Crisis News!

Fall 1999
Meets: Mon, Wed, Fri 2:30pm – 3:15pm
Class location: Pearson 106

Professor Ralph J. Begleiter
Office: 235 Pearson Hall
Phone: (302) 831-2687
Office Hours: Mon & Wed 3:30-4:30pm and by appointment
Course Internet page:

Course Syllabus
Updated 10/26/99


How do today's news media careen from crisis to crisis in a world where judgments must be made every day about the relative "news value" of famines, massacres, civil wars, celebrity tragedies and natural disasters? Who makes the judgments? Are news consumers consulted? (Should they be?) Have some conflicts become too complex for today's news environment?

We’ll focus on international affairs news. This class will explore the real world of broadcast news and how it's being changed by political, economic and cultural trends. But we’ll also study some of the ethical and historical underpinnings of contemporary broadcasting to see if they’re still valid.

There will be no exams. Several writing assignments are required, and a term paper will substitute for a final exam. We may have several provocative guest speakers.


• Three books are required reading and available for purchase at the bookstore. Other required readings will include all or parts of papers and articles, many of which are available on the Crisis News! internet page (see below).

• Students will be expected to keep up with contemporary international politics by reading The New York Times daily, and by watching daily television news broadcasts. Students are required to subscribe and read the Times daily. Discount subscriptions ($27.20 per semester) for M-F delivery are available through the Communication Department. Students may also want to remain familiar with coverage of on National Public Radio, PBS (TV) or one of the domestic networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC). We’ll have weekly discussions on current media handling of Today’s "crisis," a look at what’s driving today’s news.

• Two brief writing assignments (500-700 words) will be required during the semester, based on seminar discussion and readings.

• A term paper of approximately 3,000 - 5,000 words on a topic agreed in advance by student and professor will be due on Monday November 29, 1999. Students will make presentations on their paper topics at the last five class sessions (see Course Schedule below.)

• All papers must be submitted on time; late papers will automatically reduce grades.

Computer Assignments:

The Department of Communication is committed to developing student computer literacy. This course will illustrate the increasing role computers are playing in driving the "news-of-the-day." Students will also have the following computer-related assignments:

• Each student is required to communicate with the instructor by email (my email address is at the top of this syllabus).

• Students are encouraged to investigate Internet sites as news sources, and to evaluate them for content, reliability and timeliness. You’ll be expected to prepare one-page "evaluations" of information sites on the WWW. They’ll be due on dates specified in the syllabus.

• Some documents used in this course may be found on the course Internet site
as well as in the library. These readings are marked with <<>>. Please familiarize yourself with using this site. To read some of these electronic documents, you’ll need to install the Adobe Acrobat Reader program on your computer; it’s a free, easy-to-install download, available at


Writing, thinking and class participation (more than mere attendance) are critical elements of this class. Please remember that (just as in the real-world media) timeliness counts; late assignments will automatically lose credit. Grades will be based on these elements:

• 30 percent on class discussion participation
• 30 percent on writing assignments
• 40 percent on the final term paper and presentations.


• Buzenberg, Susan and Buzenberg, Bill, Editors. Salant, CBS, and the Battle for the Soul of Broadcast Journalism. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8133-9091-5.

• Davison, W. Phillips, Donald R. Shanor and Frederick T.C. Yu. News From o Abroad and the Foreign Policy Public. New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1980. ISBN 0-87124-063-7

• Linsky, Martin. Impact: How the Press Affects Federal Policymaking. Norton, 1988. ISBN: 0393957934.

The New York Times daily newspaper. Students are required to subscribe and read the paper daily. Discount subscriptions ($27.20 per semester) for M-F delivery are available through the Communication Department (details on the first day of class). Newspapers may be picked up at the Newark Newsstand (70 East Main St). Subscription applications may be delivered to the Newsstand with your payment. Your subscription begins the next day; your name will be on a list at the Newsstand.

Articles, Papers & Pamphlets
Many of these are available on the Crisis News! Internet page (marked with <<>>

• Kalb, Marvin. The Rise of the "New News": A Case Study of Two Root Causes of the Modern Scandal Coverage. Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government. Discussion Paper D-34, October, 1998.

• Mifflin, Lawrie. Big Three Networks Forced to Revise News-Gathering Methods page C1 The New York Times October 12, 1998.

• O’Mahony, Daniel P. Will Future Readers have Electronic Access to the Starr Report? Article in the Brown University George Street Journal, October, 1998.

• Zukin, Cliff. Generation X and the News. Radio and Television News Directors Foundation, 1997.

• "Focus on the New Media" Middle East Insight pp. 29-62 March-April, 1999. (distributed in class)

• Weingarten, Gene. "Permission to Deconflict Our Prose, Sir" The Washington Post May 30, 1999.

• "Wild Wild Web" page 4/Health The Washington Post June 1, 1999.

• Rich, Frank “Fast Friends of John F. Kennedy” The New York Times July 31, 1999.

Course Schedule

Sept 1 (Wed)
Topic: Syllabus

Sept 3 (Fri)
Topic: Today’s "crisis"
Assignment: Read NFA pp 3-32

Sept 6 (Mon) NO CLASS

Sept 8 (Wed)
Topic: Global crises I
Assignment: Read NFA pp 33-63

Sept 10 (Fri)
Topic: Global crises II
Assignments: Read Weingarten, WP May 30, 1999 <<>>
Web Evaluation: Find one Internet site with information about a current global news event; evaluate the site for its content, timeliness and reliability. 1-page evaluation due today.

