Fall 2021 - CMNS 235 D100

News Media, the Public, and Democracy (3)

Class Number: 6129

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    HCC 1800, Vancouver

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 15, 2021
    11:59 PM – 11:59 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    CMNS 130 with a minimum grade of C-.



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 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware 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.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.