Fall 2020 - CMNS 235 D100

News Media, the Public, and Democracy (3)

Class Number: 7113

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 16, 2020
    11:59 PM – 11:59 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    CMNS 130.



Introduces students to the study of the relationship between public communication, information media practices and structures, and democracy. Examines the role of media and communication in existing and emerging democratic contexts, including print and electronic journalism, alternative media, public spheres, and the challenges of constructing and maintaining a democratic media and communication environment in Canadian and global contexts.


In this course, we examine the different ways that journalism impacts society and democracy. The recent protests against anti-Black racism, coupled with struggles for Indigenous rights and climate justice, have forced, at long last, a careful examination of the roots of institutional (including corporate, structural) power in our society. These  sustained acts of collective action and mobilization are forcing people to rethink the status quo, take on new perspectives, and confront their assumptions about the way the world works. News reporting on collective action has exacerbated a reckoning with respect to conventional views on journalistic objectivity, sourcing and even story selection.

The course begins by laying out some of the foundational principles of journalism in the English language. However, the course aims to (re-) examine journalism from a global perspective, drawing on the Anglo-Saxon tradition of the press, but also on other journalistic traditions, using perspectives from students in the class to trace a truly intersectional and multidisciplinary approach to the news. Special attention is paid to the role that solutions play in news reporting, and in particular, as those solutions apply to the climate crisis. The impact of tech platforms, notably Facebook, Twitter and Google, on news production, distribution and ‘consumption’ is also discussed.


  • Understanding the origins of journalistic objectivity; solutions journalism.
  • Knowing the different models of democracy & different roles of journalism.
  • Learning about the ‘commodification’ of information, and the public sphere.
  • Examining alternative journalism, and the role of social movements.
  • Tracing the different ‘stages,’ forms and functions of climate journalism, with an emphasis on solutions-oriented reporting.


  • Lecture Discussion Exercises 10%
  • Commentaries 10%
  • Tutorial Participation 20%
  • Proposal 5%
  • Final Paper 30%
  • Take-home Exam 25%



There is no textbook for the course. Instead, a series of academic- & media readings, and podcast episodes, will be used.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).