Sept 13 (Mon)
Topic: Domestic crisis I
Assignment: Linsky pp 1-20; NYT Frank Rich 7/31/99 <<>>

Sept 15 (Wed)
Topic: Domestic crisis II
Assignment: Linsky pp 21-68

Sept 17 (Fri)
Topic: Today’s "crisis"
Assignment: This week’s news

Sept 20 (Mon)
Topic: Broadcast foundations
Assignment: Read Salant pp 1-15 and (optional) Foreword & Acknowledgments

Sept 22 (Wed)
Topic: Broadcast foundations
Assignment: Read Salant pp. 15-68
Assignment: Paper #1 - due Oct. 4. (Read the 3/3/88 quotation from Salant on page 33 and discuss whether you think this idea still applies in today’s news media. 500-700 words. Due Oct 4.)

Sept 24 (Fri)
Topic: Today’s "crisis"
Assignment: This week’s news

Sept 27 (Mon)
Topic: News Judgment
Linsky pp 169-202
Salant pp 241-251

Sept 29 (Wed)
Assignment: Work on paper #1 and read for next week.

Oct 1 (Fri) NO CLASS
Assignment: Work on paper #1 and read for next week.

Oct 4 (Mon)
Topic: Discuss your papers
Assignment: Paper #1 due

Oct 6 (Wed)
Topic: The CNN Effect
Guest Speaker: Steven Livingston (George Washington University)

Oct 8 (Fri) NO CLASS

Oct 11 (Mon)
Topic: Media “bias”
Assignment: Read Salant pp. 229-274
Assignment: Paper #2 (Propose a better "model" of distributing "crisis" news. How? How often? Who decides? Who would watch? 500-700 words. Due Oct. 29)

Oct 13 (Wed)
Topic: Political pressures
Assignment: Read Salant pp. 69-126

Oct 15 (Fri)
Topic: Today’s "crisis"
Assignment: This week’s news

Oct 18 (Mon)
Topic: The news "business"
Assignment: Read Salant pp. 127-179

Oct 20 (Wed)
Topic: Media and Military
Guest Speaker: Jane Holl (fmr U.S. Army & White House)

Oct 22 (Fri)
Topic: Today’s "crisis"
Assignment: This week’s news

Oct 25 (Mon)
Topic: Contrasting Conflicts - Chechnya vs. Bosnia
Assignment: For Wednesday, read Samuelson “The End of News” (Washington Post), on Supplemental Readings page
Videotape: Chechnya coverage 10/99

Oct 27 (Wed)
Topic: Competition and the News
CNN Ratings Chart - Charting the Course of Human Events
Assignment: Read Samuelson “The End of News” (Washington Post), on Supplemental Readings page

Oct 29 (Fri)
Topic: Today’s "crisis"
Assignment: Paper #2 due

Nov 1 (Mon)
Topic: The New News I
Assignment: Read Kalb <<>>

Nov 3 (Wed)
Topic: Pervasive Press & Lingo, Media vs Gov’t
Guest Speaker: Carol Giacomo (Reuters Washington)
Assignment: Linsky pp 69-118, 148-168; WashPost 5/30/99 <<>>

Nov 5 (Fri)
Topic: Today’s "crisis"
Assignment: This week’s news

Nov 8 (Mon)
Topic: Global new media I
Videotape: Cold War Postscript (Afghanistan)
Assignment: Middle East Insight pp. 29-61 (reserve)

Nov 10 (Wed)
Guest Speaker: Milt Beardon (fmr CIA)
Web Evaluation: Find the CIA’s (Central Intelligence Agency) internet site; evaluate the site for its content, timeliness and reliability. Is it what you expcted? 1-page evaluation due today.

Nov 12 (Fri)
Topic: Today’s "crisis"
Assignment: This week’s news

Nov 15 (Mon)
Topic: Global New media II
Assignments: Read Mifflin, NYT 10/12/98 <<>>

Nov 17 (Wed)
Field Trip to Washington - Newseum & CNN - optional
NO CLASS for students not attending the field trip.
Topic: Who’s Watching?
Assignment: Read Zukin, "Generation X" pp. 1-45 <<>>
Assignment: Work on final papers

Nov 19 (Fri)
Topic: Today’s "crisis"
Assignment: This week’s news

Nov 22 (Mon)
Topic: The Wild Wild Web I
Guest Speaker: Mark Benerofe (internet entrepreneur)
Assignment: WashPost 6/1/99 <<>>
Assignment: Work on final papers

Nov 24 (Wed)
Topic: The Wild Wild Web II
Assignment: Read O’Mahoney <<>>
Assignment: Work on final papers
Next week: final paper presentations
Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 26 (Fri) NO CLASS

Nov 29 (Mon)
Topic: Final Presentations - Group I

Dec 1 (Wed)
Topic: Final Presentations - Group II

Dec 3 (Fri)
Topic: Final Presentations - Group III

Dec 6 (Mon)
Topic: Final Presentations - Group IV

Dec 8 (Wed)
Topic: Final Presentations - Group V