI is committed to making the classroom a respectful and inclusive space for all people irrespective of their gender, sexual, racial, religious or other identities. Toward this goal, students are invited to optionally share their preferred names and pronouns with their instructors and classmates. The University of Iowa prohibits discrimination and harassment against individuals on the basis of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and other identity categories set forth in the University’s Human Rights policy. For more information, contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity at or

Academic Integrity

All undergraduates enrolled in courses offered by CLAS have, in essence, agreed to the College’s Code of Academic Honesty. Misconduct is reported to the College, resulting in suspension or other sanctions, with sanctions communicated with the student through the UI email address.

CLAS Final Examination Policies

The final exam schedule for each semester is announced around the fifth week of classes; students are responsible for knowing the date, time, and place of a final exam. Students should not make travel plans until knowing this final exam information. No exams of any kind are allowed the week before finals (

Making a Complaint

Students with a complaint should first visit with the instructor or course supervisor and then with the departmental executive officer (DEO), also known as the Chair. Students may then bring the concern to CLAS (

Understanding Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment subverts the mission of the University and threatens the well-being of students, faculty, and staff. All members of the UI community must uphold the UI mission and contribute to a safe environment that enhances learning. Incidents of sexual harassment must be reported immediately. For assistance, definitions, and the full University policy, see

Additional resources

There are copies of our textbook and other course materials at the SJMC Resource Center, Adler Journalism Building room E350 (

Students may find the Speaking Center very useful in becoming more comfortable participating in class (

The Writing Center ( and SJMC’s Writing Assistance Program ( may be helpful in completing your personal essay.

The Tutor Iowa ( can also be valuable resource for students seeking a leg up or having difficulties in this or any other class.

A Note from the Writing Center

Visit the Writing Center this semester and take the stress out of writing assignments.

Book a 30 minute appointment when you need it.

Reserve a regular weekly meeting for the entire semester — register now through our website:

Upload a draft to our online system and get comments and suggestions by email.

Sign up for graduate student programs and professional development opportunities.

All our services are free (it’s the best deal in town). Check out our website at or stop by to see us in 110 EPB.

The Writing Center is hosted by the Department of Rhetoric and supported by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.