Course Syllabus

JPW 321/AAS 321: Race, Gender and the News Media

Fall, 2015

Tuesdays and Fridays, 11am - 12:20pm

Bliss 031


Office: Bliss 217

Instructor: Kim Pearson

Associate Prof.

Journalism/Interactive Multimedia





This course is designed to acquaint students with the philosophical precepts and practical challenges underlying the decades-long effort by journalists, primarily in the US, to fairly cover America’s communities in all of their diversity. The class begins with an overview of some of the current issues confronting news organizations as they attempt to present a comprehensive, fair picture of American life. Then, we explore basic philosophical concepts in journalism that help explain why the news industry concerns itself with diversity at all. After that, we explore the history of the concepts of race and gender, and examine how those ideas became incorporated into American journalism in ways that unconsciously promoted white supremacy and patriarchal norms. We move on to explore efforts to reform journalistic practices, their results, and the criticisms leveled against the news industry by those who think that the commitment to diversity in newsroom staffing and coverage has undermined the quality of journalism. 

As a result of this class students should be able to:

  • Discuss scholarship on the role that news coverage plays in the social construction of race, class and gender
  • Identify and discuss professional standards, practices and initiatives designed to prevent biased and stereotypical reporting
  • Raise questions and draw conclusions about the ethics and impact of their own practice and development as journalists, and as informed citizens.

Please note: This class counts as a major option in the journalism/professional writing major, as well as for the African American Studies minor or major. It can also be used to fulfill either the “race and ethnicity” liberal learning distribution requirement. It does not fulfill the gender requirement for liberal learning. 

As such, this course supports the following Liberal Learning goals:

Students should have an understanding of the nature of race and ethnicity and the impact both have on our lives in modern communities.

  • Students should be able to explain the broad spectrum of human racial and ethnic experience.  They should understand the differences and similarities between race and ethnicity as concepts.
  • Students should understand the arbitrary and socially defined nature of race as well as analyze the ways race and racism maintain positions of class, power, and privilege in America.
  • Students should develop thoughtful and equitable personal, ethical, and political decision-making abilities when considerations of race and ethnicity are involved.  They should identify the limits of ethnocentric and parochial thinking.

Students should have an understanding of gender and the impact it has on our lives in modern communities.

  • Students should understand that gender is socially constructed.  They should be able to analyze family, education, labor, religion, and government as they are shaped by gendered constructs.  Further, they should be able to explain how gender intersects with other constructed patterns of privilege and oppression in society, such as race, ethnicity, class, and sexual orientation.



Students doing journalism reporting projects must own a current copy of the Associated Press Stylebook, print or online edition. All non-journalism writing assignments will be in MLA style.

Required texts on reserve at the TCNJ library:


  • Alexander, Amy. Uncovering Race: A Black Reporter's story of Race and Reinvention. Penguin
  • Byfield, Natalie. Savage Portrayals, Race, Media and the Central Park Jogger. Temple University Press.
  • Castenada, Laura and Shannon Campbell, eds.: News and Sexuality: Media Portraits of Diversity. NY; Sage. 2005
  •  Newkirk, Pamela. Within the Veil: Black Journalists in White Media. NY: New York University Press. 2000

  • Mindich, David. Just the Facts: How "Objectivity" Came to Define American Journalism, NY: New York University Press, 1999.


Recommended texts:


  • Wong, William. Yellow Journalist : Dispatches from Asian America. Philadelphia:Temple University Press, 2001.
  • Ethnic Newswatch library database. Note: this now has a feature that will send you alerts on your areas of interest.


Other class readings are hyperlinked to the syllabus.

Class policies

      • Readings and assignments are due on the calendar dates. Please read ahead at least one week so that you can plan to devote sufficient time to class assignments..
      • Class participation is essential for success in this class, both in person or online. Significant absences may impair your ability to participate fully in class activities and to fully complete assignments. Please note the College's policy with regard to absences:
          • "When a student must be absent from classes due to extended illness, a death in the family or similar genuine emergency, the Dean of Student Life should be informed immediately so that the appropriate notice can be provided to individual instructors. Students who must miss classes due to participation in a field trip, athletic event or other official college function should arrange with their instructors for such class absences well in advance. The Office of Academic Affairs will verify, upon request, the dates of and participants in such college functions. In every instance, however, the student has the responsibility to initiate arrangements for makeup work"
      • Late assignments will not be accepted unless you have obtained prior permission, or you have a documented emergency. If you obtain an extension and fail to hand in your assignment by the extended due date, you will lose ½ grade for each class period that the assignment is delayed. 
      • Students requiring accommodations for differing abilities are encouraged to register with the Office of Differing Abilities and bring documentation to me at the beginning of the semester.
      • In the event of the College closing due to inclement weather, I will attempt to hold class and/or office hours online.
      • Please be sure to familiarize yourself with the College's Academic Integrity Policy. (Policy: Academic_Integrity.pdf and Powerpoint slides Academic_Integrity_PowerPoint_2014.ppt)
      • Please speak up early and often – but appropriately and professionally, if there are questions or concerns. Everyone here has something to teach, and something to learn. That includes me.
      • This course has a final evaluation that consists of a final essay, in accordance with College policy
      • All 4-credit courses in the English and African American Studies Departments require students to attend a regularly scheduled 4th hour of class meeting time (as indicated in PAWS) OR to complete additional work outside of class that constitutes the equivalent of a 4th hour of class meeting time (in the form of group work, attendance at campus events, rigorous reading assignments and/or research, field trips, community-engaged learning, internships, and/or other academic work as stipulated by the individual instructor).  This course adheres to a combination of field trips, group work and additional academic work; please see below for specific course assignments, requirements, and due dates.
      • The College of New Jersey Policy Prohibiting Discrimination in the Workplace/Educational Environment governs the college’s commitment to and expectations of having an environment that respects the diversity of all members of the campus community. The link to this policy is:




Course Summary:

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