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American Journalism - COJR 2431

Possible paper topics

  • Bombing of Los Angeles Times building (1910): radical labor activists are accused of a bombing that killed 21 people at the headquarters of the anti-union newspaper.

  • Passage of Sedition Act (1918): wartime measure places severe restraints on what Americans can say about the government and what newspapers can publish.

  • Scopes “Monkey” Trial (1925): a Tennessee high-school teacher goes on trial for breaking a state law that forbade the teaching of evolution in schools. The case was a media sensation.

  • Gen. Patton slapping incidents (Nov. 1943): During World War II, the famous U.S. general George Patton on two separate occasions slaps and berates soldiers recovering from PTSD (“shell shock,” as it was often called at the time) in Army hospitals. The press does not report the incidents for several months out of deference to Patton and the military.

  • Selma-to-Montgomery March (1965): Civil-rights activists march through Alabama to demand voting rights for African-Americans. Law enforcement responds with extreme violence but the march continues.

  • Protests at the 1968 Miss America pageant: a demonstration outside the beauty pageant in Atlantic City helps launch second-wave feminism into mainstream consciousness. A Miss Black America pageant is held simultaneously (unaffiliated with the feminist demonstration) to protest the exclusion of non-white contestants.

  • Vice President Spiro Agnew’s speeches attacking the “liberal media” (1969): Nixon’s VP slams TV news and major Eastern newspapers (The New York Times and Washington Post) for having too much power and slanting the news against the Nixon administration.

  • “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match (Sept. 1973): At the height of the feminist movement, 55-year-old former tennis champion Bobby Riggs claims that he can defeat any female tennis player in her prime. He loses to Billie Jean King in a nationally televised spectacle.

  • Washington Post fabulism scandal (1981): reporter Janet Cooke wins the Pulitzer Prize for an article about an eight-year-old heroin addict, then gives back the prize after being forced to admit that she had fabricated the story.

  • Gary Hart scandal (May 1987): The Miami Herald and other news outlets reveal that presidential candidate Gary Hart is having an affair—something they learned in part by following the woman he was seeing and staking out his home—leading him to exit the race.

  • Richard Jewell case (October 1996): security guard Richard Jewell is suspected and then cleared of involvement in a deadly bombing at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta; many criticize the news media and law enforcement for their treatment of Jewell.