Every day, at every hour, we are bombarded by hundreds of news items via traditional broadcast and print outlets, social media sites, blogs, wikis, podcasts, and more. Confronted with so much information, we must decide what news to consume and which source(s) to trust. The stakes are high: what is available to us and on what platforms affect our choices to take (or not take) action, engage in civil protest, vote in key elections, conserve resources, and more. The rapid and radical changes we witness in our news and information environment make public and private decisions even more difficult, particularly in a global context. In a democratic society, the media are expected to create an informed citizenry able to debate issues in the public sphere. But are they doing their job? How might the news manufacture our consent—that is, to what extent do media shape our opinions rather than create the conditions for democracy?
The central questions of this course include: What role do the media play in US democracy? How has news production and consumption changed, with the rise of citizen journalists? Because most of our news now comes to us in digital form, we must ask ourselves, how do digital forms of news production and consumption affect American democracy?