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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

M Sue Lockett John
POL S 461
Seattle Campus

Mass Media Law

Survey of laws and regulations that affect the print and broadcast media. Includes material on First Amendment, libel, invasion of privacy, freedom of information, copyright, obscenity, advertising and broadcast regulation, and matters relating to press coverage of the judicial system. Offered: jointly with COM 440.

Class description

This course will introduce you to the American legal system and its protections and limits for free expression, particularly involving the press. We will look at how the courts have interpreted and applied the First Amendment to mass media, what kinds of governmental controls are permitted and why, and what this means to the practice of journalism. Most importantly, we will think critically about the rights and responsibilities of mass media professionals and consumers.

Student learning goals

• Explain and apply the principles and laws of freedom of speech and press in America;

• Think critically, creatively and independently about the legal issues presented by a communication situation or media story;

• Apply key legal tests used by the courts to resolve disputes involving the media;

• Recognize the red flags for journalists indicating the need for caution, further research or legal advice;

• Discuss how media law affects the gathering, publishing and consumption of news in America;

• Demonstrate an understanding of the history and role of professionals and institutions as well as marginalized groups in shaping First Amendment precedents.

General method of instruction

Most class periods will be a combination of lecture, discussion, small group and class activities designed to help you digest and critically apply the core principles of media law in America. Regular attendance and active participation are critical to learning.

Recommended preparation

This is a demanding course. It requires careful reading, good time management, analysis, critical thinking and some memorization. It is not recommended for first or second year students.

Class assignments and grading

There will be two short papers, plus daily reading and discussion prep expectations. Exams will be a combination of multiple choice, short answer and essay questions or case studies.

Grading will be based on total points from exams, short papers, prep exercises and participation.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by M Sue Lockett John
Date: 05/23/2012